Over the years that I have been in the ministry I have seen problems between missionaries and pastors back in the USA. I have seen the problem between the mission agency and the missionaries. I thought that it was interesting that this problem is not new nor are the causese. Read the following article and see what it says. Think on it either as a missionary or a pastor!
One regrettable incident marred BMS history early in the nineteenth century. The “Serampore Controversy,” named for the major mission station in India, alienated veteran missionaries and for a number of years caused schism in the mission work.
Several factors led to that unhappy conflict.
Upon Fuller’s death, leadership passed to younger hands, and BMS headquarters were moved to London in an effort to enlist nationwide support. The new leaders did not personally know Carey, Ward, and Marshman.
They also held quite different views of mission administration.
Whereas Fuller had treated the missionaries as trusted friends and colleagues, leaving all important policy decisions to be made on the field, the new leaders took a more directive approach.
In 1818 John Dyer of Reading was employed as corresponding secretary and, thus, became one of the first Baptist ministers to hold a full-time paid denominational post. Dyer wrote rather curt and commanding letters to the missionaries, who were not accustomed to be so addressed.
Carey later complained that Dyer’s letters “resembled those of a Secretary of State.” Clearly the trend was toward greater control and policy making at the home base rather than on the field.
One point in dispute was control of mission property. Carey and the other pioneers had to shape their mission methods and policy de novo, by trial and error. They had no backlog of missionary history or precendent to draw on, no earlier colleagues on the field to guide them. Unlike most modern foreign missionaries, they made learning trades a priority so they could earn a livelihood and become financially independent of the sponsoring society as soon as possible. All of the Serampore triumvirate earned far more than a living, and they plowed the excess back into printing presses and other mission property. While all property was used for mission work, the missionaries insisted upon retaining title and control over properties purchased from their own earnings. To what extent society funds may have gone into properties held by the missionaries was sharply disputed.
The new leaders made rather sweeping accusations; in retrospect, their charges seem unnecessarily harsh. Carey, Ward, and Marshman were accused of having “amassed extensive property, and thereby enriched themselves and their families, while they had been unmindful of the great cause to which they originally devoted themselves.” Marshman and Ward returned to England to meet with the officials, but their efforts at peace proved fruitless.
Carey wrote, “We are your brothers, not your hired servants. We have always accounted it our glory to be related to the Society … and we shall rejoice therein so long as you permit us, but we will come under the power of none.” In 1827 the BMS and the Serampore Mission parted ways.
Never again was Carey in fellowship with the society he had helped to form.
McBeth, H. L. (1987). The Baptist heritage (297–298). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
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