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Church Mission Society

Church Mission Society
Abbreviation CMS
Formation 12 April 1799
Founder Clapham Sect
Type Evangelical Anglicanism
Protestant missionary
British Commonwealth
Headquarters Watlington Road
United Kingdom

The Church Mission Society (CMS), formerly in Britain and currently in Australia and New Zealand known as the Church Missionary Society, is a mission society working with the Anglican Communion and Protestant Christians around the world. Founded in 1799, CMS has attracted over nine thousand men and women to serve as mission partners during its 200 year history. The society has also given its name "CMS" to a number of daughter organisations around the world.


  • History 1
    • Foundation 1.1
    • Development 1.2
    • 20th century 1.3
    • Present 1.4
  • Mission in Palestine and Egypt 2
  • Mission in China 3
  • Mission in Kerala, India 4
  • Mission in New Zealand 5
    • History of the CMS mission in New Zealand 5.1
    • Notable CMS missionaries 5.2
    • Formation of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society 5.3
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9



The original proposal for the mission came from Charles Grant, George Uday of the East India Company and the Revd David Brown, of Calcutta [who sent a proposal in 1787 to William Wilberforce, then a young member of parliament, and Charles Simeon, a young clergyman at Cambridge University.[1] The Baptist Missionary Society was formed in 1792 and the London Missionary Society was formed in 1795 to represent various demonimations that were part of the Evangelical Revival in the English Protestant churches.[1]

The Society for Missions to Africa and the East (as the society was first called) was founded on 12 April 1799 at a meeting of the Eclectic Society, supported by members of the Clapham Sect, a group of activist evangelical Christians. Their number included Charles Simeon, John Venn, Basil Woodd;[2][1] and also Henry Thornton, Thomas Babington[3] and William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was asked to be the first president of the society, but he declined to take on this role and became a vice-president. The treasurer was Henry Thornton and the founding secretary was Thomas Scott,[4] a biblical commentator. Many of the founders were also involved in creating the Sierra Leone Company and the Society for the Education of Africans.[5]


In 1803 Josiah Pratt was appointed secretary a position he held for 21 years becoming an early driving force. The first missionaries – who came from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg and had trained at the Berlin Seminary – went out in 1804. The name Church Missionary Society began to be used and in 1812 the society was renamed The Church Missionary Society.[1] The principal missions, the founding missionaries, and the dates of the establishment of the missions are:[6]

At the end of 1894 the CMS missionaries totalled 1,335 (men) and 317 (women). The indigenous clergy ordained by the branch missions totalled 496 and about 5,000 lay teachers had been trained by the branch organisations.[6] In 1894 there were currently 344 ordained missionaries, 304 indigenous clergy (ordained by the branch organisations) and 93 lay members of the CMS. As of 1894, in addition to the missionary work the CMS operated about 2016 schools, with about 84,725 students.[6]

In the first 25 years of the CMS nearly half the missionaries were Germans trained in Berlin and later from the Basel Seminary.[6] The Church Missionary Society College, Islington opened in 1825 and trained about 600 missionaries; about 300 joined the CMS from universities and about 300 came from other sources.[6] 30 CMS missionaries were appointed to the Episcopate, serving as bishops.[6]

The CMS published The Church Missionary Gleaner, from April 1841 to September 1857.[33] From 1813 to 1855 the society published The Missionary Register, "containing an abstract of the principal missionary and bible societies throughout the world". From 1816, "containing the principal transactions of the various institutions for propagating the gospel with the proceedings at large of the Church Missionary Society".[34]

20th century

During the early twentieth century, the society's theology moved in a more liberal direction under the leadership of Eugene Stock.[35] There was considerable debate over the possible introduction of a doctrinal test for missionaries, which advocates claimed would restore the society's original evangelical theology. In 1922, the society split, with the liberal evangelicals remaining in control of CMS headquarters, whilst conservative evangelicals established the Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society (BCMS, now Crosslinks).

Notable general secretaries of the society later in the 20th century were Max Warren and John Vernon Taylor. The first woman president of the CMS, Diana Reader Harris, was instrumental in persuading the society to back the 1980 Brandt Report on bridging the North-South divide. In the 1990s CMS appointed its first non-British general secretary, Michael Nazir-Ali, who later became Bishop of Rochester in the Church of England, and its first women general secretary, Diana Witts.

