Tag Archives: MRL12

Happy Camper at Burke

It has been over a month since I began making the trip to the Burke Library Archives at Union Theological Seminary twice a week for my archival internship. Under the guidance of Brigette Kamsler I have learned an immense amount about the art of archiving. My fears from the first day (see 1st Day – New Internship) have been assuaged and allayed. Surrounded by acid free boxes both full and empty, surprises and variety abound.

Most people seem to think the work an archivist does is stuffy and boring – let’s face it – most people have no clue what an archivist does! And I probably did not have much of one either prior to starting at Burke either. Over the course of the past six weeks I have begun to learn and really appreciate the tasks of an archivist: accessing, processing and organizing documents and ephemera into cohesive usable research aids; creating documentation of a collection’s organization and order; providing access to research materials (frequently primary sources) to library patrons through finding aids. Often, a collection is donated by an individual and the precise order in which the collection was donated is in fact part of the archival nature of the materials. Other times the material in a collection may have been amassed over a longer period of time by more than one individual or institution and so the archivist gets to embark on the task of creating order and imposing an organization schema on the materials.

During my time at Burke I have had the opportunity to work on a sizeable collection – the Kagawa Toyohiko Papers. Kagawa was an early 20th century Japanese Evangelical preacher who traveled to the United States on speaking tours four times between the 1930’s and the 1960’s. The collection has undergone numerous rounds of processing and continues to grow as new materials are donated and further materials keep popping up in the Missionary Research Library collection. The most recent additions included correspondence with an American preacher Stanley Armstrong Hunter which were donated by a descendant of Mr. Hunter as well as extensive correspondences regarding Kagawa’s 1954 tour of the United States. The latter set of materials was unearthed in the unprocessed papers of the Missionary Research Library.

While the nature of the material may seem dry or bizarre to many, the fact there was a world famous Japanese Evangelical preacher whose American National Committee headquarters were in Brooklyn, NY has been one of my most exciting factoids for the summer of 2013. Part of the job of an archivist is, as I mentioned earlier, to draft a collection finding aid. This finding aid lists not only what is in the collection box by box and folder by folder but provides background material on the subject matter, individual or organization the collection focuses on. Reading about Kagawa I found myself going down a highly enjoyable rabbit hole – I have read numerous slightly varied accounts of his childhood, his adolescence, his introduction to Christianity, his early years preaching in the slums of Japan. I have also been able to ever so slightly glean an idea of Kagawa’s changing beliefs and doctrine. The man lived in heady times not only in Japanese history but world history – he witnessed both World War’s, Japanese colonialism and the rise of Communism. His particular brand of Christianity took much of these events going on in the world into account. I have also found collections relating to Kagawa in other archives around the world. There is an archive and research center dedicated to the man in Tokyo, Japan. There are other small collections of papers of his followers in places like the archives at Southern Illinois University. For an individual who has always been curious about just about anything you put in front of her, the opportunity to chase down information and learn about an obscure former nominee for a Nobel Prize in Literature has been fascinating and dare I say exciting.

Another project the interns working under Brigette Kamsler have been working on this summer is the extensive Missionary Research Library project. We are all taking bits and pieces of this large seemingly unwieldy collection of papers and beginning to create order and sense out of it. Brigette runs an incredibly well oiled machine with interns working collectively and individually on the massive MRL collection. Currently I am separating MRL administrative papers from the larger collection of archival materials and housing these in archival acid free boxes. While perhaps not the most exciting sounding task, I know my efforts are part of a larger project and I enjoy my work knowing it is part of a larger effort. Once the Missionary Research Library papers are completely available to the public, I will know I had a small part to play in that project.

Surprises in the Archives: Reflecting on My First Month at the Burke

A month has passed since I started at Burke as a summer intern, and I now find myself reflecting upon the last four weeks. While I came into this internship with previous processing experience, I have found that I am constantly learning something new at Burke, whether it’s learning how to wrap a book in acid-free tissue or to avoid using the word “miscellaneous” in a finding aid. Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that the archive holds many surprises that are just waiting to reveal themselves.

