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Section VII: General Secretary's Papers

Part 3: Papers Relating to Japan and China, 1874-1952

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

This third part of the section of the General Secretary papers consists of material for Japan and China. Included also is a small amount of material relating to work in Korea and some papers for East Asia in general.


CMS began work in Japan in earnest in the late 1870’s with missionaries in five of the treaty ports and mission work spreading through education and translation work as well as by direct evangelism. The main educational centre was Osaka where the Bishop Poole Memorial School was based. The first Japanese bishopric was established with Rev A Poole at its head and in 1887 Osaka delegates of the Japanese Christians formed themselves into the Japan Holy Catholic Church, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai with all missionaries gradually being integrated into this structure. By 1921 the NSKK was a largely self-supporting body.

The material included in this part reflects the changes taking place in CMS work in Japan in the early part of the twentieth century. The material focuses on the pre Second World War uncertainties felt by the missionary community, with the rise of Japanese nationalism and changing social conditions, and the difficulties faced by the Japanese population and Japanese Christians, in particular in the period of foreign occupation after the war. There is also much detail on discussions for a future policy for the foreign missionary enterprise and on the development of Christian education.

A wide variety of topics is included:

  • correspondence regarding the setting up of the bishopric in Tokyo, the appointment of Bishop Bickersteth in 1885 and financial support of the bishopric
  • correspondence regarding the Kyushu, Osaka and Hokkaido bishoprics
  • names and addresses of missionaries in Japan and Korea published in 1894
  • printed papers of the Hokkaido bishopric including the Guild of St Paul Newsletter, October 1890 and the constitution and canons of the Nippon Seikokwai (the Church in Japan), 1887
  • minutes of the executive meetings of the International Committee on Christian Education, 1933
  • suggestions regarding the future policy of foreign missions in Japan
  • notes on the “Kingdom of God Campaign” by William Axling with an update by Toyohiko Kagawa
  • report of the dioceses of South Tokyo, Kobe and Hokkaido, 1924 by Bishop S Heaslett
  • reports on the Japan mission, 1935-1938
  • report on increased nationalism in Japan
  • notes on the handing over of CMS work in Nagoya and Toyohashi to the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada
  • account of a meeting with Japanese bishops to discuss the termination of foreign financial support and leadership, 1940
  • description by Bishop J C Mann of living conditions and life in Japan, June 1946
  • report on the Christian movement in Japan since June 1942
  • article on the relation between the NSKK and the National Christian Council of Japan by Bishop Michael Hinsuke Yashiro, Bishop of Kobe and presiding bishop of the Nippon Seikokai
  • correspondence and papers relating to Ikebukuro College (Central Theological College), Tokyo
  • details on the earthquake in Tokyo, 1923
  • account of a meeting with Japanese bishops to arrange the termination of foreign financial support in 1940

China General

The CMS began work in China after the Treaty of Nanking when five Chinese ports were opened up to Europeans and Hong Kong was ceded to Britain. By 1847 work had been established at Ningpo and Shanghai and in 1849 George Smith became bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, having missionary jurisdiction over China.

The papers for China give us an insight into the trials the missionaries endured, ranging from the opposition from the Chinese literati, the civil disturbances, outbreaks of hostility against foreigners such the massacre of ten missionaries, including Robert Stewart and family, by insurgents in Fukien in 1895, right through to the problems encountered during World War II and the take over by the Communists afterwards.

The authorities in China usually opposed mission school education and the main focus was on evangelism by medical work. By the 1880’s China had a vast number of dispensary hospitals and outstanding work was carried out among opium addicts and leprosy sufferers.

There is much also on Church Union which came to fruition in 1912 when the dioceses united to form the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (Holy Catholic Church of China).

A wide range of subjects is covered:

  • list of missionary societies in China giving the number of stations and missionaries
  • the safety of missionaries in Szechuan and Chengtu, 1926 and the situation in China in 1927
  • letters regarding the Student Christian Movement in China, 1937
  • report on missionary property losses after enemy action, 1945
  • details on the release of interned missionaries
  • report on a tour of missions, 1947
  • notes on mission co-operation in the Chinese government health services
  • articles by Mary Leitch on the use of opium
  • report of a tour of China missions by Canon H A Wittenbach, 1947
  • report of the Chairman of the House of Bishops, 1937-1947
  • correspondence concerning the appointment of bishops
  • notes on relations between the churches in China and those of Great Britain and USA
  • correspondence regarding the Bible Union of China with copies of bulletin
  • memoranda, correspondence and papers concerning the National Christian Council for China
  • papers concerning the registration of schools and colleges with the Chinese government
  • report on the changing status of missions and higher education in 1947 ? minutes of meetings of the National Committee for Christian Religious Education in China and of the Committee of Christian Colleges in China
  • notes on the financial situation of the China Christian Educational Association, 1929
  • report on the Anglican missions in China by F H Hawkins, London Missionary Society, 1928
  • report on the crisis in the Chinese church, 1943

