Presbyterian Missions (1st of 12): What Francis Makemie Envisioned.

Beneficial Relationships between Presbyterian Churches and Mission Agencies.

Dear Reader, This blog is the first of twelve on Presbyterian Mission History. (I wrote six blogs on my personal observances of Presbyterian mission; you can read the first one here. This new series begins in the thirteen colonies with the arrival of a Scottish clergyman, Francis Makemie.

Francis Makemie

Francis Makemie (1658-1708), a Scotsman with flaming red hair, was founder of the Presbyterian Church in colonial America. He arrived in the colonies in 1683 at the age of 25. Makemie envisioned a future in which Presbyterian churches would form partnerships with many “private Christian societies for doing good.”[1] That was a good beginning. When the America’s first and second Great Awakening swept the colonies Makemie’s vision became a reality. Presbyterians led the way in organizing voluntary societies that would advance the Great Ends of the Church (e.g., Christian overseas missions, abolition of slavery, prison reform, temperance,). These “voluntary forms of operation,” M. J. D. Roberts wrote, “once accepted as ‘safe’ by civil and ecclesiastical authority, were accessible by any who had the will to adopt them.”[2] Working class people were transformed into activists through the instrument of voluntary associations.[3] Women organized moral reform societies, which “became the means by which women made a successful claim for recognition as legitimate participants in rational-critical debate.”[4] On account of a respectful, normal relationship that existed between the Presbyteries and mission societies in those early days, an Age of Reform had begun. This pairing of churches and voluntary societies is what we mean by Lighthouse and Flint.

The pairing can be illustrated as a double helix molecule. One helice needs the other and vice versa. With normal relationships between ecclesiastical hierarchies and mission societies, there can be much effective missional church.

Makemie established several Presbyterian congregations in Maryland and especially in Virginia. Partly through his efforts, the Virginia legislature enacted the Act of Toleration in 1689, recognizing and legitimizing non-Anglican churches in the colony. In 1706, just two years before he died, Makemie and other Presbyterians formed the first presbytery in America. He thus became known as the founder of American Presbyterianism.[5]

Presbyterian Mission History. This is Blog #1 in a series 12:

  1. What Francis Makemie Envisioned : Beneficial Relationships between Presbyterian Churches and Mission Agencies
  2. What Early Presbyterian Churches Enjoyed: Denominational Support for Voluntary Societies
  3. How the General Assembly of 1837 Expelled 60,000 church members on account of their partnership with mission agencies.
  4. The General Assembly Establishes the Board of Foreign Missions. An Extraordinary Mission Era Begins.
  5. Exemplary Presbyterian Missionaries of the 19th Century
  6. Exemplary Presbyterian Missionaries of the 20th Century
  7. Ninety-Five Notable Presbyterian Missionaries in Gerald Anderson’s Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions
  8. The Extraordinary Rise of Presbyterian Women’s Mission Societies following the Civil War
  9. What the General Assembly of 1902 Endorsed: Recognition and Regulation of “Special Interest Organizations.”
  10. Time to say Good-bye, Perhaps. How Everything Seems to be Ending.
  11. This is not the End. The Holy Spirit Enables New Mission Initiatives.
  12. Presbyterian Mission History: A Bibliography.

[1] David G. Dawson, “The Evolving Role of Presbytery after Christendom,” Unpublished (March 23, 2005). 2

[2] M. J. D. Roberts, Making English Morals: Voluntary Association and Moral Reform in England, 1787-1886, Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2004). 294

[3] Ibid. 294. Gordon Wood, considered by some the most influential historian on the early years of the United States, said that what was going on in America in the early 1800s was “the rise of ordinary people into dominance.” Quoted in Robert William Fogel, The Fourth Great Awakening & the Future of Egalitarianism (University of Chicago Press, 2000). 29

[4] Roberts, Making English Morals: Voluntary Association and Moral Reform in England, 1787-1886. 296

[5] Gerald H. Anderson, Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (New York: Macmillan, 1998). 429