History of Christianit missionary work

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See also History of Christianity

See also Race Equality – the ‘conversion’ of peoples to Christianity in some areas colonised by Europeans was sometimes forceful and more to do with political power than Christian caring. One little word, ‘all’,  was massively damaging – the Catholics took Matthew 24:14 ‘And the end will not come until the good news has been preached to all the nations’ to mean that Christians could not attain paradise until all people (not simply ‘all nations’) had accepted conversion (or been killed as heretics). This doctrine frequently justified vioilence or forcible conversion (often, enslavement) of indigenous peoples.


Map of Christian areas of Europe, 11th Century.


8/4/1901, James Chalmers, Scottish missionary to New Guinea, died (born 1841).

15/4/1889, Joseph de Veuster, missionary to Hawaii, died (born 3/1/1840)

1878, The Livingstone Central Africa Company was formed to assist the missionary work of Scottish Presbyterians in Nyasaland (Malawi). Founded by the two brothers, Fred and John Moir, it built steamships on Lake Nyasa, but was opposed by local Muslim leaders. The Company was poorly financed; in 1893 it was bought out by Cecil Rhodes, who transformed it into the African Lakes Trading Company. It continued as a largely commercial trading operation until the end of colonial rule in Africa.

25/6/1872, William Ellis, missionary to Polynesia, died (born 29/8/1794).

1860, Tonga became Christian.

31/3/1860, Evariste Huc, French missionary to China, died (born 1/8/1813).

9/8/1851, Karl Gutzlaff, German missionary to China, died (born 8/7/1803).

3/1/1840, Joseph de Veuster, missionary to Hawaii, was born (died 15/4/1889).

10/7/1836, Jean Cheverus, Roman Catholic missionary to North America, died (born 28/1/1768)

1830, Missionary work in Samoa began when John Williams of the London Missionary Society arrived from the Cook Islands and Tahiti.

31/3/1820, The first Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii, from New England, USA.

7/2/1816, Italian missionary, Giovanni Lantrua of Trioria, was executed by the Chinese.

1/8/1813, Evariste Huc, French missionary to China, was born (died 31/3/1860).

26/4/1806, Alexander Duff, Scottish missionary to India, was born (died 12/2/1878).

1805, German missionaries began work in Namibia.

1796, The Scottish Missionary Society was formed. Its first work was in the Tartar areas around the Black Sea and Caspian Sea.

1795, The London Missionary Society was formed by an interdenominational group of Christians; their first work was in Tahiti in March 1797. They subsequently worked across China, south Asia, Africa and the West Indies.

29/8/1794, William Ellis, missionary to Polynesia, was born (died 25/6/1872).

1792, The Baptist Missionary Society was formed. It worked across the world, in India, China, and other regions of south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

1783, Christianity was introduced to Korea, by Korean diplomatic delegates who had been converted in China.

1786, The first Wesleyian missionary work began, in the West Indies.

28/1/1768, Jean Cheverus, Roman Catholic missionary to North America, was born (died 10/7/1836).

5/11/1758, Hans Egede, the Apostle of Greenland, died. Born in Norway in 1686, he was appointed pastor of Vagen, Norway, in 1707. He desired to convert the descendants of the Norse in Greenland (whom he feared had missed out on the Reformation and so  might still be Catholic; or worse, have lapsed back into paganism) and departed for there in 1721. Finding the Norse to have died out, he set about converting the Inuit. The death of his wife Getrude Rask in 1736 caused him to leave Greenland. In 1740 he became superintendent of the Greenland Mission in Copenhagen.

19/10/1747, David Brainerd, US missionary to the Indians, died in Northampton, Massachusetts (born in Haddam, Connecticut 20/4/1718).

3/5/1721, Hans Egede, Norwegian missionary, set sail from Bergen with the aim of converting the Norsemen of Greenland to Christianity. However on arrival he found no Norsemen, only Eskimo, whose language he did not understand/. He persisted, founding the settlement of Godthaab, until ill-health forced his return to Norway in 1736 where he became Principal of a seminary in Copenhagen.

20/4/1718, David Brainerd, US missionary to the Indians, was born in Haddam, Connecticut (died in Northampton, Massachusetts,  19/10/1747).

1715, Christian missionaries were expelled from China.

1705, The first Protestant mission to India. Ziegenbalg estanlished a Danish Lutheran mission at Tranquebar.

1701, In England, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was formed.

21/5/1690, John Eliot, the ‘Apostle to the Indians’, died (born 1604). He preached to the Amerindian tribes, and translated the Bible into the Algonquian language.

31/1/1686, Hans Egede, Norwegian missionary to Greenland was born, see 3/5/1721.

1646, John Eliot began a missionary work amongst the American Indians.

1642, Missionary work amongst the Canadian Indians began from Montreal.

1622, Pope Gregory XV established the ‘Propaganda’, to assist Roman Catholic missionary work.

1555, The earliest Protestant missionary work began, in Brazil.

3/12/1552. Death of Francis Xavier, Basque Jesuit missionary, called ‘the apostle of the Indies’, who helped Ignatius Loyola found the Jesuits.  He died near Canton, China.

6/10/1552, Birth of Matteo Ricci, pioneering Jesuit missionary to China.

15/8/1549, Francis Xavier entered the Japanese port of Kagoshima to begin a conversion work.

1548, Jesuit missionaries began work in the Congo region.

6/5/1542, Francis Xavier arrived at the Portuguese colony of Goa, India, to begin his work of converting the indigenous inhabitants to Christianity.

