American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
Search Timelines:

Time Period
1810
Description
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions did not have a particularly auspicious origin. In 1806, a handful of college students at Williams College in western Massachusetts sought shelter from a rainstorm under a haystack. While waiting for the rain to stop, they prayed that God would send missionaries overseas. The core group of men involved in this "Haystack Prayer Meeting" would subsequently attend Andover Seminary in Andover, MA, where in 1810 they would form the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

The ABCFM remained the largest foreign missions organization for much of the 19th century. Its many missionaries also played significant roles in the history of Hawaii and the national histories of several countries, including South Africa and Turkey.

In 1961, the ABCFM was absorbed by the missions agency of the United Church of Christ.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Presbyterian Religious Events and People in American History
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Presbyterian Religious Events and People in American History
Narrative
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions did not have a particularly auspicious origin. In 1806 a handful of college students in Massachusetts sought shelter from a rainstorm under a haystack. While waiting for the rain to stop, they prayed that God would send missionaries overseas. The core group of men involved in this "Haystack Prayer Meeting" would subsequently attend Andover Seminary, where in 1810 they would form the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM).

In 1812, the ABCFM sent Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice to Burma. Unexpectedly both men quickly became Baptists -- Judson converted while on the voyage -- and left the ABCFM to found the Triennial Convention for Baptist missions. The ABCFM remained the largest foreign missions organization for most of the 19th century. Its many missionaries also played significant roles in the history of Hawaii and the national histories of several countries, including South Africa and Turkey. William and Ida Wilcox reared one of the founders of the African National Congress in South Africa. ABCFM missionaries in Turkey saved hundreds of potential victims of the Armenian Genocide. In the 19th century, foreign missions included outreach to American Indian tribes and the ABCFM sponsored Marcus Whitman. He and his family were massacred in 1847.

In the 1830s, the ABCFM played into the New School-Old School controversy within the Presbyterian Church. Many other issues were at play, but Old School conservatives also were uncomfortable with Presbyterian support of a missions agency that included Congregationalists and other non-Presbyterians. They formed the Western Foreign Missionary Society as a denominationally-exclusive alternative to the ABCFM.

In 1961, the ABCFM was absorbed by the missions agency of the United Church of Christ.
Religious Groups
Presbyterian-Reformed Family: Other ARDA Links

Biographies
Judson, Adoniram
Movements
Missionary Movement
The Second Great Awakening
Photographs

The Judsons, Newells, and Luther Rice set sail for India- Internet Archive- from Judson the Pioneer by J. Mervin Hull

Haystack Monument- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Daderot

Ordination of first American foreign missionaries- Internet Archive- from The Immortal Seven by James L. Hill

Map of foreign missions, 1914- Hathi Trust- from Maps of Missions by American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions

Ceylon mission- Hathi Trust- from Maps and Illustrations of the Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
Book/Journal Source(s)
Ahlstrom, Sydney, 2004. A Religious History of the American People. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

Bookmark and Share