pastors over local congregations. Those congregations often worshipped in buildings erected with funds remitted from Europe or North America. Yet Baptist, Congregationalist and some Free Church of Scotland missionaries professed an ecclesiology that vested the right to call or dismiss a minister, and the control of church property, in the gathered congregation. It is hardly surprising that from Spanish Town to Grahamstown disputes surfaced in which congregations asserted the democratic rights inherent in their own Dissenting missionaries' traditions, only to find themselves opposed by the very same missionaries, appealing to the supposedly higher claims of paternal responsibility and the authority of the missionary committee.18 Racial pride, and convictions of the missionary's 'fatherly' role, pushed those of congregational principles closer to de facto episcopal or presbyterian polity, even as missionary strategists from established churches, such as Venn, looked increasingly towards Nonconformist churches for their models of self-support and self-propagation. The resulting ecclesiological convergence contained the seeds of twentieth-century ecumenism, especially in India.
The difficulty of deciding whether denominational polity was a 'thing indifferent' or of the essence of the faith became apparent at the 1860 Liverpool conference. Joseph Mullens of the LMS Calcutta mission insisted that indigenous churches, no less than indigenous converts themselves, should not be 'hybrids': they should be expected to conform neither to western architectural taste nor even to such 'technicalities' of western ecclesiastical principle as the Thirty-Nine Articles or the Deed of Demission which effected the Scottish Disruption in 1843. He was firmly answered by other speakers, including William Shaw and William Tweedie, Convener of the Free Church's Foreign Missions Committee, who denied that their respective denominational principles were mere technicalities to be discarded on crossing the oceans. The conference minute on 'native churches' was a diplomatic masterpiece, designed to paper over the cracks between the two positions.19
The sharpest ambiguities were those thrown up by experience in India, where the dynamics of a caste society tied converts into more absolute dependence on missionary protection than anywhere else. All missions shared the same ideal of planting a self-sustaining Indian church, yet all failed to a greater or lesser extent to implement the ideal. In 1854 the CMS had a Christian community in north India of over 7,000 Christians, yet not one was ordained. In
18 Hall, Civilising subjects, pp. 192-9; De Gruchy, The London Missionary Society in southern Africa, pp. 120-55.
19 Conference on missions held in 1860 at Liverpool (London: James Nisbet, 1860), pp. 283-91, 309-13.
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