Mission Legacies

This wonderful, weighty book collects 80 biographies of some of the greatest missionaries and mission administrators of the past two hundred years. They are Protestant and Catholic, men and women, North Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians. Some are famous—David Livingstone and J. Hudson Taylor. Others are forgotten, including H.P.S. Schrueder (1817-1882), William Wade Harris of Liberia (c1860-1829), and Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815). Gerald Anderson writes:

Largely as a result of mission from the West, and the growth of the churches of the non-Western world, the profile of global Christianity changed dramatically after 1800. The church mushroomed from 200 million souls to nearly two billion in the final decade of the twentieth century. The non-Western Christian population has grown from less than 10% to more than 50% two centuries later.

Mission Legacies preserves the stories of a selection of nineteenth and twentieth century pioneers of mission, men and women, Protestant and Catholic, who played creative roles in turning that global vision into a reality. Here, students of world Christianity can gain insight into the spiritual and human dynamics that produced the modern Christian missionary movement.[1]

By holding this volume in his hands, the reader enjoys paging through a virtual encyclopedia of meticulously researched missionaries that could hardly be published in today’s wiki age. Here are a few of the missionaries that Gerald Anderson and his research team have brought to our attention.

Charles Simeon (1759-1836), Champion of the Church Missionary Society. The London Missionary Society had come into existence in 1795, following the publishing of William Carey’s easy-to-assemble instruction kit in 1792. But Simeon knew his fellow Anglicans would not support the “undenominational” London Missionary Society (LMS); it was beneath them. Simeon would not ask his Anglican friends to back to the Anglican sponsored Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) or the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), as these were too governed directly by the bishops of the Anglican church and did not attract the kind of missionaries needed to pioneer in new regions, making decisions without the controlling policies of the Church of England. An independent society for evangelical Anglicans had become necessary. For two years Simeon crisscrossed England in support of such a mission society. He was greatly rewarded when the CMS was established in 1800. What no one could foresee was that most of the candidates would apply to be chaplains for the East India Company, a necessity until 1813 when the East India Company lifted its restrictions on missionary access in India.[2] That set the stage for a showdown when, in 1814, the bishop of Calcutta, T.F. Middleton, would not license the CMS missionaries, being doubtful of their loyalty to his administrative oversight. The CMS missionaries, for their part, demurred from submitting to the bishop until he licensed them. “Recognizing this tension is the key to understanding Charles Simeon’s legacy for the British missionary movement in the early nineteenth century.”[3] To find out how the issue was resolved you will have to read the book.

Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1844). An Evangelical in Politics. Buxton saw injustices and tried to redress grievances by enacting legislation in Parliament. His first concern was to reform the English penal code (in particular reducing the number of offenses which carried the death penalty). His second concern was abolishing sati (widow burning) in India, and other injustices that could be addressed wherever the British flag was flying. His third concern was abolishing slavery in the empire. In 1821 the aging Wilberforce asked Buxton to assume the parliamentary leadership of the antislavery movement.[4] The slave trade had been abolished in 1807, but slavery had not been outlawed. In 1823, he helped found the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (later the Anti-Slavery Society). He achieved his long-sought goal, only to realize the task of enforcing the abolition of slavery would fall to him for the rest of his life. “This led Buxton to his great dream for Africa, his famous book, and the disaster that brought him horror, heartbreak, and premature death.”[5] These matters kept Buxton in public life when he longed for his estate.

Adoniram Judson Gordon (1836-1895). Educator, Preacher, and Promoter of Missions. Gordon founded the college in Boston that is now named for him. The church he pastored, the Clarendon Street Church, “repeatedly surpassed itself in raising money for Baptist foreign missions. One year the church raised $20,000 for foreign missions. A.J. Gordon credited neither careful budgeting nor planning, but the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Ghost, the present Christ, has been given to be the administrator of the church: and . . . in these days of endless organizations and multiplied secular machinery, he will surprise us by showing what he will do if we give him unhindered liberty of action in his own house.[6]

