Project Canterbury

Foreign Missions

By H. H. Montgomery

From S.L. Ollard and Gordon Crosse, eds. A Dictionary of English Church History

London: Mowbray and Co., Ltd, 1912, pages 367-371.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007

MISSIONS, Foreign. The English Church has been from the beginning, with a period of lapse from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, emphatically a missionary Church. In the sixth century Celtic missionaries, among whom St. Columban was prominent, had carried the Gospel from Ireland and Iona to the heathen of the Continent. But the first English Churchman to do so was St. Wilfrid (q.v.), who on his way to Rome in 678 was driven by a storm to take refuge among the heathen Frisians, among whom he tarried, preaching and baptizing. A few years later Ecgberht, a Northumbrian priest living in Ireland, desired to carry the faith to the German tribes from whom the Angles and Saxons were sprung. He was prevented, but assisted in sending others to Frisia, Willibrord (q.v.) among them. About 693 Switberht, being chosen bishop to assist Willibrord, returned to England, and was consecrated by Wilfrid, the first bishop consecrated in England for work abroad. Among other English missionaries who spread Christianity and civilisation among the Teutonic tribes of Europe were two Anglian priests known as Black and White Hewald, martyred in Saxony (c. 695); Adelbert, a prince of the royal house of Northumbria, who laboured in the north of Holland; and, greatest of all, Wynfrith or Boniface (q.v.), 'the Apostle of Germany.' In 883 Alfred (q.v.) sent alms to India in fulfilment of a vow made in the Danish wars. And even during those wars devoted Englishmen were labouring as missionaries in the Scandinavian homes of their enemies. Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway (995-1000), employed English bishops to convert his people, and Cnut (q.v.) sent English missionaries to convert his Scandinavian subjects, and St. Olaf had followed the same policy. St. Sigfrid, a well-known English missionary bishop in Norway and Sweden, lived through most of the eleventh century (Bishop Wordsworth, National Church of Sweden, 57-88). But from the eleventh century the missionary spirit was largely overshadowed by the Crusades (q.v.). These were in part inspired by missionary zeal, but vitiated by a policy of compulsory conversion by the strong hand. The true missionary spirit, however, survived, notably among the Friars (q.v.). About 1230 Adam of Oxford, a famous Franciscan, was sent at his own request by Gregory IX. to preach to the Saracens, and other Franciscan missions to the infidels of the Holy Land followed. The Council of Vienne (1312) ordered that professorships in Arabic, Hebrew, and Chaldæan should be founded at Oxford and other universities to promote the conversion of Jews and Turks. In 1370 William de Prato, a Franciscan who had studied at Oxford, 'was sent to the Tartars by the Pope as Bishop of Peking, and head of the Franciscan Mission in Asia' (A. G. Little, The Grey Friars in Oxford). But, as a rule, in the later Middle Ages persecution took the place of evangelisation, and such forays as that of the Teutonic knights in Lithuania, in which the Earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV., took part, were crusades only in name.

After the breach with Rome foreign mission work with all its machinery had to be begun anew. Yet a keen sense of the duty of Churchmen at home towards non-Christians appears in the records of the Elizabethan adventurers. Sir Walter Raleigh gave the Virginia Company £100 for the propagation of Christianity in its territory. And in 1632 Dr. Donne preached before that company what has been called 'the first missionary sermon printed in the English language.' Archbishop Laud (q.v.) recognised the Church's responsibility in regard to the North American colonies, and in 1634 an Order in Council gave the Bishop of London jurisdiction over English congregations abroad. In 1638 a scheme was promoted for establishing the episcopate in North America, but home troubles prevented its realisation. In 1649 the Long Parliament inaugurated the first English missionary [367/368] organisation, 'The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.' £12,000was collected in English churches by Cromwell's order, the society was refounded by Charles II. in 1662, and is still at work in Canada under the name of 'The New England Company.' After the Restoration the scheme for a colonial episcopate was revived, but broke down on Clarendon's fall. Bishop Compton of London was active in providing for the spiritual needs of the North American and West Indian colonies by sending out clergy, and Archbishop Sheldon (q.v.) was also interested. The Christian Faith Society for the West Indies was founded in 1691. An attempt at missionary work in the East Indies was begun in 1682, Robert Boyle (q.v.) and Burnet (q.v.) being among its promoters. The S.P.C.K. came into existence in 1698, the S.P.G. in 1701. In 1799 the Church Missionary Society was born.

