Friday, 22 February 2013

Church History (full-time) 9.2, Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion

The Jesuit Saints displayed in the Evie Hone windows in the Prayer Room in the Jesuit Centre for Spirituality, Manresa, Dublin … Jesuit missionary expansion is one of the major features of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford,

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

Church History Elective (TH 7864)

Friday 22 February 2013, 9 .a.m. to 12 noon:

10 a.m.: 9.2:
Missions and colonies: Protestant expansion


One of the major effects of the Counter-Reformation or Catholic Reformation was a renewal of missionary endeavours in the Roman Catholic Church. We have seen this morning how the Jesuits, in particular, shaped Roman Catholic mission activities from the mid-16th century on.

New gains were made in northern Europe by the Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians, Capuchins and Jesuits.

The Jesuits, though, were the most effective of the new Catholic orders. The opening lines of their founding document declared the Society of Jesus was founded to “strive especially for the propagation and defence of the faith and progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”

What marks the Jesuits out is not only their work in Europe, but also that they opened mission fields in India, Japan, China, Africa, and North and South America.

Those first Jesuits concentrated on a few key activities:

● they founded schools throughout Europe, with Jesuit teachers rigorously trained in both classical studies and theology.

● they sent out missionaries across the world to peoples who had not yet heard the Gospel, founding missions in places as far afield as modern-day Paraguay, Japan, Ontario, and Ethiopia.

By the time Saint Ignatius of Loyola died in 1556, the Jesuits were already running 74 colleges on three continents. The Jesuit contributions to the late Renaissance were significant in their roles both as a missionary order and as the first religious order to operate colleges and universities as a principal and distinct ministry.

Jesuit schools encouraged the study of vernacular literature and rhetoric, and became important centres for the training of lawyers and public officials.

Jesuit missions

Saint Francis Xavier in India … he is a key figure in Jesuit missions in India, Japan and China


Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who is known as the Apostle of the Indies and the Apostle of Japan, was one of the original companions of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He sailed from Lisbon to India in 1541, and arrived in Goa, the Portuguese colony in India, in 1542 to begin his evangelical service in the Indies. His mission work brought him to Travancore, Malacca, the Molucca islands and Sri Lanka.

He arrived in Japan in 1549, the same years the first Book of Common Prayer was published. He died on his way to China in 1552 after a decade of mission work in Southern India.

Under Portuguese royal patronage, the Jesuits thrived in Goa and until 1759 successfully expanded their activities to education and healthcare.


Saint Francis Xavier arrived in Japan in 1549. The early missions in Japan resulted in the Japanese government granting the Jesuits the feudal fiefdom of Nagasaki in 1580. Although, this was removed in 1587 due to fears over their growing influence, the strong Christian presence continued in Nagasaki.


Francis Xavier died on his way to China, but the Jesuit mission work there was soon on a firm footing and began to bloom. The Jesuits first entered China through Macau in 1582, when Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) was sent to the Portuguese colony.

In 1594, the Jesuit Alessandro Valignano founded the first Roman-style academic institution in the East, Saint Paul Jesuit College in Macau. The college had a great influence on the learning of Eastern languages (Chinese and Japanese) and culture by missionary Jesuits.

In 1601, Ricci settled in Beijing, where he gained favour in the Imperial Court by displaying European scientific inventions and explaining astronomy.

The Jesuit missions in China in the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China. The scientific revolution brought by the Jesuits coincided with a time when scientific innovation had declined in China.

The Jesuits were also active in bringing Chinese knowledge and philosophy to Europe. The works of Confucius were translated into European languages by Jesuit scholars based in China. Matteo Ricci started to report on the thoughts of Confucius, and Father Prospero Intorcetta published the life and works of Confucius into Latin in 1687. Their work had a considerable impact on European thinkers at the time, especially the Deists and other philosophical groups of the Enlightenment.

Two Jesuit missionaries, Johann Grueber and Albert Dorville, reached Lhasa in Tibet in 1661.

South America:

The Mission … a popular portrayal of the conflicts created within Jesuit missionary work in Latin America

Jesuit missions in America were controversial in Europe, especially in Spain and Portugal where they were seen as interfering with the proper colonial enterprises of the royal governments.

The Jesuits were often the only force standing between the Native Americans and slavery. Throughout South America, but especially in present-day Brazil and Paraguay, they formed Christian Native American city-states, called “reductions” (Spanish Reducciones, Portuguese Reduções). These were societies set up according to an idealised theocratic model.

