Withdrawl from the Board
When Dr. Crawford arrived in Shanghai early in 1889 on his way to the United States, he found the Southern Baptists of the Central China mission (including the stations Shanghai, Su Chow and Chinkiang) earnestly discussing a new departure. They were unanimous in thinking that the salary allowed them by the Foreign Mission Board was larger than was needed for a comfortable support. Some were in favor of reducing the salary and also of adopting the native dress and modified Chinese dwellings, hoping thereby to get nearer the people. Dr. Crawford was invited to join in the discussions and heartily responded. Prior to 1886 the salary allowed by the Board had been nine hundred ounces of silver, or the equivalent at that time of one thousand and thirty dollars for a man and his wife. In that year the amount was raised to twelve hundred dollars, but Dr. Crawford had not only never accepted the whole twelve hundred dollars, but was unwilling to do so. It is a rare occurrence to see a man, even a minister of Jesus, decline to receive an increase in his salary.
The Central China missionaries corresponded with those of Northern and Southern China, and received various replies. The southern missionaries were opposed to wearing the native dress. For twenty years Dr. Crawford, in accommodation to Chinese ideas, had adopted a long loose coat, and the most of the North China missionaries had for some years been wearing the native costume. The Bosticks and Miss Knight, passing through Shanghai soon after, going to North China, thought it would be best to test the matter of salary before deciding. They and others in the north did, after trial, reduce their salaries. Later the Chinkiang missionaries returned to the full salary and to European dress.
During Dr. Crawford's absence in Texas, April, 1889, to June, 1890, the religious services in his chapel were principally conducted by Deacon Chang and other native members. Occasionally Mr. Pruitt visited them from Hwang Hien, and preached and administered the Lord's Supper. Mr. Bostick, who arrived in July,
1889, was soon able to administer the ordinances. Early in 1890 he baptized two men and one woman, but was still, on Dr. Crawford's return, not sufficiently at home in the language to preach, and the latter found it necessary to again take charge of the church for a while, Mr. Bostick gradually relieving him as time wore on. The native Christians seeing a strong, aggressive young man going in and out before them, began to gather fresh courage and to go forward.
Before going to China Mr. Bostick was in favor of fostering native self-support, and grew firmer in these convictions by what he saw on the field. Mr. Pruitt, as seen from his letter quoted in last chapter, believed in and was working on these lines, and so also was Miss Moon. The Leagues, Misses Knight, Barton, and Thornton, though not yet entered upon active work, were in favor of the self-support principles. In September, 1890, they all were in Teng Chow for a short while, where they had daily meetings for praise and prayer for blessings on their counsels and efforts. To promote facility in their labors and for a better understanding of each other's position, it was suggested that their views be expressed in writing, which, after full discussion, was unanimously agreed upon.
As previously mentioned, Dr. Crawford had returned from America invigorated in health, and now, seeing the whole mission heartily united in laboring according to self-support methods, his strain of mind and spirit was greatly relieved; still his thoughts led him on to other Scriptural conclusions. While in Texas he had conversed with various persons and had advocated the idea of local churches appointing and supporting their own missionaries. One friend said, "No use to talk about that. You can't make a ripple." What he saw and heard in various places certainly did not promise much toward decentralization, but everything pointed in the other direction with accelerating speed. Mr. Bostick was still a member of Dr. Crawford's household, and they held frequent conversations on this and kindred subjects, in which Mrs. Crawford often joined. She says this was really the beginning of her giving serious attention and study to the centralization drift in Baptist churches.
Miss Moon's long contemplated visit home for rest was still deferred until some missionary should settle at Ping Tu, where Miss Knight resided alone. In 1891 Mr. and Mrs. League went to occupy that place, and Miss Moon, in company with the Pruitts, started for the homeland. The Hwang Hien station was thus left for more than a year without an occupant. In October of that year Mr.
King came for Hwang Hien, and Mr. and Mrs. Sears for Ping Tu. But as they must all study the language before going to work, and as it was not deemed prudent for a newcomer to be alone at a station, Mr. King decided to remain a year at Teng Chow. Shortly after the arrival of these three, Mr. Bostick and Miss Thornton were married at Teng Chow by Dr. Crawford, the United States consul kindly consenting to go up and be present at the ceremony, rather than require their presence at Chefoo for that purpose.
