North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy

North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy

North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy

North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy

Excerpt

The combined result of reborn evangelical fervor, Calvinistic benevolence
and a world then as now desperately in need of disinterested good will
was the inception and release of reforms, benevolences, and “causes”
which in their full development so finely characterized American church
and social life till the first World War. The first result was the organization
of propagandizing societies … new to Protestantism and, in many fields,
to Christianity.

The year 1810 marks the beginning of a new stage for the church in North America. That year a group of Massachusetts church leaders organized the first agency dedicated to foreign missions. The founding of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was a catalyst that set in motion forces that would reshape the Christian enterprise at home and abroad; it entailed the development of specialized agencies, theological rationale, program policies, and a theoretical framework for activity the American churches had never before attempted.

This was not the first attempt to organize an American foreign mission society, but it was the first to succeed. In 1776 Samuel Hopkins (1721-1803), well-known disciple of Jonathan Edwards and pastor of First Congregational Church, Newport, Rhode Island, proposed that a mission to Africa be estab-

1. Gaius Glenn Atkins and Frederick L. Fagley, History of American Congregational
ism
(Boston and Chicago: Pilgrim Press, 1942), p. 138.

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