'Surrendering the task': British Baptists in China, 1937-1952
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This thesis aims to examine the final years of missionary activity in China, with particular reference to the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS). It argues that, contrary to existing narratives, the Society was committed, from the beginning of its work in China, to placing responsibility for evangelism, church organisation and leadership in the hands of Chinese Christians, but that this plan was undone by events in China between 1937 and 1952. The missionary departure from the province of Shandong, planned to take place in 1942, was delayed when members of the Chinese church found themselves obliged to seek additional help from the BMS in order to cope with the destruction occasioned first by the War of Resistance against Japan, and later by the Civil War. The thesis explores the contrasting experience of work during this period in three different North China provinces, Shandong, Shanxi and Shaanxi. It examines the way the BMS dealt with the new developments, and the impact on individual missionaries and their families of working in this rapidly-changing environment. When Baptist missionaries eventually left, their departure was no longer in keeping with the systematic plan of withdrawal devised earlier, but was precipitated by political developments following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Relationships with Chinese colleagues had to be abruptly terminated, and strident public criticisms were levied against missionaries and other foreigners. The shock of this unplanned and painful departure led missionaries and missionary societies to reflect critically on the whole past history of their work in China. This negative emphasis has got in the way of a more nuanced assessment of the missionary contribution during these years.