For the first half of June, I worked on a collection documenting the 1900 Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions. This conference ran from April 21 to May 1, 1900 and was held at Carnegie Hall and local churches in New York City. It was the largest formal religious event ever held in the United States and the largest international missionary conference ever. It brought together missionaries from around the world to discuss various topics, including evangelism, education, and geographical surveys of missionary work. One of the most fascinating aspects of this collection is the vast amount of documentation related to female missionaries, particularly in regards to “Women’s Work” sectional meetings. Processing the collection was relatively straightforward, as it largely consisted of two types of records: stenographic reports (essentially transcripts of entire meetings or sections of the conference) and conference papers (reports, papers, and addresses presented at the conference). As I began to arrange the collection chronologically, it became apparent that certain dates were not represented in the material. Particularly troubling was the absence of material from April 21, the opening day of the conference. I knew from the conference program that several notable people had given opening addresses on that date, and I was interested to read the addresses given by William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt but resigned myself to the fact that these records appeared to be lost.

For the last two weeks I have moved on from the Ecumenical Conference and have been working on the vast array of administrative records from the Missionary Research Library. When I arrived at Burke today I expected to continue with this. However, Brigette informed me when I sat down at my desk that she had found more material related to the Ecumenical Conference. As someone who loves to cross things off to-do lists, having to return to my first project was, as Brigette said when she informed me, “bad news.” However, I quickly came to realize that this surprise was in no way bad. As I sat at my desk reading President William McKinley’s opening address to the Ecumenical Conference, I realized that my previous definition of complete is insufficient to working in an archive. There are always going to be surprises and magically appearing material needed to be dealt with. I am looking forward to seeing what other surprises the Burke Archives have in store for me this summer. The completed finding aid for MRL 12: Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions, NYC, 1900 is now available online.

The Worst and Most Dangerous Attack: Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry

Since I began as the Project Archivist at the Burke Library in August 2011, I have heard about various collections deemed “controversial.” Many of the collections I process have not seen the light of day for a decade or more due to the water damage suffered as well as general library backlog. Some of the so-called “controversial collections” made perfect sense to me, such as the Near East Relief Committee Records. Another collection that was always shaded in this light was MRL12: Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry (LFMI) Records.

I stayed away from this collection for a while, hesitant to take it on. It was in poor condition with many of the papers fragile and brittle. How would I make LFMI available in this state? It was also one of the larger collections in MRL, donated by the Inquiry itself. Would I have to make preservation photocopies of everything onto acid-free paper? How many supplies would I need?!

It was also unclear to me why exactly it was controversial, although the Burke Library Archivist, Ruth Tonkiss Cameron, had discussed this collection with me at various times. Was it because there were rare documents and photographs that depicted something to which the world wasn’t aware? Topics of war, genocide, something else? I honestly did not have a clue. I would ultimately realize that it was the Inquiry itself and their subsequent findings that caused the controversy.

Taming the Beast

Fast-forward to this year. I have been able to work with many wonderful students during my time thus far at the Burke Library Archives. Kristen Leigh Southworth, a master’s student at Union Theological Seminary, is one such student. Kristen has assisted me with many large archival projects such as the Emory Ross Papers and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, and I know I can depend on and trust the work she produces. I had discussed LFMI with Kristen off and on for some time, and I knew I wanted her help on it.

Throughout my two years at the Burke Library Archives I have gained considerable knowledge on missionaries and missionary organizations; as a result I feel very comfortable taking on larger, complex collections. With that in mind, I was ready for LFMI. To tackle it, I went back to the Luce Project proposal which was presented to the Luce Foundation in September 2010. It states:

This project will process the collection [MRL] so that they are organized and described, with basic preservation treatment through stabilization in acid-free containers, ordered arrangement, and removal of corrosive metals and other materials. This arrangement of the materials will enable more advanced preservation treatment, including encapsulation of photographs, production of acid-free surrogate copies, and selective digitized copies.

