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The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910 (Studies in the History of Christian Missions) [Paperback]

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Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.2" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2009
Publisher   Eerdmans Pub Co
ISBN  0802863604  
EAN  9780802863607  

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Item Description...
A turning point in the modern era, the Edinburgh conference fostered an ideal of world evangelization and called for fuller cooperation among mission groups of all denominations. Stanley marvelously clarifies the events leading up to the conference, what actually transpired, and its multitudinous legacy.

Publishers Description
Studies in the History of Christian Missions/R. E. Frykenberg and Brian Stanley, series editors/The World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910 has come down in history as a unique event in the history of the Protestant missionary movement. Brian Stanleys book gives us a full and comprehensive account of the conference, doing so from the perspective of developments in the hundred years since the conference. His study should serve not only as a work of history but also as a work of theological reflection about mission as an ongoing international movement. I welcome this book as an important resource in the churchs self-understanding and in its engagement with the world. Lamin Sanneh/Yale University/Edinburgh 1910 laid the foundations of interdenominational understanding for the ecumenical movement of the twentieth century. . . . With impeccable scholarship, Brian Stanley has written a thorough and revealing analysis of this epoch-making conference. David Bebbington/University of Stirling/An accomplished study revealing Stanleys deep scholarship and wide knowledge of the modern missionary movement. This book will surely become both a missionary and an ecumenical classic. David M. Thompson/Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge/This long-awaited book is the definitive history of the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910. Stanleys thorough scholarship and elegant prose bring the conference to life and make a case for its enduring importance to the history of world Christianity. Scholars of missions, ecumenism, world religions, education, and Christian internationalism will find this superb study essential for their work. Dana L. Robert/Boston University School of Theology

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More About Brian Stanley

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Brian Stanley (Ph.D.) is professor of world Christianity and director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. He is the author of The World Missionary Conference: Edinburgh 1910 and editor (with Sheridan Gilley) of volume 8 of The Cambridge History of Christianity, World Christianities, c. 1815-c. 1914.

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As if you had been there!  Feb 20, 2010
Stanley, Brian, 2009: The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910. Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans. Cost US[...] (List price).

Professor Brian Stanley, director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professor of World Christianity, as well as a prolific writer and editor (see His most recent book appears in the series "Studies in the History of Christian Missions," edited by Robert E. Frykenberg and Brian Stanley. This paperback of 352 pages includes a detailed table of contents with useful subheadings for each chapter (pp. ix-xii), acknowledgments (xiii-xv), a list of illustrations (pp. xvi-xvii), a list of abbreviations (pp. xviii-xix), a preface (pp. xx-xxii), eleven chapters with informative subheadings (pp. 1-324), a comprehensive bibliography (pp. 325-341) and an extensive index (pp. 342-352), as well as 17 black and white photographs (inserted on unnumbered pages between Chapters 6 and 7, i.e., between pp. 166-167).

In this very readable volume, Professor Brian Stanley, church/mission historian cum detective, meticulously describes, one century after the actual event, the proceedings of the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910! Unobtrusive footnotes on all but a few (e.g. page 17) of his main text (pp. 1-324) betray his extensive and painstaking research in the UK, USA, and Switzerland (pp. 325-327), as well as his consulting of abundant primary sources (pp. 327-330).

Having thus gained an intimate knowledge of the 1910 conference, in Chapter 1 (Vision of the Kingdom: Edinburgh 1910 and the History of Christianity), Brian renders the proceedings "as if he were there," noting facts, names and numbers (pp. 12-13) of conveners, organizers, respondents, reporters and delegates and their respective institutional affiliations (p. 6), impressions and even subtle insinuations made by participants. The reader gets a "feel" for the drama, tension, struggle, covert and sometimes even overt conflicts, such as disagreements between the American and British perspectives (p. 51). Brian is so meticulous as to report dates and even hours of certain specific events (p. 4). In doing so, Brian does not gloss over weaknesses and shortcomings of the conference, such as the exclusion of native delegates from the Pacific islands, the Caribbean and from Africa (p. 13), as well as the exclusion of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches (pp. 10-11), and exclusion from the conference discussions of issues pertaining to polity and doctrine (pp. 10, 16).

In Chapter 2 (Origins and Preparations), Brian retraces how the 1910 conference, initially named "Third Ecumenical Missionary Conference," was soon renamed "World Missionary Conference" in order to avoid any confusion about the term "ecumenical" (p. 59). One task of the organizing committee was to agree on the subject matters to be addressed by the 8 commissions, namely (p. 33), I. Carrying the Gospel to all the World; II. The Native Church and its Workers; III. Education in Relation to the Christianisation of National Life; IV. The Missionary Message in Relation to Non-Christian Religions; V. The Preparation of Missionaries; VI. The Home Base of Missions; VII. Relation of Missions to Governments; and VIII. Co-operation and the Promotion of Unity. Committee members were also charged with deciding the composition of each commission, thus determining the basis for inclusion/exclusion of delegates, and for the selection of officers (p. 350), as well as laying down the rules for the conference. It was thus decided to exclude from the conference any discussion pertaining to questions of faith and order (pp. 38-40, 51).