Jesuit priests such as Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta founded several towns in Brazil in the 16th century, including São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and were very influential in the pacification, religious conversion and education of Indian nations.

North America:

Jesuit missionaries were active in the French colonies in North America, where they also compiled dictionaries. With the colonisation of New France in North America in the 17th century, the Jesuits played an active role in Canada and the development of the French colony in Quebec from 1625, and later in Montreal and Ottawa.

The Jesuits became involved in the Huron mission in 1626 and lived among the Huron and Iroquois people, until the French colonies fell to Britain.

The suppression of the Jesuits:

It is partly because Jesuits such as Antonio Ruiz de Montoya protected the natives from slavery that the Society of Jesus was suppressed in Spain and Portugal.

In 1759, the Jesuits were expelled from Portugal and Portuguese possessions and colonies. By 1767, the Jesuits had been suppressed in Portugal, France, the Two Sicilies, Parma and the Spanish Empire by 1767. Under secular pressure, Pope Clement XIV signed a decree in 1773 suppressing the society throughout the Church.

When Pope Pius VII returned from exile in France to Rome he restored the Jesuits without little delay, issuing the Papal bull Sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum in 1814.

The impact of Jesuit missions:

Jesuit scholars working in foreign missions studied the local languages and produced Latinised grammars and dictionaries. For example, in Japan they produced a Japanese-Portuguese (1603). A French Jesuit missionary formalised the Vietnamese alphabet still in use today with his 1651 Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary and a Jesuit pioneered the study of Sanskrit in the West in the 1740s.

Just as the voluntary mission agencies rather than the Church itself would be responsible for Anglican mission work, initially the Jesuits and the other religious orders would have responsibility for taking the initiative in Roman Catholic mission work.

That mission work was a natural outgrowth of the Counter-Reformation or the Catholic Reformation, and it was almost a century after Jesuit mission work began when Pope Gregory XV founded the Congregation of Propaganda in 1622 to free missionary work from Spanish and Portuguese secular and political interests.

Mission in the Reformation tradition:

‘Every person, every community, a full life’ … but why were post-Reformation missions so slow in developing?

In the other post-Reformation Churches, there was little notable mission work for the first few decades or centuries.

After the Reformation, for over 100 years, the new Reformation Churches were more occupied with their struggle with Roman Catholics than with any concepts of being missionary-sending churches.

As Europeans migrated to America, they brought their religion with them. German and Dutch Protestants often formed ethnic churches, such as Lutheran Churches in Missouri, or Dutch and German Reformed Churches in Pennsylvania. Most of these ethnic denominations have merged or otherwise reached out to become more diverse and less narrowly ethnic.

English settlers brought both Anglicanism and Puritanism with them. The first English settlers in America, who landed at Jamestown in Virginia in 1607, were Anglicans. In 1620, English Puritans landed in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, in Europe, the primary thrust of Protestant evangelism and mission was directed at Roman Catholics who, the reformers felt, were deceived about their salvation and thus in need of a fresh presentation of the Gospel.

Geographical and political limitations hindered the development of missionary activity by European Protestants. During the Reformation, the main emphasis was on reforming the church rather than on mission. Until 1648 and the Peace of Westphalia, Protestants were fighting for survival or engaged in theological controversies. The Protestant powers of the 16th century had little contact with the wider world outside Europe: Spain and Portugal controlled the sea routes.

These geographical and political limitations were reinforced by theological limitations and attitudes to mission. The Thirty Years’ War reinforced the dominant Reformation concept of a regional church – cuius regio, eius religio – under which a ruler had no reasons to support church activity outside his dominion.

This theological climate was slow to change. In 1618, the Synod of Dort – whose strict Calvinism influenced the early 17th century Church of Ireland through Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) of Armagh – declared that the children of heathens were not to be baptised, even if they had been taken into Christian households.

According to the German Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard (died 1637), the command to preach the Gospel to all the world had ceased with the apostles. In 1652, the Lutheran Faculty of Theology at Wittenberg stated that any responsibility the church might have for mission was repudiated on biblical, historical and theological grounds.

There were exceptions to this negative theology of mission: a Swedish mission to the Lapps in 1559, or a failed German group mission in Constantinople between 1577 and 1581 which is said to have converted only one single Turk.

Only after the violent conflicts known as the Wars of Religion ceased with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 did Protestant groups begin to develop a greater interest in evangelising other peoples.

And that is almost a century and a half after Luther nailed his theses to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, almost a full century after the first Book of Common Prayer was published and after Francis Xavier arrived in India.

