Influences on the Church Missionary Society in the 1880's
In Eugene Stock’s history of the Society, the author states, “The Church Missionary Society owes a whole succession of missionaries to the influences of that period.”1 He is referring to the years from 1870 to the 1890’s when many pieces of God’s work coalesce in a grand missionary movement in England. D. L. Moody brought revival in the 1870’s, but his visit in 1882 brought a deeper impact through his visit to Cambridge. “The Cambridge Seven” who responded to Moody’s missionary call at that time found mentorship under Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission. Hudson Taylor, alongside the Society’s deep ties to the Keswick Convention had a marked impact on the methods and practices of the society.
C. M. S. Ties to Keswick
The Keswick Convention sought to be an ecumenical gathering for those seeking to deepen their spiritual life. The message of Keswick was resisted by many skeptics, including Handley C. G. Moule. Moule, a rising academic in the Anglican church was immediately arrested by the preaching he heard the first time he attended in 1884. He admitted he was convicted, made aware of his need for deeper growth, and publicly testified, “how the last night had been a great blessing to my soul.” Subsequently, he became an avid promoter of the Convention in Anglican circles and eventually one of its regular speakers.
In 1885, Moule spoke at C.M.S. functions. And by 1888 their annual conference was dominated by Keswick. As Reetzke notes, “Of the six principal speakers, four were Keswick leaders—Handley Moule, Webb-Peploe, C. A. Fox and E. Hopkins. This, according to Andrew Murray2*, ‘proves how closely the movement for the deepening of spiritual life at Keswick, and the quickening of the missionary spirit in the Society, were allied.’“3
Hudson Taylor and the Cambridge Seven
The primary affect this group of servants had on the Society, was Taylor’s push to conduct meetings only on Spiritual grounds. Taylor’s fund raising methods were a challenge to any society—he refused to include public appeals for offerings in his meetings in favor of private prayer for the Lord to supply.
Secondly, though actively leading his own mission society, he held meetings not for the benefit of the China Inland Mission over and against other missionary outlets, but brought “The Seven” to gatherings on behalf of the need in China. These meetings brought together all who cared for the gospel to meet together under a common Headship. Here, they presented the Lord’s need in the whole country, not just the facts of one Society’s mission outposts. They prayed to the Lord to provide, made appeals for recruits to come and serve the Lord alone and considered all work as being directly accountable to a Living Master.
These meetings put all the societies on the spot as to their methods and where they placed their trust. Stock notes, “In many ways the Church Missionary Society owes a deep debt of gratitude to the China Inland Mission and the Cambridge Seven.” Instancing this effect, Stock cites notes from their 1885 Annual Conference of the Association Secretaries:
The spiritual character of the meetings held by Mr. Hudson Taylor and his Cambridge recruits was referred to, and the idea was thrown out of arranging special gatherings simultaneously in different centers, to plead the claims, not of the Society, but of the Divine Lord and Savior to the entire obedience and devotion of His servants. 4
Reetzke adds, “From that time on, a weekly prayer meeting was begun at the Church Missionary Society and was carried on for years to come.”5
These seeds of change provide a base for the spiritual atmosphere Miss Barber came into in the late 1890’s.
1 - Stock, Eugene, The History of the C.M.S. Vol 3 pg. 284
2 - Murray, Andrew. *The Key to the Missionary Problem. pg. 83
3 - Reetzke, James. A Seed Sown in China pg. 12
4 - Stock, Eugene. The History of the C.M.S. Vol 3 pg.316
5 - Reetzke, James. A Seed Sown In China pg. 9