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advantage. They will thus manifest then: real unity, which is
deeper and stronger than their differences. (6) Missionaries should
take pains to make known to their own Christians their high regard
for other denominations.

By carrying out these two general policies the evils of denomina-
tionalism will be largely avoided, and native Christians will be pre-
pared for their own union movement in God's own time.

Sidney L. Gulick



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DENOMINATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ON MISSION FIELDS 193

The above question scarcely admits of an unqualified answer. It
seems clear that, until our fellow-Christians in China have sufficient
experience and knowledge to frame a church system, or systems, of their
own, the missionaries of necessity will have to instruct them in these
matters, and to a large extent to take the initiative in introducing some
kind of church order. In doing this they will, of course, be guided
mainly by their own convictions on the subject, as formed in the home
lands; that is to say, the tendency will be to reproduce the church
government of their own denomination. At the same time, it may
be affirmed, without reservation, that the introduction by a mission-
ary of his own church order, in a mere "rule-of-thiunb" manner,
would argue serious imfitness for his calling. A slight knowledge
of church history and a common-sense observation of things as they
are in the ecclesiastical world are enough to convince anyone that
each and all of the various systems prevailing in modem Christendom
have largely been shaped and colored by influences connected with
the political and social life of the coimtries in which they have grown
up. It may, indeed, be stated without exaggeration that nearly
all of these systems give expression either to compromises between
confficting views, or to the triiunph, and therefore imdue predomi-
nance, of one set of ideas over an opposing school of thought. Men
being what they are, it is inevitable that, in the heat of conflict and
controversy, the judicial temper should often be impaired. In a revolt
from the exaggerations and abuses of one type of church order, the
pendulum has swimg to the other extreme, and a new system has
resulted with its own inherent limitations and mistakes. And these,
as time goes on, have given rise, in their turn, to a new campaign
of protest and secession.

Hence, while it would be a Serious confession of weakness, and
even a culpable drawing-back from duty, for a missionary to decline
to introduce some ecclesiastical order in the churches under his care,
he should remember that what may, on the whole, be the most suit-
able for us, with centuries of church life behind us, will be cumber-
some and positively hurtful, if introduced as a finished product from
Christian lands. He will, if wise, therefore endeavor, as far as
possible, to cultivate detachment of mind in respect to his own and
other denominational forms familiar to him in his own country.



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194 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OP THEOLOGY

He must discriminate between what is cardinal and fundamental in
them, and those featxures which are the result of local influence.
He will bear in mind that the New Testament .is not explicit on this
subject. It contains no crystallized, formulated statement. It
gives us an outline of the growth and development of the Christian
church diuing one generation, leaving us to infer from the accoimt
certain general principles, and to trace their practical application
to actual circimistances and requirements as they arose. Doctrinaire
discussions as to the relative rights and responsibilities of church
officers and the rest of the congregation are conspicuous by their
absence; nor is it difficult for a dispassionate reader to perceive that,
in the actual arrangements of that era, there are adumbrations of the
various principal ecclesiastical ideas, which since then have found
expression in more or less rival or antagonistic s)rstems. However
much we may deplore the resultant situation, as we have it in our
own lands, and may seek to mitigate it by plans of federation, it is
obviously impossible to revert to New Testament conditions in the
case of our home churches. In that of the young Christian com-
munities m the mission field it is far otherwise. It may, indeed,
be safely said that the true and permanent solution of the ecclesiastical
problem there will be foimd only in this way. While in practice
each missionary will naturally give prominence to that particular
aspect of church government to which, by previous training, he is
personally attached, he will, if guided by the for^omg line of thought,
do so only to a very modified extent; and will be careful to make
his arrangements sufficiently elastic to admit of their healthy growth
and modification in harmony with the particular characteristics of
the race among whom he is privileged to labor. He will seek to avoid
the mistake aptly described by the French as "governing too much, "
but will rather remember that, if the young church is a living and
healthy organism, it will grow after its own order, and will be free
from that ecclesiastical self-consciousness that finds its expression in
elaborate and redimdant paper constitutions. His part is to intro-
dxKe certain simple germ principles, which, as they grow, will largely
receive their external form and color from their environment. When
the process,, for instance, by which the present conventional place
of worship was evolved from the assembly-hall commonly used in



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DENOMINATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ON MISSIOJSf FIELDS 195

cities during primitive times is considered, the introduction by mission-
aries of that particular type of building, among peoples whose architec-
ture is of a totally different character, seems, to say the least, super-
fluous and imcalled for. In some countries the effect of such a practice
is apt to be positively detrimental to the cause of Christianity, as it
tends to excite the dislike and mistrust of foreign religions which are
felt in varying degrees by most races. The same, of course, applies
to the fittings, vestments, and other accessories of public worship.
The principles contained in the old refrain, " Be it ever so himible,
there is no place like home," can with advantage be applied to this
part of our subject. K it is becoming more and more widely recognized
that certain large sections of our modem city populations do not
like to enter the ordinary place of worship, and that, if they are to
be reached, halls more resembling their usual haunts have to be
secured, how much more should the same principle be followed
among the peoples of other climes and continents I The missionary,
therefore, needs above all things to be delivered from that stupid
parochialism, which tends to obliterate the individuality and initi-
ative of his converts, by the introduction of practices and arrange-
ments merely because they are what, through training and habit,
suit his ideas and habits best.

