Friday, March 18, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of the Cambridge Seven.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 18th of March 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at I’m Dan van Voorhis.

I have a question for you: why was it that the 19th century saw an explosion in world missions?

First, you have the pioneering work of men like Hudson Taylor and Adoniram Judson- their work- and importantly- people writing about them helped spur interest.

Secondly- the steam engine. Don’t sleep on how vital the shift from sails to steam was for reals. It’s like the difference between a newspaper and the internet. The world became a lot smaller, real fast.

And third: college ministries. How many missionaries since the 19th century have come from British and North American collegiate ministries. We’ve talked about the Cambridge Christian Union, which became the model for college ministries today.

And it was the Cambridge Christian Union that made news when it sent the so-called “Cambridge Seven” - a group of missionaries to China to work with Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission.

They would arrive in Shanghai on this the 18th of March in 1885, and their arrival would be news all around the English-speaking world. And that news was planned and promoted by the mission. The China Inland Mission and the Cambridge Christian Union knew that it was crucial to have popular or famous early volunteers to attract new supporters and missionaries.

Secondly, the “muscular Christianity” movement fostered in part by the YMCA saw athletes and athletics as playing a role in evangelization. So- the news of these Cambridge Seven- which included a famous rower and cricketer- resonated with them- the story of this so-called “dream team” was sent out as a booklet to every YMCA and YWCA.

The “dream team” wasn’t that much of a team. While they arrived together on this day in 1885, they would be separated in mission, temperament, and ultimate goals. Let’s run down who these men were:

Charles Studd was the captain of the Cambridge Cricket club and perhaps the most famous of them all his inheritance would help fund the mission work, and he later contributed an essay for the “Fundamentals,” that collection of essays that became the foundation for Christian Fundamentalism in the 20s and 30s.

Stanley Smith was on the Cambridge Rowing team- he helped found the Cambridge Christian Union.

Smith would ultimately leave the mission and become something of a syncretist- preaching a very charismatic Christianity and (somewhat) Buddhist conception of the afterlife.

Dixon Edward Hoste came from the army- and his regimented life seems to have suited him well as an administrator. He would take over the China Inland Mission after Hudson Taylor’s death.

Three men, weary of the increasingly charismatic athletes, moved to Western China, where they founded an Anglican Diocese. They were incredibly English sounding: William Wharton Cassles, Arthur Twistelton Polhill-Turner, and Montague Harry Proctor Beauchamp.

Arthur Polhill Turner’s brother left China for California in the early 20th century- he attended the Asuza Street Revival- had an experience there and decided he would pay the church’s mortgage. He would bring Pentecostalism to Great Britain.

Their stories are a mixed bag, but their promotion led to the China Inland Mission becoming the giant that it would be continuing the work of Hudson Taylor even up to the present (now as OMF International).

Today we remember the arrival of these Cambridge Seven in Shanghai in 1885.

The Last word for today comes from Ephesians 2:

17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 18th of March 2022 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who has embraced muscular Christianity- if only for the liturgical tank tops- he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Beth Anne’s husband- today is her birthday.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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