The importance of the contribution of Australians to the penetration of China by the China Inland Mission in the period 1888-1953, with particular reference to the work of Australian women missionaries
AbstractAustralians, in the main, are unaware of the role which Australia played in the evangelization of China in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. Most would never have heard of the China Inland Mission (CIM), the largest of the Protestant bodies which penetrated the Middle Kingdom, and few would know of the contribution that its Australian contingent, which consistently comprised about a tenth of the CIM's numbers, made towards the Christianization of that vast country. This thesis aims to raise the level of awareness in this area. Academic researchers have not totally neglected to examine the proselytization of China, and historians of the stature of Latourette have not let it escape their attention. However, most of the studies which have not merely fleetingly focused on the subject while viewing a larger canvas, have been North American, singling out the efforts of United States and Canadian bodies in introducing Christianity to the Chinese. Here, authors like Amerding, Bacon, Creighton, Gates, Hawkes, Ho, Ko, Mensendiek, Michell and Quale have left their mark. In the case of the present thesis, the outlook from which events played out in China are viewed is firmly based in Australia rather than North America. Earlier Australian research has been scarce, and is dominated by Loane and Dixon. Loane, evidently primarily working from Australasian Council minutes, mainly concentrates on the efforts of the CIM's Home Council, examining its endeavours decade by decade against a backdrop of contemporaneous events in China, and briefly referring to aspects of the lives of a cross-section of Australasian missionaries, without providing much idea about what they actually did in the field or what they achieved there. Because of its preoccupation with the Home Council, which never admitted women into its ranks, Loane's treatise is systemically biased towards men, though the more prominent of the women, like Mary Reed and Susie Garland, are given due recognition. The current thesis looks in detail at what Australians did in the field, the level of success they achieved, and at the particular contribution of Australian women towards the evangelization of China. Dixon took upon herself the formidable task of examining the endeavours of all missions in China which contained Australian missionaries. Because of the magnitude of her task, she could not focus to any great extent on particular missions, nor pursue in any detail the work of individual Australian missionaries. Like Loane, she was unable to explore what they actually did in the field or what they achieved there. Neither could she delve to any depth into the work of Australian women missionaries, though on the basis of the information she had accumulated, she drew the conclusion that Australian women had largely only brought about some unintended feminist consequences amongst Chinese women. This sweeping generalization failed to take into account the other very real social changes for Chinese women the Australian female missionaries quite purposely helped to bring about, and this thesis makes good that omission. This thesis studies aspects of the Australian missionary endeavour which both Loane and Dixon have neglected, thereby breaking new ground, and sets out to correct erroneous impressions which Dixon's dissertation has left on the historical record. One of these impressions concerned the longevity of the effect of the Australian effort in China. She had the View, writing in 1978, that the Chinese Church was moribund (a view shared by Varg and Lacy) , and that therefore the effects attributable to the endeavours of any nationality had proved fruitless, whereas the author is able to show, using modern-day sources, that the church has burgeoned in recent years thanks to earlier missionary endeavours and later neo-evangelistic efforts like Gospel radio, and now has a complement of perhaps 50 million adherents, making it second only to the United States in the size of its Protestant evangelical population. Another impression she left was that the Australian input into the evangelization of China can be largely dismissed because no totally Australian organization emerged, leaving the direction of Australia's effort in other hands. Contrary to that impression, the author shows that the Australian impact in China was significant and that Australians enjoyed more power than Dixon ever imagined. The author also shows that Australians were accepted as the equal of other nationalities in the CIM once they had acquired the necessary field expertise, a factor which doubtless also applied in respect of other missions with Australian components in China. Marchant has suggested that it is a fiction perpetuated by mission periodicals that Christianity spread and progressed in a determined manner in China. This thesis establishes that within the CIM's bailiwick, though there was some patchiness, Christianity progressed steadily and inexorably. One mission alone, the CIM, is concentrated upon, firstly in order to render the data manageable, secondly because it was the largest mission in China and had a sizeable Australian (including female) contingent, and thirdly because it exemplified many of the problems which would have been faced by missions in that country and their Australian components. The methodology employed is multifaceted. The written testimony of the missionaries themselves, contained in CIM periodicals, Field Bulletins, Monthly Notes, Annual Reports, autobiographies, personal files, diaries and letters is used to illustrate various aspects of the CIM's work in which Australians were engaged. This approach is augmented by other sources such as China and Australasian Home Council Minutes, missionary conference reports, Candidates' Books, biographies, and other selected material from archival holdings in Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, America and Canada. Statistics, especially ratio analyses and growth rate comparisons are used to demonstrate the relative success of different missions, missionaries and genders. Also employed are reminiscences of missionaries and descendants obtained by personal interview, and these are aggregated to provide some general conclusions. Data from these various sources have been synthesized to serve the central objective of demonstrating the importance of the contribution of Australians to the penetration of China by the CIM in the period 1888-1953 with particular reference to the work of Australian women missionaries.