At the end of the 20th century there was a significant swing back to the Evangelical position, probably in part due to a review in 1999 at the anniversary and also due to the re-integration of Mid Africa Ministry (formerly the Ruanda Mission). The position of CMS is now that of an ecumenical Evangelical society.


On 31 January 2010 CMS had 151 mission partners and co-mission partners (workers jointly sent by CMS and another agency) serving in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The 2009–10 Annual Review also lists "Other people in mission: 78"; "Cross-cultural programme participants: 126" and "Projects financially supported: 114". This does not take into account work in Latin America, which came with the integration of CMS and the South American Mission Society on 1 February 2010. In 2009–10, CMS had a budget of £8 million, drawn primarily from donations by individuals and parishes, supplemented by historic investments.[36]

In 2004 CMS was instrumental in bringing together a number of Anglican and, later, some Protestant mission agencies to form Faith2Share, an international network of mission agencies.

In June 2007, CMS in Britain moved the administrative office out of London for the first time. It is now based with the new Crowther Centre for Mission Education[37] in east Oxford.

In 2008, CMS was acknowledged as a mission community by the Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities of the Church of England. It currently has approximately 2,500 members who commit to seven promises, aspiring to live a lifestyle shaped by mission.

In 2010 CMS integrated with the South American Mission Society (SAMS).

The Church Mission Society Archive is housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections.

Mission in Palestine and Egypt

The CMS made an important contribution to Protestant Christianity in Palestine as well. Former CMS missionary Samuel Gobat became the second bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and in 1855 invited the CMS to make Palestine a mission field, which they did. Over the years many missionaries were sent, including John Zeller, who exercised a great influence on the development of Nazareth and Jerusalem and founded Christ Church, Nazareth, the first Protestant church in the Galilee, which was consecrated by Gobat in 1871.[38]

Another missionary was Frederick Augustus Klein, who served in Nazareth (1851-1877) and Egypt (1882), discovered the Moabite Stone, and assisted with the translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Arabic.[39][40][41][42]

J. Spencer Trimingham served with the CMS in the Sudan, Egypt, and West Africa (1937–53).

Mission in China

The Revd Bishop of Victoria, H.K.) and the Revd T McClatchie established a mission at Shanghai in 1844.[20] The China mission was extended to Zhejiang (Cheh-kiang) Province at Ningbo (1848), Fujian Province (Fuh-Kien) at Fuzhou (Fuh-Chow) (May 1850), Hong Kong (1862), Guangdong (Kwan-tung) Province (1878) and Sichuan (Si-chuen Province) in south west China (1890).[20] The CMS remained active in Fuzhou and other places in China until the communist revolution in China in the 1950s.

St Stephen's Anglican Church was one of three churches founded in Hong Kong by the Church Missionary Society. It was led by Tsing-Shan Fok (霍靜山, 1851–1918, one of the earliest Chinese clergy in Hong Kong, starting in 1904.[43]

Mission in Kerala, India

The contribution made by the society in creating and maintaining educational institutions in Kerala, the most literate state in India, is significant. Many colleges and schools in Kerala and Tamil Nadu still have CMS in their names. The CMS College Kottayam may be one of the pioneers in popularising secondary education in southern India. (Former Indian President K. R. Narayanan is an alumnus.)

Benjamin Bailey was appointed to the Kottayam mission in the Indian state of Kerala. Benjamin Bailey translated the complete Bible to Malayalam language. He also athored the first printed Malayalam-English dictionary and the first Malayalam-English Dictionary. He is considered as the father of Malayalam Printing.[44]

The CMS continued to send missionaries to India, including Frank Lake in 1937. The successors of the protestant church missions are the Church of South India and the Church of North India.

