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Section VII: General Secretary's Papers

Part 1: Papers relating to Africa, 1847-1950

The General Secretary’s Department

The General Secretary’s department is the most important of the CMS departments because the General Committee was ultimately responsible for CMS policy. There are three areas of responsibility for the General Secretary. The first is as chief Candidates’ Secretary. Apart from a short time during Henry Venn’s secretaryship the work of seeking out and training missionary candidates belonged to the General Secretary. The heavy pressure of work led to the formation of a Candidates department in 1897 and this was considered part of the General Secretary’s responsibility until 1914 when it became a branch of the Foreign department. However the General Secretary continued to consider himself the chief Candidates Secretary until the major reorganisation of the Society’s headquarters administration in 1982. The department’s records therefore include the records of Islington College and other training institutions.

Until 1880 the Secretary to the General Committee was also Secretary to the Committee of Correspondence and as such was considered the chief Foreign Secretary (a term not formally used until later). When the three Group Secretaries took over the routine administration of the work in the missions overseas the General Secretary remained responsible for overall policy and continued to be the designated secretary for correspondence with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with overseas bishops. This responsibility has continued to the present day. The department’s  records therefore comprise not only a major source for the policy underlying the activities of the Society abroad, but are the main source on the formation of churches and dioceses and the appointment of bishops.

All the Secretaries have equal authority in the administration of the Society, but because the General Committee (now General Council) was the Society’s ultimate authority the General Secretary is considered “first among equals”. He is the representative of the Society in dealing with bishops and archbishops. He is also responsible for all spiritual matters. The department’s records therefore contain papers on staff welfare and much personal and confidential correspondence which reflect his role of final arbiter and highest court of appeal.

The material in the General Secretary’s Papers is classified as in all the CMS official archives:

A – Administration

C – Committee work

E – Education

F – Finance

G – Conferences

M – Medical

O – Outside organizations

P – Politics

R- Religious questions

Y – Correspondence with overseas

Z – Miscellaneous

The “Correspondence with overseas” section consists of papers for Africa, Australia, Canada, Ceylon, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Madagascar and Mauritius, Mediterranean Mission, New Zealand, Palestine, Persia, Sudan, United States of America and the West Indies.

Description of Contents

The first part of the section covering the General Secretary papers consists of material for Africa General, East Africa, West Africa, Sierra Leone Mission, Yoruba Mission including Nigeria General, Niger Mission and South Africa Mission taken from the “Correspondence with Overseas” section of the General Secretary papers. The remaining papers for Africa covering Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Northern Nigeria, Upper Nile, Rwanda, Southern Sudan, Northern Sudan and Egypt will be covered in the next part of this section.

Africa General

The material included in this part reflects the changes taking place in CMS work in Africa, particularly in the period either side of and during the Second World War. Debates were taking place regarding the role of missionaries and the native church, the worry about the lack of funding for mission work and the changing face of missionary educational work. Items included are:

  • pamphlet entitled “The Task of the Church in Africa”
  • minutes of meetings of post-war Consultative Committees
  • memos on conferences on Africa
  • news cuttings regarding “The Africa Question”
  • correspondence with Canon Broomfield concerning the appointment of a Dominions and Colonial Secretary
  • discussions regarding the budget for staff and facilities in order to speed up the transfer of duties to native personnel
  • reflections on the policy of the CMS missions in Africa by Rev H D Hooper, Africa Secretary
  • a report on Christian Councils in Africa
  • report by the Committee for the Evangelisation of Kenya Indians, 1938-1939
  • spread sheet of the expenditure of CMS Africa, 1926-1942
  • account of a journey through the diocese of North Africa, 1937 by George W Wright
  • report on the crisis concerning vacancies in educational posts
  • a paper on the problems connected with provincial organisation by the Bishop of Salisbury
  • report on the General Missionary Conference of South Africa
  • memo written for the special sub-committee on the constitution of native churches

Education was a particularly hot topic and many of the papers are concerned with this issue. The Makerere Commission, 1937 on Higher Education in East Africa  recommended that government, while continuing to support mission schools, should expand secondary education by setting up government secondary schools, with new conditions for grants-in-aid for Uganda and Southern Sudan. There is much correspondence on this together with reports on conferences, the funding of education and the direction it should take in the future.

Items concerning education include:

  • statement of missionary educational policy, 1932
  • correspondence between the Rev H D Hooper, Africa Secretary and the General Secretary, Rev W Wilson Cash
  • report of a conference on Christian education in East Africa, 1930
  • report on missionary education in the Niger diocese
  • notes on the Hilton-Young report by a Kenya missionary
  • memo on Government grants-in-aid for educational purposes
  • report entitled “Educational Work in African Missions – The Present Crisis and Future Policy”
  • correspondence regarding policy between the General Secretary,
  • Rev W Wilson Cash and bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Africa Secretary, Rev H D Hooper.

East Africa

A good deal of this section deals with the Kikuyu Conference held in June 1913. This conference, attended by sixty missionaries working for different missionary societies, was held to discuss the possible amalgamation of missionary bodies working in British East Africa. The societies involved were the Church Missionary Society, Church of Scotland Mission, Africa Inland Mission and the United Methodist Mission. Details are also included in this part on the second Kikuyu conference held in July 1918 which appointed a representative council which aimed to work towards a united ministry based on united training. Its most enduring contribution was in education in the Alliance High School at Kikuyu which opened in 1926 and to which a CMS missionary, Carey Francis, was appointed headmaster in 1940.

