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Religion Library: Presbyterian and Reformed

Exploration and Conquest

Written by: Ted Vial

There was a disagreement among American Presbyterians about whether they should join inter-denominational mission boards, or whether their own denomination should sponsor missions directly.  New School Presbyterians (those in favor of revivals and of cooperating with other denominations) favored joining the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (Presbyterians joined this board in 1826).  Old School Presbyterians (those centered at Princeton Seminary who disliked the "enthusiasm" of revivals and did not like the compromises on matters of Reformed doctrine that cooperation with other denominations required) preferred a denominational mission board.  The Old School finally succeeded in getting the General Assembly to establish a Board of Foreign Missions in 1837.  They established missions in Africa, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Japan, and Thailand.

Work among Native Americans was transferred from the Board of Foreign Missions to the Board of Home Missions beginning in 1885.  In the United States, Presbyterians began mission work among the Navajos in 1868.  They received from President Grant's "Peace Policy" (under which religious denominations could nominate people to be appointed by the government as Indian agents) most of the southwestern territories.  The entanglement of mission work with the government's own policies of displacement and resource extraction backfired for the missionaries, and they withdrew in the 1880s.   

Study Questions:
     1.    How has the goal of mission changed over time?
     2.    Who was the first Presbyterian missionary? Where did he go, and what was the effect?
     3.    Why did Christianity spread so rapidly within Korea?
     4.    When did the Presbyterian Church begin “Home Missions”? What was the result?


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