Mission in New Zealand

Samuel Marsden

History of the CMS mission in New Zealand

The Church Missionary Society sent missionaries to settle in New Zealand. Samuel Marsden[45] of the Church Missionary Society (chaplain in New South Wales), officiated at its first service on Christmas Day in 1814, at Oihi Bay in the Bay of Islands. The CMS founded its first mission at Rangihoua in the Bay of Islands in 1814 and over the next decade established farms and schools in the area. Thomas Kendall and William Hall were directed, in 1814, to proceed to the Bay of Islands in the Active, a vessel purchased by Marsden for the service of the mission, there to reopen communication with Ruatara, a local chief; an earlier attempt to establish a mission in the Bay of Islands had been delayed as a consequence of the Boyd Massacre in Whangaroa harbour in 1809.[46] Kendall and Hall left New South Wales on 14 March 1814 on the Active for an exploratory journey to the Bay of Islands. They met rangatira (chiefs) of the Ngāpuhi including Ruatara and the rising war-leader Hongi Hika; Hongi Hika and Ruatara travelled with Kendall when he returned to Australia on 22 August 1814. Kendall, Hall and John King, returned to the Bay of Islands on the Active on 22 December 1814 to establish the mission.[47]

In 1819 Marsden made his second visit to New Zealand, bringing with him John Butler as well as Francis Hall and James Kemp as lay settlers. William Puckey, a boatbuilder and carpenter, came with his family, including William Gilbert Puckey to assist in putting up the buildings at Kerikeri.[46] Butler and Kemp took charge of the Kerikeri mission, but proved unable to develop a harmonious working relationship. In 1820, Marsden paid his third visit, on H.M.S. Dromedary, bringing James Shepherd.[46] In 1823, Marsden paid his fourth visit, bringing with him Henry Williams and his wife Marianne as well as Richard Davis, a farmer, and William Fairburn, a carpenter, and their respective families.[46][48][49] In 1826 Henry's brother William and his wife Jane joined the CMS mission in New Zealand.

The mission schools provided religious education as well as English language practical skills. The first baptism occurred in 1825.[50] However the evangelical mission of the CMS achieved success only after the baptism of Ngapuhi chief Taiwhanga in 1830. His example influenced others to be baptised into the Christian faith.[51] In 1833 a mission was established at Kaitaia in Northland as well as a mission at Puriri in the Thames area.[52] In 1835 missions were established in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato regions at Tauranga, Matamata and Rotorua and in 1836 a mission was open in the Manakau area.[47]

The first public notice in New Zealand, printed for Kororarika [sic] by the press of the Church Missionary Society in Paihia, in the Bay of Islands

By 1840 William Williams had translated much of the New Testament into the Māori language. After 1844 Robert Maunsell worked with William Williams on the translation of the Bible.[53] The full translation of the Bible into the Māori language was completed in 1857.[54]

The CMS reached the height of its influence in New Zealand in the 1840s and 1850s. Missions covered almost the whole of the North Island and many Māori were baptised. The CMS in London began to reduce its commitment to the CMS mission in New Zealand in 1854 and only a handful of new missionaries arrived after this.

The CMS missionaries held the Bishop Selwyn, who was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of New Zealand in 1841, held the high church (Tracharian) views although he appointed CMS missionaries to positions in the Anglican Church of New Zealand including appointing William Williams as the first Bishop of Waiapu.[55]

Notable CMS missionaries

Notable members of the CMS mission included:

  • William Colenso arrived in December 1834 to work as a printer and missionary.[56] William and Elizabeth Colenso worked at the Waitangi (Ahuriri, Napier) mission station from 1844, until William Colenso was dismissed from the CMS in 1852.
  • Revd Octavius Hadfield, arrived in December 1838 and was ordained a minister at Paihia on 6 January 1839,[47] and in November of that year he travelled to Otaki with Henry Williams, where he established a mission station.[57]
  • Thomas Kendall arrived on the Active on 22 December 1814; dismissed from the mission in August 1822.[47]
  • Revd Robert Maunsell, arrived in 1835 and he was sent to established the Manukau mission station in the same year.[47] He later worked with William Williams on the translation of the Bible. Maunsell worked on the Old Testament, portions of which were published in 1840 with the full translation completed in 1857. He became a leading scholar of the Māori language.
  • William Gilbert Puckey arrived with his parents William and Margery Puckey in 1919, then joined the mission in 1821. He helped built, then served as the mate of the 55 foot schooner, the Herald.[47] He went to Sydney with his parents in 1826 then returned to the Bay of Islands the following year. He and Joseph Matthews established the Kaitaia mission station in 1833-1834.[52] As he had become fluent in the language since arriving as a boy of 14, he was a useful translator for the CMS mission, including collaborating with William Williams on the translation of the New Testament in 1837 and its revision in 1844.[47]
  • Revd Richard Taylor, arrived in 1839.[58] He succeeded William Williams as principal of the Waimate Boys’ School in September 1839 and remained there into the 1840s.[59][60] The Revd Taylor moved to join the mission station at Wanganui in 1842.[47]
  • Revd Henry Williams became the leader of the CMS mission in New Zealand in 1823.[61] In 1844, Williams was installed as Archdeacon of Waimate in the diocese centred on the Waimate Mission Station.[46]
  • Revd William Williams arrived in New Zealand in 1826.[62] Williams led the CMS missionaries in translating the Bible into Māori and he also published an early dictionary and grammar of the Māori language. Williams was appointed Archdeacon of the East Cape diocese and later as the first Bishop of Waiapu.[55]