Items include:

  • a pamphlet entitled “Proposed Scheme of Federation of Missionary Societies Working in British East Africa”, 1913
  • correspondence regarding issues raised at the United Missionary Conference at Kikuyu, 1912
  • draft statement of the Consultative Committee
  • list of proposed questions for consideration at the Round-Table Conference held after the Kikuyu Conference together with minutes of the conference
  • minutes of the first meeting of the Sub-Committee on the proposals of the Kikuyu conference, 1913
  • letters from those asked to sign the memorial, following the Round Table conference, which was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the controversy between the Bishops of Mombasa and Uganda and the Bishop of Zanzibar
  • booklet entitled “Steps Towards Re-union” by Right Rev W G Peel, Bishop of Mombasa and Right Rev J J Willis, Bishop of Uganda
  • pamphlet on “Recent Developments in Church Affairs” by Sir Edward Clarke
  • pamphlet on “The Kikuyu Conference – A Study in Christian Unity” by Right Rev J J Willis Bishop of Uganda.
  • agreements with Longmans Green & Co regarding the publication of tracts concerning the conference.

An important subject highlighted in these papers is the debate regarding the formation of a province of East Africa.  A province for East Africa had been suggested as early as 1914 by Archbishop Randall Davison and this was reinforced by a resolution of the Lambeth conference in 1920. An Anglican conference was held in Nairobi in 1927 to discuss whether such a province should be formed which would incorporate the dioceses of Nyasaland, Uganda, Mombasa, Zanzibar, the Upper Nile, Masasi and Northern Rhodesia. The conference agreed to recommend the proposal to the Diocesan Synods. The Uganda synod accepted the proposals but the Mombasa synod rejected them. An ecclesiastical province was eventually formed in the early 1960’s when the territories became independent.

Items included concerning the formation of a province of East Africa are:

  • letters from the Bishop of Mombasa, the General Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • pamphlet concerning Church Union in East Africa ‘Proposed Basis of Union’
  • report of a conference held at Myumi, Dodoma, Tanganyika, 1933
  • minutes of the first diocesan council under the constitution at Mvumi, 1933
  • report of proceedings of the Mombasa Diocese Synod, 1931
  • minutes of a CMS conference held in England of bishops of CMS dioceses, 1930
  • memo on the question of diocesanisation in Africa
  • minutes of the Ecclesiastical committees, 1927, 1928, 1930
  • memo of conclusions arrived at during the meeting of the Bishops of Uganda-Mombasa, Upper Nile and Central Tanganyika, September 1929
  • letters to the General Secretary from missionaries with their views on the setting up of the province
  • report by the General Secretary on his visit to East and Central Africa in 1937 and his investigation into the question of an ecclesiastical province for East Africa
  • views expressed by the native residents of Maseno on the visit of CMS Secretaries to Kavirondo
  • letters from African members of the church regarding the formation of the province
  • report on the conference of the East African bishops on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Uganda Church, 1937
  • synopsis of the negotiations regarding the province of East Africa

Much of the material for East Africa concerns the Regional Secretary for East Africa, Colonel George Grimshaw, appointed in 1949. There is much correspondence between Grimshaw and the General Secretary, Max Warren regarding Grimshaw’s concerns and complaints in his first years as Regional Secretary. Also included are Grimshaw’s report of a visit to the Upper Nile Mission in 1949 and the plans for Max Warren’s visit to East Africa in 1949.

West Africa

There are three main topics in the papers. The first is the discussion focused around the formation of the province of West Africa. In addition to correspondence, the papers include details on the appointment of a new bishop and a report of the Conference of the Bishops of Dioceses in West Africa, Accra, January 1948.


The second is the problem concerning alcohol which was consumed in great quantities by the local people, particularly at festivals. There was much debate on how the problem could be solved. Included in the papers are: a pamphlet entitled “The Liquor Traffic in West Africa” by W Wilson Cash, General Secretary; first issue, April 1929, of “Trusteeship and Liquor”, journal of the Native Race and the Liquor Traffic Commission; correspondence between the General Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the liquor problem; notes on the drink traffic on the Gold Coast  and Ashanti Protectorate; pamphlet on the Gold Coast Gin Traffic; report on the liquor traffic in Nigeria; survey of the recommendations of the conference on West African Liquor Traffic, 1929.

The third focuses on theological training in West Africa. The papers contain correspondence regarding the development of theological training; a report of the Mukono Commission appointed by the synod of the Native Anglican Church, Uganda, 1942 and a memo entitled “Higher Education in West Africa; The Role of the Church and Mission”.

Sierra Leone

Much of the early material for this mission is concerned with the Sierra Leone Bishopric Fund, a fund set up to promote the endowment of a bishopric of Sierra Leone in connection with the Colonial Bishoprics. Money was raised partly from CMS friends and partly from the SPG Jubilee Fund.

