Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 18 - Early Mission Societies and the Church (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-018 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> NICK: So it sounds like the connection between these early mission societies and the churches was more complicated than I thought. Can you say more about how early mission societies were related to the churches? >> SPEAKER: Sure, Nick. I'd be happy to. That's actually a really interesting question and one that I think continues to nag at us, although we don't always address it head on it. Some of the early missionary societies were identified more or less directly with a specific denomination or church confession. William Carey's society was Baptist. He drew his support and recruits for missionaries from Baptist churches in England. A few years later in 1799, the Anglican Church Missionary Society was organized so it was an Anglican missionary society that had a more churchly character. But many societies were more nondenominational. They had a much looser connection to existing churches and confessions and denominations. The London Missionary Society, organized in 1795, was one of the most important globally. That was originally organized as a nondenominational mission. It eventually became more closely associated with Congregationalist churches, but initially, it was a nondenominational mission. Some societies were even rather antidenominational. J. Hudson Taylor was an early missionary in China who organized the China Inland Mission in 1865. And one of its principles was that it wasn't going to be associated with any particular church, with any particular denomination. It would accept applicants as missionaries from any denomination, but it wasn't going to set about planting any particular denominational or confessional form of Christianity in China, just mere Christianity I guess you could say. He was rather opposed to the idea of denominational connections so there was really a wide range of ways in which these societies, organized as independent organizations, related to church structures or denominations or even confessional positions. The question of the relationship of missionary society and church has at least two sides to it. First of all, and I think the way your question was asked, Nick, was the relationship of the sending church to the missionary society. That is, the church in Europe or later as these societies became organized in America, maybe the American churches, how those churches related to the missionary society. In that case, the missionary society would depend on members of the churches for financial support and for recruiting missionaries, sometimes drawing all of their support from one particular kind of church such as the Baptists or Lutherans and sometimes intentionally drawn support from a much wider spectrum of churches and being nondenominational or even antidenominational, in any case, being transdenominational in character. But the other side of that relationship is also fairly complicated. And that is, what is the relationship of the missionary society to the church as it gets established in a mission field. Because, of course, if missionary societies are successful in their work, the gospel really does get preached, and where the gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit is at work through that gospel in the hearts of people to draw them to faith in Christ and make Christians out of them and bring them together in the church. Well, what kind of church gets planted? That's not always an easy question. It's an easy question if the missionary society is closely identified with a denomination or confession in its sending church. So the Church Missionary Society, the Anglican society that I mentioned a moment ago, had as its goal planting Anglican churches, churches that were in some ways clones or replicas of the home church in England. And in that work, they were fairly successful. Anglican churches are planted all around the world. Lutheran missionary societies, societies that identified themselves with the confessional position of Lutheranism, drew their support and recruits from Lutheran churches and in turn, planted Lutheran churches wherever they happen to be doing their work. But nondenominational societies also planted churches. And then the question is, if you're a nondenominational society that draw your money and recruits from a variety of churches, what kind of churches will you plant? What kind of churches will result from this work if God blesses it and it�s successful? And that becomes a really complicated question because the churches that are planted don't always bear much resemblance to the sending churches that are supporting that mission work. Over time, many of the societies tended to gravitate, more or less, toward a particular denomination and took on that flavor and theological position and style. So the London Missionary Society began as a nondenominational mission in 1795 and became, over time, more associated with the Congregationalist, for instance, the fruit of the London Missionary Society work in southern Africa is today the United Congregationalist Church in southern Africa, the so-called UCCSA. So they did plant a particular kind of church, but that relationship is not always clear when you have a nondenominational mission planting churches. What kind of churches get planted was a particularly urgent question for a missionary like Hudson Taylor in China who didn't want to be associated with any mission, accepted recruits and financial support from a whole variety of churches, but didn't want to plant a Baptist church or a Presbyterian church or an Anglican Church in China. He just wanted to plant a Christian church. And then you�re in all the complexities of what that means. What is a merely Christian church look like? So the nondenominational societies couldn't really avoid the question of confessional position or identification with a denomination. But it does give rise to very complex situation. Partly because the societies that were doing the work were somewhat independent of the sending church and also independent of the churches that they were planting. There wasn't really this ecclesiastical accountability in either direction. So you�ve asked a good question, Nick. That relationship between church and missionary society is really a very complex one. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****