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American Board of Commissioners For Foreign Missions
The Haystack Monument, Williams College, commemorates the event in 1806 that inspired the creation of the ABCFM.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions issued shares to finance its new ship Morning Star in the year 1884
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was among the first American Christian missionary organizations. It was created in 1810 by recent graduates of Williams College. In the 19th century it was the largest and most important of American missionary organizations and consisted of participants from Protestant Reformed traditions such as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and German Reformed churches.
The American Board, as it was known continued to operate as a largely Congregationalist entity until the 1950s. In 1957, the Congregational Christian church merged with the German Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ. As a part of the organizational merger associated with this new denomination, the ABCFM ceased to be independent. It merged operations with other missions entities to form the United Church Board for World Ministries, an agency of the United Church of Christ.
Anderson, Greene, and Armstrong led as coequals from 1835 to 1846, with Anderson as foreign secretary, Armstrong as domestic secretary, and David Greene as secretary for American Indian missions and editor of the Missionary Herald Rufus Anderson continued as foreign secretary until 1866. Armstrong died in a shipwreck between Boston and New Jersey in 1846.
By 1866, Rev. Nathan George Clark and Rev G. W. Wood had joined Rufus Anderson and Selah Treat as corresponding secretaries. Wood, as ABCFM Secretary in New York City, held his position from 1850 to 1871. Clark assumed the position of Foreign Secretary when Anderson left in 1866 and remained Foreign Secretary until 1894.
Jeremiah Evarts served as treasurer, 1812-20, and as corresponding secretary from 1821 until his death in 1831. Under his leadership, the board in 1821 expanded the role of women: it authorized Ellen Stetson, the first unmarried female missionary to the American Indians, and Betsey Stockton, the first unmarried female overseas missionary and the first African-American missionary.
Evarts led the organization's efforts to place missionaries with American Indian tribes in the Southeastern United States. He also led the ABCFM's extensive fight against Indian removal policies in general and the Indian Removal Act of 1830 in particular.
1830 through 1860
By the 1830s, based on its experiences, the ABCFM prohibited unmarried people from entering the mission field. They required couples to have been engaged at least two months prior to setting sail. To help the missionaries find wives, they maintained a list of women who were "missionary-minded": "young, pious, educated, fit and reasonably good-looking." The policy against sending single women as missionaries was not strictly followed and was reversed in 1868.
The secretary post was offered to Elias Cornelius in October 1831, but he became ill and died in February 1832.Rufus Anderson was the General Secretary of the Board from 1832 through the mid-1860s. His legacy included administrative gifts, setting of policy, visiting around the world, and chronicling the work of the ABCFM in books.
Rufus Anderson (1796-1880)
Between 1810 and 1840, the ABCFM sought firstly to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At home and abroad, the Board and its supporters undertook every effort to exhort the evangelical community, to train a cadre of agents, and to send forth laborers into the mission field. As a leader in the United Front and early federal American voluntary associations, the Board influenced the nineteenth-century mission movement.
Missionary stations in 1855
By 1850, the American Board had sent 157 ordained, male missionaries to foreign posts.
The January 1855 issue of the Missionary Herald listed the Current missions of the Board as follow:
Orthodox, Trinitarian and evangelical in their theology, speakers to the annual meetings of the Board challenged their audiences to give of their time, talent and treasure in moving forward the global project of spreading Christianity. At first reflective of late colonial "occasional" sermons, the annual meeting addresses gradually took on the quality of "anniversary" sermons. The optimism and cooperation of post-millennialism held a major place in the scheme of the Board sermons.
After having listened to such sermons and been influenced at colleges, college and seminary students prepared to proclaim the gospel in foreign cultures. Their short dissertations and pre-departure sermons reflected both the outlook of annual Board sermons and sensitivity to host cultures. Once the missionaries entered the field, optimism remained yet was tempered by the realities of pioneering mission work in a different milieu. Many of the Board agents sought--through eclectic dialogue and opportunities as they presented themselves, as well as itinerant preaching--to bring the cultures they met, observed, and lived in to bear upon the message they shared. The missionaries found the audiences to be similar to Americans in their responses to the gospel message. Some rejected it outright, others accepted it, and a few became Christian proclaimers themselves.