Documents included for 1851-1855 are:

  • lists of contributions received
  • cash book                                               
  • letters concerning qualifications needed for the post of bishop             
  • printed and working papers           
  • details concerning the Colonial Bishopric                                        
  • correspondence regarding the appointment of John Wills Weeks as Bishop of Sierra Leone, 1855  and letters concerning his ratification 

Around 1878, on the retirement of Bishop Cheetham, the subject of the possible subdivision of the bishopric of Sierra Leone is discussed and the papers include:

  • letters from the missionaries to the General Secretary and letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • letter from G W Gibson to the Sierra Leone Native Pastorate Association announcing the formation of the Liberian Episcopal Church under the supervision of Bishop Crowther, 1879
  • letters from J B Whiting and E H Steward regarding subdivision, including the effect on the bishopric on the Niger and the possibility of having a separate diocese for the Gold Coast, 1881

In 1882 the seat of Bishop of Sierra Leone became vacant and the papers contain correspondence with potential candidates, Rev E G Ingham, J B Whiting,  Canon Scott Robertson and with various other candidates.

In 1923 there are letters in the papers to the Archbishop of Canterbury requesting his opinion on the suitability of G W Wright for the post of Archbishop of the Bishopric of Sierra Leone.

General papers, 1912-1949 for Sierra Leone contain a wide range of subjects:

  • memos regarding the proposed new constitution of the diocese
  • a printed leaflet on “The Constitution of the Sierra Leone Church”
  • report on a tour through Southern Nigeria including a visit to the Gold Coast by Rev J L C Horstead, Fourah Bay College, October 1928
  • memo of a meeting to discuss staff for teacher training in Sierra Leone
  • report of Mr J Denton, principal of Fourah Bay College regarding the present situation and future of the college
  • notes on the future of Fourah Bay College
  • a survey by the Bishop of Sierra Leone on the diocese, 1938
  • news of the death of Archdeacon D G Crowther
  • pamphlet on the needs of the Sierra Leone diocese
  • memos on higher education
  • suggestions for the reorganisation of teacher training
  • memo by Bishop Horstead on “The Possibilities and Probabilities in the Christian Church in Sierra Leone in the next ten years”
  • correspondence regarding the formation of the diocese of Morocco, 1934
  • correspondence regarding the appointment of Alphonso Cukwuma Onyeabo as assistant bishop on the Niger, 1937

Yoruba Mission including Nigeria general

The Yoruba mission was established by Samuel Crowther and Henry Townsend  when liberated slaves returned to the area around Lagos as prosperous merchants and asked for Christian teachers.  Henry Venn, General Secretary supported economic development in the missions and industrial institutions like that at Abeokuta were established to provide apprenticeship schemes for the cotton trade.

The papers for this section contain much on the Industrial Institution at Abeokuta and on the cotton trade. Included are: a report of the African Native Agency Commission, 1851; S Crowther’s report, 1856 on the prospects for native cotton trade on the West African coast; correspondence between the General Secretary and H Robbin of the Industrial Institution, Abeokuta; monthly reports and accounts of the Industrial Institution, 1857; suggestions for the improvement of the social and intellectual condition of the native Africans at Sierra Leone; plan of the intended free warehouse, Lagos 1855.

Included also is a very interesting account, c1857 of a journey and visit to Abeokuta by Rev J A Maser and E Roper, the first visit by Europeans since the Dahomian Wars in the 1860’s, plus general correspondence between the General Secretary and the missionaries concerning a range of topics such as European staffing requirements, minutes of a meeting of the Estimates Committee, 1934, a conference regarding the proposed division of the Diocese of Western Equatorial Africa, 1918, the creation of the diocese and appointment of a bishop on the Niger, 1919-21.  There are also letters and memos regarding lay baptism by schismatic. After the consecration of the Bishop James Johnson and his resignation of St Paul’s Breadfruit a section of the congregation objected to his successor and seceded, calling themselves ‘Bethelites’.

Correspondence with bishops, 1932-1947 contains a mix of topics: details regarding the Christian Ogboni Society and of Canon A B Akinyele’s consecration as assistant bishop of Lagos, 1933; correspondence regarding the retirement of Bishop Oluwole and of Bishop Melville Jones, including a petition of 536 signatures from people in the diocese requesting that the church in Nigeria should be consulted about the appointment of its bishops; a memo regarding the proposed educational administration of the diocese.

Niger Mission

A large part of the papers for this mission consist of those of a sub-committee on the Niger Mission, 1890. They contain:

  • a report of the finance committee of Delta & Lower Niger Mission, August 1890 • memo on the Niger Mission by Rev J H Robinson
  • report of a visit to the Niger Mission by Rev J B Wood, 1880 and a reply from Bishop Crowther
  • report of a commission to investigate domestic slavery in the Yoruba Mission by J B Whiting and Ed Hutchinson
  • report of a visit to CMS stations in the Upper Niger by Rev James Hamilton, Secretary of the Niger Mission, 1883
  • a memo entitled “Shall Africans be chosen now for the higher positions in the West African Church?” together with private correspondence with R Lang and G F Packer and letters from J A Robinson.

Other items of interest are:

  • a list of places on the Niger, Binue, the Interior Countries and the Bight, 1884
  • memo on the condition of the Niger Mission by J A Robinson, 1889
  • report on the mission station at Bonny by D C Crowther, 1889
  • letters between James Townsend of Exeter, printer and A F Buxton of Chigwell, Essex
  • regulations and prospectus of the Delta Pastorate Training High School, St Clements’ Bonny
  • correspondence regarding a CMS deputation to the Foreign Office, 1884 concerning the Niger liquor traffic.             

