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.