Speaking generally, all Anglican missions throughout the world taken together hardly form one-seventh of the mission forces of the world to-day, exclusive of the Church of Rome. The annual income of the missions in the world to-day outside Rome amounts to about £5,070,000. Towards this sum the Anglican communion does not contribute more than £900,000. The Roman Church publishes no accounts. The Orthodox Eastern Church spends about £30,000 upon its missions exclusive of Japan, which has an independent income. The Roman Church claims 10,000,000 adherents. The Roman Church has among non-Christians about 34,000 European, or American, workers; the great European and American missions not in communion with the English, Roman, or Eastern Churches about 16,500; the Anglican communion about 2600. It is a noteworthy fact that any weakening of belief in full Christian doctrine, whether in connection with the Incarnation or the Resurrection, seems to smite with sterility all mission work among non-Christians in the rare cases where it is attempted. There are two other great organisations, partly Anglican, which largely aid the mission cause, the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Religious Tract Society.

The approximate date which can be taken as a starting-point for the great revival of modern missionary work abroad is 1871. In that year Bishop Patteson (q.v.) was murdered; in 1872 the S.P.G. inaugurated the Day of Intercession at St. Andrew's tide, Bishop G. H. Wilkinson being one of the chief movers. From this time Anglican missions gained force everywhere. In 1874 Livingstone died, and the Universities Mission to Central Africa gained impetus, along with many other missions, and the C.M.S. entered Uganda within three years. In 1884 Bishop Hannington was murdered. The Student Volunteer Movement arose in 1886, and has enormously added to the missionary force within the English Church as well as outside it. During the last forty years missionary work has not only advanced by strides, but has also become much more efficient both at home and abroad. Within the English Church distinct advance has been made in the estimation in which missions are held. In this respect the newer religious bodies are still ahead of the Church of England. Among the Presbyterians and the Methodists the Church is its own missionary society, as are the Protestant Episcopal Church in America and the Church in Canada. In the English Church proper, however, missionary work is still done by great societies; but these are drawing closer together under the influence of the Central Board of Missions, which represents the whole Church. This Board does not collect money for work abroad, but acts as a regulator and unifier of all missionary work done by the Church.

Africa.--In 1752 the S.P.G. sent a chaplain to the Gold Coast. In 1765 the first negro priest was ordained from that region by the Bishop of London. This mission was abandoned, and the C.M.S. began work in 1804. In the same year they went to the Susu tribes; in 1816 to the liberated slaves sent from America to Sierra Leone. Except on the Gold Coast, to which the S.P.G. has returned, and in Liberia, which is connected with the Church in America, all Anglican missions in West Africa are connected with the C.M.S. By far the largest diocese there is that of West Equatorial Africa, under a European bishop with two African suffragans. The diocese includes Northern and Southern Nigeria, and extends to Lake Chad, and it has to confront the advance of Islam from the north. This advance has been indirectly aided by British rule. Formerly the Moslem came as a raider and slave trader; to-day he comes as a peaceful subject. The African Christian communities in these regions are practically self-supporting. English funds are utilised for the support of European workers. The Anglican missions in West Africa must number more than 50,000 adherents, and there are 100 African clergy. There are six bishops. There is as yet no organised province of West Africa. In Nigeria and in Sierra Leone there are fully organised synods. In 1864 an attempt was [368/369] made to create an independent diocese under an African bishop (Bishop Crowther), but the result was disappointing, and there has been no further attempt in this direction.

South Africa.--The first English priest was sent by the S.P.G. in 1820, but it was a feeble mission till the advent of Bishop Gray (q.v.) in 1847 at Cape Town. Dioceses followed in quick succession. The S.P.G. has been the chief home agent in supplying funds. Its annual grant to the province is about £22,000. The province of South Africa extends up to the Zambesi, but does not include Madagascar. There are over 1,000,000 Europeans scattered throughout these regions. These have to be shepherded in so far as they will accept the Church's ministrations. Yet they are almost lost among the immense African populations, virile races rapidly increasing in numbers, and the absorbing problem of the future is the colour question. Another element is the large East Indian population, especially in Natal. On the east coast and in Portuguese territory there are serious difficulties with the Government. Portugal fears English influence for political reasons, and English missionaries, though absolutely loyal to the local government, are sorely hindered. The Church of the province of South Africa is an independent daughter Church of the Anglican communion, fully organised, with its archbishop, its general synod, and diocesan synods, and its own ecclesiastical courts. Its European clergy number about 400, its African clergy 75, its adherents about 275,000.