Gordon spoke at the Northfield Bible Conference in 1886 when the “Mount Hermon 100” volunteered to become foreign missionaries. The 100 young people were the core group of the Student Volunteer Movement that sent thousands of college graduates to the mission field. Many of the earliest volunteers looked to A.J. Gordon as their spiritual mentor.[7]

Gordon wrote many hymns. One that remains a standard is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” In 1888 Dr. and Mrs. Gordon sailed to England to attend the Centenary Conference, convened to mark roughly 100 years of Protestant missionary work. The Centenary Conference was the most representative Anglo-American missions conference to date, and 139 mission societies from around the world sent representatives. Because the conference talked about mission but did not take action, he met afterward with other dissatisfied evangelicals such as A.T. Pierson, J. Hudson Taylor, George Post, and H.G. Guinness to pass resolutions condemning the British opium trade, the liquor trade, and licensed prostitution in British India.[8]

A.J. Gordon returned to Boston to find that he had been elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Baptist Missionary Union (ABMU). The chairmanship entailed weekly meetings and virtual responsibility for all missions of the American Baptists. The Executive Committee created policy for and administrated the missions. It decided which missions would be opened, and it appointed missionaries and fixed their salaries. The ultimate responsibility for Baptist missions had come to rest with A.J. Gordon.[9]

In 1876 the Rev. and Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness, prominent English Baptists, started the Livingstone Inland Mission along the Congo River. One of the earliest missions to Africa, by 1884 the Livingstone Inland Mission had sent fifty missionaries, opened seven mission stations, spent $150,000, and reduced the Ki-Kongo language to writing; it also owned a steamboat named the Henry Reed.[10] In 1883 the Guinnesses asked the ABMU to administrate their mission to inland Africa. There was considerable concern raised on account of the death rate among missionaries in the Congo as well as the costs. Gordon lobbied hard for the adoption and carried the day. In 1886 a revival broke out at the Banza Manteke Station in the Congo. Within a few weeks a thousand Africans became Christians. Upon hearing that the new Baptists needed a chapel, the Clarendon Street Church raised $2,500 and sent a complete prefabricated chapel by steamship. The African Christians divided the building material into 700 loads and carried it piece by piece on their heads over sixty miles.[11]

Decentralization. Though Gordon did not question the indispensability of denominational mission boards, he believed they created certain dangers, such as the centralization of responsibility into a few hands and undesirable uniformity in mission method. If every local church could act as its own mission society, the burden of mission work would be equitably spread among Christians everywhere and the work would be accomplished much faster. He believed that decentralization was the most efficient use of church resources: “I believe that God designed to lay the burden of the whole world upon every church, that every church might thus find out that is has a whole Christ with whom to bear that burden.” One implication of Gordon’s position was to support the new “faith missions” springing up in the late nineteenth century. Faith missions such as the China Inland Mission and the International Missionary Alliance were more theologically compatible with Gordon’s thought than were some denominational organs: faith missions seemed to rely on the Holy Spirit in a direct and prayerful way.[12]

Missionary Training School. In 1889 Gordon opened the Boston Missionary Institute. The purpose of the school was to train laypersons in evangelistic methods and urban rescue work, using only the Bible as their textbook. The school added an overseas missionary training school in 1889. Nothing A.J. Gordon did stirred more controversy than opening the training school. Bitter criticism poured in from Baptists and the religious press. Gordon was accused of doctrinal fanaticism and of abetting “short-cut” routes to the ministry. Gordon defended the training of lay missionaries, notably in his article, “Short-Cut Methods.” He felt the school was commanded by God so that “eleventh hour” laborers would be plentiful in God’s vineyard. One of the school’s most notable features was the preponderance of women students. Women were often denied seminary training and had heavy family obligations. Gordon defended women’s rights to preach, prophesy, and teach men in church.[13]

A.J. Gordon died in 1895. The school was renamed to include his name and is today Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Gordon showed that unity for missions could transcend theological and institutional boundaries. His ecumenism and his refusal to separate social justice from evangelism are legacies of which all evangelical Christians can be proud. He worked where he saw the Spirit leading, not where narrow theological parties thought he should go.[14]

Fredrick Franson (1852-1908) Founder of The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). Reaching People Who Still Have Not Heard.

