Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Great Awakening, Missions, Slavery, and Paternalism

Recently I wrote an article offering a critique of the first American Foreign Missions Organization. Rather than give a long introduction regarding the background of the organization I thought I would allow the paper to speak for itself and post it in its entirety over the next several days. I realize that for some my critique of the ABCFM may be shocking, so please feel free to leave your complaints, disagreements, and reflections in the comment section. Below is the introduction:

In the early part of the nineteenth century America was in the midst of the Second Great Awakening. This powerful move of God restored hope and fervor in the American Church for an imminent millennial kingdom. As people were caught up in the “belief that the years were hastening on toward the millennium” there was a direct impact on foreign missions. Preachers were exhorting their parishioners to be actively involved in the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth so that the millennium would begin.

It was in this historical context that the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was founded. The purposes of this paper are two fold as it relates to the ABCFM. The first purpose is to offer a brief historical sketch of the origins and founding of the ABCFM. After briefly examining the origins and founding, of the “first and most important" mission board in the United States, the second purpose is to offer a critique of the practices of the ABCFM. In specific, this critique will examine the policy of the ABCFM with regards to slavery and the failure to empower indigenous leadership in the Hawaiian Islands.

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