The elusive answer had been in front of me the entire time. I did not have to make preservation photocopies of the fragile newsprint at this stage of the project. I would place the newsprint and other papers into acid-free containers, arranging the records for use with the idea that in the future more in-depth processing and preservation could be implemented. I would be following what is known in the library sphere as the “More Product, Less Process” method.

I instantly felt raring to go on this collection. Ruth provided me with various documents relating to the collection, such as a legacy finding aid and processing notes. The collection had been housed in acid-free records cartons and some (not all) of the folders had been replaced with acid-free folders. Kristen was in charge of the bulk of the physical work changing out the old folders for new acid-free ones, and integrating approximately 6 feet of material that had come from the unprocessed records.

The collection grew to a total of 31.25 linear feet: 30 records cartons and 3 manuscript boxes. The legacy finding aid indicated that many of the materials were restricted due to fragility and preservation concerns. While it is true that the entire collection is fragile, that case could also be made for the entirety of the WAB and MRL record groups. Upon closer inspection many of the documents were carbon copies or on onion skin paper – thin and fragile, yes, but not necessarily disintegrating into the ether.

As Kristen was replacing the folders she was able to individually evaluate the three series. She was also able to see that the collection did not need to be so restricted. Instead, we changed the wording to [FRAGILE] instead of [RESTRICTED]. This will allow Burke Library staff to know that extra care would be required for the collection, but it would still be 100% available for use. I want to ensure these collections can be studied and used, not stored forevermore in a temperature and humidity controlled environment never to be touched again. The [FRAGILE] indications allow for usage to commence and continue.

Controversy Unveiled

I also now finally understand why this collection was considered so controversial, and after working with missionary and ecumenical materials for two years, I agree!

Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry formed in 1930 in order to conduct a thorough investigation of foreign missions in Asia. Missionary Boards were aware of the Inquiry and cooperated as needed, but the Inquiry was independent of the Missionary Boards themselves. The Inquiry consisted of two stages. The first began in late 1930, when twenty-seven “Fact-Finders” were sent to India, China, and Japan by the Institute of Social and Religious Research to collect data on missionary work and local conditions. Specialized research teams compiled extensive background information on missionary work in each of the countries before sending the Fact-Finders to spend five months in India, six months in Japan, and six and a half months in China.

The second stage began in September 1931 with a “Commission of Appraisal.” The Commission of Appraisal consisted of fifteen laymen, laywomen, and ministers who spent nine months visiting the fields of the Inquiry. The Commission of Appraisal then combined their own observations with the preliminary reports of the Fact-Finders to compile a final Report of the Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry. This Report was formally presented to the Mission Boards of the seven denominations on November 18-19, 1932 in New York City.

The Report was considered to be “the most searching and exhaustive accumulation of missionary data ever undertaken.” It offered a bold critique of the entire missionary enterprise, highlighting major inadequacies in both the theology and the practices of the Missionary Boards and individual missionaries. Its criticisms of the Boards were particularly scathing, stating that “the trail of self-interest within the organization lies like the trail of a serpent over the mission of Asia,” and that the Commission could see “no ground for a renewed appeal for the support, much less for the enlargement, of these missions in their present form and on their present basis.”

Public controversy surrounding the Report was considerable, with many repudiating the whole volume as “the worst and most dangerous attack ever made” on foreign missions. However, in spite of the controversy and public outcry, the Inquiry was still considered by many to be the most notable and challenging statement regarding mission work since the Jerusalem Council in 1928. The majority of the Mission Boards welcomed it as a worthwhile endeavor, accepting most of the practical recommendations contained in the Report. Copies were sent to most mission stations by their boards, and missionaries were urged to give it their careful consideration. The Methodist boards even commended the Inquiry for being “in full accord with the temper of youth today,” which they believed would “give new meaning and effect to the Christian message as it is presented to this disturbed and distracted modern world.”

