This is part 2 of my series on The American Foreign Missions Board:
The ABCFM was formed in 1810 and was officially incorporated in 1812. However, like most organizations, there were numerous events that proceeded the official incorporation date. The main impetus that led to the founding of the ABCFM came when a group of students, from Andover Divinity School, requested the opportunity to address a “recently organized body of conservative Congregational ministers, representing the more evangelical wing of the denomination” known as the General Association of Massachusetts Proper.
These students were all part of a “secret fraternity called the ‘Brethren,’ whose members pledged themselves to undertake the work of foreign missions.” The students took full advantage of this opportunity to address the General Association and presented their request for the formation of an American missionary society to support the work of missionaries taking the gospel to foreign lands. The Association recommended that the request be evaluated more thoroughly by a subcommittee. After a short deliberation the subcommittee responded favorably to the request and on June 29, 1810, recommended to
the General Association:
That there be instituted by this association a Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, for the purpose of devising ways and means, and of adopting and prosecuting measures for promoting the spread of the gospel in heathen lands.
In addition to this, the Association encouraged the four students to continue to pursue their studies and “humbly to wait the openings and guidance of providence in respect to their great and excellent design.” The Association also moved forward by appointing nine men to the Board of Commissioners. However, it took almost two years before the first missionaries were sent out to the sub-continent. This sending of American missionaries by an American Board marked a new era in the influence of the American Church in the world. As the influence of the ABCFM began to spread in the world, one of its most glaring weaknesses became more and more noticeable. It is to this that we now turn our attention.