The writer having for over twenty years been a missionary in
China, it may not be out of place to add a few remarks referring
more particularly to that country.

It may be taken as certain that before long the churches in coimtries
such as Japan and China will insist upon making their own arrange-
ments, and correspondingly resent any attempt on the part of mis-
sionaries to curtail their liberty in this respect. From this point
of view the wisdom of our not now drawing the bow too tight is obvious.
The time is rapidly approaching when the provincialism that imagines
that we ourselves have all the knowledge and wisdom, and ignores
the fact that other races have powers and qualities from which we
can obtain profit and instruction, will meet with its well-merited rebuke
and discomfiture. The history of China, for instance, ftimishes a
record of achievements in the domain of government probably imsur-
passed in the history of mankind. China has produced a literature
and worked out a social and political system which, whatever its



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196 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OP THEOLOGY

defects and errors, has, through the shocks and vicissitudes of many
centuries, held together a civilized society numbering htmdreds of
millions and covering a vast and diversified area of coimtry. It is
much to be desired that the past political and social history of China
should be more widely and intelligently studied in western lands
than has hitherto been the case. Until this is done, reproaches of
the Chinese on the score of their ignorance and self-conceit seem out
of place. We cannot afford to despise a race which, without the
facilities of modem means of conmiunication and mechanical skill,
has during so long a period of time developed and maintained a
political, commercial, and social system of vast magnitude and impor-
tance. It may be taken as certain that, as time goes on, China will
give to the Christian church men fitted for leadership and endowed
with organizing power on a large scale. Nor can the fact be ignored
by anyone attempting to forecast the future ecclesiastical develop-
ment of Christianity in that country, that from time immemorial
the governmental ideal, set forth by her literatmre and cherished by
her scholars, is that of a benevolent despotism, combined with a
real and healthy influence of popular opinion. In dealing with a
people of so strong and independent a spirit as the Chinese, it can
at all events be predicted with confidence that any attempt to force
upon them the diversified denominationalism of our home lands
will end in disaster. Here, if nowhere else, the missionary needs to exer-
cise the utmost self-restraint and discrimination between essentials and
incidentals in the forms existing in his own land, and to bear in mind
the words of his Divine Master: "Neither do men put new wine into
old bottles; else the bottles break and the wine runneth out . . . .;
but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved."

D. E. HosTE



There could not be a better field than China for observations on
such an important question as the one before us : " Should denomina-
tional distinctions be perpetuated in mission work?" A himdred
years have rolled away since Iflorrison endured the vituperation of foes
and the misunderstanding of friends in his attempt to introduce the
Christian religion into China. In this period, and in all this period,
missions of every persuasion have faced a common enemy, a common



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DENOMINATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ON MISSION FIELDS 197

"hatred of the foreigner," and now join in celebrating a common
victory already within sight. This state of things has conduced to a
drawing together of the forces of Christianity at work in China.
It was said to the writer by a veteran missionary: "The different
missions at work out here are like the various companies in one regi-
ment of soldiers. " It is also the psychological moment for considera-
tion of the question. A movement, emanating from northern China,
is on foot for the federation oj all missions at work in China and for
the unification of the Christian Chinese church. This is referred to
by the various contributors to this article. Suffice it to say that opinion
is against a mere mechanical union brought about by a majority
vote, while the trend of thought is strongly in favor of doing away with
the causes of friction that mar the ethical unity of the church of Christ ;
and the probability is that any action taken at the great conference
to be held in Shanghai in the spring of 1907 will be along this line.

Invitations to contribute to this symposiiun were sent out to leaders
of missions in central China whose experience in the field demands
that their opinions receive consideration. Through pressure of
work, or other reasons, some have felt imable to send replies; others
again have given verbal answers. The various contributions in this
article should therefore be regarded as representative rather than as
exhaustive: an indication of the attitude of missionaries as a whole
to this great problem that in the near future is to confront the church
in China, and not as a final pronouncement on the matter on the part
of any individual missionary or mission.

