Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society

Scope and Content

Unfortunately, the only extant records are the Minutes of the Bible Christian Missionary Society (1861-1873, 1882-1891 and 1903-1909).

Administrative / Biographical History

Founded by William O'Bryan, the Bible Christian movement arose in 1815. Having twice been an unsuccessful candidate for the Methodist ministry, O'Bryan developed an independent preaching ministry which led to the founding of small groups in Cornwall and Devon. The name derived from their belief that all problems should be solved by recourse to the Bible.

The Bible Christians were notable for the prominent part that lay people took in administering their organisation, and for being the first Methodist organisation to admit women itinerant preachers, in 1819. They also played a leading role in the rise of the Temperance Movement.

The Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society was organised in 1821, for the purpose of sending missionaries into unchristianised portions of the UK and into 'heathen lands'. In 1831 it sent two missionaries to North America: the Rev. John Glass occupied a station in Western Canada and Rev. Francis Metherall began a mission in Prince Edward Island. The work was successful, and at the time of the union of Methodist churches in Canada, membership of the mission stood at 7,000. The work of the Society was affected by the creation of an independent Canadian Conference in 1854. In 1884, the Bible Christians united with the other Methodist churches in Canada.

In 1850, Rev James Way and James Rowe were sent to work in Adelaide, South Australia. Rowe opened a mission in Victoria in 1855. Later other missionaries settled in Queensland, and a New Zealand mission commenced in 1877. The work soon became self-supporting. Independent Conferences were established in South Australia in 1876 and Victoria in 1886. The Bible Christians united with the Wesleyans in Queensland in 1895 and in the following year the same thing happened in New Zealand. In 1900 the Bible Christians were involved in another Methodist Union in the South Australian Mission, and in 1902 this was repeated in Victoria.

Work began in China in 1885. In the summer of 1884, James Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM), addressed the Conference of the Bible Christians in London. The following year the Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society appointed the Revs S T Thorne and T G Vanstone to go to Yunnan, where the CIM had opened its first station in 1881. Thorne and Vanstone reached Yunnan in 1886 and founded a Bible Christian Mission at Tungchwan, in close co-operation with the CIM. In 1887 the Revs Francis J Dymond and Samuel Pollard were dispatched with further missionaries following in subsequent years (including the first medical worker in 1895). In 1891 a new station opened at Chaotung [Zhaotong] with a hospital following in 1906. At the turn of the century the Bible Christians had 3 stations in China, with 12 missionaries, 6 Indigenous evangelists, and 41 church members. However, in 1909 several churches were destroyed in a rebellion in the Yunnan Province.

A feature of the China mission was the work among Aboriginal tribes - the earliest work being amongst the Miao tribes in 1904. Samuel Pollard became renowned for his work amongst the Big Flowery Miao or A-Hmao people. Together with Dymond he converted them to Christianity (baptising 10,000 individuals), invented an alphabet for their language and taught them to read and write.

The Women's Missionary League of the Bible Christian Missionary Society was organised as an auxiliary to the Society in 1892, with special reference to the work in China. Within two years 28 branches had been formed in the UK raising £244. (In the last year of the Women's Missionary League, 1907, there were over 40 branches who raised £812). The Women's Missionary League had the advantage that its first two female missionaries, Mrs Thorne and Miss Hainge, were already resident in China as they had been working for the China Inland Mission. The first directly appointed female missionary from the UK was Miss Bailey in 1893 followed by further missionaries every few years, including Dr Lilian Grandin (later Dingle) in 1905 to Chaotung [Zhaotong] Hospital.

In 1907 the Bible Christians merged with the Methodist New Connexion and the United Methodist Free Churches to form the United Methodist Church, and the overseas missionary activity of all three was combined under the United Methodist Missionary Society (UMMS). In the year preceeding this union the Bible Christians had nine missionaries and 5,419 overseas members.

With the union of the United Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and the Primitive Methodist Church, in 1932, the work of the UMMS merged with that of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (WMMS) and the Primitive Methodist Missionary Society (PMMS), to form the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS).

Further reading:

F.W.Bourne, 'The Bible Christians: their Origin and History' (Bible Christian Book Room, 1905).

Richard Pyke, 'The Golden Chain. The Story of the Bible Christian Methodists....' (Henry Hooks, c1915).

Rev. Oliver A. Beckerlegge, 'A Bibliography of the Bible Christians' (Gage Postal Books, 1988).

Rev Sam Pollard, 'The Story of the Miao' (Henry Hooks, 1919).

Access Information

Only available for consultation on microfiche.

Open

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan in 1978.

Other Finding Aids

An overview of our Methodist missionary holdings, 'Guide to the Methodist Missionary Collections', is freely available upon request. The most authoritative catalogue to the archive remains Elizabeth Bennett's 'Guide to the Archives of the Methodist Missionary Society' (1979), although the papers of Bible Christian missionaries can be found within the list of Methodist biographical papers in the SCRR.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by Methodist Missionary SocietyApply to SOAS Archives & Special Collections in the first instance.

Related Material

SOAS holds the records of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society which include the personal papers of Bible Christian missionaries. These are located in the biographical series of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society and include the papers of Samuel Pollard (MMS/Special Series/Biographical/China/FBN 29-30). Further Pollard papers (MS 380690) are also available as well as the papers of the Parsons family, missionaries who worked among the Miao tribe using the script devised by Pollard (MS 380686).

SOAS also holds the Methodist Missionary Society Library, consisting of approximately 7,000 books and pamphlets. The Library includes the Extracts from the Minutes of the Annual Conference of the Ministers and Representatives of the People Denominated Bible Christians (1845-1907), The Bible Christian Magazine (1846-1907) and a few copies - dating between 1860 and 1907 - of the Annual Report of the Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society. The Methodist Missionary Society Library is included in the on-line catalogue of SOAS Library (http://library.soas.ac.uk/); books within the the Methodist Missionary Society Library can be recognized by the prefix MMSL.