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          Jan 09, 2012


Anglican and Protestant Missions Impact on the Church of the East

Part 4


In 1869 the Church Missionary Society of Great Britain commenced work in Esfahan and in the following year renamed the undertaking among Nestorians the "Mission to Persia." The Presbyterian Board of Foreign Mission now took over the stations already founded in Tehran, Tabriz, Hamadan, and Rasht. Meanwhile, the Nestorian Evangelical church established itself as a separate organization. By 1880, the Protestant community had a civil head representing the community before the government.

In 1877 the Anglicans who had been absent for thirty-five years owing to the ill-fated mission of Badger, were back at work among the Chaldean Nestorians. This time, they were better received by Persian officials. Even American missionaries fared better after acquiring a fuller knowledge and appreciation of Nestorian culture.

Support for Chaldean Nestorians was boosted with the archaeological discoveries of Nineveh and Assyria and with the growing belief that the Chaldean Nestorians were descendants of the warrior race that had lived there.

British interest in them was aroused at the highest level of government and the Ottoman government was urged to safeguard the Nestorians interests and heritage in the face of increased Kurdish aggressiveness. When British efforts failed them, the Nestorians did not hesitate to turn to the Russians for protection after the latter had expanded southward into the Caucasus . To gain this support, the bishop of Urmia promised to renounce "error" and return to Christian orthodoxy. Petersburg church authorities dispatched priests and monks to Azerbaijan in 1897 to aid in the process. When Japan defeated Russia in 1905, however, one Nestorian congregation joined the United Lutheran church, demonstrating the political nature of the Nestorians' move. Meanwhile, the Anglicans moved their headquarters to Van. The German Orient Mission established an orphanage in Urmia, and various denominations of Baptists followed.

The Ottomans were growing suspicious of all these Western missions and began to refer to the Armenians as the "Americans," which only aroused opposition to the American missionaries. The American missionary Benjamin Labaree was killed by a Kurd near Urmia in 1904. World War I brought the retreat of the Russians, and American missionaries found themselves caring for refugees of all denominations.