There is also  a great deal of material regarding the ‘Henry Venn’ steamer for the years 1877-1887: letters from A Lobnitz, Coulburn & Co, engineers and shipbuilders, Renfrew, from Captain Francis Brown, from and regarding crew members; bills re equipment and supplies; accounts and running cost calculations; West Africa Company Ltd tenders and letters; letters from The United African Company Ltd, London; letters regarding financial contributions; lists of officers and crew; plans and specification of the steamer; details of expenses of Captain Brown; plans for the Niger Mission in connection with the new steamer.

An interesting small set of letters are from Henry Venn to Bishop Crowther on subjects such as: Crowther’s relations with the Bishop of Sierra Leone; the West African Native Bishopric Fund; Crowther’s expedition up the Niger; the future of the Niger Mission; native pastors in Sierra Leone. Included also is a draft of a speech on the languages of West Africa by Bishop Crowther. 

General correspondence covers a variety of topics:

  • copies of letters from Archdeacon D C Crowther and Mr Garrick, a catechist describing the instruction and baptism of King Ockiya of Brass
  • report on a conference on the opening of mission schools, 1923
  • memo on European personnel in Isoko country and future staffing policy, 1928
  • memo by Rev O N Garrard on work in the Isoko-Sobo country, 1934;
  • report of a visit to the Isoko district, 1931
  • notes on the increase of Ju-Ju worship
  • report of the proceedings of the first session of the 4th Synod, 1940
  • a proposal to establish a rural training and demonstration centre, 1946
  • memo regarding the proposed dioscesan constitution, 1946
  • petition from the Niger Delta Pastorate Church members against the division of the pastorate, 1946
  • letter from the research assistant to the General Secretary regarding nationalism in Nigeria
  • letter from the Bishop of the Niger concerning the possibility of Communism being present in Nigeria
  • letter from African staff at Iyi Enu hospital, Onitsha, Nigeria regarding their concerns
  • letters regarding the consecration of E T Dimireari as assistant bishop
  • report of the Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, 1948 by Philip J Ross
  • general report on the Niger Mission
  • booklet “Grants in Aid of Education in Nigeria” – a review by S Phillipson
  • correspondence regarding Canadian recruits for the Niger
  • memo regarding recruits and training by Rec C A Forster, Secretary of the Niger Mission
  • memo regarding CMS training colleges; correspondence with Bishop Cecil Patterson regarding plans to turn Awka training institution into a Union Theological College.
  • the choice, appointment and consecration of assistant bishops
  • papers on Re-union  and a United Church
  • papers regarding the constitution of the Union Theological College, Umuahia and proposals for the Canton Union Theological College.


South Africa

This very small collection of papers includes: a letter from Sir Bartle Frere regarding  the difficulties to be contended with in South Africa in1879 for example military despotism of Cetewayo, lawlessness, fraudulent trade, monopoly of trade, cities of refuge, trading missionaries allegedly involved in gun running;

letter from the Christian Council of South Africa, 1948; correspondence with

Rev E W Lasbrey; notes of an interview with Rev A Daintree at Cape Town, 1933; notes by Edith Baring-Gould on a visit to South Africa, 1933 regarding the colour question and the divided state of the Anglican church; newspaper cuttings on General Smuts’ view on missions; letters from the Bishop of Uganda following a visit to South Africa in 1949.

Background to the General Secretary’s Department

The first Secretary of the CMS, Rev Thomas Scott, resigned in 1803, handing over to a younger man, Rev Josiah Pratt, who was to lead the Society for twenty-one years.  Pratt was responsible (at first entirely unaided) for guiding the growth of the Society's first missions in Africa, India and Ceylon, for the development at home of the Church Missionary Associations and for CMS co-operation with numerous other missionary societies, both in the British Isles and in Europe and America.

From 1816 Pratt was helped by an Assistant, the Rev Edward Bickersteth.  He was freshly returned from a visit to Sierra Leone made on behalf of CMS, and at first his primary concern was with the training of missionary candidates.  When Pratt retired in 1824, however, Bickersteth took over, having as Assistant Secretary a layman, Dandeson Coates.  Bickersteth developed the deputation work, which the first Secretaries and friends of the Society had shared, and for which his particular gifts and his experience overseas especially fitted him.  Although both Secretaries were naturally concerned with the overseas work, Bickersteth was in many ways very much like the present-day Home Secretary while Coates was especially concerned with finance and administration.

Bickersteth resigned the Secretaryship in 1830 and Dandeson Coates was appointed in his place.  He was a brilliant, but slightly legalistic personality and until his sudden death in April 1846 he directed the Society with tremendous vigour and firmness.  He brought order to the organisation of the Society's finances both at home and abroad and had sole management of all business affairs.  He especially concerned himself with the Society's dealings with government and took a particular interest in the West Africa mission.  He was assisted by, in turn, Thomas Woodrooffe, William Jowett and Thomas Vores.  These three clergymen were to keep in personal friendly touch with the missionaries overseas.  Gentle William Jowett, who brought to his task wide overseas experience, notably in Syria and the Mediterranean, in eight years brought to his correspondents a rare sense of caring and Christian love.

