A History of Pastoral Care
in the Church of Christ in Thailand
Herbert R. Swanson
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
Chapter 1: The Historical Context of Thai Pastoral Care
Section 1: The History of Western Pastoral Care
Section 2: Catholicism and Pastoral Care
Chapter 2: Protestant Pastoral Care in Thailand: The Early Years
Section 1: Baptist Pastoral Care, 1833-1861
Section 2: Presbyterian Pastoral Care, 1840-1861
Chapter 3: Pastoral Care in the Baptist and Presbyterian Missions Since 1860
Section 1: The Baptist Mission
Section 2: The Presbyterian Mission, 1864-1880
Chapter 4: Phet Buri: A Case Study
Section 1: The Phet Buri Church & Dunlap
Section 2: The Idea of the "Clean Church" & the Reform of the Siam Mission
Section 3: The Age of McClure
Section 4: An Analysis of the Phet Buri Case
Chapter 5: The History of Pastoral Care in Northern Thailand, 1867-1900
Section 1: The Laos Mission
Section 2: The Presbyterian Ideology of Expansion
Section 3: History of the Laos Mission
Section 4: History of Karen Christianity in the North
Section 5: The Pastoral Care of Karen Churches
Chapter 6: An Analysis of Pastoral Care in the North, 1867-1900
Section 1: The Structure of Pastoral Care Under the Laos Mission
Section 2: The Practice of Pastoral Care by the Laos Mission
Section 3: The Pastors' Revolt of 1895
Section 4: The Rev. Robert Irwin & Local Church Leadership
Section 5: Theological Education, 1883-1896
Chapter 7: Pastoral Care in Central and Southern Thailand, 1900-1920
Section 1: Pastoral Care in Bangkok 1900-1920
Section 2: Pastoral Care Outside of Bangkok 1900-1920
Section 2.1: The Phet Buri Church
Section 2.2: The Nakhon Sri Tammarat & Trang Churches
Chapter 8: Pastoral Care in Northern Thailand, 1900-1920
Section 1: Pastoral Care in the North, 1900-1909
Section 2: Pastoral Care in the North, 1910-1919
Section 3: The Beginnings of Theological Education
Chapter 9: Pastoral Care, 1921-1930, and Revivalism, 1925-1940
Section 1: Pastoral Care 1921-1930
Section 2: Revivalism, 1925-1940
Chapter 10: The History of Pastoral Care, 1931-1941
Section 1: Issues in Pastoral Care After 1930
Section 2: Survey of Pastoral Care After 1930
Section 3: The Situation of Pastoral Care Before World War II
Section 4: Theological Education, 1930-1940
Chapter 11: The History of Pastoral Care, 1941-1960
Section 1: During World War II
Section 2: The Years After World War II
Section 3: Theological Education After World War II
Section 4: The General Assembly of 1959 & Pastoral Care
My purpose in writing this text is to explore the history of the development of pastoral care from the earliest days of Protestant missions down to the near present. And while it is a history of past events, it is very much about the present as well. The importance of this book is not as much in the dates and data it contains as it is in the fact that it studies the origins of contemporary issues facing the Church of Christ in Thailand in pastoral care. That is to say, in order to understand the present we have to study its background, its past. This book, then, is of importance to those who intend to serve God by engaging in church-based ministries because it address the issues that churches and pastors are facing today.
Readers should note from the beginning that the text constantly emphasizes the fact that those who serve in CCT churches are products of two cultural streams. CCT pastors are the "children of two worlds" (ลูกสองโลก). A metaphor taken from North American geography can help us understand what this means. On that continent, the Mississippi River flows from north to south while the Missouri River begins in the west and flows east until it joins the Mississippi. At their confluence, they are two mighty rivers of roughly the same size, but their waters are not the same: where the water flowing from the Mississippi River is generally clear that of the Missouri is muddy. Where they join, the clear and the muddy waters so intermingle that they become virtually a new river, neither as clear as the one or as muddy as the other.
In a similar way, CCT pastoral care flows from a confluence of eastern and western cultures. Those who practice pastoral care are the products of two great cultural streams with the Asian cultural stream being the larger of the two. The word “Asian” here instead of “Thai” is more appropriate because the CCT’s churches represent several Asian cultures. Thus, in their daily lives CCT pastors are no less Asian than anyone else in their society whether they are central Thai, Lahu, Karen, Chinese, or northern Thai. Their values and daily life style are Asian. The same is not true when it comes to the ways in which pastors work and the profession itself. The office and role of the pastor for the most part comes from the West. Whether it be the way in which pastoral counseling is conducted or even the very idea that a local church should have a pastor, the institution of the pastor springs from the Western church through the agency of the Protestant missionaries. They framed the office of pastor in ways that have nothing to do with the functions of Buddhist monks in their monasteries. That office, rather, reflects the reality that pastors are the “children of two worlds." Thus, the study of the history of pastoral care is the study of those events that led to the introduction of Western pastoral care into the lives of the Protestant mission churches of Thailand.
It is my hope that this study of the history of pastoral care in Thailand will help the members and pastors of the Church of Christ in Thailand better understand their heritages as churches and pastors. I received a good deal of assistance in preparing this study. I would like to thank esp. my colleagues at the Office of History who assisted me with research for this book, corrected and re-corrected the Thai original, aided with typing, and otherwise provided invaluable insights and suggestions. I would also like to thank the McGilvary Faculty of Theology for allowing me to use this study with classes in church history for several years, and I am esp. thankful for the students that it was my privilege to involve in this mutual search for better understanding. In truth, we were both students and teachers together.
Ban Dok Daeng
This “book” was never published. Through all the years I used it with students at the McGilvary Faculty of Theology, Payap University, and the Lahu Bible School, District 18, it was always photocopied and bound using various colors for the covers. There are no footnotes, and there is no bibliography. Still, it has an important place in my own studies of Thai church history. It includes the history of the churches and their pastoral care in Bangkok and central Thailand, which was new territory for me since virtually all of my studies had focused on northern Thai church history. It also included the experience of the Baptist churches in central Thailand. All of my previous work was on the Presbyterians. This book was really my first (and remains my only) attempt to look at the larger sweep of Thai church history rather than engage in more detailed studies of particular periods in that history. For these reasons, I have engaged in the laborious process of translating it into English in hopes that it may prove of some value to others and, frankly, to make this website still more representative of my work.
This is not an “exact” translation, whatever that may be. I have rephrased things and cut a few things as I saw fit. This electronic version, however, does follow the original generally faithfully. And while there are no footnotes, I do remember spending a good deal of time with original sources—both ones I had used previously and ones that were new to me. As I say, I trust that it will be useful to others. Enjoy!
As stated in the Introduction, the history of pastoral care in Thailand emerges from two primary historical streams, the one Thai and the other Western. In the chapters that follow, we will describe the Thai stream in detail. In this chapter, we begin briefly with the origins of the Western stream since Thai pastoral care originated in the West. And just as the history of pastoral care flows from the confluence of Asian and Western traditions, so the the Western stream is itself the product of two great traditions, Catholic and Protestant. Pastoral care first came to Thailand in the nineteenth century through the agency of Western missionaries, and it is thus necessary to understand the development of pastoral care in the West before we can understand its development in Thailand.
Pastoral care begins in the time of the Roman Empire with Jesus, who was the model for pastoral care in the earliest church two thousand years ago. At that time, there was no formal pastoral office and there were no pastoral care specialists. Churches met in private homes and did not have buildings. They were made up mostly of families and relatives, and it was understood that followers of Christ naturally cared for one another based on two key principles. First, they helped each other (diakonia in Greek) as if they were servants of one another. Second, in their service they considered themselves slaves (doulos) of each other. That is to say, from its inception pastoral care was seen as serving God and the church, and it was useful to that end. The Apostle Paul, for example, emphasized love and the importance of Christians showing love to each other. They were to be united with each other and take responsibility for each other (see Romans 14:19 - "Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."). In sum, pastoral care has its origins in the loving service Christians gave to one other.
The earliest church was, thus, a loving community in spite of its failings, which included among other things in-fighting, gossiping, and divisions. In the first century, churches were sufficiently loving to attract the attention of others, who wanted to be part of such a community. There were no evangelistic campaigns or drives such as we engage in today, and there was no Evangelism Department or any of the other mechanics of evangelism that we have now. Evangelism as practiced in the earliest church was the sharing of one's faith and showing love to others in such a way that those others wanted to be part of the church. For example, women were under the authority of men, whether it be their fathers, husbands, or even sons. They were virtually a commodity owned by the men in authority over them, and their role in society was strictly limited. In the churches, however, women took leadership in the community, and while the general society rejected such roles for women the churches embraced those roles. More generally, the churches accepted and cared for those that the larger society disdained and marginalized, demonstrating such a level of love that others wanted to join them.
By about the year 200 CE, churches had begun to develop more well-defined structures of authority including "bishops" whose calling it was to provide pastoral care. The churches, that is, began to have full-time workers who provided pastoral care but did not yet function as the chief leaders of the church. The bishop's task was primarily limited to giving care to a church's members. There were two reasons for the emergence of full-time pastoral care givers: first, persecution of the churches by the Roman Empire encouraged the churches to develop strong leaders who could minister to the suffering of their members; and second the churches soon began to grow because of their loving nature, which meant that leadership roles had to expand and become more complex in scope. Thus, it was necessary to have full-time leaders, who were called "bishops." (The term "bishop" is episcopos in Greek and refers to one who has oversight of others and provides them with care). By-and-large, the role of the bishop was to give comfort and assistance to victims of persecution. They were also responsible for church discipline as well as the training and care of new members. They were not under the authority of any larger church structures such as a "presbytery" or "General Assembly. Whether large or small, urban or rural, each local congregation had its own "bishop," who was its pastoral care giver.
As the church grew, however, what happened was that in a particular region one church emerged as the largest and most influential. That church's bishop generally came to have more authority, was often more capable than the bishops of the smaller churches, and thus was accepted as a figure of higher authority by those churches. As a rule, urban churches began to have power over rural ones. Then, in 313 CE, the Emperor Constantine established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. As a consequence, the church became more well-organized and the office of bishop assumed increased power over other ministries of the churches. Smaller churches and rural congregations no longer had bishops, and local leaders came to be what we now call priests.
