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Church Missionary Society

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Church Missionary Society

The Church Mission Society, also known as the Church Missionary Society, is a group of evangelistic societies working with the Anglican Communion and Protestant Christians around the world. Founded in 1799, CMS has attracted upwards of nine thousand men and women to serve as mission partners during its 200-year history.


The Society for Missions to Africa and the East (as it was first called) was founded on 12 April 1799 at a meeting of the Eclectic Society, supported by members of the Clapham Sect, a group of activist evangelical Christians. Their number included Henry Thornton, Thomas Babington[1] and William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was asked to be the first president of the Society, but he declined to take on this role, and became a vice president. The founding Secretary was the Rev. Thomas Scott, the biblical commentator. He made way in 1803 for Josiah Pratt who was Secretary for 21 years and an early driving force. The first missionaries - who came from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg, and had trained at the Berlin Seminary - went out in 1804. In 1812 the Society was renamed The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East, and the first English clergy to work as the Society's missionaries went out in 1815.

From 1825 onward, the Society concentrated its Mediterranean resources on the Coptic Church and its daughter Ethiopian Church, which included the creation of a translation of the Bible in Amharic at the instigation of William Jowett, as well as the posting of two missionaries to Ethiopia, Samuel Gobat (later the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem) and Christian Kugler, who arrived in that country in 1827.[2]

From 1813 to 1855 the Society published the Missionary Register; "containing an abstract of the principal missionary and bible societies throughout the world". From 1816, "containing the principal transactions of the various institutions for propagating the gospel with the proceedings at large of the Church Missionary Society".[3]

Twentieth century

During the early twentieth century, the society's theology moved in a more liberal direction under the leadership of Eugene Stock.[4] There was considerable debate over the possible introduction of a doctrinal test for missionaries, which advocates claimed would restore the society's original evangelical theology. In 1922, the society split, with the liberal evangelicals remaining in control of CMS headquarters, whilst conservative evangelicals established the Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society (BCMS, now Crosslinks).

Notable general secretaries of the society later in the 20th century were Max Warren and John Vernon Taylor. The first woman president of the CMS, Diana Reader Harris, was instrumental in persuading the society to back the 1980 Brandt Report on bridging the North-South divide. In the 1990s CMS appointed its first non-British general secretary, Michael Nazir-Ali, who later became Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England, and its first women general secretary, Diana Witts. In 1991 CMS was instrumental in bringing together a number of Anglican and, later, some Protestant mission agencies to form Faith2Share, an international network of mission agencies.

At the end of the 20th century there was a significant swing back to the Evangelical position, probably in part due to a review in 1999 at the anniversary and also due to the re-integration of Mid Africa Ministry (formerly the Ruanda Mission). The position of CMS is now that of an ecumenical Evangelical society, heavily influenced by the Charismatic movement.

The contribution made by the society in creating and maintaining educational institutions in Kerala, the most literate state in India, is significant. Many colleges and schools in Kerala and Tamil Nadu still have CMS in their names. The CMS College in Kottayam may be one of the pioneers in popularising secondary education in southern India. (Former Indian President K. R. Narayanan is an alumnus.)


On 31 January 2010 CMS had 151 mission partners and co-mission partners (workers jointly sent by CMS and another agency) serving in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The 2009-10 Annual Review also lists "Other people in mission : 78"; "Cross-cultural programme participants: 126" and "Projects financially supported: 114". This does not take into account work in Latin America, which came with the integration of CMS and the South American Mission Society on 1 February 2010. In 2009-10, CMS had a budget of £8 million, drawn primarily from donations by individuals and parishes, supplemented by historic investments.[5]

In June 2007, CMS in Britain moved the administrative office out of London for the first time. It is now based with the new Crowther Centre for Mission Education[6] in east Oxford.

In 2008, CMS was acknowledged as a mission community by the Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities of the Church of England. It currently has approximately 2,500 members who commit to seven promises, aspiring to live a lifestyle shaped by mission.