A letter had been received during the summer, saying that a church in North Carolina had decided to support a missionary in North China. Dr. Crawford was so much pleased that he wrote a letter to the pastor of this church, warmly advocating this way of sending missionaries. He also wrote similar letters to various other persons, and finally to promote this idea produced his tract, Churches, To the Front! which was published early in 1892. Mr. Bostick about this time concluded to send his resignation to the Board and throw himself upon God and the churches, as local bodies, for a support, which he and Mrs. Bostick, a true helpmeet, did on January 12, 1892.
In the spring of 1891 Mr. Herring made a tour to the far interior province of Si Chuen. There were so many missionaries in Shanghai and other coast ports, and he longed to give the gospel to the regions beyond. He also desired to get away, if possible, from the subsidy method so prevalent around him. He found the field he sought, and returned with his desires strengthened. The Board was hardly in a condition to open a new station with sufficient force to man it so far up the great river. Mr. Herring, therefore, decided to visit the United States and make a special effort to gather a band of young men for this distant field. He wished Mr. Bostick to join this band, and requested him not to be in a hurry to carry out his purpose to resign. It was hoped that Mr. Herring, by seeing the Board in person, might induce them to foster the enterprise and transmit funds direct from a supporting church to its missionary, according to the instructions of the Southern Baptist Convention at Richmond in 1859. In February of 1892 Mr. Herring made a short visit to Teng Chow, bringing with him a Swedish Baptist missionary who was anxious to settle in cooperating distance of Baptists laboring on self-support lines. Mr. Herring found the missionaries at Teng Chow in sympathy with his designs and ready to await his action before taking further steps. On returning to Shanghai, being as he believed led of the Spirit, he decided to proceed to the United States immediately, and sailed in March. It is hardly necessary
to state here that on reaching Richmond he failed to receive the Board's approval of his plans, and so offered his resignation. After his deep affliction in the death of his wife and two children, followed by a long illness of himself, he began his campaign to find a band of young men for the field and churches to send and support them. By this time Dr. Crawford's name had been dropped from the roll of missionaries on account of his tract, Churches, To the Front!. And as Mrs. Crawford's name had been retained she, in July, 1892, sent her resignation to the Board. A few months later Mr. League's connection with the Board was also severed on account of his unacceptable views.
When Mrs. Crawford's resignation was offered it was not the intention of the Crawfords to leave Teng Chow. They expected to go on doing the same work as before, which would of course go in the Board's name. They were working for the Lord, and felt that their race was almost run, and they cared not who might claim the results. They were members of the Teng Chow Baptist Church, which was composed, in the main, of their spiritual children, and they saw no reason why they should not still labor to build it up, and to gather new converts in the country around like its other members. Mr. King, though still without sufficient command of the language to preach, had moved to Hwang Hien, leaving only the Crawfords, Bosticks and Miss Barton in the work at Teng Chow. They felt that the seeds they had sown these thirty years should not be left uncared for. At the same time Mrs. Crawford had said in her published article about her resignation that, if Providence so indicated, they were ready to go to the ends of the earth. The Board, through Dr. Tupper, wrote to Dr. Crawford asking information in regard to the property of the Southern Baptist Convention at Teng Chow and the other Shantung stations. Dr. Crawford in reply gave him a careful statement of all their property, and referred to the written agreement in regard to the house in which he lived. In April, 1893, a letter from the Treasurer of the Board asked Dr. Crawford if he would not keep the house and release the Board from their obligation to take it, stating that the Board would probably not need it for their work. He replied that he did not wish to own property in Teng Chow, and that the house would be delivered to them whenever the Board desired it.
In the meantime, those on the field had been corresponding with Mr. Herring, and suggested that it would be best for his band and the six retired missionaries to unite their forces and occupy some interior region west of Chefoo, thence proceeding, when they
should grow strong enough, to the southwest even as far as Si Chuen.
Their own leaving Teng Chow would depend upon circumstances. They could learn nothing definite in regard to the Board's designs, but caught only an inkling here and there. It was whispered that the Board would withdraw from North China, then that they would retain Ping Tu, but give up Teng Chow and Hwang Hien. Under these conditions how could the missionaries decide on their course? For on the one hand they did not believe it right to leave Teng Chow and Hwang Hien uncared for, and on the other hand they had already found that it would not be best to labor in direct connection with the Board's missionaries. In any event should Mr. Herring and his party join them some of them would enter the interior, but the details could not be decided until after his arrival.
Go to Chapter 22
[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]
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