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REPORT OF THE AMERICAN BOARD OF
REV. WILLIAM E. STRONG, EDITORIAL SECRETARY
As the American Board makes report once more to the National Council, it is to be recognized that it now does so, as clearly and organically one of the agencies of the Council. When it was founded, 105 years ago, the American Board was not formally linked with the Congregational church machinery. It was not uniformly approved of by those churches or supported by them. It was left to find its own constituency and to create its own membership. It had to devise methods for its continuance and its upkeep. It kept close to the churches; its friends belonged to them; but it was not itself within the fold. Since those early days the American Board has repeatedly taken steps toward a closer relation with the denomination of which it was ever a real agency. For years district and state associations of Congregational churches have been nominating members to its corporation. Now, by a change in the By-Laws made at Kansas City two years ago, the elected members of the National Council become automatically corporate members of the American Board and together with the 150 members at large elected upon nomination of the Board's Committee appointed for that purpose, control the management and policies of the Board.
Reports of the executive officers which will be presented for the several departments of the Board at the annual meeting in New Haven will be made to the members of the Council, assembled there in their capacity as the corporation of the American Board. It is not necessary therefore here to review in detail or at length the progress of the Board's affairs.
Soon after the Kansas City meeting, befell the death of Hon. Samuel B. Capen, for fourteen years the honored and beloved President of the Board. Stricken in the midst of a journey to the mission fields of the Far East, Dr. Capen emphasized in his death his devotion to the foreign missionary enterprise and left to his brethren in many lands inspiring witness to the clarity and passion of his Christian faith. At the annual meeting in Detroit a year ago, Prof. Edward Caldwell Moore, D.D., of Harvard University, was chosen as Dr. Capen's successor. Dr. Moore had served for a decade on the Prudential Committee of the Board, for several years as its chairman; had visited the mission fields in Turkey, India, Japan and China — in the last named as member of an important deputation, had rendered influential service at the Edinburgh Conference and in many ways had been for years a close student of missionary methods and affairs. His election brought to the office of President one expert in the field of the Board's enterprise and unqualifiedly devoted to the Board's interests. The only other change in the officiary of the Board during the period under review came this year with the choice of Rev. Henry H. Kelsey, D.D., of Marietta, Ohio, to be District Secretary for the Pacific Coast, succeeding Rev. H. Melville Tenney, D.D., who resigned after ten years of faithful and valued service.
The missionary staff on the fields has gained somewhat in numbers during the past two years.
At the time when this report must be prepared the statistics are not completed for the year just closing. Precise figures, therefore, cannot be quoted. But the number of new appointees, for life or term service, since the Kansas City meeting, may run as high as 125. With the total number of missionaries about 640, this would seem to indicate a large percentage of increase; whereas the net increase for the period is probably not over 25; so heavy have been the losses from the fields. It is not to be inferred that the strain of missionary work is exceptionally crushing; rather are the missionaries as a class long-lived. But the longest lives will end; the proportion of veterans on the Board's rolls is great; each year must mark the dropping of many names. Moreover, it is to be remembered that a good many workers go out for short terms of service; which makes changes more frequent.
It is to be noted that of the newly-appointed missionaries, an increasingly large proportion comes from the Interior and the West; from the schools and colleges that Congregationalists founded as missionary ventures a generation or two ago. As these institutions grow in size and influence, it is not surprising that they begin to overtake the older schools of the East in their contribution to the denominational life. What is more remarkable is the fact that there is among the candidates for appointments decreasing proportion of those who have been trained as Congregationalists. The call to missionary service breaks over denominational bounds today and young men and women of almost every evangelical communion come to the American Board seeking its appointment to the foreign field. Of the 41 present at the last Candidates' Conference not more than one half were brought up as Congregationalists. If the historic zeal of our communion for foreign missions is not to fade away, the springs of personal devotion on the part of our young people must be kept open.