The Church Mission Society Archive is housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections.

Mission in Palestine

The CMS made an important contribution to Protestant Christianity in Palestine as well. Former CMS missionary Samuel Gobat became the second bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and in 1855 invited the CMS to make Palestine a mission field, which they did. Over the years many missionaries were sent, including John Zeller, who exercised a great influence on the development of Nazareth and Jerusalem and founded Christ Church, Nazareth, the first Protestant church in the Galilee. Another missionary was Frederick Augustus Klein, who served in Nazareth and Egypt, discovered the Moabite Stone, and assisted with the translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Arabic.

Mission in Hong Kong

St Stephen’s Anglican Church was one of three churches founded in Hong Kong by the Church Missionary Society. It was led by the Reverend Tsing-Shan Fok (霍靜山, 1851-1918, one of the earliest Chinese clergy in Hong Kong) starting in 1904.[7]

New Zealand

The Church Missionary Society sent the first missionaries to settle in New Zealand. Its agent, the Revd Samuel Marsden, officiated at the first Christian service on land in that country on Christmas Day in 1814, at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Islands. The CMS founded its first mission at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands in 1814, and over the next decade established farms and schools in the area. Thomas Kendall, and William Hall were directed, in 1814, to proceed to the Bay of Islands, in the Active, a vessel purchased by Marsden for the service of the Mission, there to re-open communication with Ruatara; the earlier attempt to establish a mission in the Bay of Islands had been delayed as a consequence of the Boyd massacre in Whangaroa harbour in 1809.[8] Kendall and Hall set out on 14 March 1814 on the Active on an exploratory journey to the Bay of Islands. They met Rangatira (chiefs) of the Ngāpuhi including Ruatara and the rising war leader Hongi Hika, Hongi Hika and Ruatara travelled with Kendall when he returned to Australia on 22 August 1814. Kendall, Hall and John King, arrived on the Active on 22 December 1814 to establish the mission.[9]

In 1819, Marsden made his second visit to New Zealand, bringing with him the Rev. John Butler; Francis Hall and James Kemp, as lay settlers. William Puckey came to assist in putting up the buildings Kerikeri.[8] Butler and Kemp were in charge of the Kerikeri mission, however they were unable to develop an harmoneous working relationship. In 1820, Mr. Marsden paid his third visit, on H.M.S. Dromedary, bringing James Shepherd.[8] In 1823, Mr. Marsden paid his fourth visit, bringing with him the Revd Henry Williams and his wife Marianne and William Fairburn.[8] In 1826 Henry's brother William and his wife Jane joined the CMS mission in New Zealand.

The CMS Mission House in Kerikeri, completed in 1822, is New Zealand's oldest surviving building.[10]

In the early days it funded its activities largely through trade; Thomas Kendall, like many secular settlers, sold weapons to Māori, fuelling the Musket Wars. Kendall also brought Māori war chief Hongi Hika to London in 1820, creating a small sensation. When Henry Williams became the leader of the missionaries at Paihia in 1823, he immediately stopped the trade in muskets.[11] The CMS established further missions in the Bay of Plenty, but converts were few until 1830, when the baptism of Ngapuhi chief Taiwhanga influenced others to do the same.[10]

In the 1830s the CMS expanded beyond the Bay of Islands, opening mission stations in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay. By 1840 missionaries William Williams and Robert Maunsell had translated much of the New Testament into Māori. At this time concern about the European impact on New Zealand, particularly lawlessness among Europeans and a breakdown in the traditional restraints in Māori society meant that the CMS welcomed the United Kingdom's annexation of New Zealand in January 1840. Its missionaries worked to persuade Maori chiefs to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, a document intended to ratify the annexation.[12]

