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

By Patterson, James A. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2007 | Go to article overview

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


Patterson, James A., The Catholic Historical Review


North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy. Edited by Wilbert R. Shenk. [Studies in the History of Christian Missions.] (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2004. Pp. xiv, 349. $45.00 paperback.)

This collection of papers and essays joins an impressive array of volumes that make up Eerdmans's "Studies in the History of Missions," a series that aptly epitomizes the historiographical renaissance that has flowered around the subject of missions in recent decades. North American Foreign Missions, like some of the other books in the series, emerged out of the North Atlantic Missiology Project; it incorporates material that was delivered at NAMP consultations in 1997 (University of Wisconsin) and 1998 (Fuller Theological Seminary), as well as additional chapters solicited by the editor. The title of this compilation is misleading-the main themes are limited entirely to Protestant missionary endeavor. Roman Catholic missions are virtually ignored.

Reflecting the two distinct consultations, the volume is divided into major sections that cover two historical periods: 1810-1865 and 1865-1914. Part I focuses primarily on the Congregationalist missionary enterprise, which was initially driven by the Haystack Prayer Meeting of 1806 and the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1810. David Kling of the University of Miami, Florida, sets an appropriate tone for the book by demonstrating the profound impact of New Divinity theology on the ABCFM, which ultimately points to the largely unexplored missionary legacy of Jonathan Edwards. In one of the most insightful papers, Paul Harris of Moorhead State offers a nuanced analysis of nineteenth-century missiologist Rufus Anderson; he convincingly argues that the Andersonian model for stimulating indigenous churches overseas was marked by significant cultural insensitivity. Another essay, by Dana Robert of Boston University, provides a provocative overview of the role conflicts that were experienced by the wives of Baptist missionaries in Burma and their Congregationalist counterparts in Hawaii. …

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