These developments had an important impact on pastoral care. Prior to 313, as we have seen, pastoral care was a matter of church members caring for each other, but after that year pastoral care became the responsibility of priests, who were the ones who also conducted the liturgy of the church. It was widely understood that the liturgy was filled with a holy power and that the priest who conducted the liturgy similarly was a figure of power. The priests also also pronounced the forgiveness of sins, which was seen as another form of power. That is, local Christians feared that they would be damned if they did not have access to the liturgy, which they believed was holy, and the forgiveness of sins, Because they held the keys to worship and forgiveness, ordained priests came to occupy a high office and a station above the common people. It was a holy office, one of divine power. Churches, thus, were no longer seen as communities of love and service. They became part of a religious organization with a hierarchy dominated by the priesthood.
In the Middle Ages, pastoral care was carried out by local priests whose primary pastoral role was to perform the rituals of the church. People in the church and in society believed that ritual connected them with God, and a loss of the rituals meant that they could not have a relationship with God. Churches also housed relics such as a piece of the cross (supposedly) or the bones of a saint, and the people believed that these relics held a holy power. Again, it was the priest who was in charge of the care and oversight of relics, which only served to increase their power and widen the chasm between them and their flock. Priests, thus, were themselves seen to have a spiritual power within them and stood between God and the people as intermediaries.
Had the clergy been well-trained, educated, and displayed a deeper spirituality, this priest-centered pastoral care system might have been effective. The problem was that local priests were generally only semi-literate at best. They were not well-trained, and they shared the general lack of education of that age. Priests did not provide adequate pastoral care. They did not even preach or teach except on rare occasion.
Besides local priests, monks also provided pastoral care of the local people. Monasteries were common, and unlike in Thailand the monks were ordained for life and the monasteries were not tied to local communities. Churches and monasteries were two separate entities. There were a good number of orders, and in some of them the monks would not only spend time in the monastery but also work with the people in their villages. They might spend as much as a month in one location, teaching the local people the basics of the faith. In their work with villagers, they shared in the poverty of the people and lived with them as the people lived. Generally, the monks were humble, knew the Bible and how to teach it, emphasized spirituality, and sought to serve the people. That is to say, the common people did not entirely lack for effective pastoral care.
One thing we need to keep in mind concerning Mediaeval pastoral care is that it varied greatly from era to era and in the various parts of Europe. There were times when priests were relatively well-trained and gave adequate pastoral care so that there were any number of competent pastors. And by the 15th century, the church was emphasizing discipline, instruction, and training of priests more than it had previously. The result was somewhat better pastoral care, but in fact the overall picture was still not very good. For one thing, as monasteries accumulated more wealth, their monks showed less and less interest in living with and serving local people. An increase in corrupt practices, namely the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices including local priests, also contributed to a decline in effective pastoral care.
These conditions were contributing factors in the Protestant Reformation, which led to a new age in pastoral care for those churches that participated in the Reformation. There was an increased emphasis on preaching, and while worship and liturgy remained central they became less sacrosanct, less veiled in mystical power. The Reformation also saw an increased concern with the purity of local churches including a leadership style that was less elaborate and more focused on the Bible. At the same time, the chasm between church leaders and the laity was reduced as the Reformation held to the doctrine of the "priesthood of all believers." According to that doctrine, the whole congregation has the same ecclesiastical status. Protestant theology held that all believers—whether they be clergy, elders, or local church members—were equal in the church and thus there should not be a chasm between those who gave and those who received pastoral care. All Christians have faith in Christ and are called to a life of full-time Christian service whatever work they do. It was just that some are called to be pastors and receive their compensation from the churches, but in terms of being "ministers" it does not matter where one's pay comes from.
Another thing that changed during the Protestant Reformation was the nature of pastoral work itself, which no longer emphasized ceremony and ritual. Some of the emerging Protestant groups went so far as to separate the conduct of worship from pastoral care by allowing the laity to conduct worship and rituals. This tradition is represented in the CCT by District Eleven (Nakhon Pathom). In that district, conducting worship including the sacraments is not taken to be the work only of pastors. Every ordained elder may preside over worship and the sacraments without having to ask permission from a higher authority. Thus, in the era of the Reformation pastors tended to emphasize teaching and church discipline. They were not seen as mediums between God and the laity but rather as ambassadors of Christ who revealed God's will. They preached the gospel. Sometimes they were referred to as representatives of the Word, that is Christ himself, and we will discover this concept of the pastoral office in the history of the CCT's churches as well.
Prior to the Protestant Reformation, local priests held complete authority over their churches, and the churches had no say in the ordination or placement of priests. After the Reformation, this scenario also changed, and churches gained the right to select their own pastors. In some Reformation traditions, the local church alone had final say in choosing its pastor while other traditions retained the office of bishop who shared that authority with the churches themselves. But even where there were bishops, the main responsibility for choosing a pastor fell to the congregation. In the case of the Presbyterian tradition, the presbytery had that authority. Presbyteries were composed of the clergy and representatives from the churches of the presbytery, and it was the presbytery that assumed the responsibilities formerly held by bishops. That is, the authority of the "bishop" resided collectively in the members of presbytery rather than in a single person. Even so, the local churches still had the main say in the selection of their own pastors. Eventually, local churches began to pay their pastors as well, something that had been done by the bishops previously.
It is widely known that the Reformation split into several traditions, which naturally fell into two large groups. We can for convenience sake term them the "mind" and "heart" traditions. The "mind" tradition held that faith is not possible without a prior foundation of knowledge and understanding. Faith without understanding cannot truly be faith. In this tradition, pastors were seen primarily as being teachers, and pastoral care was a matter largely of teaching and training. The purpose of preaching, thus, was not to whip up the enthusiasm of the congregation; rather, its purpose was to teach the congregation important knowledge so that they would understand about God and faith. This tradition is represented in the CCT today by those districts that have a Presbyterian heritage. The Presbyterians held that clergy and pastors are "elders" whose primarily duty is to teach. There are two kinds of elders according to this tradition, namely "ruling elders" and "teaching elders." In theory both types have the same status. Their ordinations are equal in authority although their responsibilities differ.
As for the "heart" tradition, faith is prior to knowledge and understanding. One can't understand God until one first has faith in God, that is an experience with God the Holy Spirit. Understanding then follows from experience. The "heart" tradition does hold, however, that if these experiences with God do not lead to a better understanding of God and faith they are not true experiences. Still, experience comes first, and where one has only a "head" knowledge of God there is no faith. Such knowledge does not reach the heart. The clearest representatives of this tradition in the CCT today are those districts with a Baptist heritage (namely Districts 10, 12, 16, 18, and 19) and District 15, which is the product of the work of the Marburger Mission. In this tradition, the role of the pastor is to plant a new consciousness in church members. They have to be able to enthuse and motivate them.
These pastoral traditions from the Middle Ages and the Reformation era were channeled into the CCT through the churches of the United States., and consequently the American churches have had no small influence on the Thai church. Before the United States became an independent nation, it was a group of thirteen British colonies located in the new continent (to them) of North America. The colonies were populated by people from many European nations, Britain itself being first and foremost among them. Two other large groups of immigrants came from the German states and from Ireland. These last were actually of Scottish descent and known in America as the "Scotch-Irish" [otherwise known as the Ulster Scots]. After the American Revolution (1776-1783), the United States continued to receive a steady flow of immigrants including Germans and the Scotch-Irish. These immigrants brought their religious faith with them when they migrated to the U.S, which meant that the American religious experience was very different from that of Europe. In Europe each nation had its own official ("established") church, which meant that most of the people belonged to the same church. There was usually only one church in a community, and all of the people in that community belonged quite naturally to that church. They believed in the same faith tradition and were never faced with having to make a choice about their religious preferences. It was very different in the U.S. With all of these European denominations being imported into the country, most communities had several churches representing several different faith traditions. There was no official religion, and each denomination had to carry out its own activities without state support or assistance.
In the United States, the various traditions are usually called "denominations," which in Thai is translated as luti nikai (ลัทธินิกาย). The meaning, however, is not the same. The Thai term refers to the various branches of Thai Buddhism, such as the Tammayut sect, which can be part of the larger national religion and under the authority of the government like other branches of Buddhism. The various luti nikai don't have to be entirely independent organizations in order to be luti nikai, but American denominations are so independent. The American constitution forbids the government from controlling religious organizations, and there is no official state religion or denomination. Each denomination, thus, is entirely independent and responsible for its own life including pastoral care. The denominations and their local churches are fully responsible for pastors, who are not paid by the state (as they often were in Europe). Pastors are under the authority of the local church to one degree to another, except in only a few denominations such as the Catholic Church.
Another difference between the U.S. and Europe is that the state churches in Europe generally divide the whole country into parishes, and each parish usually has only one church and only one pastor or set of pastors. Since the church is a state church, there is no need for more than one church per parish. In the U.S., however, most communities will have several churches, and each pastor is responsible only for the members of the church he or she serves as pastor. Thus, there are likely to be several pastors working in a given geographical area, each ministering to just the church they serve. The fact is that these pastors are actually in competition with one another to a degree because better pastors will usually attract more members, and their churches will be stronger. Popular pastors will even attract members from other churches to their own church. At the same time, pastors have to be capable and hard working in order to insure that their church will be a strong congregation. It was very different in Europe, especially in earlier times (things have changed a great deal more recently), where individuals living in a particular community did not have any choice about the church they would attend. American pastors thus have to be capable in caring for their members, motivating them, and even in encouraging them to financially support the church.
This denominational system meant that pastors and their denominations had to motivate and enthuse local church members, which led to another development in American Christianity, namely "revivalism" (การฟื้นฟูนิยม). Churches and denominations came to believe that the best way to strengthen their local churches was through periods of revival, a method that is still in use today. This tradition of revivalism began during the colonial era when the Great Revival of the 18th century (beginning in about 1740) spread into many parts of the colonies. Generally, preachers would preach powerful sermons emphasizing the doctrine of sin so that their congregation would feel remorse over their sins. During the Great Revival, participants would weep and plead for help so they wouldn't be condemned to hell for eternity. Interest in religion spread rapidly even among those who belonged to churches of the "mind" tradition. Revivalism had a great deal of impact on pastoral care; pastors necessarily had to become capable revivalists if they wanted their churches to grow and be strong. They had to emphasize sin and encourage their congregations to feel the power of their sins. In fact, revivalism was a form of evangelism, which was directed at those who already considered themselves Christians.