Coates' fourth assistant was the Rev Henry Venn, son of John Venn, one of the founders of the Society.  He was appointed as Clerical Secretary in 1841 and rapidly took over responsibility for the work overseas, though business affairs were still in Coates' hands.  Early in 1846 Venn resigned from his parish, but that very week Coates was taken ill and so Venn found himself in charge.

Henry Venn was to prove the outstanding missionary statesman of the century.  Amidst many controversies overseas and at home he guided CMS through a moderate course with wisdom, firmness and tactful diplomacy.  Although he never visited the mission field his enormous correspondence with all the missionaries, together with a prophet's mind and politician's skill, made him unofficial adviser on church matters to both clergy and government.  He guided the development of the young churches abroad, encouraging them to be self-governing, self-supporting and self-extending. 

At home he steered a middle course in the midst of Tractarianism and High Church policies and strife.  He dealt with controversies in India and New Zealand, resolved a series of financial crises with faith and determination, and took a particular care over the recruiting and training of missionaries; and all this was achieved with remarkable vigour, and, for much of the time, almost single-handed.  In the group of Secretaries (there were now usually four or five) he regarded himself as equal with his colleagues, but in practice he made his post a leading one.  From his time onwards the post of Honorary (Venn was the first unsalaried Secretary) Clerical Secretary developed into the General Secretaryship that we know today.

Venn resigned as Secretary in 1872 when he was 75 years old and Rev Henry Wright was appointed Honorary Clerical Secretary.

Wright took over the responsibility which Coates had initiated and Venn had consolidated, for acting as the representative of the Society to governmental and ecclesiastical authorities.  He also corresponded with China, but the care of all the other missions was divided amongst his colleagues.  Of these the elder statesman was Christopher Fenn, with missionary experience in Ceylon prior to his arrival at headquarters in 1863.  He was especially knowledgeable about the development of church organisation and Venn and his successors leaned heavily on his advice.

Wright's appointment coincided with an increase in available money and men, and he particularly concerned himself with recruits.  Tragically, after only eight years, he was drowned in the summer of 1880.

The Society had lost momentum in the last decade of Venn's leadership, when he was old and ill, but kept too much responsibility in his own hands. Some reorganisation had been begun, but Wright's death emphasised the break with the past.

The new Honorary Clerical Secretary, Rev Frederick Wigram, no longer had the burden of the overseas missions.  Responsibility for these was divided amongst the three Group Secretaries.  A central Home Secretary and an Editorial Secretary cared for work and publicity amongst the CMS members and supporters in the British Isles.  There was a new spirit of faith and the Society's fortunes flourished with many more recruits and a great increase in funds.  The work and responsibilities likewise increased and by the time Wigram resigned in 1895 the number of missionary recruits had increased five fold while the Society's income had risen to £272,000.  As H E Fox took over from Wigram as Honorary Secretary the Society confidently prepared to enter a new century.

There were two strands of development running through the Society's life in the twentieth century.  The first was the gradual change in the relationship between the CMS missions and the churches that they had planted overseas; the second was the growth of co-operation among missionary societies and mission-related organisations leading to an increase in joint action. In effect CMS was gradually to become a member of a team, rather than an organiser.

Co-operative action by missionary societies was often the only way in which great tasks could be undertaken.  The many union colleges would have been impossible for one society to sustain financially and, more importantly, sharing skills, as in the Union hospital at Chengtu in China meant that all benefitted.  The World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910 had inspired a vision of the way forward and through its Continuation Committees had provided the groundwork of possible methods.  In 1912 the Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain and Ireland was formed.  It was based on principles described by J H Oldham in 1917 as the necessity for all co-operative work to be done through the committees of the various missionary societies who should recognise it as a normal part of their own work.  CMS played a large part in the development of CBMS, not only by serving on its Standing Committee, but on its many other boards and committees where it dealt with such varied subjects as education, medical missions, literature, work among Muslims and missionary surveys.

In 1920 Edinburgh House at Eaton Gate was purchased for CBMS and in 1921 it became the headquarters of the newly founded International Missionary Council.  The Council's members were associations of missionary boards or societies and national christian councils.   It held a series of conferences, the most notable being at Tambaram in 1938 which revealed valuable insights on church order.

In 1921 also began the Missionary Council of the National Assembly of the Church of England.  C C Bardsley who had been CMS General Secretary was the first secretary.  Relationships between CMS and the Council were occasionally cautious.  Bishop Donaldson, the Council's chairman wanted the Council to become the "foreign office" of the Church of England, and sought a common policy so that "individualistic efforts we have been making may be made vastly more efficient".  CMS members and officers were convinced that, as an autonomous society they could provide a fully efficient but more flexible response to needs than would be possible for a country-based organisation. 