Other North American Missions to the Indians
Among the North American missions of the ABCFM north or west of the displaced Southeast tribes were the 1823 Mackinaw Mission (Mackinac Island and Northern Michigan), the Green Bay mission (Michigan Territory at Green Bay), the Dakota mission (Michigan Territory/Iowa Territory/Minnesota Territory primarily along the Mississippi and the Minnesota (St. Peters) Rivers), the Ojibwe mission (Michigan Territory/Wisconsin Territory/Minnesota Territory/ Wisconsin at La Pointe and Odanah, Yellow Lake, Pokegama Lake, Sandy Lake, Fond du Lac, and Red Lake), and the Whitman mission in Oregon.
Missionaries of the Dakota mission experienced the explosion of Dakota violence in August 1862 at the start of the U.S.-Dakota War. Some of them attended the imprisoned Dakota and accompanied the exiled Dakota when they were forced out of Minnesota in 1863, especially those of the Williamson and Riggs families.
The Dakota mission translated the Bible into Dakota and produced a dictionary and a schoolbook. The Ojibwe mission translated the New Testament into Ojibwe and produced a number of schoolbooks, but used a now-abandoned notation style to do so. Both were among the first to render these languages in print.
Work with indigenous preachers
Indigenous preachers associated with the Board proclaimed an orthodox message, but they further modified the presentation beyond how the missionaries had developed subtle differences with the home leaders. Drawing upon the positive and negative aspects of their own cultures, the native evangelists steeped their messages in Biblical texts and themes. At times, indigenous workers had spectacular or unexpected results. On many occasions, little fruit resulted from their labors. Whatever the response, the native preachers worked on--even in the midst of persecution--until martyrdom or natural death took them.
Native preachers and other indigenous people assisted Board missionaries in Bible translation efforts. The act of translating the Scriptures into a mother tongue reflected a sensitivity to culture and a desire to work within the host society. Second only to the verbal proclamation of the Gospel, Bible translation took place in all sorts of settings: among ancient Christian churches, such as the Armenians and the Assyrian [Nestorian] church; cultures with a written language and a written religious heritage, such as the Marathi; and creating written languages in cultures without them, such as among the animistic people in Hawaii.
Educational, social, and medical roles served by ABCFM missionaries
Printing and literacy played crucial roles in the process of Bible translation. Similarly, the press runs and literacy presentations contributed significantly to the social involvement exhibited by the Board. To a greater or lesser extent, education, medicine, and social concerns supplemented the preaching efforts by missionaries. Schools provided ready-made audiences for preachers. Free, or Lancasterian, schools provided numerous students. Boarding students in missionary homes allowed them to witness Christian life in the intimacy of the family.
Education empowered indigenous people. Mostly later than 1840, it enabled them to develop their own church leaders and take a greater role in their communities. Board missionaries established some form of education at every station. A number of Board missionaries also received some medical training before leaving for the field. Some, like Ida Scudder, were trained as physicians but ordained as missionaries and concentrated on the task of preaching. Others, such as Peter Parker, sought to practice both the callings of missionary and medical practitioner.
The American Board followed with many other appointments in rapid succession. Revs. Ira Tracy and Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884), followed in 1833, settling at Singapore and Macau. In the same year Revs. Stephen Johnson (missionary) and Samuel Munson went to Bangkok and Sumatra. There were four great centers from which smaller stations were maintained. These were Fuzhou, in connection with which were fifteen churches; North China, embracing Beijing, Kalgan, Tianjin, Tengzhou, and Baoding, with smaller stations in the various districts of the center missions; Hong Kong; and Shanxi, with two stations in the midst of districts filled with opium cultivation and staffed by missionaries of the Oberlin Band of Oberlin College.
At Tengzhou missionaries established a college, over which Dr. Calvin Mateer presided. Tengzhou was one of the centers for Chinese literary competitive examinations. Mateer believed that the light of modern science shown in contrast with "superstition" would prove effective. He and his wife taught astronomy, mathematics, natural philosophy, and history. He trained young men to be teachers all over North China. The young men whom he had trained in Biblical instruction began native ministry. Drs. John Livingstone Nevius and Hunter Corbett (1862-1918) co-operated in this latter work, by giving a theological education to candidates for ministry during a portion of each year at Yantai.
At its principal stations in China, the Society maintained large medical dispensaries and hospitals, boarding schools for boys and girls, colleges for native students, and other agencies for effecting the purposes of the mission. It also helped create the Canton Hospital. As of 1890 it had twenty-eight missionaries, sixteen lady agents, ten medical missionaries, four ordained native ministers, one hundred and five unordained native helpers, nearly one thousand communicants, and four hundred and fifty pupils in its schools.
