by Edwin L. Frizen, Jr.
During the past four years the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association has exhibited an active interest in the subject of closer cooperation between evangelical missions, including mission amalgamation.
During the past four years the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association has exhibited an active interest in the subject of closer cooperation between evangelical missions, including mission amalgamation. This interest became public in 1966. Dr. Paul Culley, long-time missionary and missions professor, presented a paper entitled "An Exploratory Study of Amalgamation" at the IFMA Annual Meeting. Olan Hendrix of the IFMA Cooperation and Comity Committee wrote an article,
"Too Many Missions”. This article was published in Evangelical Missions Quarterly and given wide circulation in a number of other Christian periodicals.
Delegates to the 1966 Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission specifically declared:
"That we will encourage evangelical mission mergers when such will eliminate duplication of administration, produce more efficient stewardship of personnel and resources, and strengthen their ministries.
"That we caution evangelicals to avoid establishing new churches or organizations where existing groups of like precious faith satisfactorily fill the role."
Later at the Glen Eyrie Missions Study Conference in June, 1967, evangelical mission leaders expressed the following convictions concerning evangelical mission unity.
"… believing firmly that a manifestation of such unity is essential to the hastening of world evangelization, we affirm our purpose to carry out the mandate of the (Wheaton) Declaration: 1. To expedite advantageous mergers .. . for the purpose of economy of manpower and money, it is urged that mission boards enter into consultations with a view to establishing facts and furthering understanding which may lead to such mergers. 2. Where the field force of any mission is smail resulting in disproportionate administrative burden and making comprehensive ministry and continuity difficult, it is urged that there be merging of field operations including administrative offices, guest houses, schools and other facilities, and a channeling of the fruits of evangelism into a common church fellowship."
Within IFMA membership there are examples of mission amalgamation, most of which have been absorptions. International Missions has absorbed a number of smaller missions including most recently the Oriental Boat Mission. The North Africa Mission has absorbed the work of a small mission in its area.
The Evangelical Alliance Mission has absorbed several smaller missions. On May 1, 1969, the North American branch of the Sudan United Mission was amalgamated into The Evangelical Alliance Mission making the Republic of Chad, located South of the Sahara, TEAM’s twenty-first field.
The Unevangelized Fields Mission absorbed the North American branch of the Egypt General Mission. The Ceylon and India General Mission changed its name to International Christian Fellowship and merged with the Poona and Indian Village Mission.
The United Faith Mission resigned from IFMA membership to merge with the Pioneer Bible Mission forming the United Missionary Fellowship. Subsequently, the Evangelical Deaf Mission, which had discussed merger with several IFMA missions, was also merged into the UMF.
At the present time several IFMA missions are in various stages of negotiation concerning merger, which could result in additional mergers or absorptions in the days ahead.
In 1966 the discussions on mission merger emphasized the economy of manpower and money which could be effected by merger. While good stewardship of men and material is still an important factor, this is only a part of the advantages seen in the pooling of the resources of several missions. Mission amalgamation should produce:
1. Increased worldwide missionary emphasis resulting from reorganizational studies involved in amalgamation procedures.
2. More flexibility of missionary assignments in the case of political unrest or war on a particular field.
3. Enrichment of fellowship for missionaries through their contact with missionaries from other fields.
4. Improved coordination and supervision of field organizations and operations. A small field force often results in a disproportionate administrative burden and makes continuity and a comprehensive ministry difficult.
5. Opportunity for a unified approach to the churches on the field as well as in the sending countries.
6. Possibility of better provision for retired missionaries.
7. Better stewardship of the total office operation making possible the unification of headquarters facilities and streamlining of business administration. Elimination of mailings and records duplication and savings through a combined promotional literature program. Opportunity for coordinated deputational schedules.
The annual meeting of the IFMA has encouraged the Cooperation and Comity Committee to continue to work toward creating a climate favorable to evangelical cooperation and mission merger. The current specific objectives of the Committee may be stated.
1. To reduce the total number of evangelical mission
organizations by means of merger, amalgamation or absorption.
2. To create and maintain in the IFMA and throughout the evangelical community an atmosphere that will make increasingly difficult the creation of new organizations and the entering of already occupied areas apart from strong, mutually obvious reasons, and then only in consultation and cooperation with existing evangelical groups.
3. To prepare and provide practical guidelines, stimulation and opportunity for all forms of evangelical cooperation including merger, and the interchange of strategic ideas at every level of work, both domestic and foreign.
To accomplish these objectives the IFMA Cooperation and Comity Committee has planned a series of Cooperation and Merger Workshops for representatives of all IFMA missions. Two such workshops have already been held at Missionary Internship, Farmington, Michigan. These sessions held December 4-6, 1968 and June 4-6, 1969 involved representatives of 20 different missions, mainly North American based groups.
The positive response of the mission leaders involved in these workshops has encouraged the committee to plan two additional sessions to endeavor to involve all member missions in these small-group working sessions. The next session planned for December 15-17 is for representatives of internationally sponsored missions.
The program of these workshops includes special Bible studies on the general theme of cooperation, a historical review of the IFMA interest in cooperation and merger, presentations on merger administration and merger organization, intermission cooperation at home and on the field, merger case studies. Time is also given to a study of a theoretical amalgamation plan and discussion in various small work groups and buzz sessions.
The presentation by Keith Jones, General Director of the International Christian Fellowship was one of the case studies presented at the June, 1969 workshop.
Copyright © 1970 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.