In his report, Brian lets us see behind the secret workings of the conference: its agendas, the appointment of delegates (p. 28), its politics, such as rallying support through networking during "overnight visits in the bishop's home" (p. 39). Brian lets us in on the rivalry between the UK and Scotland (on one hand), and between Great Britain and the USA on the other hand (p. 31). He does not gloss over the marginalization of continental Europe (p. 31).

In Chapter 3 (Carrying the Gospel to All the World? Defining the Limits of Christendom), Brian describes the delicate question of missiological and missionary statistics, and the sensibilities of what to include: Should we include Protestant missions to Roman Catholic territories (such as countries in Latin America), or only Protestant missions to the Non-Christian world (e.g., China, India, Africa)? It was decided not to include territories already served by either or both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches (pp. 51-53). As a result, the whole continent of Latin America was not represented at Edinburgh 1910 (pp. 64, 72). In defining "foreign mission," the challenge was to delimit the boundaries between the Christian and the Non-Christian world (p. 61). In the end, it was decided to exclude all references to Protestant missionary work among Roman Catholics and other Christians (p. 57).

In Chapter 4 (The Conference in Session), Brian describes in great details the conference when it was in session: the cost, the pre- and post-conference activities available for the delegates (p. 74), the accommodation for the delegates, the honorary degrees conferred on selected delegates (p. 79), the seating arrangements (p. 82), and the rules for debate (p. 85-87). The conference anticipated approx. 4,800 delegates (p. 73); in actuality, the number of attendees occasionally rose to 6,000-7,000 people, including the public meetings (p. 74). Spirituality played a great role (pp. 88-89), emphasising the power of private and corporate prayer during the proceedings, as well as silent prayer and meditation (p. 90).

Chapter 5 ("Give Us Friends!" The Voice of the "Younger" Churches) is an interesting one. It addresses the issues of Non-Western presence and representations at the conference. Brian mentions 8 non-western participants (p. 91), listed by names and nationalities (p. 92), mostly from Asia (pp. 92-96), bemoaning the virtual absence of representatives from Africa (pp. 97-99), except for a last-minute shoo-in, a certain MC Hayford, whose name was not included in the official list of delegates (p. 99). The low representation of members and delegates from indigenous churches (pp. 102-103) is explained away by the high costs to be assumed by the sending native churches. Brian devotes 4 pages to the contributions of Cheng Jingyi, a delegate from China (pp. 107-111), who pushed as early as 1910 for the creation of a United Church in China, four decades before the Communist take-over in 1949 (p. 110). Even though I have until recently spent six years teaching in China (from the late 2002 to the early 2009), until now (when I was reading Brian Stanley's book), I was totally oblivious that the concept of a Three-self-church and the trend toward nationalism have been nascent movements from the early 1900's on (if not earlier) in China, as well as in Japan (pp. 111-118) and Korea (pp. 118-121). Other sensitive issues raised in this chapter by Brian include, but are not limited to, 1) the uneasy relationship between foreign missionaries and national Christians, chronically marred by scepticism and lack of trust (p. 121); 2) issues of "missionary imperialism" (pp. 128-129); 3) personality clashes (p. 105); 4) the playing of favouritism (pp. 108, 208); 5) the discrimination between foreign missionaries and native delegates (p. 123), and finally, 6) the low priority given to overseas missionary experience in assigning delegates and officials to important positions within their respective commissions (p. 209-211).

Brian devotes most of Chapter 6 (The Church of the Three Selves) to the issue of the "three-self" movement, i.e., self-governing, self-supporting/financing, and self-propagating (pp. 133-134). Other concerns discussed by members of Commission II (The Native Church and its Workers) include, 1) the discrepancy of remuneration between foreign missionaries and national workers (pp. 137-141); 2) the question of theological interpretation of the Bible and the faith in native people's own contexts and own terms (p. 159), leading to "original and formative native thinking in theology" (p. 164); and 3) the question of Christian nurture/discipleship (pp. 149-159), i.e., how to "contextualize" a gospel that is essentially a Western construct (p. 150). Several issues emerged under this last point: a) should there be short periods (e.g., 6 months) or longer periods (e.g., 3 years) of probation before admitting new converts to church membership by baptism (pp. 152-153); b) should the church pose literacy as a pre-condition for admission; c) should new converts give up some of their eating habits (such as eating carrion in India's lowest and most depressed classes of society) before entering the church (p. 154); d) how to handle the challenges of "mass movements?" (pp. 155-157); and finally, the impact of Christianity on family life (pp. 157-159).