ABCFM in the Middle East
The ABCFM founded many colleges and schools in the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans. For example, the American College of Sofia in Bulgaria is the successor to a Boys' School founded by the ABCFM in 1860 in Plovdiv and a Girls' School in Stara Zagora in 1863. They were combined in Samokov, Bulgaria in 1871, and moved to Sofia in the late 1920s.
Reverend Joel Hulu Mahoe (1830-1890) Hawaiian Missionary known as "Mahoe", "Noble Missionary", and "The Gallant Pastor of Tarawa". Graduate of Lahainaluna Theological School in 1854 and second pure Hawaiian to be ordained.
Henry Blatchford of the Ojibwe mission did translations and lay preaching beginning at Pokegama (Minnesota) in 1836, was ordained eventually and worked at the Odanah mission until he died in the late 19th century.
Abdullah Abdul Kadir (1797-1854), known as "Munshi Abdullah", was a Malayan scholar and translator under the employ of Alfred North, an ABCFM missionary stationed in Singapore.
^The Missionary Herald (Volume XVIII, No. 11 (November 1822) ed.). Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong. 1822. p. 338. Retrieved 2016. The Board then made choice of the following officers, for the ensuing year...
^Maxfield, Charles A. (2001). "THE FORMATION AND EARLY HISTORY of the AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS". Charles A. Maxfield (1995 Dissertation). Retrieved 2016. "From 1835 to 1846 the Board had a period of stable leadership under the direction of Anderson, Greene, and Armstrong. In the division of labor of three co-equal secretaries, Rufus Anderson was foreign secretary, Benjamin Wisner and then William Armstrong were domestic secretaries, and David Greene was secretary for American Indian missions and editor of the Missionary Herald
^"Barton, James Levi (1855-1936)". History of Missiology. Boston University School of Theology. Retrieved 2016. He was elected president of Euphrates College, Harpoot, in 1892, but when his wife's ill health prevented continuing residence in Turkey, Barton became foreign secretary of the ABCFM. First among equals on the board staff, Barton believed that the primary need of indigenous Christian communities was well-trained leadership. Before his retirement in 1927,
^Shavit, David (1988). The United States in the Middle East: a historical dictionary. Greenwood Press. "Riggs graduated.. and was ordained in 1910... president of Euphrates College from 1910 to 1921, child welfare director of the Near East Relief in 1920-1921; and associate secretary and corresponding secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from 1921 to 1932.
^Goodsell, Fred Field (1959). You Shall be My Witnesses: An Interpretation of the history of the American Board 1810-1960 (Library of Congress Card Catalog Number 59-15355 ed.). ABCFM. p. viii. Retrieved 2016. the Board's first Executive Vice-President Dr. Fred Field Goodsell"..."When the Constitution of the Board was revised to provide that among its secretaries one should be first among equals, a sort of Prime Minister... That man was Dr. Goodsell... he was called back to Boston to lead the Board... For nineteen years"
^"Timeline of Mission". Global Ministries. Global Ministries. Retrieved 2016. 1961 ABCFM merges with Board of International Missions to form the United Church Board for World Ministries (UCBWM)
^"RG 30/385 - Carleton Family Papers 1808 (1853-1973) - 1985". Oberlin College Archives. Archived from the original on July 28, 2016. Retrieved 2016. After serving as president of Aleppo College for seventeen years, Dr. Carleton returned to the United States to serve as executive vice president of the ABCFM. His first major task was to guide the Congregational Church in a merger with the Evangelical and Reformed Church, creating the United Church of Christ. Resulting from this merger, the ABCFM, formerly a branch of the Congregational Church, became the United Church Board of World Ministries. He served as executive vice president of the board from 1954 to 1970.
^Corr, Donald Philip "The Field Is the World": Proclaiming, Translating and Serving by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1810-40 (Pasadena: William Carey Library Dissertation Series, 2009)
Bliss, Edwin Munsell, ed. The Encyclopaedia of missions. Descriptive, historical, biographical, statistical. With a full assortment of maps, a complete bibliography, and lists of Bible version, missionary societies, mission stations, and a general indexonline vol 1 1891, 724pp; online vol 2 1891, 726pp
Conroy-Krutz, Emily. Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015.
Phillips, Clifton Jackson. Protestant America and the pagan world: the first half century of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1810-1860 (Harvard University Press, 1969)
"Rev William Jessup Armstrong". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2016. Died in the wreck of the Steamer Atlantic, age 50. He labored long in the fields of central Virginia where he gathered a church. Born in Mendham NJ, son of the minister Dr A Armstrong. He died on one of his monthly returns to Boston.