South China Mission

  • correspondence regarding the appointment of the bishop of Hong Kong
  • general correspondence and letters concerning difficulties between Bishop Burdon and Rev A B Hutchinson
  • survey of the South China mission, 1926
  • report on St Paul’s College, Hong Kong by Bishop of Hong Kong, J S Burdon, 1874
  • notes regarding the transfer of hospital property at Kunming to the diocese, 1949
  • report by Canon H A Wittenbach on Japanese Christian service held at St Andrew’s Kowloon at the end of WWII, September 1945
  • report on the status of missionary education by Geoffrey Allen, 1936
  • letter in Chinese from the Standing Committee, Kong Yuet diocese, 1934
  • memo on Hong Kong schools by the East Asia Secretary, 1949
  • pamphlet entitled “The Idea of the Missionary Society: Its Value in a Changing World” by M A C Warren

Chekiang Mission

  • early correspondence and printed papers from English, German and American missionaries concerning the Chinese term for God and the Chinese term for bishop
  • correspondence with George E Moule and Arthur E Moule concerning the question of withdrawal from Shanghai, 1880
  • correspondence regarding the appointment of bishops
  • preliminary report of the 5th synod of Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, 1924
  • rules and regulations for the diocese of Chekiang
  • correspondence and papers regarding Hangchow hospital including a report on the future of hospitals in the mission, 1936

Western China Mission

  • correspondence about the Szechwan bishopric and the possibility of creating a new diocese of Western China
  • correspondence concerning the appointment of bishops in Western Szechuan
  • confidential report by Rev Sverre Holth on the situation in China after the takeover by the Communists, 1951
  • personal views of China by William H Newell, 1949
  • notes on a trip to Northern China, describing the effects of Communist rule, 1949
  • report on a proposed national council for the Church in China
  • correspondence describing the bombing of Chengtu by the Japanese, 1940
  • report on the growth of the work of the Anglican Communion in China by Rev John Curtis, 1934
  • educational regulations of the Nationalist government issued by National University Nanking, 1927
  • papers on co-operation with other missions including a report on a conference on co-operation in West China, London 1934
  • statement of a committee appointed by members of the faculty of the West China University at Shanghai, 1927 regarding the situation in China with regard to education.

Fukien Mission

  • papers concerning the Foochow disturbances, 1878-1881 including letters from Rev Robert W Stewart
  • papers regarding the Ku-cheng massacre of CMS and CEZMS missionaries, 1895 by a group of “Vegetarians” with letters of sympathy received from CMS supporters, local associations and other missionary societies
  • correspondence regarding the setting up of the Fukien diocese
  • papers concerning the kidnap and murder of two CMS missionaries, Edith Nettleton and Eleanor Jane Harrison by Communist bandits in 1930
  • letters regarding the election of Bishops and the establishment of the Chinese Church
  • report of the Fukien Christian University, 1934-1935
  • reports on the situation in China, 1949 by Tom and Frances Wilkinson and Olive Bell
  • minutes of a conference of Fukien missionaries, 1946

Kwangsi-Hunan Mission

  • general correspondence
  • report on the state of education in Hunan, 1950
  • report on the missionary situation in Kweilin, 1945 by Addison K S Hsu
  • Annual Letter of Bishop P Stevens, 1940
  • letters regarding the bishopric
  • correspondence regarding Nanking Central Theological College


A small section of papers for 1937-1939 are included covering topics such as:

  • report on the educational work in Korea following a visit by C Darby Fulton of the Committee of Foreign Missions, Nashville Tennessee, 1937
  • article by Akira Ebisawa, General Secretary of the National Christian Council of Japan on the progress and development of Korean Christianity, 1938
  • leaflet regarding a book “The Nevius Plan for mission work in Korea” by Charles Allen Clark

Asia General

There is also a small section of papers covering Asia in general. These include the papers of Miss Mabel Warburton, Advisor to the Near and Middle East Committee.

  • papers of Miss Warburton, Advisor to the Near and Middle East Committee including her letters regarding committee matters and to Max Warren, General Secretary concerning her tour to the Middle East mission
  • reports on freedom for religious education in the missions
  • report on the provision of teacher training in Palestine
  • report on conferences of British Missionary Societies
  • survey on education in the Middle East
  • minutes of Near and Middle East conferences
  • correspondence regarding Far East policy in China.

These records for Japan and China form an important source for understanding the policy decisions underpinning CMS activities abroad as well as being a crucial record on the formation of churches and dioceses and the appointment of bishops overseas.

Digital Guide
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