United Methodist Missionary Society

Scope and Content

The records of the United Methodist Missionary Society, comprise only the Minutes of the Foreign Missions Committee, 1908-1933, and a South West China Minute Book, 1905-1932. Minutes also exist for its preceeding missionary organisations - please see each sub-sub-coll description for details.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1907 the Methodist New Connexion (formed in 1797), the Bible Christians Methodists (formed in 1815) and the United Methodist Free Churches (formed in 1857 by the union of the Wesleyan Association and the Wesleyan Reformers) united to form the United Methodist Church. The foreign mission activities of all three - the Methodist New Connexion Missionary Society, the Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society and the United Methodist Free Churches' Foreign Missions - were combined to form the United Methodist Missionary Society (UMMS), under the control of one committee. The UMMS membership upon inception stood at 30,076 with 523 preaching places in China, East and West Africa, and Jamaica.

China was by far the largest UMMS mission field comprising the mission districts of Ningpo, North China, Wenchow and Yunnan. The ex-MNC mission of North China contained 215 mission stations between the Great Wall and the Yellow River in 1907. The district already had a Boys' School at Wuting and a Girls' School at Chu Chia (built in 1889) yet added to this with a middle school at Tangshan in 1924. Furthermore, the hospitals at Laoling (built in 1878) and Yung Ping (built in 1905) were added to by the building of a hospital at Wuting in 1931. In 1912 an institute for training preachers was built in Tientsin [Tianjin].

The ex-UMFC mission districts of Ningpo and Wenchow both continued to flourish. In 1907 the Ningpo district had 47 mission stations whilst the Wenchow district had 162 mission stations; by 1932 this had increased to 51 and 231 mission stations respectively. The Ningpo district added to the college at Ningpo [Ningbo] with a Girls' School in about 1924. In Wenchow [Wenzhou] itself the existing college (built in 1903), the Girls' School and the hospital (built in 1897) were added to by the founding in 1928 of a school for training Chinese nurses and a Preachers' Training School.

The former Bible Christian mission in Yunnan had 7 mission stations in 1907. In 1908 mission work was expanded to include the Nosu tribe. Work was initially started by Rev Samuel Pollard but rapidly became the responsibility of the Rev C. N. Mylne. He continued to work amongst the Nosu until 1916 by which time 22 mission stations had been opened. Attempts were also made to evangelise to the Kop'u (or Go-p'u) tribe but this proved less successful. The adult membership of the Bible Christians amongst Aboriginal tribes in the Yunnan district in 1932 numbered 143 Kop'u, 532 Nosu and 4,468 Miao.

Growth in the two ex-UMFC mission fields in Africa was slower. In 1907 the mission to East Africa was still struggling. A station was opened in Meru [Kenya] in 1912 and, after initial problems caused by the First World War, began to attract worshippers. By 1931 the UMMS had managed to open the 'Berresford Memorial Hospital', Central School and a workshop for industrial training with 36 apprentices. The mission in West Africa continued to struggle until the mid 1920s. Although a Collegiate School, opened in 1916 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, initially flourished it had to close after a decade due to mismanagement. A re-organisation of the Mission in Mendiland in the late 1920s lead to a renewed sense of purpose with the mission at Tikonko reopening in 1927 after having been in abeyance since 1898.

Work continued in the ex-UMFC district of Jamaica (including Bocas del Toro, on the Isthmus of Panama,) for 4 years until the Jamaican Churches, in 1912, joined the Methodist Episcopal Church (USA).

The first Council of the United Methodist Women's Missionary Auxiliary was held in 1909 and it continued the work of each of the former women's departments of the MNC, UMFC and Bible Christians. At the time of union membership stood at about 9,200 with 8 missionaries overseas. The Women's Missionary Auxiliary continued to send missionaries to China but in 1920 they expanded into East Africa with two missionaries - Miss Ivy Jennings and Miss Violet Taylor - being sent to Meru in Kenya. By 1932 the Women's Missionary Auxiliary had 50 branches in the UK (with a membership of about 1,000) and 14 missionaries overseas.

In 1932 the United Methodist Church joined the Wesleyan Methodists and the Primitive Methodist Church to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The Uniting Conference was held on 20 September 1932. The work of the UMMS merged with that of the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists to form the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS).

Further reading:

Methodist Missionary Society, 'Our Missions Overseas - Past and Present. The First Annual Report of the Methodist Missionary Society, 1932' (MMS, 1932).

N Allen Birtwhistle, 'Methodist Missions' in volume 3 of 'A History of the Methodist Church in Great Britain' (Epworth Press, 1983).

'The Story of the United Methodist Church', edited by Henry Smith, John E. Swallow and William Treffry (Henry Hooks, 1932).

Rev. Oliver A. Beckerlegge, 'A Bibliography of the United Methodist Church' (Gage Postal Books, 1988).

United Methodist Church, 'Glad Hands: the Story of the Women's Missionary Auxiliary before the Union of 1907 and after' (Magnet Press, c.1927).

A. J. Hopkins, 'Trail blazers and Road Makers : a Brief History of the East Africa Mission of the United Methodist Church' (Henry Hooks, United Methodist Publishing House, [1928]).

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


The records of the United Methodist Missionary Society are divided into 'Home' and 'China' sections. There are separate sub-sub-collections for the Methodist New Connexion Missionary Society, the Bible Christian Home and Foreign Missionary Society, and the United Methodist Free Church Foreign Missions. Within each section, minutes are arranged in chronological order.

Access Information

Only available for consultation on microfiche.

Restrictions Apply

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan by the Methodist Church of Great Britain from 1978 onwards.

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).

Archivist's Note


Conditions Governing Use

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

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society, including papers of missionaries of UMMS and its constituent denominations - among them Samuel Pollard, C.N. Mylne and William Soothill - in the biographical series. The few photographs of UMMS (and its predecessors) missions that are extant seem to have been kept with - and not necessarily distinguished from - the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society photographs. For example, some UMMS photographs are clearly extant for Kenya and missions in China based on who took the photographs and their date filed within the (Wesleyan) Methodist Missionary Society photographs.

The United Methodist Missionary Society was the only Methodist society to have mission stations in Kenya at the time of Methodist Union of 1932, when its work was incorporated into the Methodist Missionary Society. Although the Synod minutes and correspondence from Kenya dates from after 1932, the work of the UMMS will be reflected in these records.

SOAS holds the Methodist Missionary Society Library, consisting of approximately 7,500 books and pamphlets. The Library includes The Missionary Echo (1908-1932) and Reports of the Home and Foreign Missions of the United Methodist Church (1908-1932). The Methodist Missionary Society Library is included in the on-line catalogue of SOAS Library (https://library.soas.ac.uk/); books within the the Methodist Missionary Society Library can be recognized by the prefix MMSL.