In the era when Protestant missionaries first began to introduce Christianity into Thailand, revivalism had a great deal of influence over churches around the world. It can be said that it formed the context within which the missionaries worked. But the missionaries to Thailand did not bring with them just this heritage of revivalism. They, more generally, were a channel for the whole Western tradition of pastoral care that we have briefly summarized in this section. As we have seen, the roles, office, and duties of the pastor have changed a great deal over the last two thousand years. In the beginning, members of local churches provided pastoral care to each other and there was no special position or office involved. Over time, pastors became authority figures who exercised power over the churches they served, becoming virtually mediators between the people and God. Since the Reformation, the pastoral role has continued to change. Pastors were no longer the sole authority in the church and no longer stood between the people and God.
The history of the Catholic Church in Thailand prior to the arrival of the first Protestant missionaries amounts to something of an introduction to the pastoral care in the CCT. In fact, Christianity has not been present in Southeast Asia for just 150 to 200 years as we tend to think today. Actually, Christianity is an Asian religion and originally not a Western one at all. We forget this fact because modern Thai Christianity was imported into Thailand by European and American missionaries. There has been a strong Christian presence in Persia (Iran), however, for nearly two thousand years, and Christianity has been in India nearly that long. Even in the case of Thailand, there is some evidence that there may have been a group of Christians living here sometime after about 500 C.E., and it is certain that Christian traders from western Asia lived in what is now Thailand in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
In any event, church history for which we have at least some knowledge begins with the first Catholic missionaries to arrive in what is now Thailand. The first missionary to enter Thai territory did so some time after 1530, and the first Catholic missionary to actually reach Ayutthaya arrived in 1567, which year marks the beginning of the evangelization of the Thai people by the Catholic Church.
Catholic missions to Ayutthaya relied on two different movements, which were in conflict with each other. The first Catholic missionary movement was called the Padroado, a Portugese word that can best be translated as "patronage" (ระบบอุปการะ) in English. Padroado began in Southeast Asia after 1500; it originated in Portugal in the era when Portugal was expanding is colonial empire. Portugal was the first European colonial power in Asia, and as it expanded its power into Southeast Asia it established a trading system intended to promote its self interests in the region. Portugal also expected to proclaim the Christian religion and evangelize nations that were not yet Christian through an alliance with the Catholic Church, which agreed to rely on Portuguese power to spread Christianity. By this alliance, Portugal agreed to support the evangelistic work of the Catholic Church in Asia financially. Portugal also agreed to fund the construction of churches and pay the Catholic priests who did the work of evangelism. In return, the Pope had to cede to the Portuguese government authority over the work of the Church in Asia and also support its expansionist policies.
Both sides, that is, benefitted from this alliance between them. The Church virtually legitimized the power and policies of Portugal while Portugal was allowed to exercise considerable power over the work of the Church in Asia. The Catholic Church, in turn, benefitted from the Padroado system in three ways:
- Padroado provided the Church with reliable financial support;
- The Padroado system proved to be relatively effective in promoting the work of the Church and insured close cooperation between the Portuguese government and the Church; and;
- Portugal and the Catholic Church pursued a single religious policy in Portugal's overseas colonies.
It was this Padroado system of evangelism that the Catholic Church relied upon in its relationships with the Kingdom of Ayutthaya for nearly a century, from 1567 to 1662.
However, elements of the Catholic Church soon grew unhappy with Padroado and founded a new missionary agency in 1662 called De Propaganda Fide, which one Thai Catholic historian has translated as meaning, "ministry for spreading belief" (กระทรวงเผยแพร่ความเชี่อ). This new agency was established under the authority of the Pope as a reform measure that would end Portugal's power over the Church's work. Padroado, however, did not come to an end, which meant that these two missionary movements were clearly bound to come into conflict with each other. While the Pope tried to regain control over the Church's evangelistic work in Asia, thus, there remained some groups of priests who had been appointed by Portugal who refused to acknowledge the authority of the Pope or cooperate with De Propaganda Fide and its representatives. Thus, a deep rift occurred in Catholic work in Asia, which was further fueled by nationalistic feelings as well because most of the Padroado priests were Portuguese while most of those working under De Propaganda Fide were French. In Ayutthaya, matters were further complicated by the fact that France was beginning to expand its power into the region.
In 1662, the Pope appointed two Apostolic Vicars to Ayutthaya as his personal representatives. At that time, the Catholic community in Ayutthaya numbered about one thousand individuals being mostly foreigners living in the city. The spiritual condition of the church in Ayutthaya at that time was very poor, and after the Pope's representatives arrived dissension quickly emerged between them and the priests already in the city who were assigned by the Padroado system. The Portuguese priests refused to accept the authority of the Pope's representatives because they had not been approved by Portugal. This conflict continued until 1680 by which time the Pope's representatives were able to finally gain full control of the situation in Ayutthaya.
An important moment in the victory of the Pope's representatives was the Synod of 1664, a meeting of priests working in Ayutthaya under the De Propoganda Fide. The purpose of the synod was to create an effective missionary structure. One of its most important accomplishments came in 1865 with the establishment in Ayutthaya of the first theological seminary in the Far East. For the most part, the curriculum was a general course of study that followed a standard European curriculum and was intended for the children of the palace and other high officials. Its goal was to prepare its students for the Catholic priesthood, and the language of instruction was either French or Latin, probably Latin (my sources were not clear on this point). This seminary was the first Western-style educational institution founded in Thailand. It lasted for about a century, although there was a period of time when a second school divided off from it. That second school received a good deal of support from the upper reaches of Ayutthaya's political hierarchy for a period of time, and at one point it had more than a thousand students. Eventually, the two schools were reunited into one. In any event, educational work emerged as a key element in the work of the missionaries in Ayutthaya.
In 1669, the Catholic mission in Ayutthaya established the first Western hospital in what is now Thailand. This was during the reign of King Narai (สมเด็จพระนารายณ์มหาราช), who was very open to some Western influence, partly so that he could use it to resist Western political pressures. This was a time when there was a good deal of Western penetration into Ayutthaya, and there were even a few Thais who converted to Christianity.
By the year 1674, most of the Christians living in Ayutthaya were still Portuguese although there were Japanese Catholics living there as well. There were also some Vietnamese Christian immigrants who had settled in the city, and there were about 600 Thai baptized converts (counting children as well as adults). There were Christians located outside of the city as a result of evangelistic work that was conducted in various parts of the countryside. There were no Christians in what is today northern Thailand, however, and while there had been some evangelistic work with Laotians there were no converts.
The Catholic missionaries serving in Ayutthaya encountered four serious obstacles to their evangelistic work. First, it was difficult for them to evangelize the Thai people of King Narai's day because the general populace found Christianity to be an alien religion, one that held no interest for them. It had nothing to do with their lives, and they had no inclination to accept it. The rich and powerful shared that lack of interest, especially because religion was one of the sources of political power. Buddhism, animism, and Brahmanism all provided support to rulers, which meant that the ruling class was unwilling to undermine the religious foundations of society by changing religions. The Thai people at all levels thus viewed Christianity as dangerous as well as incompatible with their traditions and beliefs.
Second, there were serious divisions among the Christians in Ayutthaya, and they spent a good deal of time fighting with each other and complaining to the government about each other. On occasion, priests of one side or the other would be be jailed, and there were even times when Buddhist leaders tried to bring reconciliation between Christians. This in-fighting had a negative impact on Christian evangelism, not least of all because of the time it wasted.
Third, the number of missionaries was limited and divided between several different orders and groups. Speaking about the Catholic Church globally, the two largest groups were the priests who belonged to religious orders and normally remained separate from society in their monasteries. One such order, the Jesuits, for example, worked out of their monasteries and had little to do with the local churches and local Christian religion. However, sometimes priests from the religious orders could end up pastoring local congregations. In any event, these priests were under the direct authority of the Pope and not under the local bishops. The second group of priests was the so-called "secular clergy," that is those priests who worked in society and generally were pastors of local churches. They worked under the authority of the local bishops who in turn were under the Pope. That is, the secular clergy represented a second line of authority. And if we look at this whole system from the perspective of the local churches, we find that for the most part the churches were quite weak. Pastoral care was largely ineffective. There were several reasons for this, but one of the most important was that around the world Catholic missions were hesitant to train local people to be priests or church leaders. It is not clear whether or not this was the case in Ayutthaya, but apparently the Apostolic Vicar there did support training local people for the priesthood, which is one reason why there was a seminary in Ayutthaya before anywhere else in Asia.
Finally, the political role of Catholics priests during the reign of King Narai also proved to be a problem. The King followed a policy of using Catholicism as a political tool, which included having French soldiers as his royal guard. That is, he used Western power to enhance his own power. This proved to be a problem because other powerful political figures disagreed with this policy, particularly Phra Phetracha (สมเด็จพระเพทราชา) who was very close to the Buddhist hierarchy. In 1688, Phra Phetracha led a revolt and was able to gather most of the power of the state into his own hands even though King Narai continued to live. In particular, he brought an end to the power of the French and the Catholic priests, and for the next one hundred years Catholic influence in Ayutthaya was greatly diminished. There were periods of oppression of Catholics, and the authority of their priests was limited. They, for example, had to request special permission to travel outside of the city of Ayutthaya. They were not allowed to teach the Christian religion using either Thai or French. A large number of other restrictions led to Christianity becoming almost entirely a religion of immigrants. This situation continued into the Rattanakosin Era, and even before that era during the reign of King Taksin, many priests were ordered to leave the Kingdom of Siam. With the ascension of King Rama I, however, a change in policy did take place. In order to develop better ties with the European powers, the king invited the priests who had been exiled to return to Siam. He even allowed them to carry out evangelization. As a result church work increased and was more effective, but even so very few people converted to Christianity. By 1811, there were only about 3,000 Catholics in Siam, and most of them were not ethnic Thais.