Chapter 7 (The Aims of Mission Education: Cultural "Accommodation" and the Catholicity of Christianity) reports the conclusions of Commission III (Education in relation to the Christianisation of National Life), whose task it was to analyse the replies to questionnaires pertaining to missionary education (See questionnaire on pp. 202-204). The deliberations and conclusions reflect a certain imbalance, as only 2 out of 7 members of the American section had any significant overseas missionary experience (p. 171). The problem was compounded by the clear predominance in the Commission of an Anglophone perspective (p. 173). Members of Commission III wrestled with questions such as, 1) is missionary education a form of evangelism with regional variations depending on the preferences of various mission societies? (pp. 178-182); or, 2) is missionary education a strategy for diffusing Christian influence within the target community? (pp. 186-193).

In the first sections of Chapter 8 (Fulfilment and Challenge: Christianity and the World Faiths), Brian reports the discussions of Commission IV about the nature of the Christian message in relation to Non-Christian religions (pp. 205 ff), juxtaposing the superiority of the Christian revelation vs. the concept of "fulfilment theology," where Non-Christian religions are seen as precursor or intermediary steps into the right direction, ultimately and irremediably culminating in a complete theological system of near perfect Christian faith and practice. The key is to carefully examine Non-Christian religions and look for analogies and points of contact with a Western Christian understanding of the native religious faith (p. 213). In subsequent sections, Brian reports the commission's discussions on, 1) the relation of Hinduism to Christianity (pp. 220-227); 2) the relation of Islam to Christianity (pp. 227-231); 3) the relation of religions in Japan and China to Christianity (pp. 231-235); and finally, 4) the relation of animistic religions in Africa to Christianity (pp. 235-245).

In Chapter 9 (Missions, Empire, and the Hierarchy of Civilization), Brian addresses the question of mission and government (or the 20th and 21st century equivalent jargon of church and state, esp. in an American context), essentially characterized by Western imperialism (p. 251). Other issues raised include, 1) the evolutionary concept of the hierarchical nature of the range of human societies (pp. 254-260); 2) the question whether (and if so, to what extend), missionaries are to engage in politics, viz. sympathize with the political and social aspirations of the people they came to serve (pp. 260-264). Even though replies from the field to questionnaires sent out by Commission VII were as complex as they were varied, in the end, the strict "no politics" rule imposed by the commission carried the day (p. 264). These were highly sensitive issues in a period of high colonial rule. In retrospect (i.e., from the vantage point of the 21st century), and in anticipation of Edinburgh 2010, one can only wonder how this relationship (i.e., between the church and the state) has evolved with the rise of communism (e.g., Cuba, China, Vietnam) and the emergence of independent nations (e.g., India, Burma, East and West Africa, etc.) in the post-colonial era as the 20th century progressed. Notwithstanding the importance of the issues debated by Commission VII (Relation of Missions to Governments), Commission VII has the least number of members with active field experience (p. 253), and its report is rather short, given the imposed upper limit of 60,000 words as compared to 100,000 words for a standard report from other commissions (p. 248), perhaps because their subject matters of the latter commissions were less sensitive and thus less threatening to the imperial rule still so well established at the dawn of the 20th century.

Chapter 10 (Missionary Co-operation: Its Limits and Implications) summarizes the deliberations and findings of Commission VIII (Co-operation and the Promotion of Unity). Paradoxically, even though the Conference had adopted a strict "no resolution" rule (p. 280), the report of Commission VIII laid the groundwork for the ecumenical movement that was to rise and flourish during the 20th century (p. 302). This came about in response to pressure from German, Scandinavian and American sources for the creation of an International Missionary Commission or Committee (pp. 284-289). The immediate outcome was more modest - a conference Continuation Committee, with a clear ecumenical missionary structure, but this would eventually result in the creation in 1921 of the International Missionary Council (p. 302).

In this final Chapter 11 (The Legacy of Edinburgh 1910), Brian addresses important issues such as, 1) race and culture (pp. 307-309); 2) the pursuit of church union in Asia (pp. 310-312); 3) the role of women in mission (pp. 312-316); 4) new patters for the study and training in mission (pp. 316-317); and 5) ecclesiological diversity in the West in view of the changing contexts of world Christianity (pp. 320-324).