Rev. T. E. North, district chairman, Wesleyan missionary, with
a quarter of a century of experience in China mission work, writes:

It is somewhat startling to have to reply to the question: '' Should denomi-
national distinctions be perpetuated in mission work?'' by what practically
amounts to ''Yes;" but though one shrinks from the bald monosyllabic reply,
I suspect that the trend of a more detailed reply from myself could l)e only that.
In the first place, then, I do not think that these denominational distinctions in
themselves are a serious matter, except possibly in one or two extreme cases,
and that whether as regards matters of church administration or of doctrine.
To endeavor to efface these distinctions is, in my opinion, simply to emphasize
and magnify them in the eyes of our native converts. As regards plant, church
disdf^e, responsibility for members and their conduct, relationship to Chines^
authorities, both the claims of oiur home churches and the moral claim of the



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198 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OP THEOLOGY

Chinese government, as well as the comfort and convenience of the various mis-
sions, demand the continued recognition of the various societies. In case of a
breach of Chinese law on the part of a mission preacher or schoolmaster, for
instance, to whom would the Chinese official turn if all distinctions were obliter-
ated? Fortunately there is no great di£Ference in the moral standards which
we seek to establish among even our ordinary church members, but one would
hardly like to become responsible in the eyes of the Chinese for the conduct of
men over whom one has no jurisdiction or control whatever; and it would not
be difficult to imagine such a position under the drcuiyistances supposed. There
is too much talk these days about a union which practically means umformityf
and that alike of creed and terminology and worship. To my mind this not
merely belies the name "nonconformists," of which many of us are so justly
proud, but strikes a serious blow at the principles of Protestantism itself. I
would almost as soon hand over our converts to the thraldom of Rome and the
rule of the Pope as enslave them to any system of theology or church practice,
however excellent, if regarded as absolutely binding on their conscience. True
union is to be cultivated and sought after by every means in our power, but I
regard true union as a union, not of sameness, but of diversities; and the more
divebe and nimierous our unimportant differences, the grander and deeper the
unity which in Christ Jesus binds us together in the bonds of brotherly affection
and imited purpose and aim. Fortimately such strivings after uniformUy must
defeat their own aim, but it is lamentable to think of the energies and time frit-
tered away in quest of this wrong ideal. A frank recognition of differences of
conviction and creed, and, at the same time, a sense of the true deeper union
which exists already, would, I feel sure, pave the way for a federation of our
mission churches — a federation which will enable us in a temperate way to face
the questions affecting mission comity as they arise — e. g., division of territory
for mission operations, withdrawal from or exchange of stations in some cases,
owing to geographical considerations — and lead us from time to time to unite
in special sodal, literary, or educational work. Is not a craving for uniformity
too often the result of narrowness of view, and lack of consideration for the con-
victions of others ? Is it not devoid of the very elements of true union ? Does
it give much hope for securing wisely directed federation ?

Rev. A. S. Adams, the veteran superintendent of the work of the
American Baptist Missionary Union in Hanyang, writes:

Denominationalism has its roots in the churches at home, and these churches
would soon use the ax if the branches in the mission field did not bear fruit accord-
ing to the root. The whole question seems to me to imply that these distinctions
are not worth the reproduction; but surely what has so aided in the purity and
growth of the church at home (by the natural process of argument and convic-
tion among men in earnest about the truth) cannot but be of equal service on
the mission field. Yet, for the sake of the churches we represent, the converts



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DENOMINATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ON MISSION FIELDS 199

whom we shepherd, and the truth committed to us, we should endeavor to repro-
duce the best in these distinctions, without the strife and bitterness which was
but the working yeast and scum of the vintage, and not the pure wine of truth.
Moreover, the practical work of a mission in China is involved, and I should
deprecate any outside attempt to prevent the natural growth of the vine of truth
on these various denominational fences. These subdivisions certainly have the
merit for greater efficiency, if only for the reason that I pay more attention to
my garden than to the cultivation of ours. They act, too, on the native church
as to the watchcare of the flock. One of the strongest arguments against the
federation scheme, in my opinion, is that all are reduced to the same dull level;
and when our converts go astray, as alas they will, if we are all known by the
same name it will be difficult to detect and discipline a defaulter. The natural
laws of selection and survival of the Attest must be allowed to act in the denomi-
national as in other realms. It would be impossible for an equal distribution
of the world's wealth to remain an equality of possession for twenty-four hours.
Men's capacities and inclinations differ. So with truth: an equality of power to
receive and appreciate truth is almost inconceivable. Men's minds natiually
appreciate different shades of thought. I am a Baptist by conviction; my brother
is a Churchman by conviction. His spiritual food comes in one way and mine
in another, but we are both children of God by conversion. We must ever remem-
ber that there is cohesion — ^the cohesion of love — ^among us in spite of our so-called
"distinctions." In the strength of this cohesion the army of the Lord in China
will be led on to victory.