In one sense, the story of Catholic missions that we have briefly summarized here is not directly related to history of Thai Protestantism. For the most part, Catholics and Protestants were competitors, and there was little if any cooperation between them. They each looked on the other as not being truly Christian. The study of the Catholic historical experience in Thailand, however, provides important insights into the history of Thai Protestant pastoral care. At the very least, the Catholic experience provides an introduction to themes or points to the Protestant story. There are at least five points to be made here:
First, The role of foreign missionaries in the churches. From the experience of the Catholic Church, we see that foreign missionaries played a major role in the life of the churches while there were very few Thai priests. The churches were thus founded by foreign missionaries, which is the first issue that needs to be considered in the study of the history of pastoral care in Thailand.
Second, The relationship of Christianity to Thai society. It is important to observe that the Catholic schools established in Thailand were Western. The hospitals were Western. The forms and styles of worship were Western to the extent that whatever was done in Rome was done in Ayutthaya. Church leaders were foreigners. The question naturally arises, then, what did Christianity have to do with Thai society? Which should the churches reflect more in their local lives, Western or Thai culture?
Third, Theological studies. It is worth noting that while Catholic missions in Thailand emphasized theological studies few theological students were ethnic Thais. The students were mostly foreigners, Asian and Western, who happened to come to Ayutthaya to study. We will find that theological education has been an issue in Thai church history in virtually every age. Key questions include: what have been its purposes? Who has it been for? How has it been related to leading and giving pastoral care to local congregations?
Fourth, The founding of local churches. Catholic history in Thailand reminds us that starting local churches has not been easy. We will find that the same has been true for Protestant missions as well. This factor raises the question of why it has been so difficult.
Finally, The role of educational and medical institutions. The Catholic missionaries emphasized educational and medical work, and they poured both manpower and financial resources into that work. Based on both the Catholic and Protestant historical experiences, it must be asked whether this emphasis on institutional work was appropriate to the Thai context or not?
Local church life and the nature of pastoral care in the CCT has a long historical background, which has considerable impact on pastoral care even today. This historical background began in biblical times and still reflects something of the experience of the early church. Over the centuries, however, many other events and trends have contributed to the development of contemporary CCT pastoral care. In one way, the church today can be said to be a summary of all of those events and trends.
[Author's note: Were I to rewrite this study, I would probably drop the section on Catholicism as the points it makes are made repeatedly elsewhere in the text and replace it with a section on the Thai social and cultural roots of pastoral care in the CCT. Such a section would be challenging because relatively little work has been done on how Thai pastors actually conduct their work. It is a weakness of this text, in any event, that the Thai sociocultural component of pastoral care was not considered. (HRS, 8/14)].Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
Nineteenth-century Protestant missions were dominated primarily by the Presbyterians and Baptists. The Baptist tradition has been less well known in the CCT until recently because of the central role played by the Presbyterians in the founding of the denomination and in creating its pastoral care system, which is still place today. Still, it is crucial to note that historically the two missions (Presbyterian and Baptist) modeled quite different approaches to pastoral care even though not all of the Baptist missionaries used the same pastoral approach in their work with local churches. In any event, the models of pastoral care used by these missions in their early years are important to our understanding of the historical development in the CCT's approach to pastoral care.
The study of Baptist pastoral care in the nineteenth century is of considerable value even though most Baptist work did not carry over beyond 1900. That study is interesting in itself and, in fact, has a lot to teach CCT pastors today. The Baptist missionary agency in the United States that sent missionaries to Siam was officially known as the "American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society." The first Baptist missionaries arrived in Bangkok in 1833, and in December of that year they gained their first three converts. All three were Chinese men, one of whom as named Bun-ti. Bun-ti was already a convert to Christianity (in China) and thus had more knowledge of Christianity than the other two. The missionaries therefore designated him the leader of the three. He led worship and engaged in evangelizing and teaching others about the Christian religion. He was not a pastor, but his work had certain similarities to pastoral work. The point here is that from the beginning of their work the Baptist missionaries gave their converts a leading role in their own church. At one point, in fact, when there were no missionaries present in Bangkok they left Bun-ti in charge of the small Christian group before it became an official church. Normally, however, the Rev. John Taylor Jones was pastor of the small Baptist congregation in Bangkok, which made him the first Protestant pastor in Thailand.
Then, in 1835 the Rev. William Dean arrived in Bangkok as a new missionary and unofficially took over Jones' pastoral duties. Dean showed a great deal of interest in the daily lives of the converts, visited them in their homes, and became very close to them. He was also very patient with them. The converts were extremely poor, and Dean treated them as his friends. He allowed them to take a leading role in worship and even to preach, in spite of the fact that they were new Christians. When disciplinary issues arose among the converts, Dean did not decide on them alone; rather, he consulted with the whole congregation. Dean even involved all of the members in deciding who should be received as new members.
As far as we can tell from the evidence, Jones and Dean both viewed the converts as being their "brothers and sisters in Christ" (พี่น้องในพระคริสต์), although as yet there were no women converts. They showed no prejudice concerning their nationality or their being new converts. In the U.S., the Baptists put great stock in this idea of being brothers and sisters in Christ, and Jones and Dean held firmly to that tradition in Bangkok. They displayed thus a very positive attitude toward the convert group. Dean once wrote that they were a small group that truly worshipped God. Both missionaries thus were "kindhearted" (ใจดี) pastors who treated the converts with generosity and consideration (นำ้ใจ).
In 1836 Bun-ti quit the Christian faith because he found new employment that gave him more income than he had been receiving from the missionaries. Another factor may have been his fear that the government was going to persecute Christians.[/]
Dean gave further evidence of his positive attitude toward the converts in the printing of a small Chinese-language book entitled Prayers and Hymns for use in worship. For the most part, the converts were the ones who wrote or translated the contents of the book. They wrote some of the prayers themselves and helped Dean translate the rest from English into Chinese. That is, instead of simply translating English-language materials into Chinese himself, he involved the converts and made use of their talents. This approach benefitted the convert group in two ways. First, they had a useful resource of their own for worship. Second, this exercise gave the converts further confidence in themselves. Even though they were poor, new converts, and not Westerners (i.e. "proper" Christians"), Dean and Jones still saw them as valuable members of the group. In short, Jones and Dean respected the converts. The Presbyterians, we will see, did not approach things in this way. They brought their books straight from the U.S. for use in Thailand.
On 13 December 1840, the first ethnic Thai convert won by the Baptist Mission converted. His name was Nai (Mr.) Suk, and he became a member of the Baptist church in Bangkok. He was not , however,the first ethnic Thai to become a Protestant Christian. At some point before 1840, a Thai living in Singapore converted to Christianity; unfortunately we do not know his name or any of the details of his conversion. Nai Suk was the first convert to Protestantism in Thailand itself. But, and for reasons unknown, within a year the mission dropped his name from the rolls of the church, possibly for a moral infraction of some kind. Whatever the reason was, Baptists records simply state that he was not an acceptable or suitable Christian. In 1840, the Baptist church in Bangkok had 16 members, all Chinese and all men.
Not long after that Dean became ill and in 1842 had to leave Thailand. His successor as pastor of the Bangkok church was the Rev. Josiah Goddard. Goddard's approach to pastoral ministry was similar to that of Dean, namely the style which we have called "kindhearted" pastoral care. He was patient with the converts, respected them, and gave them opportunities to lead themselves. The one difference was that Goddard was much more concerned about the perceived weaknesses of the converts than Dean had been. Dean understood that the converts were still far from perfect in their faith, but he did not make that fact a major concern in his ministry. Goddard did. He wrote back to the U.S. about the weaknesses of the converts fairly frequently. He claimed that their weaknesses made it difficult to pastor the church because it was made up entirely of new converts. He made a concerted effort to give them good pastoral care. During Goddard's period, the church had two or three paid workers including Keok Chen, who was responsible for leading worship, preaching, and evangelistic work. His primary task was evangelism.
The following year, 1843, Goddard started a theological training class, which was the first class of its kind in the history of Thai Protestantism. The purpose of the class was to prepare three students to become pastors; in addition to those three, there were one or two other students also in the class. We should emphasize here that the Baptists were the first to initiate theological education in Thailand, a fact that has long been forgotten. Today, it is widely believed that Protestant theological education was begun in Chiang Mai by the Presbyterians, but that is not the case. More generally, it is clear that the Baptists placed a good deal of importance on their work with churches. The missionaries believed that every church must have a pastor, which is why they emphasized theological training. Goddard's class, however, did not continue for long, and it was not until 1860 that another Baptist missionary opened a training school for pastors. That school also quickly disappeared. In any event, Goddard understood that pastoral care was a ministry in its own right and had an importance equal to that of evangelism. Neither Dean nor Goddard felt that evangelism was their primary work. By way of contrast, the great majority of Protestant missionaries who worked in Thailand "in the old days" believed that their primary calling was to be evangelists. Even those who worked with local churches believed that evangelism was more important than pastoral care. Dean and Goddard were different. While they did do some evangelism because the mission lacked evangelists, they still felt that their primary calling was to pastoral ministry, not evangelism.
The Chinese congregation grew slowly in the years after 1840, taking in some, losing some. by 1847, there were 23 members, and what is interesting is that the congregation was strong and committed. The historical records we have suggest that it was spiritually alive in these years. In 1848, however, Goddard became ill and had to return to the U.S. He would not return to Thailand ever again. In 1848, an important event took place, namely the conversion of the first two women to Protestantism. We don't know their names; both were Thai wives of Chinese men who belonged to the church. In a sense, it can be said that the conversion of these two women marked the true birth of the Thai church because previously all of the converts to the Protestant missions had been Chinese men (excepting only Nai Suk). From 1848 on, the church would always have Thai members.
After Goddard returned to the U.S., there were no missionaries available to provide pastoral care for the Chinese congregation in Bangkok for a period some three years from 1848 to 1851. There was one missionary available who worked with ethnic Thais, but he didn't speak Chinese. The congregation thus had to look after itself except for one period of eight months when Dean returned from China where he was working at the time. In 1851, however, the Rev. William Ashmore arrived in Bangkok and took over the pastoral duties of the Chinese church even though he did not speak Chinese. During his tenure, the congregation grew somewhat although there were still a number of losses as well as additions. The church also remained strong spiritually. It displayed four characteristics during Ashmore's years that are worth mentioning here. First, it was still made up mostly of Chinese men, men who were aging and mostly older than 50. We can almost say that it was a "senior citizens church," which meant that it continually lost members to death. The congregation was somewhat unstable as a result. Second, most of the members were very poor. Third, during these years the number of ethnic Thai members increased, although they remained a minority. In any event, the church was now ethnically more mixed than it had been previously. Finally, the membership remained strong in their faith and demonstrated Christian lives.