In this review, my purpose was primarily to summarize Dr. Stanley's ideas and thus attract the readers to buy and read this excellent book for themselves. My purpose was not to critique the 1910 conference itself, except for pointing out the flaws and weaknesses, which Dr. Stanley has already singled out in passing, such as an occasional imbalance in the composition of a commission, or some discrimination against some native delegates. One observation, however, I wish to add before concluding my review: Even though I looked for it, I could not find a consistent and coherent formulation of the missionary message. What is the one whole gospel that we felt compelled to take to the whole world in one generation in 1910, and one, perhaps, we feel compelled to do so even more urgently in 2010? How is the contemporary gospel message, which is preached today around the world, in congruence or at variance from the Great Commission, an irrevocable mandate, which we have received through the Apostles from Jesus Christ himself in Matthew 28? Is the content of the message to be decided by missionaries on the ground (in view of various socio-cultural environments), and by heads of churches, denominations and mission societies (whose greatly diverse theologies and ecclesiologies may result in a plethora of incomplete and often inconsistent, even contradictory, messages)? Or has the One and Only Message already been decided and communicated by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, leaving to posterity the responsibility for re-formulating and transmitting to changing audiences the message as closely as is humanly possible to the divine original Message (Matt. 28)? Perhaps the 1910 Conference was wise in excluding such discussions from its agenda, discussions which might have brought out greater differences in faith and order than the conference was able or willing to handle at that time. Perhaps the 2010 Conference will have the maturity and hindsight of tabling this vitally important issue, apart from which, I surmise, there is and can be no meaningful missionary engagement.

In conclusion, it is needless to say, Edinburgh 1910 is and will be remembered as a milestone in the history of mission. Professor Brian Stanley's seminal masterpiece is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Christian mission, but especially and more so for anyone involved in the preparation of Edinburgh 2010, or planning to attend "Edinburgh 2010," the centenary celebration of the 1910 World Missionary Conference. Even though many things have changed in many parts of the world during the 20th century, i.e., between 1910 and 2010 (e.g., two world wars, the Great Depression, independence from colonial rule in many countries around the world, the rise and collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and Africa, persisting Marxist-Leninist regimes in China and North Korea, the end of the Cold War, the end of Apartheid in South Africa, technological innovations such as the advent of computers and the internet, the relative ease of international/intercontinental travel and communication as compared to the steamboats at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the North-South polarization, economic and cultural globalization, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, pandemics such as HIV-AIDS and avian/swine flu, ethnic conflicts with or without genocide in Europe and East Africa, the conflict in the Middle-East between Israel and Palestine, the rise of worldwide terrorism, etc.), the 1910 World Missionary Conference clearly remains an inescapable and influential milestone in the history of modern Mission. It will be interesting to read Brian Stanley's next encyclopaedic report (which I have tentatively and perhaps presumptuously titled), "World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 2010: Progress made since 1910, Problems encountered, and Opportunities for the Church in the 21st century." Unlike 1910, where Dr. Brian Stanley as a detective and historian had to rely on extensive primary and secondary sources, in 2010, Brian will have a front seat view and personal interaction with delegates and attendees, live presence at events, and firsthand experience with issues that will be raised in Edinburgh in 2010. If Brian's report of the 1910 conference was exciting and meticulous (and it certainly is), even though it was composed 99 years or so after the actual historical events, how much more exciting and meticulous can we anticipate his report to be for the 2010 conference where he will play an active role. End of Part One. Please stay tuned.... Part Two will come to a library or bookstore near you sometime in late 2010 or early 2011.

NOTE: Should you have any comment(s) and/or suggestion(s) about this review, I can be reached via email at <[...]>. I look forward to hearing from you.
Book review by Jean-Paul HELDT [word count n = 2,961]

Note: This review has also been submitted to Edinburgh 2010 and posted online as, "The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910, by Brian Stanley. 2009: Grand Rapids, MI. Eerdmans. Cost US[...] (List price). Series "Studies in the History of Christian Missions" (R.E. Frykenberg and Brian Stanley, eds.). Book review by Jean-Paul Heldt. Posted on July 12, 2009. [...]."
Grasping the Past for a More Effective Future  Sep 4, 2009
Brian Stanley's book The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910 comes as the Edinburgh 2010 conference is before us. Stanley's grasp of the past will no doubt be helpful as one looks to the future of the missionary enterprise.

He shows the strengths and weaknesses of the 1910 conference. The narrowing down of the countries that were considered mission fields to avoid conflict was one weakness. Another was the lack of participation of nationals from the various mission fields--especially from Africa. Stanley also shows a misunderstanding of the African context--something that the information in this book should remedy in the upcoming Edinburgh 2010 conference.

He also shows the bias that was evident in some of the Commission reports. The "fulfillment" approach to other religions was one area where the greatest bias was seen.

The last chapter on the legacy of Edinburgh 1910 was extremely helpful in the light of the movement towards ecumenicity -whether one considers this good or bad--it was one of the great fruits of Edinburgh 1910.

Anyone wanting to understand the major changes taking place in the missions context needs to read this book. I highly recommend it.

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