The CMS was at its most influential in the 1840s and 1850s. Missions covered almost the whole of the North Island and many Māori were baptised. Although the missionaries were often supportive of Māori in their disputes with the Crown, they sided with the government in the New Zealand Wars in the 1840s and again in the 1860s. Negotiations for the CMS's withdrawal from New Zealand began in 1854, and only a handful of new missionaries were sent out after this.[12] In 1892 the New Zealand branch of the Church Missionary Society was formed, and the first New Zealand missionaries were sent overseas soon after.[13] Funding from the UK was completely cut off in 1903.[14]

Today the NZCMS works closely with the Anglican Missions Board, concentrating on mission work outside New Zealand. In 2000 it amalgamated with the South American Missionary Society of New Zealand.[13]

Members of the mission in the early years included:

  • Benjamin Y. Ashwell, arrived in 1835, and worked at Otawhao from 1839.[9]
  • The Revd Charles Baker, arrived on 9 June 1828. He was stationed at Kerikeri and then at Kororareka (Russell).[9]
  • The Revd Alfred Nesbit Brown, arrived in October 1829. He was put in charge of the school at Paihia. In 1835 he opened the Matamata mission station and in 1838 he went to Tauranga.[9]
  • The Revd Robert Burrows, arrived in 1840.[9]
  • John Butler, arrived 12 August 1819; ceasing work at the mission in 1822.[9]
  • William Colenso, arrived in December 1834 to work as a printer and missionary.[15]
  • Thomas Chapman, catechist, arrived in 1830 and established the Rotorua mission station in 1835.[9]
  • George Clarke arrived 4 April 1824.[16][17] A blacksmith at Kerikeri.[18]
  • Richard Davis, a farmer, arrived on 7 May 1824.[18] He established a garden at the Paihia mission. In 1831 he established a farm at the Waimate Mission Station. In 1843 he was ordained and appointed to Kaikohe.[9]
  • William T. Fairburn, a carpenter. The Revd J. Butler's “Journal” mentions his being in the Bay of Islands in January 1821.[19] In 1823 he was in Sydney and returned on board the Brampton with Rev. Henry Williams and his wife Marianne;[18] He later went with John A. Wilson, James Preece and John Morgan to establish the Puriri mission station. His daughter Elizabeth married William Colenso.[9]
  • James Hamlin, flax dresser and weaver, arrived in March 1826 with William and Jane Williams.[18] He served as a catechist at the Waimate Mission Station and later that the mission stations at Kerikeri and Mangapouri. In 1836 he became the head of the Manukau mission station. In 1844 he was ordained a deacon and sent to Wairoa, Hawkes Bay; in 1863 he was ordained a minister.[9]
  • Octavius Hadfield, arrived in December 1838 and was ordained a minister at Paihia on 6 January 1839, that year he travelled to Otaki with Henry Williams, where he established a mission station.[9]
  • Francis Hall, arrived 12 August 1819 and remained until 1823.[9]
  • William Hall, a ship-carpenter, arrived on the Active on 22 December 1814,[18] and left in ill-health in 1824.[9]
  • John King, arrived on the Active on 22 December 1814. Shoemaker by trade, employed as a catechist, teaching the Māori at Rangihoua.[18] King was also engaged in work to effect improvement in the dressing of Phormium tenax (harakeke in Māori, New Zealand flax).[20]
  • James Kemp, arrived 12 August 1819.[9] Blacksmith, keeper of the mission stores and catechist, and school teacher at Kerikeri.[9][18]
  • Thomas Kendall arrived on the Active on 22 December 1814; dismissed from the mission in August 1822.[9]
  • Samuel Marsden Knight (a nephew of Samuel Marsden), catechist arrived in June 1835.[9]
  • The Revd John Mason, who arrived in 1840 and established the Wanganui mission station, where he drowned in 1843.[9]
  • Joseph Matthews, arrived in 1832 and established the Kaitaia mission station.[9]
  • Robert Maunsell, arrived in 1835 and worked with William Williams on the translation of the Bible. Maunsell worked on the Old Testament, portions of which were published in 1840 with the full translation completed in 1857. He became a leading scholar of the Māori language. He later established the Manukau mission station in 1835.[9]
  • John Morgan, arrived in 1833, and worked with James Preece to establish the Puriri mission station at Thames in 1833, the Mangapouri mission station in 1835 and the Otawhao mission station in 1842.[9]
  • Henry Pilley, catechist and carpenter, arrived in February 1834.[9]
  • James Preece, catechist, arrived in 1830 and worked with John Morgan to establish the Purtiri mission station in 1833 .[9]
  • William Puckey, carpenter, arrived on 12 August 1819 with his wife Margery, son William Gilbert, and daughter Elizabeth. He built, and then served as the mate of the Herald; William Puckey was the father of William Gilbert Puckey.
  • William Gilbert Puckey joined the mission in 1821. He and Joseph Matthews established the Kaitaia mission station in 1833.[18] As he had become fluent in the language since arriving as a boy of 14, he was a useful translator for the CMS mission, including collaborating with William Williams on the translation of the New Testament in 1837 and its revision in 1844.[9]
  • James Shepherd, visited with Marsden in 1817 and placed at Rangihoua in 1820.[9] A skilled gardener, who taught the Māori how to plant vegetables, fruit and trees. He was generally employed among the different tribes, instructing them in the Christian religion, as he understood the Māori language better than any of the other missionaries at that time.[18] He served at the mission stations at Kaeo, Te Puna on the Purerua Peninsula and Whangaroa.[9]
  • William Spikeman, a herdsman, arrived in 1814.[21][22]
  • James Stack, had been a Wesleyan missionary at Whangaroa; then later joined the CMS and was sent to the Puriri mission at Thames where his son James West Stack was born. In 1839 joined William Williams at the mission station at Tūranga in Poverty Bay.[9]
  • Richard Taylor, arrived in 1839. He was appointed a head of the school at the Waimate Mission Station and was later to establish a mission station at Wanganui.[9]
  • William Wade, printer, arrived in December 1834 and worked with William Colenso at Paihia. He later established the Tauranga mission station in 1835.[9]
  • John A. Wilson, retired from the navy in 1832 and joined the mission as a lay missionary. In 1833 he and James Preece opened the mission station at Puriri, Thames and in 1836 he and W. R. Wade went to Tauranga. In 1840 he established the Opotiki mission station. He was ordained a deacon in 1852.[9]
  • William Yate, arrived 19 January 1828 dismissed from the mission in June 1834.[23]