In 1858, Ashmore's wife became ill, and they had to return to the U.S. She died before they reached home. The next pastor of the Bangkok church (the fourth) was the Reverend Robert Tellford. Tellford proved to be an ineffective pastor, which meant that the church itself grew weaker under his care. At the same time, several of the most capable lay leaders of the church died, left the church, or returned to China, which further weakened the leadership of the congregation and left no one to assist Tellford. The church grew weaker, and subsequent events only made things worse. That is, on 8 April 1861, the Baptist Mission removed the Chinese members of the Bangkok church and had them establish a new Chinese one. The original congregation now became a Thai church. The missionaries felt that the Chinese members were stronger, more self-reliant, and thus better able to establish a new congregation. The goal of this change was to create a Thai church that would facilitate evangelistic work among ethnic Thais. As it had been, the church was too Chinese and the members too nationalistic in their Chinese identity, which made it ineffective for evangelizing the Thai populace. Tellford became the pastor of the Chinese church, which had just 13 members. The problem was that this division left the mission with two smaller, weaker churches both of which lacked capable lay leadership. The Thai church did not last even ten years before it ceased to exist.
We can summarize the experience of the Baptist Mission in its pastoral care of the Chinese church in Bangkok with the following six points: First, the Baptists saw pastoral care as being an important ministry in its own right, separate from evangelism. Second, The missionaries themselves served as pastors, which meant that they modeled pastoral care for the churches. They demonstrated thus that the most effective leadership for locals churches was pastoral and not evangelistic leadership. Third, the missionaries both allowed church members to have a role in leadership and treated the members as their equals. They acted out that fundamental Baptist concept of being "brothers and sisters in Christ." Fourth, church members themselves had a pastoral role from the beginning, especially in leading worship and other ceremonies. Baptist pastoral care thus took on something of the aspect of being a shared ministry. Fifth, The missionaries did not particularly emphasize church discipline nor did they look on the church members as requiring discipline. When, furthermore, there were cases of discipline they involved the whole church in that deciding what should be done. Finally, the Baptist Mission showed a real concern for training converts to be pastors.
The problems facing the Chinese Baptist church in Bangkok can be summarized in the following four points: First, the congregation was made up of an ethnic minority that was not well-accepted by Thai society. Second, The Chinese members of the church travelled back and forth to and from China a great deal, which meant that church life was not stable. The church was constantly gaining and losing members. Third, although some women did join the church it was made up mostly of men and was not, thus, a real community that included men, women, children, and families. Finally, it was an aging congregation.
Although the purpose of this book is to study the larger history of pastoral care in the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), it is necessary to place special importance on the role the Presbyterian mission historically has had in that history. Because it was by far and away the largest Protestant mission in Thailand until after World War II, the Presbyterian approach to missions lies at the heart of the CCT's heritage in pastoral ministry. We will see that from the very beginning that their approach differed from that of the Baptists even though they were contemporaries. The Presbyterians pursued one fundamental goal in all of their work, which was to convert Thailand into a Christian nation. Planting churches was seen as being only one facet of that larger goal. It was a goal that grew out of the Presbyterian experience in the U.S. There, the Presbyterians believed that it was their calling to ensure that the American nation was faithful to God—that they were the people of God just as Israel had once been. Thus, the core calling of the Presbyterian Church was to ensure that the U.S. remained "Christian America." Thailand, however, was not a Christian nation, which meant that the Presbyterian missionaries' primary task here was to transform Thailand (Siam in those days) into a Christian nation.
The first Presbyterian missionaries to Thailand were the Rev. William P. and Mrs. Signoria Buell, who arrived in Bangkok in 1840. They did not stay long as Mrs. Buell soon became ill, and they had to leave for the U.S. In 1847, the Rev. Stephen Mattoon, his wife, and Dr. Samuel R. House arrived. Dr. House was a physician. Their arrival marked the formal beginning of the Siam Mission of the Presbyterian Church USA. In the beginning, the mission engaged primarily in evangelism and medical care. The evangelism was conducted mostly through distributing pamphlets and scripture portions.
Viewed from a pastoral perspective, the Presbyterian mission's medical work can be seen to have more of a pastoral than an evangelistic aspect to it. That is to say, Dr. House's medical practice did reflect certain pastoral values even though the mission did not yet have a church First, Dr. House had a heart for Christian service. From the beginning, he served the poor as well as the wealthy and showed no interest in the status of those he served. He assisted all equally. He was deeply concerned for the ill, showed compassion to all, and was willing to devote his time to those in need. Second, the good doctor was willing to give of himself sacrificially, Because Western medicine was so new to Thailand, practicing it carried certain risks, especially concerning epidemics. In those days, epidemics were common and Western physicians did not yet know how to prevent the spread of infections. Thus, even doctors could end up with the disease. Dr House, even so, personally cared for those suffering from an epidemic showing no concern for himself. Third, Dr. House did not share many of the racial prejudices common to Americans in his day. Most white American were extremely prejudice racially and saw themselves as superior to others. Their strongest prejudice was reserved for Africans, but Asians with their "yellow" skin" stood second on the list. House, like most of the missionaries, overlooked race and saw all the races as sharing a common humanity. He was willing to assist anyone, regardless of race. Finally, Dr. House became aware of certain forms of social oppression in Thai society and was willing to resist them. For example, after Thai women gave birth they were expected to lay very close to a hot fire while not being allowed to eat anything for a period of time (yufi). House considered this practice to be oppressive of women. He openly taught against it, which required some courage as he was opposing long standing social custom in doing so.
Dr. House understood himself to be following the example of the "Great Physician," Jesus, much as the earliest church two thousand years ago took Jesus to be their model for pastoral care. At the same time, however, Dr. House was deeply committed to evangelism as well. He didn't think of himself as a pastor but, rather, felt that even his medical work was for evangelistic purposes. The Presbyterian missionaries more generally felt the same way. For them, the fundamental task of the mission was not educational, medical, or pastoral. It was evangelism, and they used these other ministries as its medium. When he practiced medicine, thus, Dr. House was also seeking converts, a task that was very dear to him. The point here is that the Presbyterians valued evangelism over every other missionary activity.
On 31 August 1849, the Presbyterian mission established the Samray Church (also known as the First Presbyterian Church, Bangkok) as its first congregation even though at the time it had not yet gained any converts. The only Asian member of the church was a Chinese immigrant, Quakieng, who was 48 years old and had been a Christian since 1844. He was originally converted by another mission and moved over to the Presbyterians. His home was located about one hundred miles from Bangkok. Aside from Quakieng, there were only two other members of the church, namely Mrs. Mattoon and Dr. House. The founding of the Samray church stands in contrast to the Chinese Baptist church, which was made up mostly of Chinese and Thai members. Another difference is that the Presbyterians had not yet gained any converts when they founded the church. For the Baptists, converts came first and then they established the church. The Rev. Mattoon, who by Presbyterian ecclesiastical law couldn't be a member of a local church, was appointed pastor of this small congregation. Dr. House served as the single ruling elder.
In October 1851, the Samray Church received its second "native" member, Uang Si Teng, a Chinese man aged 24. It should be noted here that the Samray Church and the Baptists' Chinese church differed in the way they accepted new members of the church. As we've seen, in the Baptist church new members had to be accepted by a meeting of the whole congregation. The members of the church decided whether or not to receive tsomeone into their fellowship. When new members applied for membership in the Samray Church, however, it was the session (elected church council) that decided. In these early years, the session was composed entirely of missionaries. Intentionally or otherwise, the Presbyterian approach served to limit the leadership role of the converts rather than encourage that role as the Baptists did. And where the Baptist church was able to develop a stronger congregation at times, the Samray Church never had that opportunity because it didn't allow the converts to assume the responsibilities of leadership. When we look at the attitudes of the Revs. Mattoon and Dean, furthermore, we see that where Dean trusted the Chinese members of the Baptist congregation Mattoon constantly worried about Quakieng and Uang Si Teng. He was never sure if they had "really" converted or not. In other words, Presbyterian pastoral care was founded from the beginning on a certain mistrust of its Asian (Chinese) members, always doubting their conversion.
It can be said, then, that the Samray Church tended to be more of an organization than a community. The pastoral care of the church fell to the missionaries, and when Mattoon reported on his activities he always referred to the work of the mission and never to that of the church. He apparently did not see the importance of the church, and in fact the church itself did not have much structure or life of its own.
The year 1853 has a special significance for the Church of Christ in Thailand because it was in that year that the Siam Mission first began its educational work and opened its first school. When it opened, the mission school had only three students, but within a short time that number increased to 27 (23 boys, 4 girls). Quakieng was the teacher, and while the languages of instruction were Thai, Chinese, and English, most of the teaching was done in Thai and Chinese. Missionary records from the time specify four reasons for the founding of this school. First, they wanted to teach the students to fear God. Second, they wanted to develop the consciences of the students according to the Western understanding of the conscience as being an important element of human consciousness (จิต). it is the conscience that tells us whether we are behaving correctly or wrongly. If we behave wrongly and persist in doing so, the feeling of unhappiness with ourself is the voice of our conscience. The missionaries believed that the consciences of Thai children had not been properly developed, which meant that they did not know right from wrong. It was necessary, therefore, for the school to develop their conscience. Third, the missionaries also believed that the Thai people were habitual liars, used foul language constantly, and were lazy. The school was needed to correct these unhappy habits. Finally, the missionaries wanted to teach the students a certain amount of knowledge. It is worth noting, however, that learning new knowledge was only one factor in four, and in fact the fundamental educational concern of the Presbyterian Mission was to change its students' behavior, values, and religion. This approach was one that the missionaries brought with them from the U.S. where education had long been used to train students in their values and behavior. It was reinforced by a deeply held American belief in the importance of education.