Rev. Arnold Foster, B. A. (Cambridge), the chairman of the
Central China District Committee of the London Missionary Society,
with an experience that takes in nearly four decades of mission virork
in China, gives a valued contribution. It is a matter of profoimd
regret that it is necessary considerably to curtail it. He says :

I have been asked to reply to the question: "Should denominational dis-
tinctions be perpetuated in mission work ? " The question assumes, not unreason-
ably, that ''denominational distinctions," as such, have no permanent place in
Christ's ideal for his chiu*ch, but are rather an imperfection which clings to Chris-
tianity as it has been handed down to us, and as it exists today in the lands from
which missionaries go forth. Looked at in this light, one can have no hesitation
in saying of this weakness: it should certainly not be perpetuated either in mis-
sion work or among ourselves. But when we come to consider practically how
this imperfection is to be got rid of, and when, and by whom, we find ourselves
dealing with a highly complex problem, and one that cannot be disposed of by
a mere act of will, or by ignoring all the most important elements in the compli-
cation, and all the wonderful train of causes that led up to it. Although we
admit that "denominational distinctions are not ideal," it does not follow that
they are at all times and under all drciunstances inherently injurious. Nor



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200 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY

does it follow that a Chiistiamty from which all such distinctions had been elimi-
nated would necessarily be any nearer Girist's ideal for his church than is the
divided Christianity which exists amongst us today.

The expression ''denominational distinctions" b capable of two interpre-
tations, both of which should be dearly before our minds. The expression may
stand (a) for di£Ferent parties or camps in the church into which Christians
arrange themselves according to their views of particular theological questions,
ecclesiastical practices, and other matters. Or it may stand (6) for differences
of view or practice among Christians, who do not therefore separate themselves
into different bodies. In the New Testament we have illustrations of both these
kinds of denominational distinctions, (a) At a very eariy stage in the history
of the church we find at Corinth separate camps in the Christian community
of that dty, calling themselves respectively after the names of Paul, ApoUos, or
Cephas, somewhat as Christians of later date have come, though perhaps less
culpably, to call themsdves after the name of "Luther," "Calvin," or "Wesley."
(fc) The Acts, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and the Epistle of James, not now
to speak of other books of the New Testament, reveal differences of teaching and
of practice among the apostles themsdves, which even tkey found it not altogether
easy to harmonize. In the hands of less spiritually minded teachers such differ-
ences tend to crystallize into contending systems. These and other distinctions
in the days of the apostles represented intensdy living and real differences then
existing, which, if they had become actively antagonistic, might easily have de-
veloped denominations in the church. I cannot doubt that a common devotion
to Christ among the leaders in the Christian community, and an intense and con-
stantly deepening realization of the greatness of the kingdom of God and of the
vastness of the divine counsels, alone saved the situation. The ability of believers
in the first days to preserve an outwardly imited church life before the worid
was not due either to the fact that the majority could rule the minority, or to the
fact that the minority was convinced by the reasonings of the majority; nor
was it due to a growing indifference on both sides to the great importance of vary-
ing aspects of the truth. There were dissentients no doubt, but they, in place
of separating from their brethren because of the differences between them, seem
to have accepted what we should caU a "policy of comprehension." The whole
history of that time deserves dose study and will repay it.' The Bible supplies
us with prindples that suggest the solution of all oiu* difficulties. It would seem
that denominational distinctions found a twofold expression in the first days.
The one was due to the essential weakness of human nature only imperfectly
influenced by the spirit of the Christian revelation, the other to the essential great-
ness and manifoldness of the gospel. li/e involves variety and involves change.
It involves also a certain conflict and competition between dissimilar ideals.
The inherent superiority of one ideal over the other will be manifest only when
both have been fuUy tested. To bring the two prematurely into "imity" by

> For such study two books by Dr. Hort are of the greatest value, Thi Christian
Ecdesia and Judaism ChrisHanUy,



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DENOMINATIONAL DISTINCTIONS ON MISSION FIELDS 20l

stopping the development of both can lead to no unity worth having, and is a
coiu^ subversive of the real interests of the truth. Rather we should look
forward to a time when what we regard as conflicting theories, or as competing
ideals, shall be recognized by men of larger vision than we as really complex
mentary truths, both deserving of sjrmpathetic treatment, even though we, in
our ignorance, see not how to harmonize them.

I come now to speak particularly of the question of ''denominational dis-
tinctions" as, during a long life in China, I have observed them and their work-
ing in mission churches. At the outset I must avow my belief that, whatever
may be the disadvantages connected with denominational distinctions, the
outcry against denominationalism tends greatly to divert attention from the
real cause of lack of imity among Christians, whether at home or abroad, which
is nothing else than a want of love and of the mind that was in Christ, and to
fix our thou^ts and hopes instead on improved plans for bringing about, throu^
formal federation, united organizations, and schemes for mutual compromise



Online LibraryUniversity of Chicago. Divinity SchoolThe American journal of theology → online text (page 26 of 84)