Missionary activity in the 19th century and following has been controversial, to say the least. Is it a form of colonialism? Is it political? Is it oppressive? Is it liberating? Gonzalez surveys missionary activity in many parts of the world.
Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 2. New York: HarperCollins, 2010b. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 33, “Geographic Expansion” Loc. 6525-6875.
Western Christians have had mixed opinions about colonialism. Gonzalez concludes that many wished their colonial efforts to bring the benefits they found both in Western civilization and in Christianity to the rest of the world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6530). Of course, there were negative effects as well, which may well have led to the 20th century anticolonial reactions in much of the world (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6539). Gonzalez is quick to note that missionary activity and colonialism did not normally have the same goals and often worked against one another (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6546). In the 19th century, missionary societies sprang up apart from governmental or even denominational support (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6566). These organizations were often able to cross cultural and theological lines to cooperate.
Asia, after the British East India Company was established, attracted the interest of William Carey, who went to Calcutta in 1793 (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6618). He could not settle there due to a ban of missionaries imposed by the British East India Company, but carried on successful work with native language Bibles and protection of widows (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6625). By 1813, the Company lifted its ban. many other missionaries began work in India (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6631). Southeast Asia was also attractive, with Adoniram Judson working in Burma (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6646). Work in China was largely restricted by isolationist governmental policies until British domination of Hong Kong in the 1840s (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6661). In the 1850s Hudson Taylor was able to go to China (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6676). His organization sought to avoid the fragmentation of worldwide Protestantism (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6683). Japan was quick to adopt Western economic models in the 1860s. They also tended to welcome Protestant missionaries as they sought to broaden their influence in the region (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6697). Other areas also had missionary activity. Australia and New Zealand and the smaller islands were influenced by Christianity along with Western culture in the late 1800s (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6733).
Islam was a force at this time in northern Africa (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6733). In the early 20th century, with Islam in retreat, colonialism and missionary activity increased in Africa. Because there were pockets of Christianity which had survived since the early centuries, relationships with new missionaries were a challenge (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6741). Gonzalez details the partition of Africa in brief, observing that religious majorities in the colonial nations had a strong influence on the type of missionary activity (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6763). The most famous missionary to Africa was probably David Livingstone, also a physician, who left detailed records (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6769).
As nations in Latin America gained independence they saw a great deal of immigration and the founding of many churches (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6782). Governments often allowed freedom of religion so as to encourage people with religious principles to come (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6797). Much of the missionary activity in Latin America was Protestant, which created tension with the existing, mostly Roman Catholic, people (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6819). Much missionary activity turned toward unreached and disadvantaged people.
Gonzalez sees a growing ecumenical movement sparked by the missionary activity of the 18th-20th centuries (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6834). There was a growing tolerance of doctrinal differences and a sense of universal mission through the whole world. Especially in missionary activity, cooperation seemed sensible (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6841). The 20th century saw numerous international conferences on world mission, reaching across denominational lines (Gonzalez 2010b, Loc. 6849).
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