The increasingly important role played by women in the twentieth century was reflected at headquarters.  The first to work in C M House were three volunteers helping with the Gleaners' Union.  Miss G A Gollock was appointed to the Editorial Department in 1890 and the following year Miss Brophy became secretary to the Ladies' Candidates Committee.  But in 1917, a year before women gained the vote, the Society's laws were changed to enable 24 women to be elected to the General Committee (with the right to vote).  The number of female headquarters staff increased but it was not until 1942, when Miss Ena Price was appointed as Woman Secretary that a woman became part of the group of Secretaries that were in effect the Society's equivalent of a board of directors.  But perhaps the most notable woman on the staff throughout this period was Miss Edith Baring-Gould, whose father Baring Baring-Gould was Far East Secretary from 1895 to 1913.  She travelled with her father on delegations overseas, was a CMS delegate to the 1910 Edinburgh Conference, one of the first women members of General Committee and in 1941 the first woman to take the chair at one of its meetings.  In all she served the Society for 54 years.

The increased numbers and workload of the Secretaries at headquarters at the turn of the twentieth century was reflected in the increase in the numbers of staff and departments. By the time of the Third Jubilee there were to be 36 separate sections in the Home side of the work alone.  Nothing altered the overall influence on the work both at home and overseas of the Secretaries as a group, however, and most especially the General Secretary as the ultimate representative of that group.

CMS has always encompassed several varieties of Evangelical views within its membership and H E Fox who took over from Wigram as Honorary Secretary in 1895 was particularly able at representing this broad view to the general public without compromise or prejudice.  This desire to keep many views within one organisation without prejudicing matters of principle was to prove of increasing importance to the Society as a whole and of great concern to the succeeding General Secretaries as the years passed. Fox was succeeded in 1910 by Cyril B Bardsley, who endeared himself immediately to headquarters staff by touring C M House and meeting everyone, the first time this had ever been done.  He was a warm supporter of co-operation in mission, and believed that the future of CMS lay in broadening relationships and ecumenical contacts.  He left in 1923 to become the first secretary of the Missionary Council of the Church Assembly.

The next General Secretary was a layman, Dr Herbert Lankester.  He had served at headquarters for thirty years, first as secretary to the Medical Mission Auxiliary and Medical Committee, then as Home Secretary from 1903 to 1910 and finally as Lay (Finance) Secretary.  He retired in 1926 and was succeeded by Rev W Wilson Cash, who had been CMS mission secretary in Egypt before serving as Home Secretary from 1923.  He had the courage and patience needed to hold both conservative and liberal evangelicals within CMS and to expound a policy that "would interpret the essential principles for which the CMS stands and...keep the Society in the main stream of the Church's life".

He continued the co-operation with other missionary agencies such as the Missionary Council that Bardsley had begun.  He was consecrated bishop of Worcester in 1941 and in March 1942 the General Committee appointed Rev Max Warren.

Max Warren's appointment came in the uncertainty of a war whose outcome was then unknown and which was to be followed by a time of unprecedented change politically and within the Church. Warren proved to be a missionary statesman and man of vision for the twentieth century as Venn had been for the nineteenth.  He set about immediately to formulate and prepare the Society for its role in a post-war, post-Empire Britain and gathered together a strong team of gifted men and women at headquarters.  Like his predecessor Cash, he had served as a missionary. He was to spend much of his twenty one years as General Secretary travelling all over the world, visiting all the CMS missions, attending international conferences in North America and elsewhere, interpreting the role CMS was called to play but more importantly interpreting the relationship of mission to the Church overseas and at home, between cultures and between Church and government "building on his wide contacts inside and outside the Churches and with an unsurpassed gift for friendship, he was God's man to lead the Society".



from CMS Headquarters, London and the University of Birmingham Library

Adam Matthew Publications is proud to publish the Archive of the Church Missionary Society bringing together in this microfilm publication papers held at the CMS Headquarters in London and the University of Birmingham Library.

The microfilm publication of the CMS Archive is a major and extensive project. We have therefore divided the archive into manageable sections which largely reflect its original organisation.

Section I - East Asia Missions - This consists of the Loochoo Naval Mission (1843-1861), the papers for Japan (1869-1949), for China (1834-1949) and the Archive of the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS) (1880-1957).

Section II - Missions to Women consists of the Archive of the Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East (or Female Educational Society) (FES) 1834-1899. Also included are the following  periodicals- India's Women and China's Daughters 1880-1939 retitled Looking East at India's Women and China's Daughters 1940-1957, Homes of the East 1910-1948, Daybreak 1889, 1893-94 and 1906-09 (these three periodicals were published by the CEZMS) and The Indian Female Evangelist 1872-1880 (published by the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society) retitled The Zenana; or Woman’s Work in India, 1893-1935 retitled The Zenana; Women’s Work in India and Pakistan, 1936-1956 published by the Zenana Medical and Bible Mission. It also contains the Annual Reports of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society for 1863-1879 and the Minutes of the Zenana Medical and Bible Mission 1865-1937.