Speaking more broadly, 19th century American Protestantism habitually utilized educational institutions and other types of institutions to shape American society to accord with its values and beliefs. The process is called "institutionalization". In practice, it meant placing target groups in Protestant institutions in order to mold them into the kind of people valued by Protestants. According to this ideology, the way to deal with individuals or groups deemed to be a "problem" was to remove them from society and place them in institutions. The institution would care for them. American Protestants used this approach to address virtually every social problem facing the U.S. in the 19th century, for example alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, and orphans. All of these and many other "problem" groups were placed in institutions dedicated to their supervision. Such institutions were even used to deal with prostitutes. These institutions sought to change the thinking, values, and beliefs of those given into their care. The basic assumption was that their "problem" was moral and religious, which meant that the institutions had to change the moral behavior and beliefs of those who were deemed to be social problems.
Nineteenth-century public opinion in U.S. generally held that the causes of institutionalization were social and, as we said above, moral. Mental illness, thus, was understood to be matter of a deficient conscience. Poverty, it was widely believed, was also a moral issue. The poor were thought to be lazy, or drunkards, or didn't know how to use their time effectively. The solution was to institutionalize them in an institution where they would be housed and fed. Orphans were committed to orphanages until them grew older so that they could learn right from wrong, as well as correct values. Prostitutes, it was thought, also suffered from wrong values, and the best way to deal with their "problem" was to remove them from society to live in a facility dedicated to them. In all of the various institutions, as a rule, the residents were not allowed contact with the outside world until they demonstrated the desired changes in their habits, values, and behavior. Institutionalization, in sum, was a key component in 19th century American strategies for solving social problems of all sorts.
Central to this whole concept of institutionalization was the fact that residents were cut off from all contact with the outside world as long as they resided in the institution. Society was believed to be the source of influences inimical to them. It was the source of their problems. The solution thus was to cut them off from social contact. In their institution, they would learn new values, behaviors, and to understand themselves and the world in a new way. Once they became a new person who had been "converted" from their old ways to new ones, they could return to society. Americans from the 19th century down to the present have put great store by education. It offered, they thought, the solution to almost every problem facing the nation. Ignorance was held to be the cause of those problems. If that ignorance was replaced with understanding, the formerly ignorant would no longer be a problem. Every problem could be solved through education, and in the 19th century Americans used the process of institutionalization to educate and train "people with problems" so that their values, habits, and behaviors would change.
The 19th century Presbyterian missionaries brought with them to Thailand this concept of institutionalization as the way to solve social ills. And as they became more familiar with Thai society and the Thai people, they found that the fundamental social ill that plagued the nation was "heathenism," which is a term unfamiliar to most Thai people today. In English, it was and is a pejorative term that is highly disrespectful of those who are labelled with it. In the case of Thailand (Siam in those days), the missionaries saw clear evidence that it was a "heathen nation." That evidence included: First, it lacked true religion, and the religion it had was a false one that destroyed lives, taught false truths, and caused people to behave wrongly. [Translation Note: in my lectures I reminded students that the views described here were those of the 19th century missionaries and not ones that I personally agree with.]
Second, the Presbyterians felt that Thai heathenism was the source of all of the nation's other social ills. The people did not hold the right kind of beliefs. They lacked a correct moral and ethical foundation, which meant that they did not know right from wrong. In the missionaries' view, Thai society was fundamentally corrupted by this heathen condition, which infected it with ignorance, immorality, and a false world view. In fairness, they did not believe that Thai society was entirely evil. It had its good points as well. For example, the Presbyterians were impressed by the respect Thai society accorded older people, the way it held its senior citizens to be honorable and important. Still, they thought that the better traits of Thai society were coincidental and did not reflect the core of that society, which was evil.
Third, the Presbyterian missionaries held that since heathenism was a social as well as a religious problem, the best way to address that problem was through institutionalization. The Thai people needed to be instructed new knowledge and trained in new ideas. Schools were the institutions the missionaries would use to these ends. We should note, then, that when the Presbyterians founded schools in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and elsewhere in the Kingdom their goal was to use those schools to free their students from the social and religious problem of heathenism. They wanted to create a new Thai society, and the way they sought to build that new society was by removing Thai students from the old society by placing them in their schools. In those schools, they would build the new Thai society by teaching their students a new religious faith and new values, that is by teaching them to be true Christians. From the beginning, then, the missionaries did not intend to use their schools only to teach students knowledge. They established schools in order to destroy the old Thai society. The schools were virtually a weapon the missionaries drew on in the battle they waged between Christian civilization and Thai heathenism.
The concept of institutionalization also informed the Presbyterian's understanding of the church and what it meant to convert to the Christian faith. They believed that it was very difficult for a convert to remain a part of Thai society generally because all of the social influences around them worked against their new faith. It was necessary, they felt, to remove converts from their old society and place them in a new society, namely the church. The churches, thus, had themselves to be as removed from Thai society as possible because they functioned as the institution that "housed" converts.
Thus, it was not just the schools that functioned as mission institutions. Even missionary homes, from the earliest years, were institutions of a sort. Each missionary home a staff of servants including at least a gardner, a cook, a laundress, a nanny, and someone to do the cleaning. All of these servants usually lived in the missionary compound along with their families, which meant that the compound was actually like a small community. The" environment" of the compound was very different from that of Thai society in several ways. One important difference was in the attitude toward time, which the missionaries viewed as a moral concern. Those who did not put their time to good use were considered lazy. Timeliness, likewise, was highly valued by the missionaries. It was virtually uncivilized for someone to be habitually late for appointments. This whole attitude toward time differed greatly from Thai society as did other things, such as what constituted cleanliness. In effect, then, the missionary compound was a place of Western culture and values, and when a Thai family moved into the compound they became more familiar with both Western society and the Christian religion. Normally, there would be a daily worship service in the compound, and the missionaries would teach their servants and families the Bible at least once a week. The servant families, that is, became objects of evangelism for the mission, an evangelism that was cultural as well as religious in nature. The missionaries used their homes to teach these families a new style of life, which they took to be a Christian life style. It was also an American way of life. And that was precisely what institutionalization meant as it was used by the missionaries; its purpose was to remove people from Thai society and introduce them to a new society, which was heavily influenced by the missionaries themselves.
Quakieng, the first Asian convert associated with the Presbyterians, was a good example of how converts could become fully immersed in the institutional structures of the mission. After he joined the Samray Church, he and his family moved to a mission compound. He taught at the mission school. He and his family, that is, virtually withdrew from their old social life and became part of the mission compound's "new society."
All of this is relevant to the history of pastoral care because it points to one central fact. The Presbyterians did not come to Thailand to found churches as their core goal or commitment. They came to create a new society, and they founded churches as one way to achieve that goal. Thus, the mission did not place much importance on pastoral care. Some missionaries did see it as important, but not as their own personal calling or work. We must emphasize again that the Baptists took a different approach in the early years of their mission in Bangkok. They saw pastoral care as their basic ministry, and other work had to take a secondary place to it. The Presbyterians, on the other hand, did not share this same commitment to pastoral care, and the result was that they did not nurture church life to any great degree. Instead, the Presbyterians showed a strong tendency to emphasize institutional work of various sorts and to use institutional approaches to most of their work.
This is not to say that the Presbyterian missionaries did not carry out any pastoral care at all, but it is to say that they did not see pastoral work as being particularly important. They didn't assign it the importance they did to other activities, especially evangelism. We must also remember that these 19th century missionaries had a different concept of pastoral care from the one we have today. They saw it as being primarily exercising oversight of the congregation and making sure the members behaved morally. They didn't emphasize pastoral work as a servant ministry or as serving the members of the church. They themselves would thus argue that they did not overlook the importance of pastoral care. And when we go back and look at Mattoon's role as pastor of the Samray Church, we find that he did do some pastoral work. He met with the two converts (Quakieng and Uang Si Teng) at least once a week to pray with them and teach them. Still, there seem to have been problems with even just two Asian members. At some time around 1854, Uang Si Teng moved out of the mission compound and went into business for himself. What happened was that he went into debt, his business failed, and he fled both his creditors and the missionaries. It turned out that he also was an opium smoker, and for these reasons Mattoon dropped his name from the roll of members at Samray Church. After that, the church had only one ethnic Asian member, Quakieng.
Then, on 7 August 1859, the mission received its first ethnic Thai convert, Nai Chuen. He was already a teacher in the mission school, which meant that his conversion had nothing to do with the church. It was an "institutional conversion." At that time, he was the only male Thai Protestant Christian in the Kingdom. In that same year, 1859, Quakieng died, and the Samray Church was left with just one ethnic Asian member. However, on 5 November 1859, the Samray Church received is first woman member, Esther, who was later known as Mother (แม่) Esther. As a child, Esther had lived with the Mattoons, and they had even taken her back to the U.S. with them on one of their furlough trips. Next, in February 1861, two more Thai men converted and joined the Samray Church, which meant that the church then had four Thai members, three men and one woman. It thus began to take on the character of a true faith community composed of both men and women. After that, the church began to receive some more new members, never a great number, but it did gradually grow larger over the years.
The Baptists differed from the Presbyterians in that when the Baptist congregation in Bangkok began in 1833 it had three Chinese members, and when that congregation became a formal church in 1837 it was made up of ethnic Asians from the beginning. In the case of the Samray Church, however, it took some twelve years after it was founded before it was actually an ethnic Asian church. At the same time, the Baptist congregation in Bangkok received very capable pastoral care from the first while the Presbyterian Samray Church had very little such care.
In sum, the Presbyterian missionaries dispalyed several fundamental characteristics regarding pastoral care, notably: First, it was necessary to serve the poor, sacrifice oneself for the work of Christ, and resist social oppression. Second, evangelism was seen as the fundamental work of the mission. Third, at first there was very little pastoral care given to the Samray Church. Fourth, the basic ideas articulated by the missionaries were ones they brought with them from overseas, including institutionalization, heathenism, and Christian Siam.