Final Thoughts

It finally makes sense to me why the collection was and still is controversial, and I look forward to entering my third and final year of the Luce Project having made it available. Missionary work still continues and it would be interesting to compare the findings of the Report to mission work today. Are the findings still current? Did individuals and boards truly accept and implement the recommendations put forth by the Inquiry? I look forward to new scholarship which will certainly come out of this intriguing collection.

Laymen’s also reinforced for me the reason for the project: Making records available that previously were not. Any processing and preservation through acid-free containers is better than their current, inaccessible state. August 2013 is the beginning of the third and final year of the project, and LFMI allowed me to refocus and hone my priorities. I am now processing the Missionary Research Library Administrative Records, another large and interesting collection. I anticipate the discovery of many new and fascinating records, not only in MRL Admin, but through the rest of the unprocessed material left to sort.

All I can say is, stay tuned…

The finding aid for MRL12: Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry, 1879-1940, is available online.



From the materials in the collection, and:

Baker, Archibald G., “Reactions to the ‘Laymen's Report’,” The Journal of Religion , Vol. 13, No. 4 (Oct., 1933): University of Chicago Press, pp. 379-398.

Hocking, William E. & the Commission of Appraisal, Re-thinking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry After One Hundred Years, New York: Harper & Bros., 1932.

Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry, Report of the Commission of Appraisal of the Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry, 1932.

Speer, Robert E., “Re-Thinking Missions” Examined, New York: Fleming Revell Co., 1934.

World Missionary Conference Records: The Sequel

World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh, 1910. Credit to: WAB: World Council of Churches Records, series 4, box 103,
The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

In terms of the Missionary Research Library, the World Missionary Conference of 1910 literally “started it all.”


The 1910 World Missionary Conference (WMC) was preceded by five interdenominational conferences convened by societies for foreign missions in both Great Britain and the United States.  The first conference held in 1888 in London, England was the first attempt to study and distribute information regarding missionary work throughout the world.  This was followed in 1900 by a larger, “ecumenical,” meeting of delegates sent from societies for foreign missions based in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Europe, intending to represent the work of Protestant missionaries in the whole of the inhabited world. The 1900 conference was held in New York City.

Many of those involved in the successful 1900 conference resolved that there should be another conference held in ten years on the other side of the Atlantic.  On 29 January, 1907, thirty-seven delegates from twenty Scottish foreign missions committees or boards, unanimously agreed at a meeting held in Glasgow that a Missionary Conference should be held in Edinburgh in June of 1910. The Conference would only deal with missionary work among non-Christian peoples; it would only address the most urgent and immediate problems facing the Church; and no opinion on ecclesiastical or doctrinal questions would be expressed by the Conference.

The Conference began to differ from previous gatherings in the truly international scope of its objectives. The sessions of the World Missionary Conference were held from June 14-23, 1910 in Edinburgh with Dr. John R. Mott as Chairman.  On Tuesday, 21 June, Commission VIII put a proposal before the Conference for the formation of a Continuation Committee to oversee the work begun by the Conference in the following years.  The proposal received unanimous approval.

The work of the Continuation Committees continued from 1911 onward.

Underwood and Underwood, New York. Credit to MRL 12: John R. Mott Papers, series 3,
The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University Libraries, at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

MRL Arrives on the Scene

The Missionary Research Library (MRL) was created by John Mott in 1914 as a response to the need for a central resource to provide information for the development and preparation of missionaries, as well as a documentary source for the history of mission work. 

Mott stated that his intention was to create “the most complete and serviceable missionary library and archives in the world,” one that would be interdenominational, ecumenical, international, and rich in source material. He was the chairman of the Library Committee of the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, which sponsored the project, and he secured the financial support of J. D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Two administrators were chosen to develop the library. Charles H. Fahs became curator and Miss Hollis W. Hering became librarian.

