Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 24 - Cooperation Among Protestant Missionaries (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-024 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. ***** >> PAUL: As we've been talking about the history of the modern missionary movement, it has become clear that this is a pretty diverse picture. Were there any efforts toward coordination or cooperation among all these Protestants mission agencies? >> SPEAKER: Yes, Paul, that's a good question. In fact, you're right. This was a really diverse picture. First of all, if you just look at the denominational diversity of Protestant Christianity, you'll get an idea of how diverse and in some ways fragmented the church was. And then you have to remember the missionary societies operated independently of the churches to a large extent and, therefore, introduced an even greater level of diversity and complexity to the situation. We've already talked a little bit about how the early missionary societies were sometimes only very loosely connected, if at all, to specific churches or denominations or confessions. And sometimes they intentionally avoided the confessional distinctions that had separated churches in Europe and America. I think I�ve also mentioned before the missionary societies often served as avenues for Christians of different denominations to work together on a common task, this task of evangelizing the world. That was a really important function for the missionary societies. They were ways in which Christians began crossing over the boundaries that separated their denominations and confessions. This is because, for the early mission leaders, the work of evangelizing the world was seen as transcending many of the theological differences that separated churches. And missionaries often regarded cooperation between Christians as an important tool in their work of evangelization. So the mission societies themselves tended to foster an increased level of cooperation. Sometimes different societies would cooperate on a particular mission field. One of the most common ways in which that happened was that as Christian missionaries entered a particular country, the leaders of the different societies would meet and decide where each society would concentrate its efforts. With limited resources of money and personnel, there was always more than enough work to do so it seemed natural enough to avoid setting up competing missions in the same location. So mission societies would often draw up what were called comity agreements that would divide responsibility for the evangelization of a country between different missionary societies. And these agreements were virtually impossible to bring into force in the sending country because there the churches already had vested interests and so forth. But in the task of evangelizing new countries and peoples, it seemed like a workable idea to divide up these responsibilities in this way. Missionary societies also cooperated on a more global and intentional basis. There was, in the latter half of the 19th century, there was a series of international mission conferences culminating in 1910, and the most famous of these which was held in Edinburgh. At Edinburgh, more than 1,000 representatives came together, not just to be inspired and motivated about mission, these were all people that were coming as representatives of mission societies and who were already quite motivated. These were people who came together to think in a careful and more of a scientific way about the task of world evangelization. The leader of this conference was John R. Mott, a Methodist layperson, who was a leader in the student volunteer movement which had also been instrumental in recruiting a whole generation of missionaries and mission leaders. Mott had used as his slogan in the 1880�s and 1890's, �The Evangelization of the World in This Generation.� In other words, he held up as a realistic goal the evangelization of the entire world, and he used that idea, that goal, that slogan as a tool to motivate and inspire and recruit young people, and especially university students, to commit their lives to missionary service. That same spirit Mott brought with him to the Edinburgh conference. In other words, it was set on the agenda as a realistic goal the evangelization of the world in this generation, the generation of those then living. This might seem hopelessly optimistic to us today in retrospect. But at the time, it did not look at all unrealistic. It seemed like a realistic idea that the number of Protestant missionaries in the world could be tripled within the next 30 years or so and that each of those Protestant missionaries could be accompanied by as many as 10 or 12 local or national workers from the churches in which they were working so that with this truly enormous missionary force, the goal of evangelizing the world in this generation might actually be attainable. It's very significant that the Edinburgh conference brought together not representatives of churches, but representatives of missionary societies. This is important because it illustrates and highlights how the cooperation in world mission was really a function of the societies more than it was a function of the churches themselves. The churches as institutions and structures devoted less of their energy to this kind of cooperative work, this kind of common strategy and common thinking about the task. And the Edinburgh conference is also important because even though the representatives were not there representing their churches, but representing their missionary societies. This conference is viewed as the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. That is, this spirit of cooperation for the sake of the gospel in the world then went back and influenced the churches from which these people had come. So the churches, as institutions, the churches as denominations, began to think more seriously about cooperation that transcended denominational boundaries and confessional lines. So in many ways, the Edinburgh conference is important, not only in the history of the world mission effort of the church, but also in the history of what's referred to today as the ecumenical movement of the church. That is, the relation of churches around the world with each other. So, yes, to come back to your question of was there cooperation. Yes, there was cooperation at a number of levels, most notably at the Edinburgh conference with the shared goal of evangelizing the world in this generation. ***** 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. *****