'All things to all men?' : Protestant missionary identification in theory and practice, 1860-1910, with special reference to the London Missionary Society in central Africa and central China
From the earliest Christian missionary endeavours, when St. Paul made himself to become "all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:19-22), Christian missionaries have avowed the principle of 'identification' - the sympathetic adaptation of one's behaviour and message to the culture within which one engages in missiop. But the precise nature of this 'identification' seems to have undergone significant changes as the 'Christian' West came to dominate the rest of the world idealogically, politically, and economically. Utilizing representative sources of the period, this study attempts to portray missionary identification as it was understood and practiced by Protestant missionaries between 1860 and 1910. The record is examined at several levels: Anglo-American Missionary Conference reports are used to paint the broad picture of missionary attitudes and concerns; the London Missionary Society - with special reference to its activities and personnel in Central Africa and Central China - serves to fill in the details of the larger canvas. The result depicts Protestant missionaries of the time as having been so enmeshed in European civilization as to preclude any significant adaptation to non-Western life - in either theory or practice. Materially, socially, politically, economically, educationally, and religiously, the missionary remained a European. Even in the linguistic sphere, missionary identification came gradually to mean the instruction of natives in the English language. While exceeding any degree of identification which might have been attempted or achieved by any other group of Westerners (such as adventurers, explorers, merchants, colonists, and colonial officials), missionary identification was severely truncated by the powerful press and pull of their own Eurocentrism, and by their self-conscious awareness that they were the incarnation of European superiority in virtually every sphere.