MRL went hand-in-hand with the essence of WMC. The interdenominational, ecumenical, and international idea of MRL was a connecting thread during the 1910 Conference as well, not to mention many of the “movers and shakers” of WMC were involved with or donated material to MRL. Had the Conference not been held, the Missionary Research Library would most likely not exist.

New Additions to the Collection

After the water disaster of 2003 and subsequent preservation of these records, WMC was one of the first collections processed and made available by the Burke Library Archivist, Ruth Tonkiss Cameron, and her student assistants. Not only was the collection itself and its historical connections with MRL important, but the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference was looming in 2010. Many researchers would be looking for any and all sources relating to the Conference. Therefore the collection was processed and made available in 2006.

[Note: The 2010 conference was modeled after the eight-commission structure of the 1910 World Missionary Conference in order to conduct a thorough historical examination of Christian mission work over the last 100 years and also to examine the current and future situation of a truly global Christianity. In June 2010, a delegate conference was held in Edinburgh with representatives from the Evangelical, Protestant, Orthodox and Pentecostal churches, and the Roman Catholic Church.]

The 2006 Collection included 33 boxes and stood at 15.50LF.

It turns out, however, that there was much more hidden away in the unprocessed “heap.”

Specific Finding Aid Elements

While at first glance the records in the unprocessed boxes were labeled “duplicate,” this turned out to not be the case. As a general standard, we keep a maximum of two copies of archival material. In the 2006 rendition, one copy was available.

This unprocessed material marked “duplicate” turned out to be rough drafts or annotated versions of the records already in the existing collection. It is interesting to compare these drafts against the “official” copies.

Other changes to the finding aid involved rearrangement and streamlining. I changed out old boxes and folders to new – this collection is used regularly and the wear was starting to show. It is also made of three series now instead of two.

Series 1 now consists only of Commissions; Series 2 is for the Continuation Committee, and Series 3 is General. This third series includes anything that wasn’t specific to the Commissions and Committees – programs; photographs; information on how delegates attended the Conference of 1910 with a transatlantic transport and missionary cruise about the SS Kroonland; and information for the 50th and 100th anniversaries.

The overall title of the collection also changed. When originally processed in 2006, it was known as MRL12: World Missionary Conference Records, Edinburgh, 1910. Now, the name of the collection is MRL12: World Missionary Conference Records, 1883-2010.

It totals 46 boxes and 20.50LF.

In the past five years or so, many scholars have used this collection and subsequently wrote about it in various publications. I created a basic table that is included on page seven of the new finding aid to help researchers; it includes crosswalks between the 2006 and 2013 finding aids.

More additions may be possible as I scour the remaining unprocessed boxes and as I enter the final year of the Henry Luce Project. The current setup of the series should allow for additions to be made easily and quickly. The finding aid is still very detailed as well to increase keyword searchability.

And now, without further ado, the 2013 Finding Aid!


The Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages

The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The Committee on East Asia comprises a large part of the Area Committees section in MRL12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records. One specific event of note details the Gripsholm Exchange and Repatriation Voyages during World War II (WWII). The MS Gripsholm, a ship that serviced the Swedish-American cruise line and was originally built in 1925, was used from 1942 to 1946 for repatriation efforts by the United States Department of State. A second ship called Drottningholm also helped with these efforts.

Gripsholm served under the International Red Cross with a Swedish captain and crew. Making thirty-three trips to exchange women, children, diplomats, prisoners of war, and other nationals between Japan/Germany and the United States/Canada, the ship carried over 27,000 repatriates.

The Shanghai Evening Post American Edition, Dec. 3, 1943, page 1.
Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,

The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Along with articles and general information on the Gripsholm voyages are detailed lists of Americans returning on the MS Gripsholm. People are recorded in alphabetical order, as well as their status, such as “clerk,” “consul,” “American Red Cross,” or “husband,” and their residence if known. Other documents include lists of boards having missionaries on the Gripsholm, and single letters searching for information on individuals.

