History of Asia CMS
The origins of the Church Mission Society (CMS) go back to 1799 in London, UK, when a small group of Anglican evangelicals with a passion for worldwide outreach met to pray. They included John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, and William Wilberforce, who was a leader in abolishing the slave trade in England. They founded the society with a purpose of sending missionaries to Africa and the East, with some early missionaries going to Sierra Leone, Kenya, China, India and Japan.
When CMS was founded China was closed to all missionaries, yet this didn’t stop CMS from sending Robert Morrison as its first missionary to China in 1807. Travelling in defiance of the Chinese authorities, he distributed tracts wherever he could, but it wasn’t until after the Opium War that five Chinese ports were opened to European missionaries in 1842 that mission began in earnest in China, setting up schools, founding dispensaries and appointing church leaders.
When CMS began work in India the British East India Company would not allow missionaries in the areas which it administered. William Wilberforce (the first Vice President of CMS and famous campaigner for the abolition of the slave trade) led a movement for the revision of the East India Company charter to enable missionaries to preach the Gospel to the Indians. By the time a Charter Bill was passed in 1813, CMS already had missionaries training for work in India and by 1814 the first two CMS missionaries arrived in Madras. CMS continued to work extensively in India establishing schools, printing Bibles and appointing church leaders.
CMS has a strong legacy of evangelism, church planting, mission schools and hospitals across Asia and Africa. Today CMS UK is still involved in sending mission partners overseas but also pioneering church work in the UK. CMS is committed to seeing indigenous CMS missions established globally – enabling local mission leaders to follow God’s leading. CMS opened a regional office in Korea in 2006. In 2008 it established CMS Africa as an autonomous mission movement based in Nairobi, Kenya. In 2012 AsiaCMS was established as an autonomous mission movement based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia under the Executive Director, Dr Tan Kang San.
AsiaCMS seeks to draw on the experience and wisdom of the CMS community, but also has the freedom to evolve and develop an authentic Asian mission movement as we follow God’s leading and respond to the needs within the Asian context. The CMS community leaders meet regularly for ‘Interchange’ to encourage, network and support each other. CMS interchange is made up of CMS Britain, CMS Africa, CMS New Zealand, CMS Australia and CMS Ireland as well as AsiaCMS.