7/4/1506, St Francis Xavier, Spanish Jesuit missionary, was born near Sanguesa.

1491, The Portuguese introduced Christianity to the Kongo Kingdom in Africa.

1387, Lithuania became Christian.

1293, The first Christian missionaries arrived in China.

1283, The Teutonic Knights completed their Christianising of the pagan Prussians.

1154, King Eric IX of Sweden introduced Christianity to his country.

1000, Christianity reached Iceland and Greenland. Iceland’s Althing chose to adopt Christianity over Odin-worship. By now, Christianity had reached Bulgaria, Hungary, Bohemia, Poland, Saxony, Denmark, Russia, and all of Scandinavia.

23/4/997, St Adalbert, the Apostle of the Prussians, from Prague, was murdered by the Prussians, whom he was trying to convert. He had also preached to the Hungarians and Bohemians, the latter being annoyed by his asceticism.

988, Christianity (Eastern) introduced to Kiev by Vladimir.

966, The conversion of Poland to Christianity began.

960, Haakon Haraldson, King of Norway, attempted to introduce Christianity to his subects.

942, The conversion of Hungary to Christianity began.

875, The Raksa region, between Belgrade and the Adriatic, was converted to Christianity.

864, Boris, King of Bulgaria, converted to Christianity, leading to the conversion of the Bulgars.

863, Cyril and Methodius, the ‘Apostles of the Slavs’, began conversion work in Moravia, and invented the Cyrillic alphabet for writing the Bible in. They had gone to Moravia at the request of Rotislav, ruler of Moravia, who in 862 asked the Byzantine Emperor Michael III to send missionaries.

826, King Harald of Denmark was baptised at Mainz. He returned to Denmark with the missionary monk, Ansgar (801 – 865), who spread Christianity in Scandinavia.

781, Nestorian Christians preached in China, and built monasteries.

5/6/754. The English missionary Boniface (born 673) and 53 companions were murdered in Germany by pagans.

30/9/722. Boniface was ordained as Bishop of Germany by the Pope and returned to Germany to continue his conversion work there.

715, The monk Winfrith, (future St Boniface) began missionary work in Germany. In 725 he felled the famous Donar Oak at Fritzlar, Hesse, which had been a centre of pagan worship.

687, The Isle of Wight became the last area of southern England to convert to Christianity.

686, Sussex, the last pagan kingdom in England, converted to Christianity.

664, Synod of Whitby. The date of Easter, originally coincident with the Jewish Passover Day, had been changed by the Church in Rome in 457 to ensure it always fell upon a Sunday; Easter Sunday was now the Sunday between the 15th and 21st days of the lunar month in the first month of thr Jewish lunar year. Easter Sunday was calculated according to the Victorius of Aquitaine. As Britian was by then no longer part of the Roman Empire, this ruling did not affect the Church in Britain, which continued to hold Easter by the old calendar. At the Synod of Whitby, the British clergy agreed to conform to the practice of Rome.

31/8/651, Saint Aidan, missionary and first bishop of Lindisfarne, died.

5/8/642. Death of the Christian King Oswald of Northumbria at the Battle of Maserfield, lost to the invading Kingdom of Mercia, under the pagan King Penda. King Oswald had succeeded to the |Kingdom of Bernicia in 634 and in 635 reunited the whole of Northumbria under his rule Northumbria had previously been converted to Christianity by Paulinus  but had relapsed under the heathen successors to Edwin. Oswald was a Christian and sent for a new Bishop. Paulinus had been a member of the Roman Church but his successor was from the Celtic church, the monastery of Iona, which Oswald had visited during his exile. The first monk sent under Oswald failed to make any headway amongst the ‘uncouth Northumbrians’ but a second, Aidan, was sent as Bishop of Northumbria. Aidan retained his See when the Mercians defeated and slew Oswald, and Aidan died at Bamburgh on 31/8/651.

635, Wessex was converted to Christianity.

631, A Nestorian Christian missionary group reached China, and were allowed to preach there.They continued there for over a century.

12/4/627, Paulinus, last of the missionaries send by Pope Gregory I, built a wooden church in the old Roman legionary headquarters in York and baptised Edwin of Northumbria as the first Christian king in Northern England.

625, The missionary Paulinus arrived in Northumbria.

615, Columban the Younger, missionary to France and Ireland, born 550, died.

25/12/597, At Christmas, Christianity spread rapidly in Kent, Augustine and his fellow-labourers baptised more than 10,000 Anglo-Saxons.

596, Pope Gregory sent St Augustine to conduct missionary work in Britain.

589, The Lombards in Italy, under King Authari and Queen Theodelinda, converted to Catholicism.

587, The Visigoths in Spain converted to Christianity.

563, St Columba established a church on Iona, and began to convert the Picts from there.

550, Wales was converted to Christianity by St David. David (Dewi) was canonised in 1120 to become the patron saint of Wales.

498, The Frankish King Clovis I converted to Christianity, leading to the conversion of the Frankish nation.

432, St Ninian, the first known missionary to Scotland, born ca.360,died and was buried in the Church at Whithorn.

397, St Ninian established a church at Whithorn in order to evangelise the southern Picts. Son of a British chieftain, St Ninian had made a pilgrimage to Rome and studied for 15 tears to become a bishop.

350, Christianity reached Abyssinia. It had also reached Kerala, southern India, which was a key trading post on the sea route between the Middle East and China.

300, Christianity reached Armenia.

45, Paul began his extensive missionary journeys.


See also Roman Empire


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