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

An interview between FMCNA Secretary, Joe Mickle, and Sidney Walton of the WHN Special Features Division, held November 29th, was the third in a series of programs in connection with the return of the exchange ship. When asked about the ‘terrible hardships’ suffered by the missionaries, Mickle said:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 33, Folder 9,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Letters were received by those in America from missionaries on the ship. One, written to the secretary of FMCNA Joe Mickle from Olive I. Hodges and Paul S. Mayer, makes the voyage sound pleasant:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Though this was an exchange, those coming back on the Gripsholm still had to pay their own way for passage and incidental expenses. The FBI also checked the passengers upon their entrance to port:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 2,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

After the repatriation and exchange voyages of the Gripsholm and Drottninghalm were complete, there were mixed emotions regarding future mission work in China. The following article was written by George E. Sokolsky, who lived in China for a time period. The article was originally published in the New York Sun of November 13, 1943 and was republished with permission by the FMCNA:

Credit to MRL 12: Foreign Missions Conference of North America Records, Series 2B, Box 32, Folder 1,
The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA) Records – Now Available

Little Boxes in the Archives – Completed FMCNA

The records for the Foreign Missions Conference of North America (FMCNA), covering the years 1894-1968, are now available! This large MRL12 collection totaling 68 boxes (30.50 linear feet) comprise materials documenting inception and institutional proceedings of the organization. Established to create dialogue between missions-based action committees confronting contemporary crises of war, famine, and poverty. Collection contains materials such as correspondence, records, pamphlets, and photographs.

That and much more can be found through the Finding Aid. Enjoy!

The Messy Truth about Foreign Missions

Foreign missions.  It's a pretty unpopular concept these days.  Missionaries are associated with all the damage wrought by the project of subjugation, exploitation, displacement, and genocide of native peoples and cultures across the world.  The criticisms are well-founded.

Retrospect is a tricky thing though.  History is often tainted by a touch of arrogance and a total lack of appreciation for how complex, messy, and nuanced real people and situations actually are.  We have a tendency to think that people were ignorant "back then."  We "know better now."  This is an idea that we like because it feeds our whole complex about "progress"… it makes us feel like we are better and smarter than those naïve people who preceded us (but wait, that’s an idea of Western imperialism…woops!). 

One of the best cures for the claims of revisionist history is a consultation with the archives.  While working with the Missionary Research Library Archives at Burke Library I processed MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, a collection of 500 completed questionnaires that had been distributed in 1950 to former missionaries. 

Information they collected includes:
-personal data (age, gender, field location, years of service, missionary task)
-how they came to the decision to enter missionary service
-what (if any) training they received before entering the field
-whether their provisions, salaries, and living arrangements were sufficient
-whether the support they got from their board was adequate
-what effect the experience had on their Christian faith and their belief in missionary work
-their reasons for leaving

Missionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries: Who were they?
So who were the foreign missionaries from the 19th and 20th century, and how did they understand the work they were doing?  Were they really the offensively ignorant, racist, arrogant, and condescending bunch that we often imagine them to be?  Or were they actually in many cases humble, compassionate, self-aware, and even critical of foreign missions boards and those in power? 

The answer is, of course, both.  I certainly came across some questionnaires that included absurdly myopic statements about "heathens." Some of them actually made me cringe.  But most of the missionaries sounded basically the same as people today: conflicted, confused, frustrated with the shortcomings of their relationships and the limitations of the situations they found themselves in, but still hopeful, generally well-intentioned, and striving in the best way they knew how to achieve positive outcomes. Shocking, I know.

Looking through these survey questionnaires, I was really interested to discover that the most common concerns expressed by missionaries were imperialism, top-down policies, outmoded paradigms, bigotry, and paternalism. While these concerns obviously serve as evidence to substantiate the criticisms of foreign missions, they also reveal how many individuals were fully aware of, and attempting to work around, the problems posed by imperialism.  The voices of these missionaries serve as some of the most arresting indictments of missionary work.  Ironically, it seems that the original postcolonial critics were colonizers themselves. 

