Yale-Edinburgh Group
on the History of the Missionary Movement
and World Christianity

Consultations sponsored by the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, Yale Divinity School, and the Overseas Ministries Study Center

Theme for the 2013 Yale-Edinburgh Group Meeting
Yale Divinity School, June 27-29, 2013


In many languages the words for health and for salvation are closely related, and the two ideas have frequently been linked in Christian discourse. The nature of the link, however, has varied greatly.

The missionary movement from the West, for the greater part of its history, largely embraced Enlightenment views of healing, and incorporated them into its theology, piety and practice. Missions thus brought Western medicine to the world beyond the West, in many places for the first time, and still more often as its main local vehicle. The capability and infrastructure of Western medicine expanded vastly during the missionary period; at one time missionaries were dispensing common remedies and purges, at another they were teaching community hygiene, at another introducing anaesthesia where it had never been known or finding an answer to yaws, at yet another planning the establishment of medical faculties for the whole Chinese Empire. Not infrequently they advanced medical knowledge, and pioneered new means of treatment. And in the process they came into contact, and sometimes conflict, with other concepts of the causes of illness, radically different modes of treatment, contrary understandings of the relation of human well-being to the transcendent world, - alternative views, in other words, of health and salvation.

Nor was the advance of medical science without effect on the missionary movement itself. Medical missions changed the economics of missions, and raised ethical and theological issues about how treatment should be paid for or should it be as free as the Gospel? Medical missions changed assumptions about oversight and direction (in a hospital, the doctor will always trump the minister) and opened doors for women doctors (and eventually, by extension, for women who were not doctors) previously out of reach.

But scientific medicine is only one aspect of the story of healing in the growth of World Christianity. Remarkable healing as a sign of divine saving activity is an oft repeated theme in Christian history, and it often appears in the records that are our Group's special interest: whether in St Antony's appearance at the sickbed of Beatriz Kimpa Vita, or the victories of Prophet Harris over unearthly forces, or the dreams of Indian villagers about Jesus the Healer, or the innumerable expressions of modern charismatic Christianity in every continent.

This year's topic opens a fertile field and a prospect of an abundant harvest of diverse crops. We are likely to cross many boundaries geographical, chronological and disciplinary. All this promises rich stimulus and valuable illumination, in the atmosphere of the Group's usual good fellowship.

A formal call for papers will be issued in January 2013, with titles and abstracts due by mid-March. Our pattern has been to have each oral presentation limited to 20-25 minutes, followed by discussion. Full papers are welcomed and, if submitted by a deadline determined by the organizers, will be made available on a directory accessible to all participants.


For more information contact: Martha Lund Smalley, conference coordinator: Yale Divinity Library, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 --- Phone: 203 432-5289 --- Email: martha.smalley@yale.edu