Section III - Central Records consists of the Register of CMS Missionaries, 1804-1918, The History of the CMS and Catalogues to the Overseas Archive and Loochoo, CEZMS and FES Archives. It also includes the CMS Gleaner 1841-1921, retitled CMS Outlook 1922-1972; the Gleaner Pictorial Album and CMS Missionary Atlas. Also included are the Annual Letters 1887-1912, the medical periodicals Mercy and Truth 1897-1921, retitled The Mission Hospital 1922-1939, retitled The Way of Healing 1940; The Medical Mission Quarterly 1892-1896; and Preaching and Healing 1900-1906. Also included are the following periodicals from the Church Mission Library, London: The Missionary Papers, 1816-1884; CMS Monthly Paper, 1828-1829; A Quarterly Token for Juvenile Subscribers, 1856-1878 and 1888-1917; The Home Gazette, 1905-1906; The CMS Gazette, 1907-1934; General Review of Missions, 1919, continued as Annual Reports, 1922-1944; CMS Historical Record, 1944-1986; The CMS Juvenile Instructor, 1842-1890, Children’s World 1891-1900; The Round World, 1901-1958; The Church Missionary Society Record, 1830-1875; CMS AwakE ! - A Missionary Magazine for General Readers, 1891-1921, continued as Eastward Ho!, 1922-1940.

Section III also covers the Committee Minutes and Indexes 1799-1949 and Circular Books and Letters 1799-1921 and Lives of Missionaries from the Church Mission Society Library. 

Section IV - Africa Missions contains the papers of the West Africa (Sierra Leone) Mission 1803-1949, the Nigeria-Yoruba Mission papers, 1844-1934, Nigeria-Niger 1857-1934, Nigeria-Northern Nigeria, 1900-1934 and Nigeria Missions, 1935-1949. The other papers included are the Sudan Mission, 1905-1949, Egypt, 1889-1949, South Africa, 1836-1843, Kenya, 1841-1949, Nyanza, 1876-1886, Tanganyika, 1900-1949, Rwanda, 1933-1949, Uganda 1898-1949 and Mauritius, Madagascar and the Seychelles, 1856-1929.

Section V - Missions to the Americas covers the papers of the West Indies Mission,1819-1861, the North-West Canada Mission, 1821-1930 and British Columbia, 1856-1925.

Section VI - South Asia Missions comprises the papers of the following missions: North India, 1811-1949, South India, 1811-1949, Western India, 1820-1949, India General, 1811-1815 and Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1815-1949.

Section VII - General Secretary’s Papers  

Section VIII - Home Papers contains a wide variety of papers including deputation work, the field staff, candidates’ papers, the Society’s publications and publicity and work amongst children and youth.

Section IX - - Middle East Missions This consists of the following missions: Persia (Iran), 1875-1949, Turkish Arabia (Iraq), 1898-1949 and the Mediterranean and Palestine, 1811-1949.

Section X - Australasia Missions contains the papers of the New Zealand Mission,1809-1914. These papers include those of the short-lived Australia Mission covering the period 1830-1841.

In addition to a General Guide to the Archive we also provide individual guides to the different sections of the project. The guides comprise an introduction written by Rosemary Keen (ex-archivist of the CMS) covering the history of the CMS and describing the organisation of the archive, a publisher’s note and a contents of reels listing.

The Church Missionary Society (CMS), born out of the Evangelical Revival and  founded in 1799 as an independent voluntary society within the Church of England, was to grow into one of the largest and most influential missionary societies in the world. At the turn of the century it had a staff of 1,300 missionaries, 375 local clergy, 1,000 local agents and teachers and an annual income of the equivalent of £20 million. It produced millions of publications each year.

Initially named the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (renamed the Church Missionary Society in 1812 and now called the Church Mission Society) it followed simple missionary principles; to follow God in the same way as the missionaries of the early Church, to begin humbly and on a small scale, to put money after prayer and study and to depend on the Holy Spirit.

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts were well established in their missionary work in the East Indies and North America. The CMS widened the horizons of missionary activity declaring:

"The whole continent of Africa, and that of Asia also, with the exception of a few places, were still open to the Missionary labours of the Church of England. To these quarters of the globe, therefore, the promoters of the present design turned their chief attention...."

The CMS at first could not decide which mission field was the most suitable and it was very difficult to find English missionaries. It was finally decided to begin in West Africa. At Freetown there had been a colony for freed slaves established in 1786, under the charge of the Sierra Leone Company (of which some CMS founders were directors). Many candidates were interviewed for the posts of missionaries but it was not until 1804 that two German Lutheran clergy Melchior Renner and Peter Hartwig, trained at a seminary in Berlin, left for Freetown to work among the Susu tribe.

After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 many opportunities were opened up for missionary work in Sierra Leone. However the death toll among missionaries was very heavy owing to the tropical diseases they contracted and it was decided to set up a training institute for Africans at Fourah Bay. This was to become the University of Fourah Bay where the CMS Bishop Samuel Crowther was trained.

CMS work expanded quickly in Africa over the next few decades and mission stations were set up in Nigeria and Kenya in 1844, Uganda in 1876 and Tanganyika in 1878.

CMS missionaries spread the Gospel not only through evangelistic work but also through education and medical care, by providing schools for children, colleges for adults, training in industry for men, and in crafts and household skills for women and medical training for those who worked in the hospitals and dispensaries.

Missionary work had begun in New Zealand in 1809. Many converts were made among the Maoris and by 1837 there were about 30,000 Maoris attending Christian worship. There were also some CMS missionaries working in Australia among the aborigines around 1830. They were withdrawn within a few years but more were sent in 1892 to New South Wales and Victoria.

Work in the West Indies began in 1813 among the slaves on the plantations and increased to such an extent that by 1838 the Society had 13 missionaries, 23 lay agents and seventy schools, with a congregation numbering about 8,000.