In Their Own Words
“Christianity must be de-Westernized,” insisted one respondent. “We must serve people of other lands as Christ served those around him.  We must divest ourselves of Western materialism.”  Another wrote emphatically, “Many missionaries are the worst type of colonial.  We should learn to live Christianity before we shove it down somebody else’s throat.” 


One missionary in South Africa from 1919-1947 was convinced that “without Christian schools and churches the African would have been dominated by whites much more than they are.” 


“With better understanding and appreciation of other religions,” wrote one man, “I am still convinced that Christianity is the ultimate answer to all the hopes and aspirations of the best in every faith.  My concept of ‘heathen’ and ‘non-Christian’ has changed to that of ‘friend’ and ‘seeker after truth’.”

Foreign Missionary Record #1600. Credit to MRL12: Personnel Policies of Foreign Mission Boards Records, box 5, folder 6, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

More favorite quotes:

 “Imperialism has gone out of style and was always contrary to the Gospel.  Our task is to transmit the Gospel unfettered and cluttered with our culture.  The task of the church is not to crossfertilize cultures.  We carry too much baggage with us.  Jesus had nowhere to lay his head.  Professionalism has killed all creativity in missions.” –former missionary in Mexico 1951-1953.  Record #0757

“Foreign missionaries usually have negative attitude toward other religions, typically bigoted and intolerant.  As I learned to appreciate Indian cultures and Indian religions I saw that the whole philosophy of the missionary movement is alien to my understanding of Christ’s teachings.”  –former missionary in India 1923-1941.  Record #1225

“Too many missionaries are paternalistic.  Too many equate Christianity with Americanism.  Too few are really identified as Jesus was with the common people as one of them.  There is too little appreciation for the fact that missionaries can receive as well as give.  I went with the idea I was to help poor heathens.  China had a culture that was old before America was born.  I learned that after I lived there.  From the beginning, I resented along with my students foreign gunboats and other imperialistic demonstrations of foreign powers, including my own country.” –former missionary in China 1921-1938.  Record #1383

Luce + Archives

While processing the materials in MRL and WAB, we try to keep a special eye out for any collection which includes materials related to Henry Winters Luce. Henry W. Luce and his wife Elizabeth Root Luce were Presbyterian missionaries and educators in China during the early party of the twentieth century. Henry R. Luce, who started magazines such as Life and Time, created the Luce Foundation to honor his parents' legacy.

One such collection which we have that shows Henry Winters Luce activities is in MRL12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, 1932-1965. HW Luce was secretary of this organization.

Credit to MRL 12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, box 1, folder 8, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The Teachers of Missions Group was established to promote the fellowship, spiritual life and professional usefulness of its members through papers, discussion, prayer and social intercourse. Membership consisted of people in New England and the Mid-Atlantic area. The earliest records in this collection, recorded by secretary Henry Winters Luce, date from 1932; however the group began to meet informally in 1917. Early discussions included those on Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry; interacting with International Missionary Council; and the discussion of training missionaries.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Teachers of Missions at Princeton Seminary, October 29, 1932.
Credit to MRL 12: Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions Records, box 1, folder 8, The Burke Library Archives (Columbia University Libraries) at Union Theological Seminary, New York.

The constitution was officially adopted April 1940 and stated their name as “The Fellowship of Professors of Missions.” Regular meetings were held twice per year with annual dues set at fifty cents. By 1954, the updated constitution changed the name to “The Association of Professors of Missions.” Membership was opened to professors of missions in the member institutions of the American Association of Theological Schools and by invitation. The meetings were also changed to once every two years.

In 1964, the name again changed to “The Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Missions” to show its region, as the group was a faction of the national Association of Professors of Missions. The national group became closely allied with the American Association of Missiology beginning in 1972. Both the Association of Professors of Missions and the American Association of Missiology are still in existence today.

We were excited to see Henry W. Luce and Henry R. Luce mentioned in the Foreign Missions Conference of North America collection, which is currently being processed. We will have more to share with Luce + Archives in the near future.