See also

Anglicanism portal



CMS in New Zealand:

  • (English) Fitzgerald, Caroline (2004) - Letters from the Bay of Islands, Sutton Publishing Limited, United Kingdom; ISBN 0-7509-3696-7 (Hardcover). Penguin Books, New Zealand, (Paperback) ISBN 0-14-301929-5
  • (English) Fitzgerald, Caroline (2011) - Te Wiremu - Henry Williams: Early Years in the North, Huia Press, New Zealand, (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-86969-439-5

CMS - general:

  • Hewitt, Gordon, The Problems of Success, A History of the Church Missionary Society 1910-1942, Vol I (1971) In Tropical Africa. The Middle East. At Home ISBN 334002524; Vol II (1977)Asia Overseas Partners ISBN 0-334-01313-5
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • Missionary Register; containing an abstract of the principal missionary and bible societies throughout the world. From 1816, containing the principal transactions of the various institutions for propagating the gospel with the proceedings at large of the Church Missionary Society.
Published from 1813–1855 by L. B. Seeley & Sons, London
Some are online readable and downloadable at Google Books:
    • 1814
    • 1815
    • 1822
    • 1823
    • 1826
    • 1828
    • 1829
    • 1831
    • 1834
    • 1846

External links

  • CMS Britain
  • CMS Australia
  • New Zealand CMS
  • CMS Ireland
  • World Mission News from CMS
  • CMS mission videos
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