When CMS began work in India the British East India Company would not allow missionaries in the areas which it administered. However the passing of the Charter Bill in 1813 provided for the establishment of bishoprics in India and work in North India in particular developed rapidly. It was controlled by a Committee in Calcutta and could decide on the location of the missionaries and lay agents. Work also continued in South India, the first two missionaries being German Lutheran clergymen, J C Schnarre and C J Rhenius. The mission in West India, centred around Bombay, was the smallest in India but still provided schools, an orphanage, teacher-training classes and training in agriculture.

Missionaries arrived in Ceylon in 1818 and although work was at first slow, by 1876 trained catechists were working among the Tamil coolies in the coffee and tea plantations.

Other missions begun in these decades were Canada (1822) where much work was done among the Indians in the Hudson Bay area, Egypt (1826), Palestine and the Middle East (1851), Persia (1875) and Mauritius (1856).

Although the papers for China begin in 1834 the area was only fully opened up to the CMS at the end of the Opium Wars in 1844. By 1847 they had established missions at Ningpo and Shanghai. Although work was beset initially by many difficulties more missions were gradually opened and by 1897 the missions had been divided into three separate areas.

Although there were missionaries of the Loochoo Naval Mission working in the Loochoo islands from 1843 to 1861 (when the Mission's funds were given to the CMS for future work in Japan) the first CMS missionaries did not commence work in Japan until 1869 when the mission in Nagasaki was opened. From 1873 onwards missions were opened in other areas of the country, the Japan bishopric was established in 1883 and in 1884 a theological school set up in Osaka.

Women had worked in the missions from the very early years but usually alongside their husbands. In 1887 a call was put out by the CMS for unmarried ladies to become missionaries and this had an overwhelming response. A new training school was set up for women and there were 326 unmarried women working abroad by 1901.

Two Missionary Societies were amalgamated into the CMS over the years: the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS) in 1957 and the Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East (usually known as the Female Education Society (FES)) in 1899. The CEZMS specialised in sending missionaries to India, China, Japan and Ceylon to work among the women in the Zenanas (harems). The FES established schools for women in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, India, South Africa, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Mauritius.

The CMS Archive is held partly at CMS Headquarters in London and partly at the University of Birmingham Library. Initially only the material relating up to 1949 was held in Birmingham, However in 1999 the material covering 1950-1959 was opened up for research and is now also held in there. The material for later years, which is held in London, will follow in stages as the material becomes available for research.

In addition to the Overseas Archive, Birmingham holds the General Secretary Papers which include the main committee minutes of the Society concerned with its policy and overseas missions and the papers of the Candidates, Finance and Medical Departments and the Home Division. It also holds the Accessions series (collections of papers relating to the Society and its missionaries, which have largely been donated to CMS and do not form part of its official headquarters archives).

Birmingham also holds the Female Educational Society (FES) and the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS) Archives which were amalgamated with CMS. The CMS Gleaner is held in London. Copies of the Gleaner’s Pictorial Album and Missionary Atlas, Annual Letters, The History of the Church Missionary Society and the Register of CMS Missionaries can be found both in Birmingham and London. However there is only one annotated copy of the Register and this is held in London.

The CMS is administered by a series of committees, the Secretaries of each of the main committees being the heads of department at headquarters. The Work has two main divisions, Home and Overseas. Up to 1880 the Overseas work of the CMS was administered by the Committee of Correspondence but from 1881 to 1934 the mission areas were divided into three regions each with their own mission secretary and series of correspondence. The areas were: East Asia (Group 1), West Asia (Group 2) and Africa (Group 3). East Asia covers Canada, China and Japan; West Asia covers Ceylon, India, Mauritius and Madagascar, and Persia and Turkish Arabia. Africa covers West Africa (Sierra Leone), Nigeria, South and East Africa, East Africa, Egypt and Sudan, Mediterranean Mission, West Indies and New Zealand.

The papers for each of the missions under the Committee of Correspondence up to 1880 consist of Letter Books - copies of outgoing correspondence from the Secretary to the mission secretary and missionaries; Original Papers - all incoming papers sent to headquarters by the mission secretary; Mission Books - all the Original Papers were copied into books so that a legible copy would be available for the use of the Committee. It should be noted however that for the Japan mission there is no separate series of Mission Books as the incoming papers were copied into the China Mission Books which from 1875 contain separate sections for Japan.

From 1881 to 1934 the papers consist of Letter Books - as described above; Individual Letter Books - personal and confidential letters to the missionaries from the Secretary; Original Papers - as described above and Précis Books - a printed précis of the incoming papers was prepared for the meetings of the Group Committee. It gave the date, writer, date received, summary of contents, proposals for committee action and/or the Secretary's remarks. A file copy of the précis was pasted in the book on the left-hand side and on the right-hand side the committee clerk entered the relevant Committee and Secretarial action.

The Overseas Archive from 1935 onwards is divided into two groups, one relating to specific mission areas and one for files covering the whole or part of Africa or Asia (with the Middle East). The files for a specific mission area are arranged in the following order: Correspondence with the mission secretary, Dioceses, Education, General and Medical. The files dealing with the whole or a part of Africa or Asia are divided into General, East and West Africa or Asia and are then further subdivided into various sections such as Administration, Finance, Medical etc.

Digital Guide
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