In this first period of Thai Protestant pastoral care, there were a number of serious obstacles that had to be faced. Most church members were ethnic Chinese and thus part of an under-privileged minority. Thai society showed very little interest in Christianity, and there were periods when the government suppressed this new religion. The missionaries suffered from frequent illnesses due to the tropical climate. Mission work itself was just beginning and still not stable and secure, and the missionaries were just beginning to learn about Thai society and culture. In this complex and difficult context, the Baptist and Presbyterian missions used two different approaches to church leadership. Most simply stated, the Baptists utilized a more "brotherly" approach (เป็นพี่น้องกัน) while the Presbyterians for the most part emphasized evangelism and church discipline. In all of this, we have seen that Baptist work went through periods of growth and decline until the mission finally moved all of its work to China. The Presbyterians, meanwhile, were able to expand their efforts into every region of the nation, except the Northeast.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
As we have seen, Protestant churches in the early years of Protestant missions were small and under the supervision of the missionaries themselves. The Baptist Mission emphasized pastoral care, and its churches did grow and develop somewhat, if unevenly. The pastors were missionaries, but they were willing to provide leadership opportunities for the converts as well. Most of their members were Chinese immigrants who were in Thailand only temporarily. The Presbyterians also founded churches. and at first all of their members were also Chinese. The Presbyterians emphasized the role of the missionaries in church leadership. After 1860, we will find that Baptist missionary work was not successful, and the mission eventually closed down its efforts in Thailand and moved to China. The Presbyterians, on the other hand, were able to expand into almost all parts of the kingdom; the missionaries, however, experienced several difficulties in pastoral care. In 1867, the Siam Mission gave birth to a new mission, the Laos Mission, located in northern Thailand. We will look at the Presbyterian expansion in Chapter Five. In this chapter, we will continue to focus on Protestant work in Bangkok.
In 1864, the Rev. William Dean returned to Thailand (Siam). The Chinese church in Bangkok was still very small, and the truth was that Baptist work was in decline. There was only the small group in Bangkok to show for its efforts. After Dean's return, however, things began to look up. He was still the capable pastor he had been previously, and his heart was in pastoral ministry. The number of members, thus, began to grow again, and the Baptists were able to establish new groups outside of Bangkok, especially at a village called Ban Pa Soi, which was located in what is now Chonburi Province. Then, in 1867, the number of Baptist church members began to increase fairly rapidly, and in 1868 the Baptists appointed the first Thai to officially hold the office of pastor. (It would be nearly thirty years before the Presbyterians officially appointed their first Thai pastor). It was the goal of the Baptist Mission that every one of its Christian groups have its own pastor. Baptist work continued to expand in the next few years, and after 1877 the mission had six churches with 418 members. Most of these churches were located around Chonburi, although the Chinese church in Bangkok also was numbered among the six. By 1882, the six churches had about 500 members, including also an outlying group that was not officially a church. However impressive these numbers sound, however, the fact was that the Baptist Mission was again in decline. This was mostly because Dean was aging, in poor health, and did not have the strength devote lots of time to mission work. Then, his wife died in 1882, and in 1884 he retired and returned to the U.S.
The Baptist Mission faced at least three problems that contributed to its gradual loss of membership. First, as we have already seen Dean wasn't able to work as effectively as he had in the past and eventually had to return to the U.S. The Baptist mission board in America didn't have anyone to send in his place, which meant that there was a lapse in missionary oversight of the mission's churches. At the same time, local lay leadership within the churches was also growing less and less effective. In 1884, for example, three key lay leaders left Thailand and returned to China. All of this meant that the Baptist churches lacked both effective missionary and lay pastoral care. Second, after 1880, Chinese secret societies began to create difficulties in Thailand, and the government felt it necessary to come down on them. The resulting suppression of these societies had a negative impact on the Baptist churches as well. Finally, the Catholic Church began to make inroads into the Baptist churches, which lost several members to Catholicism.
Thus, from 1882 onwards the Baptist Mission's churches fell into a long period of decline, which was exacerbated by the arrival of the missionary who took Dean's place. He was the Rev. Lewis A. Eaton, and he came to Thailand to take over as pastor of the Chinese church in Bangkok from Dean. Eaton arrived in 1883 while Dean was still in Bangkok, at a time when that church was already declining, as we have seen already. It had only 13 members left by that time, and the number of members of the churches outside of the capital had also fallen. Eaton, as a late arrival on the mission field, criticized his predecessors' approach to missionary work because it allowed the local church members to remain too dependent on the missionaries. Whenever the members had problems, they invariably turned to the missionaries to solve their problems, especially concerning legal matters and relations with the government. That was a time when courts did not base their judgments on fair decisions but on who could pay the largest bribes, and the Baptist converts were generally very poor and socially underprivileged. Eaton felt that the converts depended on the missionaries too much, and the missionaries helped the converts too much. There were, he claimed, hundreds of instances every year, both legal cases and other situations where the converts received such help. Eaton particularly blamed Dean for this problem, claiming that Dean was too generous (ใจดี) with church members. The result, he felt, was that the members were too concerned with money and their own personal gain. They weren't interested in God or belief and, thus, weren't truly followers of Christ. They only wanted to take advantage of the missionaries for worldly gain and weren't interested in spiritual growth. Eaton, thus, blamed Dean's approach to church and mission work for the decline of the churches. He charged Dean and the older generation of missionaries with making the churches they founded weak from the beginning. He avowed that he would not continue the practices of the past, would not support any converts financially, or give them other "worldly" help.
For all of that, Eaton, strangely, wrote that the spiritual condition of the members of the church was still good. He did not think that they were weak in their Christian faith. It is worth noting the irony of Easton's criticism. He was a new missionary who couldn't speak Chinese and had only a superficial understanding of the situation he faced, but he was still highly critical of the work done by Dean and the other older generation of missionaries. He took a dim view of the effectiveness of their work. However, in fact, Dean knew the Chinese language and culture, and his work was effective. The churches' members were faithful, active, and their numbers grew. The churches had their own pastors. The historical records suggests that things went very well for the Baptist churches when they were under Dean's care and supervision.
Eaton, then, severely criticized Dean for his improper approach to missions, but when we examine the consequences of Eaton's missionary efforts they are not very good. In a report written in September 1885, Eaton reported that the condition of the mission's churches was not encouraging. He wrote that: first, Eaton had to let the mission's pastors and evangelists go because there were no funds to pay them. The money for their salaries came from the churches plus other mission activities, and these sources were drying up. The Baptist mission board in the U.S., meanwhile, did not send sufficient financial assistance to cover the losses, and thus the pastors and evangelists had to be terminated. We should note here that Eaton had criticized the members of the churches while Dean was in charge as being greedy and interested only in money. But, in fact, under Dean's tenure the churches willingly supported their own pastors and the other work of the churches, while it was under Eaton that giving dropped and workers had to be fired. Second, Eaton reported on the problem of the churches losing members and not growing at all. Again, the situation was very different while Dean was pastor of the Chinese church in Bangkok. Under his leadership, the churches grew steadily and mission work expanded. It was only in his last two or three years, when Dean was not well and couldn't give his full strength to his work, that the churches showed a drop in membership. By way of contrast, under Eaton church membership dropped steadily. There were no periods of growth. Third, Eaton also reported that he was beginning to emphasize church discipline. He complained that Dean had long neglected this important aspect of mission work, which meant that it was necessary for him to make discipline an issue and try to restore good discipline to the churches.
Eaton's September 1885 report reflects the importance of pastoral care as a significant factor in church life. He himself saw that importance, but he changed the focus of his pastoral care from Dean's in two ways. First, he refused to provide any assistance to church members regardless of their circumstances or needs be they social, legal, or with government officials. Second, Eaton relied on disciplining members when they failed to live up to the Christian life as his chief means for improving the life of the churches—an approach very different from that of Dean.
In 1886, Eaton sent a letter to the U. S., which describes his thinking at the time. According to his analysis, the Baptist Mission had previously shown little results for its efforts. He especially criticized the quality of the faith of the members of the mission's churches. He judged them insincere in their faith. He did admit that the converts showed some good qualities. They did not, for example, worship idols and had given up their former religion. Even so, Eaton felt that the converts were not sincere in their faith, weak in their beliefs, and converted to Christianity for reasons of personal gain. They did not convert because they truly put their trust in Christ. Rather, the converts saw that the missionaries were wealthy and made good patrons. They converted because they believed the missionaries could help them in various ways including medically. They believed the missionaries could protect them from oppression by the government. In fact, however, Eaton gave these criticisms primarily as a way to explain why the mission's churches has grown weaker under his care. His explanation was that the churches were fundamentally weak and had been so since the beginning. By way of contrast, the records we have from Dean clearly show how much he cared for the converts. He trusted them. And the results of his care and trust were effective. As far as we can tell from Eaton's records, he did not have a heart for pastoral ministry, and the consequences were a loss of members, weak churches, and a gap between pastor and parishioners. The Baptist Mission went into a steep decline.
In his letter of 1886, Eaton explained that that the Baptist churches faced five problems, namely: (1) insincere church members; (2) a lack of discipline; (3) the transience of the Chinese members made it hard to maintain continuity in church life; (4) because the Chinese members did not bring their families with them from China, the churches lacked the foundations of having families; (5) and the Chinese churches weren't able to evangelize Thai people effectively.
By 1888, Eaton clearly felt discouraged by the lack of progress in Baptist mission work, but he remained adamant that the cause of that work's decline was the poor foundations laid in the past, especially by Dean. In 1893, Eaton returned to the U. S., and there was no Baptist missionary to take his place. He was the last Baptist missionary assigned to Thailand, and the mission closed its work in the kingdom. From then on, the Chinese Baptist congregation in Bangkok received yearly visits from missionaries in China, but for the most part the church was left to its own devices. Dr. Hans Adamsen, who was born in Thailand and spoke Chinese, helped supervise the church, but he did not do so full-time. As far as we can tell from the historical records, the congregation seems to have employed someone to do the preaching, but we have no details otherwise. There was another person who looked after three of the rural churches somewhat until he died in 1926. The preachers at the Bangkok church were all employed directly from China and came to Thailand to work with the church. Thus, from 1893 onwards the Baptist churches grew slowly until the years before World War II.
For the 18 years from 1840 to 1858, only three Presbyterian missionaries served for any length of time in Thailand (Siam), namely the Rev. and Mrs. Mattoon and Dr. House. Others who served in Thailand did not stay long or have any results to show for their efforts. The year 1858 marked an important change, however, because two men who would have an important impact on Presbyterian missions arrived together that year. They were the Rev. Daniel McGilvary, later known in the North as phokru luang (Great Father Teacher) and the Rev. Jonathan Wilson. Wilson's wife also arrived but died shortly afterwards. Both McGilvary and Wilson served in Thailand for over fifty years. McGilvary, in particular, would have a great impact on the founding and development of churches in the North. He is particularly important for the history of pastoral care because he himself had served as a pastor of two churches in North Carolina, USA, before he came to Thailand. In 1861 McGilvary married Sophia Bradley, the daughter of the famous missionary, Dr. Dan Beach Bradley. The McGilvarys then joined the Rev. Samuel G. and Mrs. Jane McFarland in establishing the Presbyterian mission station in Phet Buri, the first Protestant mission station outside of Bangkok.
