Devolution in Mission Administration as Exemplified by the Legislative History of Five American Missionary Societies in India

Fleming, Daniel J.

     It is evident . . . that the very success of missionary forces in raising up a Church rooted in the soil of each land brings with it what is one of the most difficult problems of modern Mission administration -- viz., the adjustment of relations between Missions and home Church on the one side and the growing, indigenous Church on the other. It is universally admitted that missionary operations are not to be permanent; but the question how they may withdraw still, for the most part, has to be worked out. . . . It is to the historical consideration of this problem of the devolution of powers and responsibilities from foreign Mission to indigenous Church that this study addresses itself. The goal of this study is to state and to illustrate some of the problems of devolution in mission administration from the legislative history of five of the largest American Societies, working in India, and representing the three great Church polities, viz.: The American Board of Commissioners or Foreign Missions; The American Baptist Foreign Mission Society; The Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in U.S.A.; The Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church in America; The Board of Foreign Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
     The main sources for this study . . . [are] the formal legislation and declarations of Church courts, Foreign Mission Societies or Boards, and Missions. In each case these primary sources have been found in the original manuscript or printed form, and at the official headquarters of the Mission concerned. Criticism of such modern material was unnecessary. The data . . . [are] organized about certain outstanding problems of devolution; but under each problem the Societies receive separate treatment. For the further elucidation of this primary material we have turned to contemporary, annual, mission Reports; to contemporary papers and magazines; and to the Proceedings of Mission Conferences.