From Mission to Church: The Heritage of the Church Mission Society

By Ajayi, J. F. Ade. | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, April 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

From Mission to Church: The Heritage of the Church Mission Society

Ajayi, J. F. Ade., International Bulletin of Missionary Research

J. F. Ade. Ajayi is Emeritus Professor, University of Ibadan. This article is a slightly revised version of his essay in 150 Years of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, ed. J. A. Omoyajowo (Lagos: CMS Press, 1992).

The Evangelical Revival in England, of which the Church Missionary Society, now Church Mission Society (CMS), was a product, was initiated by a number of clergymen in the Anglican Church, among whom John Wesley was the best known. From different backgrounds and approaches, they challenged the worldliness of the clergy and sought to kindle in the body of the church a sense of sin and the enabling grace of Christ to save the repentant sinner.

Like all revivalists, they had to face the issue of whether to work within the existing churches, particularly whether to work with the existing leaders and liturgies, some of which they criticized and wished to change. Working within the existing structures, they could concentrate their effort on their mission of saving souls and leave the politics of church organization to others.

Alternatively, they could emphasize doctrine, secede from the existing churches, formulate new liturgies, and constitute their followers into new churches. With this approach, however, they ran the risk of losing the momentum of the movement for saving souls and changing lives; they soon might find themselves settling into the routine of church organization.

Finally, the revivalists were also grappling with a problem that is at the heart of evangelization--the relationship between preaching and pastoring, fishing and shepherding, mission and church.

John Wesley himself wished to reform the Anglican Church from within; he refused to secede or become a dissenter. However, by 1791, when he died, three groups had emerged among those referred to variously as Methodists or Evangelicals:

1. The Wesleyan Methodists, who had become a distinguishable denomination, with their emphasis on the singing of hymns, the preaching of the Word, and the simplicity of their places of worship, which had to be licensed as dissenting chapels, distinct from the parish churches of the established church.

2. The Calvinist Methodists, led by George Whitefield, whose powerful preaching and emphasis on the doctrine of predestination brought in the masses, while the patronage of Lady Huntingdon brought in some of the aristocracy and the funds. In spite of themselves, they became known as the Huntingdon Connection--in essence, a branch of the Methodist Church.

3. The Evangelicals, who insisted on operating from within the Anglican Church and within the context of the existing liturgies, episcopacy, and the links of the church with the state. They became known as the Low Church, distinguished from the Anglo-Catholic High Church, and even from the intervening Broad Church that evolved later. This meant that individual clergymen of Evangelical persuasion carried their congregations along and sought to extend the acceptance of Evangelical principles in the church. It was not until 1849--with the Privy Council decision in the Gorham case, which ruled that the Evangelical views on baptism were not inconsistent with the liturgy and that the bishop could not refuse to ordain a clergyman on the grounds that such views were unsound--that the Evangelicals were assured that they could not be legally expelled from the church and did not need to secede.

In deciding to work from within the Anglican Church, the Evangelicals weighed the advantages and disadvantages. Knowing they were unlikely to change the whole Anglican Church to Methodism, they were satisfied to have their views accommodated as consistent with the basic principles of the church as enunciated at the time of the Reformation. Where Anglo-Catholic relics of the Reformation proved an immovable obstacle, they fell back on the Bible and the practices of the early church as constituting a greater authority than the compromises made at the Reformation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

From Mission to Church: The Heritage of the Church Mission Society


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?