Both Stephen Neill and the David Bosch hold that the history of Protestant missions supported officially by the European churches begins in the 18th century with the Pietists of Halle in Germany, who expected the imminent second coming of Christ, preceded by an outpouring of the Spirit on Jews and heathens. However, their emphasis on the salvation of individuals was a narrow missionary aim, providing what Bosch calls “a rather one-sided vertical dimension, with little understanding of man’s cultural relationship and Christ's universal kingdom.”

Anglican missions:

The Revd Thomas Bray (1658-1730) … founder of SPG (later USPG, now Us) and SPCK

So we may ask: What about early Anglican missionary work overseas?

Elizabeth I’s charter in 1583 for the first English colony in North America referred to the compassion of God “for poor infidels, it seeming probable that God hath reserved these Gentiles to be introduced into Christian civility by the English nation.” Charles I’s charter for Massachusetts stated that the principal end of the plantation was to “win and invite the natives of the country to the knowledge of the only true God and Saviour of mankind and the Christian faith.”

Despite these sentiments, the Anglican settlers in America and the West Indies, from both Ireland and England, and those “poor infidels” were left without episcopal care for two centuries. As a direct response to this neglect of the settlers by the bishops, Thomas Bray, who had worked in Maryland, was responsible for founding the two earliest Anglican mission societies, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) in 1698, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG, later USPG and now Us ) three years later in 1701.

While the SPCK had a more universal mission in mind, Bray imagined SPG providing the men and the means for missionary work in the New World, especially among the Black and Indian peoples. SPG’s founding charter defined its main work as caring for the needs of Anglicans in America and the West Indies. But in 1710, the society carried two resolutions stating that its work related principally to “the conversion of heathen and infidels”, and calling for “itinerant missionaries” to preach the Gospel among the “Six Nations of the Indians.”

In pursuance of this plan, SPG missionaries devoted themselves to working in many parts of America and the West Indies among the Native peoples and the slaves.

Anglican missionary endeavours in India were slow to begin because of the open opposition of the East India Company. Anglican missionary work in Africa began in 1751, when the Revd Thomas Thompson, an SPG missionary in New Jersey, offered to go to the Gold Ghost (Ghana). Anglican efforts in Latin America were less organised, owing to a policy of not attempting to convert nominal Christians, and the fact that the only British colonies there were British Honduras and British Guiana.

Bishop George Berkeley, an early Irish missionary with SPG in North America

Early Irish missionaries who worked with SPG included the Irish philosopher George Berkeley (1685-1753), from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, who later became Bishop of Cloyne back in Ireland, and the brothers John and Charles Wesley.

For almost a century, Anglican mission work remained the preserve of the SPG. However, SPG was seen as part of the political and ecclesiastical establishment. Because of its charter, SPG found it difficult to extend its mission work beyond the colonies. It was also seen as primarily a High Church mission agency, and in reaction to both of these perceptions, a second Anglican mission agency was founded by English evangelicals in 1799: the Church Mission[ary] Society was the first voluntary, membership-based Anglican mission agency.

The expansion of British influence through trade and colonialism opened new territories as potential mission fields for Anglicans in the 19th century. When the East India Company’s charter was being renewed, there were fresh demands for the right of missionaries to work India, with the government conceding eventually in 1833. The first Protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison (1782-1834), arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) in 1807, and commercial and political pressure on China, culminating in the Opium War and the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842, had the ironic consequence of opening China to Anglican mission work. The first CMS missionaries in China included Canon Thomas McClatchie (1814-1885) from Dublin, who arrived in China in 1844.

The 19th century saw a real expansion of Anglican missionary activity in other parts of the world. The first Anglican missionaries from CMS arrived in New Zealand in 1814, and Anglican missionary work began also in Iran (1811), Palestine (1816), Egypt (1818), Japan (1858) and Korea (1865).

The influence of the Pietists

Key theological events gave a new shape and focus to Anglican mission work in the 19th century. Through the Pietists, the evangelical revival spread to England, influencing men like John Wesley, a former SPG missionary, as well as giving rise to new movements for social reform and change with men like William Wilberforce (1759-1833), the Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) and Charles Simeon (1759-1836), one of the founders of CMS, campaigning against the slave trade and against industrial working conditions. The movement known as the ‘second evangelical revival,’ which crossed the Atlantic from America to Britain and Ireland in 1858, was linked with the formation of religious and evangelical societies, including missionary bodies, and gave new impetus to societies already existing, including CMS.