Central Africa.--This region has the Zambesi for its southern boundary, and reaches northward to a point north of the Albert Nyanza. English Church work began at Mombasa in 1844 with Krapf. The Universities Mission at Livingstone's request commenced in the direction of Lake Nyassa in 1859, soon moving to Zanzibar. There are now three dioceses in the U.M.C.A. region. North of it lie the two dioceses of Mombasa and Uganda, under the C.M.S., who entered Uganda by Stanley's request in 1876. Funds from England are used only for the support of European workers, otherwise the Church is self-supporting. There are 50 European clergy and about 35 African clergy, over 2000 catechists, and 60,000 baptized.

Egypt and the Soudan.--These are definitely Moslem lands, with their peculiar difficulties. There is a very efficient band of Anglican clergy and workers in Cairo under the C.M.S. for work among Moslems and the study of Arabic. A weekly paper in English and Arabic is published, and has great influence. In the Soudan missionary work is steadily advancing among Moslems and heathens, so far as Government restrictions permit. These are gradually being removed. Egypt is under the jurisdiction of the bishop in Jerusalem. In Palestine, under the C.M.S., are missions to Moslems and Jews. [JERUALEM BISHOPRIC.] Another mission to Moslems under the C.M.S. and of great value is the Persian and Mesopotamian Mission, started in 1869 by Dr. Bruce. Unique in character and effect is the Archbishop's Mission to the Assyrian Christians, inaugurated by Archbishop Benson (q.v.) in 1884. Its object is to help the Assyrian Christians to be more worthy and better educated members of their own Church.

India.--The first gift of the English Church for mission work in India was made by the S.P.G. to the Danish Mission in 1709. At that time it was against the charter of that society to undertake work outside the British Empire, and the S.P.C.K. supported the Danish Mission from 1824 to 1834. During the early years of the nineteenth century splendid work was done by the chaplains, such as Martyn, Thomason, Buchanan, Corrie; but caste was in some sense retained, and the missions were weak. Modern missions in strong force in India date from 1813. Middleton was the first bishop, and was followed by Heber. The C.M.S. began its great work in India in 1814, the S.P.G. in 1820. Heber ordained the two first Indians, a Tamil (C. David) and Abdul Masih, a convert from Islam made by Martyn. The missions spread through India from 1814 to 1860, south, north, west, and east as far as Burma. The Zenana Society came in 1861, and the Universities and others have contributed nobly--the Oxford Mission to Calcutta beginning in 1880; the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, in 1877; the Cambridge Mission to Delhi in 1877; the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur in 1891; and here, as everywhere, the S.P.C.K. has been the handmaid of all. The mass of Anglican Christians is to be found in South India; it is in the Tamil and Telegu countries that we meet with what are called 'mass movements' at present, and among the lowest castes or no caste. These have so much benefited in every way that it has had a marked effect on other castes. The Indian is not an individualist; tens of thousands probably are believers to-day, who dare not be baptized. One day a whole region may move at once. Women's work, of utmost value everywhere, is probably even more important than men's work in India. Women [369/370] doctors have here one of the noblest fields in the world.

The see of Madras was founded in 1835, Bombay in 1837. Lahore followed in 1877, then Burma, Travancore, Ceylon, Chota Nagpur, Lucknow, Tinnevelly, Nagpur. The Church has devoted itself equally to all classes. It has spent enormous sums on educational as well as on evangelistic work, on women's work and on medical missions. The Indian Church Aid Association supplies clergy for ministrations to Europeans and Eurasians, who are a great factor in the future of Indian Christianity. A special organisation has lately been created to cope with this work. The organisation of the Church in India is imperfect, but the Indian episcopate is beginning to speak with a united voice. The Bishop of Calcutta is a metropolitan. And an Indian is about to be raised to the episcopate. There are in India 375 European clergy as missionaries, 63 laymen, 200 women, 317 Indian clergy, 6342 lay teachers, including women. But it is America that is converting India. All the forces of all the English missions, Churchmen and Nonconformist combined, do not equal the American forces, which in India are wholly non-episcopal. The English Church may possibly be doing as much as one-tenth of the mission work in India to-day. Meanwhile, Indian Christianity is spreading fast.

Eastward from Burma are the Malay States, Singapore, and Borneo, regions of the utmost importance for the Church; they are full of Chinese and Tamils, besides the races indigenous to the country. The foundation of the see of Labuan and Sarawak in 1855 was marked by the first consecration of a bishop of the Church of England outside the British Isles since the Reformation. Singapore was added to it in 1861. In 1909 Borneo and Singapore were made separate sees.

