Thursday, April 27, 2006

Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 3

Since the topic of Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions did not really even exist, as such, until then, let's fast-forward past 1700 years of church history, to the year 1792 and our Historical Document for today...

William Carey's An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

If you want to read the entire 86 pages, you can do so on-line here. Specifically, in regards to our topic at hand, I would like to highlight the following quote from Sect. V., page 84...
If there is any reason for me to hope that I shall have any influence upon any of my brethren, and fellow Christians, probably it may be more especially amongst them of my own denomination. I would therefore propose that such a society and committee should be formed amongst the particular baptist denomination.

I do not mean by this, in any wise to confine it to one denomination of Christians. I wish with all my heart, that everyone who loves our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, would in some way or other engage in it. But in the present divided state of Christendom, it would be more likely for good to be done by each denomination engaging separately in the work, than if they were to embark in it conjointly. There is room enough for us all, without interfering with each other; and if no unfriendly interference took place, each denomination would bear good will to the other, and wish, and pray for its success, considering it as upon the whole friendly to the great cause of true religion; but if all were intermingled, it is likely their private discords might throw a damp upon their spirits, and much retard their public usefulness.
My comments...

There we have it. The start of specifically "Baptist" work in world missions. And the stated reason for carrying out this work specifically as "Baptists". As I read it, it was not due to any idea that it was inherently better to do it that way, but rather a pragmatic justification, the danger of "private discords" getting in the way of the "public usefulness" of such an enterprise. Carey intimates that "with all (his) heart" he wishes it could be otherwise.

Once in India, he seems to have acted consistently to this desire. Glenn A. Iglehart relates the following:

In 1806, in a letter to Andrew Fuller, Carey proposed a meeting of all Protestant missionary organizations to be held at the Cape of Good Hope every ten years. He asked:
"Would it not be possible to have a general association of all denominations of Christians, from the four quarters of the world, held there once in about Ten Years? I earnestly recommend this plan ... I have no doubt but it would be attended with many important effects; we could understand each other better, and more entirely enter into one another's views by two hours' conversation than by two or three years' epistolary correspondence."
In another letter the same year, referring to missionary efforts, Carey writes:

It is a work indeed in which Christians of all denominations may unite, and have united. The churches in America, have contributed largely to this work.
And he says in another letter, to Robert Ralston, dated December 31, 1827:

The work of conversion has been carried on more or less in most parts of the country, and churches are formed in various places; some of these churches are in our connection, and some in that of other Christian denominations: I rejoice to say that the different denominations of Christians, with one or two trifling exceptions, are of one heart in their exertions, and rejoice in each other’s success.
I would like to think we have in some degree moved beyond "the present divided state of Christendom" to which Carey alluded in his "Enquiry". Indeed, as I hope to show in several documents I plan on posting later, I believe there is good reason to believe we have.

In any case, I think it is instructive that William Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, and one of the leading contributors to the development of Baptist consciousness, seems to have cherished hopes of a different day, a day in which Baptists could join hands with other true disciples of Jesus Christ, in the glorious task of "making disciples of all nations".


Anonymous said...

I hope this isn't jumping ahead of you, but my fear is that we are moving in the opposite direction despite great strides in recent years. The BoT could destroy years of cooperative work in one fell swoop.
My fear is that we are ultimately going to be expected to start "Southern Baptist" churches and become a global denomination. Other denominations have been doing this for a long time, but the SBC never has. However, if we are now going to have to plant "Baptist" churches rather than "Baptistic" or "New Testament" churches, we all know that there are many groups in America (and around he world, right BWA!) that call themselves Baptist, but obviously the only "real" Baptists are Southern Baptists!
Isn't it weird enough that our denominational churches are called "Southern" Baptist in the northern states and Canada? However, the bigger issue isn't the name per se, but is control. How can we insist that a church we plant be called Baptist and still teach autonomy of the local church? Does it not make more sense to disciple these churches in Biblical (and therefore Baptist, right?) principles and allow these churches to decide for themselves what they are going to be called? I really thought we (IMB/SBC) had moved away from patriarchal control of churches on the mission field. Does this not bring us right back into this and create that dependency mentality in these new churches and believers all over again? Isn't that one of the killers of a CPM? I don't think the BoT have really thought through the full implications of what they are saying.
Ten Year M

mixilmash said...

There were 12 tribes in Israel and 12 apostles......1 KINGDOM and 1 KING.

Perhaps the issue is one of determining whether the AUTHENTIC denominational agenda is building the SBC "tribe" or expanding the KINGDOM?

Perhaps when that determination is made, then the issue of control will be solved?

Perhaps when that determination is made, then the issue of AUTHENTIC SERVANT leadership will become the operative reality to replace the current operative "Gentile" leadership paradigm?