Missions and Expansion

Methodism could itself be described as a missionary movement. John Wesley was motivated by evangelism-that is, the desire to save people through preaching the word of God to them. His own efforts focused mainly on revitalizing the lives of faith of people who were already Christians in Britain and America. He himself (with his brother Charles) travelled to the colony of Georgia in 1735 to serve as a Church of England parish priest to the colonists, but also to try to evangelize and convert native Americans. American Methodists moved west with the frontier. Methodism's organization around itinerant preachers and circuit riders was well-suited to the westward movement.

Methodists have taken seriously the Great Commission, that is, the charge given by the resurrected Jesus to his followers to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the United States, the Methodist Episcopal Church formed a missionary society in 1820. It sent missionaries to Liberia in 1833 and South America in 1835. It also formed a Board of Home Missions aimed at urban and rural populations in the United States. In Canada, James Evans (1801-1846) was appointed as a missionary to native Americans in Manitoba. He developed a written script to transcribe and write in several Indian languages.

Dr. Thomas Coke set out to evangelize in India in 1814 though he died en route. James Lynch established the first Methodist church in Madras (now called Chennai). In 1874 the Methodist Episcopal Church began mission activities in India. In 1947 the Methodist Church merged with other Indian Protestant churches to form the Church of South India.

The Methodist Episcopal Church (the main branch of Methodism in the United States) sent Judson Dwight Collins and Moses Clark White to China in 1847. By 1862 there were 87 members of their churches. In 1867 they organized the Foochow Conference, which had over 2000 members. In 1953 the Methodist Church moved to Taiwan.

Following the American invasion of the Philippines, the Mission Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church joined with other Protestant mission groups to undertake mission work in those islands. The first Protestant worship service in the Philippines was conducted by a Methodist chaplain, George C. Stull.

Henry G. Appenzeller was the first Methodist missionary to Korea. In Korea the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South agreed to work together and began by building schools and hospitals. The Methodist Church in Korea is perhaps the most vibrant Methodist Church in the world today.

Study Questions:
     1.     Describe the Great Commission. Why could it be viewed as a force of colonization? Of social justice?
     2.     How were the mission works of Methodism controlled? Where did missionaries go?
     3.     Who were some of Methodism's notable missionaries?

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