Formation of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society

In 1892 the New Zealand branch of the Church Missionary Society (NZCMS) formed in a Nelson church hall and the first New Zealand missionaries were sent to Japan soon after.[63] Funding from the UK stopped completely in 1903.[64] In 2000 the NZCMS amalgamated with the South American Missionary Society of New Zealand.[63] The NZCMS works closely with the Anglican Missions Board, concentrating on mission work outside New Zealand and has been involved in Pakistan, East Africa, the Middle East, Cambodia, South Asia, South America and East Asia.[63]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d
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  3. ^ (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k
  7. ^ a b c d
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  13. ^ a b c d
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  18. ^ a b c d
  19. ^ Donald Crummey, Priests and Politicians, 1972, Oxford University Press (reprinted Hollywood: Tsehai, 2007), pp. 12, 29f. For an account of the society's Amharic translation, see Edward Ullendorff, Ethiopia and the Bible (Oxford: University Press for the British Academy, 1968), pp. 62–67 and the sources cited there.
  20. ^ a b c
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  29. ^
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  34. ^ Missionary Periodicals Database (Yale University)
  35. ^ Stock 1923.
    The more liberal CMS position may be compared with the attitude expressed in the preface to its 1904 English–Kikuyu Vocabulary, whose author, CMS member A. W. McGregor, complained of the difficulty in obtaining information about Kikuyu from "very unwilling and unintelligent natives" (McGregor 1904, p. iii).
  36. ^ CMS: Annual Review 2009–10 (PDF).
  37. ^ Crowther Centre for Mission Education
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ Rebecca Chan Chung, Deborah Chung and Cecilia Ng Wong, "Piloted to Serve", 2012.
  44. ^ Benjamin Bailiyum Malayala Saahityavum. By Dr. Babu Cherian. Published by the Department of Printing and Publishing, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam.
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b c d e
  47. ^ a b c d e f g h
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Dench, Alison, Essential Dates: A timeline of New Zealand history, Random House, 2005
  52. ^ a b
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ a b
  56. ^
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  63. ^ a b c
  64. ^


CMS in New Zealand:

  • (English) Fitzgerald, Caroline (2004) – Letters from the Bay of Islands, Sutton Publishing Limited, United Kingdom; ISBN 0-7509-3696-7 (Hardcover). Penguin Books, New Zealand, (Paperback) ISBN 0-14-301929-5
  • (English) Fitzgerald, Caroline (2011) - Te Wiremu – Henry Williams: Early Years in the North, Huia Press, New Zealand, (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-86969-439-5

CMS – general:

  • Hewitt, Gordon, The Problems of Success, A History of the Church Missionary Society 1910–1942, Vol I (1971) In Tropical Africa. The Middle East. At Home ISBN 0-334-00252-4; Vol II (1977)Asia Overseas Partners ISBN 0-334-01313-5
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • Missionary Register; containing an abstract of the principal missionary and bible societies throughout the world. From 1816, containing the principal transactions of the various institutions for propagating the gospel with the proceedings at large of the Church Missionary Society.
Published from 1813–1855 by L. B. Seeley & Sons, London
Some are online readable and downloadable at Google Books:
    • 1814
    • 1815
    • 1822
    • 1823
    • 1826
    • 1828
    • 1829
    • 1831
    • 1834
    • 1846

External links

  • CMS Britain
  • CMS Australia
  • New Zealand CMS
  • CMS Ireland
  • World Mission News from CMS
  • CMS mission videos
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