Five of the seven churches that Franson helped found in Utah, Colorado and Nebraska in 1880 are still continuing. Fifteen mission societies and church denominations, whose founding or early history he significantly influenced, still continue. They are headquartered in nine countries of Europe, North America, and Asia.[15]

Franson’s parents were revived to a living Christian faith in the Swedish awakening of the early 1850s. But his father died when Fredrik was five. In 1869 the family moved to Nebraska, where they lived in a dug-out shelter for two years. Fredrik was seventeen.[16]

On September 7, 1890, Fredrik Franson arrived in New York. On October 14 he began an evangelist training course at Brooklyn, with the announced purpose of selecting and sending missionaries to China. He conducted similar courses in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Omaha. About two hundred Scandinavian young persons attended. From those who offered themselves Franson selected fifty. By February 5, 1891, all of these were on their way to China, each supported by one or mor local churches. Franson then organized this whole undertaking as the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America (today TEAM).[17]

For eleven years, from 1890 to 1902, Franson’s ministry influenced significantly the founding or early history of the following ten missions: TEAM (1890); Swiss Alliance Mission (1890); North China Mission of the C&MA (1893); Mongolia Branch of the Evangelical East Asia Mission (1897); Himalaya Mission of the Finnish Free Church (1898); China Mission of the Norwegian Mission Covenant Church (1899); the “Borken” Fellowship Deaconess Home of Marburg Mission (1899); Swedish Alliance Mission (1900); Women’s Mission Association of the Finnish Free Church (1900); and Norwegian Missionary Alliance (1901). At the end of his life, he wrote Five Different Methods of Missionary Work in Non-Christian Societies. Franson died at age 56 in the United States.[18]

Helen B. Montgomery (1861-1934) and Lucy W. Peabody (1861-1949). Jesus Christ, the Great Emancipator of Women. In North America in the early nineteenth century a “benevolent empire” of agencies assumed leadership for the support of missions. Prominent among these, from the very first, were women’s organizations. In the last quarter of that century, there was a coalescing of “women’s work for women” that may be directly attributed to singularly gifted leaders. Two of those leaders were Helen Barrett Montgomery and Lucy Waterbury Peabody, who left a joint legacy of publication, promotion, and prayer on behalf of women across denominational lines and particularly among Baptists.[19]

Early in his marriage to Helen, William Montgomery pledged to support her far-reaching interests in civic life and Christian mission. This proved to be a considerable commitment of funds for travel and support of missionary work around the world. Montgomery busied himself with building a thriving subsidiary company to what became the General Motors Corporation.[20]

In 1893 at the urging of her friend Susan B. Anthony (1820-1896), Helen Montgomery helped form the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union to assist women in self-improvement and working conditions. This was to be a persistent interest throughout her life. Montgomery wrote:

The greatest foes that menace the womanhood in America are the pagan ideals that are coming to dominate our theaters and social life. Luxury, easy divorce, indolence, and indulgence can make American women sources of temptation and objects of contempt like their sisters in the buried civilizations of the past.[21]

Helen was a licensed minister in the Lake Avenue Baptist Church in Rochester, NY. In 1914 she was elected the first president of the newly unified Woman’s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (WABFMS). She held this position for a decade. She wrote countless editorials, filled pulpits, and presided over meetings that sought to organize woman’s work in local church circles, associational bands, and in a national network.[22]

Lucy W. McGill was born in Belmont, Kansas March 2, 1861. She was raised in Rochester, where she met Helen. In 1881, Lucy and her husband, Norman Waterbury were appointed as missionaries to India by the American Baptist Missionary Union and took up residence as Telugu specialists at Madras. After five and a half years, Norman died in India. Lucy returned to the States. The Woman’s Baptist Foreign Mission Society of the East soon recognized Lucy’s considerable administrative skills and appointed her in 1887 to the position of home secretary. She filled this position for 18 years. In 1906 she resigned to marry Henry Wayland Peabody. He was a wealthy merchant, twenty-three years her elder. He died in 1908, leaving her again a widow.

