Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen's Inquiry after One Hundred Years

By William Ernest Hocking; Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry. Commission of Appraisal | Go to book overview
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Foreword

IT IS doubtful whether any enterprise dependent entirely on continuous giving has so long sustained the interest of so many people as has the foreign mission. Its continuity has not been that of invested funds, but of perennially renewed sacrifice springing from persistent belief in its objects. In an era during which channels for giving to beneficent purposes have multiplied almost beyond reckoning, this enterprise has until very recent years not only held its own, but shown remarkable growth. Relying as it has upon the steadfastness of certain attitudes of mind and will, its very magnitude has rendered it vulnerable to any change which might affect those attitudes. In the last few years there have been signs of such change. The old fervor appears to have been succeeded in some quarters by questionings if not by indifference. Subscriptions have been falling off. Problems of the utmost gravity face mission boards in nearly all fields. There is a growing conviction that the mission enterprise is at a fork in the road, and that momentous decisions are called for.

In January 1930, a group of laymen of one denomination met in New York to consider these problems. It appeared to this group that the situation demanded a new and thoroughgoing study of the basis and purport of missions and of their operation. But since these questions were of common concern to many churches, invitations were sent to laymen of other denominations to join in the study. As a result, seven denominations, each unofficially represented by a group of five men and women, joined to constitute the thirty-five Directors of the Laymen's Foreign Missions Inquiry. These denominations are Baptist (Northern), Congregational, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian Church in U. S. A., Protestant Episcopal, Reformed Church in America, United Presbyterian. The chair

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