From Mission to Church: The Reformed Church of America Mission in India

Article excerpt

From Mission to Church: The Reformed Church of America Mission in India.

By Eugene P. Heideman. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. Pp. xix, 748. Paperback $50.

This fact-filled chronicle is rich in detail. It traces RCA missionaries from their arrival in Jaffna (Ceylon) in 1819 and from their founding of the American Arcot Mission in 1853 (and Classis in 1854) to beyond their departure from India in 1987. It is also the story of the famous Scudder family; thirty-eight Scudders are listed in the index. The book traces this family from John and Harriet (1819) to beyond the death of "Dr. Ida" (1961), when Ida B. "stayed on." Ecumenicity is stressed. RCA missionaries initially went to India under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), but then, after the RCA established its own Board of Foreign Missions in 1857, successive mergers followed-with the South India United Church in 1902, with the Student Volunteer Movement in the 1920s, with the Church of South India in 1947, and, finally, with the World Council of Churches. Yet throughout these years, the mission never lost its distinctly Dutch Reformed character.

Among ironies that abound one stands out. How commitment to the ABCFM's "three-self" formula (indigenous congregations should be "selfpropagating, self-supporting, and selfgoverning"), as set by Rufus Anderson, led to perhaps the most ponderously institutionalized mission in India is never adequately explained. By the time of India's independence, the mission consisted of forty-five American missionaries, twenty-one Indian ministers, and over five hundred male and female staff serving 283 congregations. …