The Wesleys and subsequent Anglican mission work was strongly influenced by Nicholas von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a German Protestant who became one of the early advocates for missionary work. He worked closely with the Moravians, a Bohemian group of believers that had developed from the ministry of Jan Hus (1369-1415) ministry even before Luther.

These Moravians had migrated north and had settled on lands belonging to Zinzendorf. Together they initiated the first major organised Protestant missionary efforts, and they sent missionaries (usually lay people, not clergy) to the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Far East.

The sobriquet “Methodist” was originally given in 1729 to a group at Oxford known as the Holy Club and led by John Wesley (1703-1791). Wesley traced the “first rise” of Methodism to those early years, and the second stage to 1736 when the “rudiments of a Methodist society” appeared in Georgia, where the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, were working as Anglican priests and missionaries with SPG.

During their voyage to America, and their stay in Georgia, the Wesley brothers were deeply influenced by the Moravians, who in turn had taken on much of the teachings and experiences of the German Pietists. But John Wesley alienated the colonists, and returned to England in 1737. Then, in 1738, John Wesley helped to reframe the rules of an Anglican society that met in Fetter Lane, London.

The Church of Ireland and Missionary Work:

At this time, the SPG served as the main missionary society for both the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. But there were few opportunities and few volunteers for missionary service.

Those who offered themselves for missionary work usually went to the colonies, principally in America.

Charles Inglis (1734-1816) of Glencolumbkille, Co Donegal, is an interesting encapsulation of the missionary involvement of some of the clergy of the Church of Ireland at this time. The son, grandson and great-grandson of parish clergy, he was ordained by the Bishop of London for the parish of Dover in Delaware. There he also worked among the Mohawk Indians, and urged the need for a bishop for the colonies.

In 1765, he settled in New York as assistant in Trinity Church, Wall Street, to Dr Samuel Auchmuty, a nephew of the Dean of Armagh. Inglis succeeded Auchmuty as Rector in 1777, shortly after the American Declaration of Independence.

But Inglis suffered for his adherence to the loyalist cause. He was attainted in 1779, and all his property was confiscated. Trinity Church was destroyed and Inglis moved with his family and 30,000 other loyalist emigrants to Nova Scotia in 1783. He was succeeded as rector of Trinity Church by Samuel Provoost, one of the first bishops of the Episcopal Church, and a son-in-law of Iboreas Bousfield, a wealthy banker in Co Cork.

Soon after American independence, George Seabury was consecrated by the bishops of the nonjuring Episcopal Church of Scotland in Aberdeen in 1784. Only then was the wisdom of Inglis’s earlier demands for bishops to serve in the colonies realised at last, if not too lately, and in 1787 Charles Inglis was consecrated in Lambeth Palace as Bishop of Nova Scotia, with jurisdiction also over Quebec, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, although his burden was eased in 1793 with the creation of the Diocese of Quebec.

Two months later, in the first Anglican ordination in Canada, Inglis ordained his own nephew, Archibald Inglis, and in 1790 he laid the foundation stone for the first university founded overseas after the loss of the American colonies.

In 1825, Charles Inglis’s son, John Inglis, became the third Bishop of Nova Scotia.

Back in Ireland, the Association for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (APCK) was founded as the Association for Discountenancing Vice and Promoting the Knowledge and Practice of the Christian Religion in 1792, and it was incorporated in 1800. Its work included the distribution of bibles, prayer books and tracts, and it later went on to found and support schools.

CMS, founded in London in 1799, soon had supporters in Ireland. The Hibernian Church Missionary Society, founded in 1814, is now known as the Church Mission Society Ireland (CMS Ireland). Its missionaries first concentrated on those parts of Africa and Asia not open to SPG missionaries under the terms of its charter.

David Livingstone’s account of his travels in Africa in a speech in Cambridge in 1857 generated new missionary enthusiasm that gave rise to the formation of new missionary societies at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Dublin and Durham, and the eventual formation of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA), bringing the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism into missionary work.

A unique outgrowth of the work of both SPG and CMS Ireland was the formation of two university missions in Dublin, modelled on the Oxford and Cambridge Missions to Delhi and Calcutta: the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, which worked principally in China, and, five years later in 1890, of the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur, which worked in India.

But we have moved ahead of ourselves, and we need to return to what was happening in the Church in Europe in the 18th century.


9.3: Revolution and enlightenment: old certainties challenged

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. This lecture on 22 February 2013 was part of the Church History Elective (TH 7864) on the MTh course, Year I.

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