Missionaries are out of favour in some quarters nowadays. Their activities are sometimes seen as connected with a colonialism which ignored what was good and honourable in indigenous societies and so became the objects of evangelical western zeal.
Undoubtedly there is some truth in this. However, there are other examples with a very different approach. In our Anglican Stars series we now offer two missionaries, nominated as ‘stars’ who approached the concept of mission in fresh and challenging ways, and, challenged the institutional church.
Revd. Roland Allen (1868 – 1947) was born in Bristol, England, and became a priest in 1893. Allen worked for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Northern China. These ‘early experiences led him to a radical reassessment of his own vocation and the theology and missionary methods of the Western churches’.
Allen became an early advocate of establishing Churches which from the beginning would be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing, adapted to local conditions and not imitations of Western Christianity. These views were confirmed by a trip to India in 1910 and by later research in Canada and East Africa.
Allen believed it was the recognition of the church as a local entity and trust in the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within the converts and churches which was the mark of St Paul’s success. In contrast was Allen’s belief that the people of his day were unable to entrust their converts to the Holy Spirit and instead relied in His work through them.
While his views became increasingly influential, he himself became disillusioned with the established churches. He spent the last years of his life in Kenya, establishing a Christian community. He died in Nairobi.
Fr Herbert Kelly SSM (1860 – 1950) was born in Manchester, the son of a priest, and educated at Manchester Grammar School. After studying at Oxford he was ordained in 1883. In the 1890s, in a house in London, Kelly began a ministry of training men for missionary work, first for Korea and later particulalrly for Africa. He came to believe that institutional religion was in a time of transition: the church was working ‘with ideas which not only do not fit the world around us, but which we no longer think ourselves and are even indignant at being told that we do.’ His thought led him to form a religious community, the Society of the Sacred Mission, set up to for men to join, while others came to share the life of the community in their training, but would be free to work overseas or in an English parish at the end of it.
Between 1913 and 1919 Kelly lived and taught in Japan. Here he developed his wish to see every congregation choosing a spiritual leader from their own number. Kelly believed that locally ordained ministers should replace the system of professional stipendary ministers that had already, he argued, outlived its effectiveness.