Saturday, 11 May 2013

Early Restoration Pioneers Outside the United States


     Along with the concerted effort in the 19th century to restore New Testament Christianity in North America, similar movements were underway in other parts of the world. The present study documents some of these works from Scotland to New Zealand, from New Zealand to Australia, and from Australia to Southern Africa.      
From Scotland to New Zealand:
     Thomas Jackson, a product of the restoration movement in Glasgow, Scotland, arrived in New Zealand in November 1843, bringing with him the simple plea for undenominational Christianity. With the help of George Taylor from Yorkshire, a congregation was planted in the South Island city of Nelson in March 1844, becoming the first church of Christ in the Southern Hemisphere. A second congregation was started in Auckland by Jackson and some of his converts the following year. Word eventually spread to the United States, and in 1846 Alexander Campbell devoted two pages in his Millennial Harbinger to the news of the establishment and growth of churches of Christ in New Zealand. 
     By 1885 there was a membership of over 1,200 New Testament Christians among twenty-five congregations. J. W. Shepherd, who would later serve as editor of the Gospel Advocate, preached in Christchurch and Oamaru from 1888 to early 1890 before heading to Australia. Near the turn of the 20th century, human innovations began creeping into the New Zealand churches, including a conference system of church organization, ecumenical philosophies, and instrumental music in worship. Although a small number of disciples resisted these changes, a denominational organization known as the Associated Church of Christ eventually formed.
     Cyril Tucker, having been influenced by the Gospel Advocate, was instrumental in getting staff writer John Allen Hudson from Oklahoma to come to New Zealand in 1936 to teach the Bible for a year. Californian Paul Mathews arrived in 1956, locating a six-member congregation in Nelson, eight members in Auckland, and two in Wellington. Mathews helped establish additional churches in Invercargill (1957), Tauranga (1958), and Dunedin (1959), with the Bill Watts family and more U.S. workers arriving in the following decades. Today there are about two dozen autonomous churches of Christ in New Zealand.
From New Zealand to Australia:
     One of Thomas Jackson’s first converts in New Zealand was Englishman Thomas Magarey, who moved to Australia in 1845 at the age of twenty. By 1848 Magarey had successfully led out of denominationalism a Scotch Baptist assembly in Adelaide, thus establishing the Lord’s church in Australia. The previous year, however, a group of Christians from the New Mills church of Christ in Scotland had immigrated to Australia and settled in the Willunga Maclaren area.
     In the 1860s and 1870s North American missionaries began arriving in Australia, including Henry S. Earl and Tommy J. Gore. J. W. Shepherd worked in Sydney from 1890 to 1892. While the brotherhood in Australia reached as many as 130 congregations consisting of approximately 8,000 members, the introduction of the missionary society and mechanical instruments brought about division in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Only about 100 Christians were left who opposed the innovations, mainly around the Sydney area.   
     Gospel Advocate staff writer John Allen Hudson, having spent the previous year in New Zealand, visited Australia in 1937. In 1948 Charles Tinius was the first full-time evangelist from the United States in Australia since J. W. Shepherd fifty-six years earlier, and Tom Tarbet arrived in 1955. Additional U.S. missionaries contributed to the work in subsequent years, and today there are over eighty-five nondenominational churches of Christ in Australia.
From New Zealand/Australia to Southern Africa:
     John Sherriff, the son of English immigrants, was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1864. At the age of twenty-one he moved to Melbourne, Australia to train as a stonemason. It was here that he learned and obeyed the gospel and became active in the work of the church. In 1889 he married Marguerite Wilson, but when their first child died in infancy, Marguerite became mentally unstable and had to be confined to an institution for the rest of her life. In later years, following her death, Sherriff married Emma Dodson, one of his Australian converts. 
     Sherriff decided to leave the South Pacific region to become a self-supporting missionary, arriving in Cape Town, South Africa in February 1896. He organized a church of twelve members in Cape Town, and he settled for a time in Pretoria where he started a congregation there also. He then moved further north into Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe), arriving in Bulawayo in the last hours of 1897.
     In 1898, while working as a stonemason during the day, Sherriff began teaching his African workers at night. Meeting twice a week, he taught them to read English using the Bible as a textbook. Many were baptized and then trained to preach. By 1904 he had baptized two whites, six African women, and sixty-seven African men and boys. 
     Sherriff enthusiastically wrote to friends in Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand about the missionary prospects in the area and gained additional support. It was during this time that the missionary society was growing in prominence, and it appears that some support initially came from the Foreign Missions Committee of New Zealand. Additional workers from New Zealand and Scotland came to help in the work.
     At Forrest Vale (five miles/eight kilometers from Bulawayo) a 412-acre farm was purchased, becoming Sherriff’s permanent home, with his wife, two daughters, and two African girls they raised from childhood. There an agricultural school was begun, where Sherriff trained and sent out African evangelists to other parts of Zimbabwe and to other nations in Central and Southern Africa. In later years Sherriff was instrumental in establishing the work at Livingstone in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and in Blantyre in Nyasaland (now Malawi), and he also helped to start another congregation in Cape Town, South Africa. 
     By 1918 churches of Christ in the United States became involved in this work. Jesse P. Sewell persuaded the church in Sherman, Texas to support Sherriff, with additional support coming later from A. M. Burton of Nashville, Tennessee, allowing brother Sherriff to shift his energies from stone-cutting to full-time ministry. In 1921 Will N. and Nancy Short became the first U.S. missionaries to join the work. John Sherriff died at his home in Forrest Vale in 1935. Today there are over 400 churches of Christ in Zimbabwe.
     From Great Britain to New Zealand to Australia to Southern Africa: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 NKJV).
--Kevin L. Moore

Works Consulted:
     Hastings, Marvin W. Saga of a Movement: Story of the Restoration Movement. Manchester, TN: Christian Schoolmaster, 1981: 51-64.
     Jacobs, Lyndsay. “The Movement in New Zealand,” in The Encyclopedia of the Stone Campbell-Movement. Eds. Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavan, and D. Newell Williams. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004: 563-66.
     Kyle, Rod. “From the Heart of New Zealand,” in The Voice of Truth International 32 (n.d.): 102-110.
     Lyn, Mac, ed., Churches of Christ Around the World. Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2003: 28, 160.
     Major, Trevor. "J.W. Shepherd's Work in New Zealand (1888-1890)," in Gospel Advocate 154:12 (December 2012): 30-31.
     Meredith, Don L. “John Sherriff,” in The Encyclopedia of the Stone Campbell-Movement. Eds. Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavan, and D. Newell Williams. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004: 684.
     Merrit, Dow. The Dew Breakers. Nashville, TN: World Vision, 1971: 10-23.
     Rutherford, Rod. Practical Principles of World Evangelism. Powell, TN: Rutherford Publications, n.d.: 53-54.

Image Credit: http://parkerbiblechurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Man_holding_bible-63271.jpg

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