China.--Probably China and Japan, with their enormous populations and races of strong character, are more important for good or for evil in the history of Christendom than any other land at present non-Christian. It is doubtful, however, whether the Anglican communion can claim more than one-twelfth of the Christians in China, even after excluding the Church of Rome. The Church in the United States first entered China in 1837, the first English Churchman in 1844. The C.M.S. is in evidence in South China, with Shanghai, Ningpo, Foochow, and Hong Kong as centres. The S.P.G. helps in the north, with Peking and Tai-an-fu in Shantung as centres. The Canadian Church has commenced a mission in Honan, consecrating a bishop and supplying the staff. There is now a newly formed general synod, and periodical meetings are to be held for this purpose. There are eleven Anglican bishops in China, of whom the majority owe allegiance to Canterbury, three to the Church in the United States, one to the Primate of Canada. Women's work and medical missions are a great power in China, and it would seem as though hatred of the foreigner as such were passing away. The Chinese Christians, both in the north and the south, during the last forty years have added a mighty roll of martyrs to the Church's history.

Japan.--The Church in America first entered Japan on the part of the Anglican communion in 1859. The C.M.S. followed in 1869, the S.P.G. in 1872. From Great Britain only the English Church and the Salvation Army are found in Japan. The Nippon Sei Kokwai (Holy Catholic Church of Japan) is a portion of the Anglican communion, with its own synod and canons. But the bishops are at present accepted from abroad; 4 are British, 2 American, 1 Canadian, yet all owe definite allegiance to the Nippon Sei Kokwai and its jurisdiction. This Church has 7 bishops, the proportion of clergy being 70 foreign and 57 Japanese, while the baptized number about 15,000. The Church in Japan has its own external mission field in Formosa, and also in the Bonin Islands. Here, as elsewhere, the English Church can hardly be one-fourth of the non-Roman and non-Eastern Church Christians. The Roman Church claims 60,000 adherents, the Russian Orthodox Church more than 30,000.

Corea.--America is the chief factor in Corean Christianity, with the exception of Rome. The American missions are nonepiscopal. There are some 340 of their workers as against some 30 Anglicans. Excluding Rome, there are probably 200,000 Corean Christians to-day, the fruit of thirty years' work. The English Mission began in 1890 under Bishop Corfe, and is filled to-day with an intense evangelistic spirit, coupled with strong Catholic principles. It is for the most part a celibate mission. In Manchuria the English Church works at present only among Europeans.

The South Pacific.--The province of New Zealand has for its premier mission field the diocese of Melanesia, founded by Bishop Patteson, 1861, but inaugurated by the late Bishop G. A. Selwyn (q.v.). The Church in Australia places its New Guinea Mission in the same prominent position. In New Guinea the British region is divided for [370/371] mission purposes by the Government into three or four portions: Congregational (L.M.S.), Roman, Anglican, Methodist. The Anglican portion is magnificently ordered, and is the pride of the Australian Church. The see of New Guinea was founded in 1896. Within Australia there are strong Anglican missions to aboriginals on reserves and to Chinese. In Melanesia there are, besides the bishop, 12 European clergy, 685 ordained and unordained Melanesian workers, and about 16,000 adherents, mostly baptized. The diocese of Polynesia was founded in 1908. But in Oceania, as elsewhere, the English Church is far surpassed in strength and numbers by the Roman Church and by the other great missions. Excluding Rome, it is probable that only one out of fourteen Christians belongs to the English Church.

Canada.--All along the northern regions of Canada there have been for years strong missions among Indians and Esquimaux under the C.M.S. This society is slowly withdrawing now that the early work of evangelisation is being completed, and the Canadian Church is undertaking the burden.

The West Indies.--In the province of the West Indies there are missions to East Indians and Chinese, who are in large numbers in Trinidad and British Guiana. In the latter diocese there are missions also to the aboriginal Indians with a record of noble work.

South America.--The English Church is represented by three dioceses: British Guiana (1842), the Falkland Islands (1869), and Argentina (1910). The South American Missionary Society has for years done a noble work among races such as those in Terra del Fuego, the Paraguayan, Chaco, and the Araucanian Indians.

The care of scattered Church people must also be mentioned. The white Christian, if he falls away in pioneer lands, becomes worse than a pagan. The S.P.G. made this duty its first responsibility in every part of the earth. The Colonial and Continental Church Society of late years has taken up the problem strongly. [H. H. M.]

Hunt, Hist. Eng. Ch. to 1066; Maclear, Hist. of Christian Missions in Middle Ages; Grant, Missions (Bampton Lectures); Hutton, Hist. Eng. Ch., 1625-1714, xvii.; article 'Foreign Missions,' Encycl. Brit.; First Annual Review of Foreign Missions of the Ch., 1908; Central Boards of Missions; Statistical Atlas of Foreign Missions; Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, 1910.

Project Canterbury