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.
On 1 February 2007 CMS had 186 mission partners serving in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. When study partners, exchange programme participants and other people in mission are included, the Society supported 704 workers. Mission projects are supported in over 50 countries. A budget of almost £9 million p.a. is drawn primarily from donations by individuals and parishes, supplemented by historic investments.
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 whose number included Henry Thornton and William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was asked to be the first president of the Society, but he declined to take on this extra, significant 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 Wurttemberg, 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.
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".
During the early twentieth century, the Society's theology moved in a liberal direction under the leadership of Eugene Stock. 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).
Significant General Secretaries of the Society later in the 20th century were Max Warren, and John Vernon Taylor.
The contribution made by the society in spreading education in Kerala, the most literate state in India, is very 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 Higher Education in India (former Indian President K.R. Narayanan is an alumnus).
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 in east Oxford.
The Church Mission Society Archive is housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections.
CMS-Australia is committed to proclaiming the gospel and serving God's people around the world to see lives transformed by Christ.
The British-based Church Missionary Society began operations in Sydney in 1825, with the intention of bringing the gospel to the aboriginal population. In 1830 the first missionaries arrived from England to establish a mission venture in Wellington Valley. Three Aboriginall people were baptised before CMS discontinued the work in 1842. CMS Associations were set up around Australia, and the first CMS-sponsored Australian missionary, Helen Philips, sailed for Ceylon in 1888.
The organisation now known as CMS-Australia effectively dates from 1916, when the individual CMS associations in the Australian states were amalgamated into a national organisation. CMS had sent missionaries to many countries by this time, including China, India, Palestine and Iran, but by 1927 they had particular interest in North Australia and Tanganyika (now "Tanzania").
Today CMS-Australia is Australia's largest evangelical mission organisation with 160 missionaries serving in 33 countries worldwide.
The Church Missionary Society sent the first missionaries to settle in New Zealand. Its agent the Rev. Samuel Marsden performed the first full Christian service 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 1815, and over the next decade established farms and schools in the area. In the early days it funded its activities largely through trade; rogue missionary 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. 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.
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.
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. In 1892 the New Zealand branch of the Church Missionary Society was formed, and the first New Zealand missionaries were sent overseas soon after. Funding from the UK was completely cut off in 1903.
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.
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