'It is our bounden duty' : the emergence of the New Zealand protestant missionary movement, 1868-1926 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
Between 1868 and 1926 a significant number of New Zealand Protestant Christians participated in the international missionary movement as missionaries and supporters. Early missionary sentiments were derived from historical British roots. A range of domestic and international influences progressively shaped the New Zealand movement from the 1890s, and there was demonstrable and sustained growth in the number of missionary departures. From 1900 onwards missionary support and enthusiasm was organised with increasing sophistication, and the base of national financial support grew accordingly. In the aftermath of World War One missionary interest and support continued to grow, with missionary departure rates in the 1920s reaching unprecedented levels. By the end of the 1920s greatest growth occurred amongst the non-denominational organisations, many of which identified with conservative evangelical churches reacting to liberalising tendencies in society and theology. For the same reasons a hitherto variegated and broadly evangelical theology of mission became increasingly splintered. By the 1920s a formalised, sophisticated, articulated and well-supported foreign missions movement was a central feature of New Zealand church life, although this was varyingly expressed at the denominational, regional and congregational level. Whilst it was not strictly true that the missionary movement was solely a women's movement, women were influentially central to it as supporters, participants and thinkers. Missionary service was an important vehicle by which they could enter public spheres of church life and exercise an influence. Children, young people and students were also prominent. The missionary movement was a religious movement, steeped in a theological rationale and drawing upon a prevailing set of spiritual sentiments that encouraged personal activism, consecration and practical loving service. Theological and spiritual motivation was intertwined with a complex mix of extra-religious factors. Therefore motivation was partly differentiated along lines of gender and intersected with prevailing imperialist sentiments. The New Zealand Protestant missionary movement, set in these terms, was both an integral part of the wider international missionary movement, and an important way by which New Zealand's emerging religious identity was shaped in the late colonial period.