Twenty-Five Unbelievable Years: The Foreign Missions Policy Of The Reformed Presbyterian Church Of North America, 1945-1970 -- By: Gordon J. Keddie

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 04:1 (Jan 2012)
Article: Twenty-Five Unbelievable Years: The Foreign Missions Policy Of The Reformed Presbyterian Church Of North America, 1945-1970
Author: Gordon J. Keddie


Twenty-Five Unbelievable Years:
The Foreign Missions Policy Of The Reformed
Presbyterian Church Of North America, 1945-1970

Gordon J. Keddie

“Twenty-five unbelievable years” is how missiologist Ralph Winter describes the years from 1945 to 1970. This was the period when the “retreat of the West” took place, the so-called “Third World” emerged, and, consequently, the face of missions was forced to take on an entirely new complexion.1

In her 212 years of existence as an American denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America—often called for short the RPCNA or the Covenanters—has never been a large church. Her peak membership, in 1891, was a mere 11,272 communicants. By 1971, that number had declined to 4,315.2 Yet, in 1940, at what may be judged in years to come to be the height of her overseas missionary endeavors, she maintained some four missions in Asia—in Syria, Cyprus, China, and Manchuria—with twenty-three missionaries and 1,320 communicants in thirty congregations and mission stations (a number with native pastors), several hospitals, and numerous schools. The Second World War and the rising tide of Communism which succeeded it would have major repercussions for RP missions. Communism would close Manchuria and China, and Arab nationalism would drive the missionaries from Syria. Only one of the existing fields would remain—British-ruled Cyprus—and it too would see great changes as the colonial era died. A new field would open in 1950 in Japan. Both were still active RP commitments in 2010.

It is to the post-war period that we will confine our attention. The focus will be upon the development of policy and practice within the missions of the RPCNA in that quarter-century after the end of the Second World War. The approach taken is principally historical, but also doctrinal, since it is impossible to understand the present course of RP missions apart from their origin and development, which is in the context of the witness of a small and very distinctive denomination—the Reformed Presbyterianism of the “old school” Covenanter variety. Section I will survey the back-story of RP missions prior to 1945. Section II will cover the missions from 1945 to 1970, noting how policies are adjusted to meet the changing requirements in the fields. In Section III, both problems and policy will be examined in a comprehensive fashion.3

Setting The Scene: RP Missions Prior To 1945

First Attempts At RP Missions: 1818-1849

The early days of the RP church were...

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