In 1910 Lucy and Helen developed and administrated the International Jubilee of Woman’s Missions. In 1913 the two women and their daughters, now college graduates, began a round-the-world tour. They journeyed from London to Tokyo in just over six months, then traveled to Europe for the 1913 Amsterdam meeting of the International Missionary Council, organized by John R. Mott. Everywhere, Helen and Lucy met with local women and missionaries to know what should be done next by women for missions. Helen reached the pinnacle of her public life as president of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1921-1922, while Lucy took an active interest in missionary work in the Philippines and a new American missionary organization, the Association of Baptists for Evangelism in the Orient. They engaged in the ecumenical sphere at every logical point. They served on countless cooperative bodies including the Education Committee at Edinburgh in 1910 and the Federation of Woman’s Boards of Foreign Mission.[23]

Helen died at 73 in 1934. Lucy became an advocate and board member of the Overseas Ministries Study Center.

John R. Mott (1865-1955). Architect of World Mission and Unity. John R. Mott was the leading Protestant ecumenical and missionary statesman of the world during the first half of the twentieth century. He may rightly be called the “father” of the World Council of Churches.[24]

John R. Mott was a gifted organizer and an uncanny recruiter of leaders. While at Cornell, Mott organized the chapter of the YMCA into the largest in the country. Mott, more than anyone else, organized the Student Volunteer Movement. He invented and administrated the huge meetings that took place every four year. The formation of the World’s Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in 1895 was Mott’s most creative achievement. He led the planning for the 1910 Edinburgh Mission Conference and made sure that it was a working conference.[25]

His ideals for Christian community transcended denomination, race, and geography. His background was Methodism. His conversion took place under a Quaker/YMCA evangelist. Dwight L. Moody had a profound effect on him, as did the biographies of Wesley and Finney. Against considerable opposition Mott not only approved but urged the recruitment of Roman Catholic members to YMCAs in Catholic countries, and the same with the Orthodox.[26]

With Oldham and other colleagues, Mott directed his efforts towards organizing the International Missionary Council. He led the IMC through the year 1928 when it met in Jerusalem. He took a lesser role a decade later at its meeting in Madras-Tambaram. A last bit of advice to colleagues in the IMC was to beware lest it be swallowed too soon by the World Council of Churches.[27]

In old age he was awarded the Noble Peace Prize. In meetings all over post-war Germany tens of thousands of young people gave him standing ovations because, as Bishop Hans Lilje put it, they were convinced that “he loves us.” Soichi Saito, a Japanese colleague, called Mott “father of the young people of the world.” Asked to say a word at what prove to be his last public appearance, he declared, “While life lasts, I am an evangelist.”[28]

Anderson, Gerald H., Robert T. Coote, Normal A. Horner, James M. Phillips. Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995.

[1] Gerald H. Anderson, Robert T. Coote, Normal A. Horner, James M. Phillips, Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995). Introduction.

[2] Ibid. 6

[3] Ibid.8

[4] Ibid. 11

[5] Ibid. 12

[6] Ibid. 18

[7] Ibid. 19

[8] Ibid. 20

[9] Ibid. 20

[10] Ibid. 20

[11] Ibid. 21

[12] Ibid. 24

[13] Ibid. 24-25

[14] Ibid. 26

[15] Ibid. 48

[16] Ibid. 49

[17] Ibid. 52

[18] Ibid. 52-53

[19] Ibid. 62. The term “benevolent empire” is found in Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America: An Historical Account of the Development of American Religious Life; and Charles I Foster, An Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front.

[20] Ibid. 63

[21] Ibid. 63

[22] Ibid. 64

[23] Ibid. 66-67

[24] Ibid. 79

[25] Ibid. 79-80

[26] Ibid. 81

[27] Ibid. 83

[28] Ibid. 84