American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions 200th Anniversary
America’s first foreign mission society, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) was formed by Congregationalists in Massachusetts in 1810. In 2010, we commemorate the 200th Anniversary of this predecessor to Global Ministries.
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was founded in 1810, the first organized missionary society in the United States. By the time of its centenary in 1910, the Board was responsible for 102 mission stations and a missionary staff of 600 in India, Ceylon, West Central Africa (Angola), South Africa and Rhodesia, Turkey, China, Japan, Micronesia, Hawaii, the Philippines, North American Native American tribes, and the “Papal lands” of Mexico, Spain, and Austria.
The Board’s archive has an importance transcending church or missionary concerns. In particular, the voluminous letters of the missionaries from the field are fundamental sources for the history of the various places where the Board operated, as the Board’s missionaries were often the first Westerners to document the languages and cultures of their hosts. Also included are records of organizations associated with the Board and miscellaneous manuscripts, largely personal papers and photographs of individuals connected with the Board. The archive is heavily used by scholars in history, anthropology, and linguistics, and by genealogists seeking details of their family history.
Located at the Houghton Library at Harvard University, the archive can be consulted by anyone conducting serious research; you do not need to have a Harvard ID. Content lists of various parts of the archive and digitized material can be found on the Harvard University Library’s website, Hollis Arvices.
In 1961, the American Board merged to form the United Church Board for World Missions (UCBWM). After 150 years, the American Board had sent out nearly 5000 missionaries to 34 different fields.
In 2000, the UCBWM evolved into Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ. It continues to be involved in mission around the world through Global Ministries, in partnership with the Division of Overseas Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Mission History and Study
- ABCFM Historical Documents
- The Missionary Herald
- Mission Study
- Common Global Ministries Board History
- Missiology: Models of Mission in the 20th Century Ecumenical Movement
- The Sailing of the First American Missionaries Overseas
- Notable Appearances of the ABCFM in U.S. and World History
- Houghton Library at Harvard University
- Congregational Library: American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions – Overview