Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Mighty England Do Good: Culture, Faith, Empire, and World in the Foreign Missions of the Church of England, 1850-1915

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Mighty England Do Good: Culture, Faith, Empire, and World in the Foreign Missions of the Church of England, 1850-1915

Article excerpt

Mighty England Do Good: Culture, Faith, Empire, and World in the Foreign Missions of the Church of England, 1850-1915. By Steven S. Maughan. [Studies in the History of Christian Missions.] (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 2014. Pp. xvi, 511. $45.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8028-6946-3.)

Anyone working on Anglican missions in the Victorian and Edwardian periods will find Steven Maughan's study an invaluable guide to the theological debates, party strife, and personal rivalries that shaped the operations of the two principal voluntar)' societies that bankrolled the foreign missions of the Church of England: the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG). Although the title is drawn from a charge to British Christianity delivered by David Livingstone's African companion Jacob Wainwright in 1874, it is the metropolitan organization rather than the foreign operations of Anglican missions that is put under the microscope. As far as culture is concerned, the principal object of study is the internal culture of the Church of England.

Too often neophyte historians of Christian missions plunge into the archives with a very superficial understanding of the denominational peculiarities and governance structures of the missionary societies dispatching agents to far-flung corners of the globe. Maughan decisively demonstrates that the CMS and SPG spent much less time debating strategies for converting the heathen than defending their confessional and partisan turf. They struggled continually to resolve the contradiction between the episcopal governing structure of the Anglican Church and the voluntary philanthropic engines that kept the missionary societies financially afloat.

Broadly speaking, the CMS represented the Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church, whereas the SPG embodied the values of High Church and AngloCatholic Anglicans. However, the shifting tides of politics and public opinion ensured that the forces of various parties never settled into a comfortable equilibrium. …

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