It is cause for rejoicing that in a year of unparalleled financial disturbance the American Board can report an unbroken advance in its receipts and resources. The million dollar mark reached in 1911 has been maintained and increasingly exceeded. Receipts for the two years now closing, will considerably surpass those of the preceding two years which were to that time the largest in the history of the Board. Gifts from churches and individuals, that is, from living donors, have of late fallen off markedly, occasioning some anxiety; receipts from legacies and from lapsed conditional gifts, however, have more than made good this decline, so that the Board is still able to face the future and its certain call for heavy expenditure for rehabilitating the fields swept by war, with gratitude and courage. It relies upon a loyal constituency to realize the tremendous appeal that is to be met in the period of reconstruction and readjustment that will follow the war. The history of the American Board is full of exciting times. Perhaps never has it made report to the National Council when the years under review have been without their stirring features, tragic or inspiring, prompting to praise and to prayer. But when did two years cover so cataclysmic an upheaval: as these now being reviewed? The Foreign Secretary in his Survey of the Fields to be made at the annual meeting will set forth with some detail the situations which the American Board has had to face of late in its operations in a dozen lands of the earth. Several of them, Mexico, Austria and Turkey have been plunged deep in war; others, Japan, India and Micronesia have to some extent been involved in the conflict; still others like the Balkan States and the African missions have been more or less disturbed by the threatenings of trouble. Not one of the Board's fields, unless it be the Philippines, but has felt the shock of Europe's war. China's share was not only to furnish in one of her provinces a battlefield for the contesting forces but in the preoccupations of the time, to find her own liberties suddenly challenged and abridged.
Everywhere the missionaries of the American Board have pursued their labors under the strain and distractions of war times. For many of them the conditions have been unprecedentedly hard. The 174 missionaries in the Turkish Empire (200 counting those on term service) have been compelled to witness the torture, massacre or deportation of multitudes of the people. Entire communities have been wiped out; unbelievable indignities and injuries have been ruthlessly committed. To relieve the starving, to heal the sick from frightful epidemics, to shelter destitute refugees; to counsel and to comfort the homeless scattered fragments of families, this has been the task day and night for long and wearying months of more than one fourth of all the Board's missionaries.
The marvel is that in spite of these interruptions and obstacles the Board is able to report progress in its work abroad. . Even in Turkey some advance has been made. In certain quarters not only are doors of approach to Moslems opening wider, but Moslems are actually entering the open doorways of Christian institutions and even declaring their allegiance to the Christian gospel. And the evenhanded ministry of Christian helpfulness to all classes, races and religions in that unhappy empire of late cannot but make its impress on the hearts of all the people.
A fresh evangelistic impulse has characterized the last two years in the Far East. In Japan, China and India, there have been and are now being continued, systematic and aggressive undertakings to carry the gospel to the multitudes; in China and now in India special efforts have been made to reach the student and official classes, and these have been overwhelmingly successful. In these movements the native church is engaged as never before. It is being felt increasingly by the Christians of these lands that it is for them to win their countrymen. One of the clearest and most encouraging signs of the times is this awakening of a new evangelistic purpose. It gives promise of a more rapid and more thorough leavening of the nations. Significant gains have been made also in the co-operation of missionaries and native forces. The reorganizing of mission bodies, especially in China, India and South Africa has brought forward into responsibility and power native pastors and leaders. The Christians on these mission fields are getting under the load and feeling a new enthusiasm in the sense that they are thus entrusted with leadership. The esprit du corps of the mission churches and of the native workers was in general with the direful exception of Turkey never greater than today.
In union enterprises also the years are showing rapid advance on the mission field and the American Board is keeping pace with, not to say leading, in the movement. In the fields of higher educatiorf, collegiate, theological, medical and normal training, this Board is associated with a dozen other British and American missionary societies in maintaining institutions in India, China and Africa. New and larger plans are now pending in Mexico and in North China and Foochow.
Comparing the foreign missionary situation of two years ago with the present outlook we cannot but be impressed with the swift and irresistible opening up of the fields.