The strategy of the Presbyterian's Siam Mission was to plant a mission station in a central city as its basic unity for carrying out missionary work. The idea was to create a strong and well-resourced center that could then create rural Christian communities from that center. This strategy is strikingly similar to the one used by the Vietnamese army when it invaded Cambodia in 1978. The Vietnamese first seized Phom Phen and from that center then sent troops in various directions in what was called the "exploding flower" strategy. In much the same way, the Siam Mission established the station at Phet Buri with the idea of creating a strong and secure center first, which could then expand into the surrounding rural areas. We should observe that, in effect, the mission station functioned as a power center as well.
Ordinarily, the mission stations established by the Presbyterians carried out several kinds of activities, which divided into different station "units". These units included: First, the homes of the missionaries. As we saw in Chapter Two, each missionary home employed a number of servants, who were housed in the mission compound along with their families and thus formed a small community of their own. As it turned out, the missionaries' house servants were mostly Christians, and in effect missionary homes became places for training converts in the ways of the missionaries. Second, boarding schools. Most stations had both a boys' and a girls' school, and the station used its schools to train the students in the ways of the Christian faith, to literally give them new beliefs, knowledge, and values so that in a sense they would become new persons. In the stations in the North, the schools were also centers for Christian education and the place where Christian children learned about the faith. Thus, the boarding schools functioned as agencies for both evangelistic and Christian education. Third, hospitals and dispensaries. A station's medical work had at least three functions: (1) demonstrate God's love for and Christian generosity to the Thai people; (2) the fact that the station hospital received patients opened the opportunity for the missionaries to evangelize both them and their families while they were in the hospital; (3) station hospitals also cared for Christians who were ill and thus served the Christian community in a form of what we might call "pastoral care"; and (4) a station normally would have an evangelistic team, which did both evangelism and visited and looked after the smaller rural groups of Christians. These teams, thus, carried out both as evangelistic and pastoral care.
In addition to these "agencies" of a typical Presbyterian mission station, there was still one more, the church connected with the station. Since mission stations were invariably located in urban centers, the station church was also a city church. Usually, it was located in a mission compound, pastored by a missionary, and had at least three basic characteristics. First, it held worship services and was usually the worship center of the station. Second, it offered a model for what a church should be for the rural churches, which meant that it usually engaged in evangelism and had prayer and women's groups as a church "should" have. Third, station churches engaged in a variety of Christian education activities including Sunday school and Bible study groups.
It should be noted here that for the most part these station "agencies" functioned as institutions in the sense described in Chapter Two. The Presbyterians, that is, used them to draw people away from Thai society and into the new social environment of the station itself. In other words, the Presbyterian missionaries drew on the American idea of institutionalization to solve what they believed was the basic social "problem" of the Thai people (they weren't Christians) by removing them to a Christian social setting, the station.
One consequence of the fact that the Presbyterians centralized their work in urban mission stations was that the "city church" attached to a station would have a missionary pastor while the rural churches did not have anyone appointed to the position of pastor at all. This meant that until 1890 there were no ethnic Thai pastors in Presbyterian churches, and after that year there began to be a few Thai pastors. This centralized system under missionary pastoral control influenced on the development of pastoral care in what are today CCT churches in at least four ways.
First, pastoral ministry was not the primary concern of those who had responsibility for the pastoral care of Presbyterian churches. In addition to their pastoral duties, the missionary pastors had many other mission duties to attend to, especially in the smaller stations where there were only one or two men available to do all of the work of the station. The women missionaries in that day could not, of course, serve as pastors or in most other leadership positions. The missionary pastor usually had to look after mission finances personnel management, property, often the station's schools, and sometimes even medical work. Pastoral care, thus, was most often an added responsibility and not the primary concern of the missionary pastors. It was one of just many responsibilities, one for which the "pastor" had only a limited amount of time.
Second, the missionary pastors virtually functioned as patrons (เจ้านาย) of the churches. We should note that the pastor did not live in the same society as the majority of church members. His "society" was the mission station. The church had no authority whatsoever over the pastor. The pastor was not employed by the church, and the pastor had a much higher social status than that of the members of the church. Indeed, by the standards of Thai society the missionary pastor was very wealthy and highly influential. Pastoral ministry, as practiced by the Presbyterians, was transformed from a ministry with the church into one that stood above the church. [2012 note: the patron status of the missionary pastor was further emphasized by the fact that at least some church members, often leading members, worked as servants in missionary homes or employees of mission schools and hospitals. The social and ecclesiastical status of the pastor was almost immeasurably higher than that of the church's members.]
Third, the missionaries were not members of the Thai community nor did they live in the community. They came from a different culture and society. Often, they did not speak Thai that well and did not have a deep grasp of Thai culture and mores. In these cases, the person responsible for pastoral care did not understand very well the lives of the people they were called to serve. More than that, they did not think that they had to adapt their pastoral care to Thai society and culture. Quite the opposite, the missionaries were convinced that they had to import from the U. S. a western model for pastoral care. For them, it was obvious that the American church provided the proper model for pastoral care and equally obvious that they had to reject any local models based on Thai society and culture. They, thus, entirely rejected any comparison to the role played by Buddhist monks, nor did they draw on the indigenous Thai model of the temple for pastoral care. Instead, they believed that the pastor had to live in society as other people did. They had to marry, have a family, and dress like everyone else. The missionaries refused to consider any Thai models for pastoral care and refused to conduct their pastoral ministries in light of the ways Thai people actually lived. In a Thai model of pastoral care, the pastor is generous and understanding (has น้ำใจ), looks after and nurtures (เลี้ยงดูฟูมฟัก) the members of the church. The Presbyterian missionary pastors did not normally think of pastoral care in these terms. They tended to emphasize the purity of the church and church discipline instead.
Finally, the Presbyterian missionaries' reliance on a foreign model for pastoral ministry had yet another consequence, namely pastoral care became a matter of prestige and influence (บารมี). The missionary pastor was a member of a mission station, which stood above the local church in the mission hierarchy. The pastor exercised more power than church leaders did and was often the employer of some church members, frequently quite a few. Members, thus, were employees and/or servants of the pastor even as the missionary pastor was their pastor, which in Thai society meant that the pastor was a person of prestige and honor (ศักด์ศรี). Pastoral care, furthermore, was located in the urban centers, not out in the countryside, which created a further social gap between the pastor and those he was called to care for. In the eyes of church member, then, pastoral ministry was the province of the "big shots" (ผู้ใหญ่), not them.
We should note that these four characteristics of Presbyterian pastoral care did not emerge immediately after the formation of the Phet Buri Station. For a time there were no converts. But, as the station developed and the Siam Mission founded other ones as well, the model of pastoral care described above gradually developed one step at a time.
As we have seen, two Presbyterian couples moved to Phet Buri in 1861 to open a mission station there. The first they did was to build homes for themselves and to teach even before there were converts or a church. In November 1861, thus, Jane McFarland opened a small school with 8 students including the son of the local governor. The governor himself also studied English with her. She hoped that her instruction would have an influence on her students, none of whom were Christians. For the most part, these students came from the upper, ruling class of local society, and Mrs. McFarland sought to implant in these future leaders the rudiments of the Christian life so that they would one day exercise political leadership according to Christian teachings and principles. Not too long after, in 1865, Mrs. McFarland also started a girls' vocational school to teach the girls basic homemaking skills.
During the year 1863, three men converted to Christianity in Phet Buri, and all three of them became employees of the station or servants in missionary homes. That same year, the station founded the Phet Buri Church (the Sri Pimontum Church, today). The congregation gradually grew larger, and by 1874 it had 24 members, most of whom were in the employ of the station. That number also included the missionaries who were not ordained clergy (missionary women, children, and lay men). Most of the converts had homes in the mission compound where they lived close together with each other and the missionaries. The Rev. McFarland was the pastor from 1863 until 1878 when he left the mission to work for the Thai government. The next pastor of the church was the Rev. E. P. Dunlap, who first arrived in Thailand in 1875. We will examine his work in Phet Buri in Chapter Four.
During the time when the Siam Mission was initiating the work in Phet Buri, the Samray Church in Bangkok grew in size a good deal. Most of the growth came in two spurts, one in 1866-1867 and the other in 1875-1876. In 1876, the church received 11 new members, and by this time the congregation was beginning to look like a more fully developed congregation. The pastor up until 1874 was Dr. House, who retired and returned to the U. S. in that year. The next pastor of the Samray Church was the Rev. Noah McDonald. He remained pastor for three years, and then the Rev. John Culbertson took his place. Culbertson first reached Thailand in 1871.
Culbertson took a new approach to pastoral ministry with the Samray Church. He allowed the church's members greater voice in the reception of new members, something we saw earlier in the Baptist's Chinese church in Bangkok. During his tenure, the church elected a second Thai elder, which meant that the Thai elders became the majority on the session. This was the first time that had happened in a Presbyterian church in Thailand. All of this meant that Culbertson gave the church increased authority over its own life. At the same time, he expanded the scope of the church's activities and saw an increase in the number of members. In all, his ministry was reminiscent of Dean's work with the Baptist churches. Like Dean, he tended to trust the members and had little interest in exercising discipline over them. He was the first Presbyterian missionary pastor of this kind, but he remained the pastor of the Samray Church for only three years, until 1880, when he gave up the office of pastor.
It is well worth noting that in the first period of Presbyterian pastoral care, from the founding of the first churches down to 1900, Thais palyed no role in pastoral care until nearly the end that period. Or, at least, the historical records still available to us today say nothing about their having such a role. It was evidently understood that pastoral care was to remain in the hands of and under the authority of the missionaries. However, as we have seen, the Baptist approach did allow local church members much more of a part in pastoral care.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
The history of both the Presbyterians and Baptists demonstrates that in the first years of Protestant missions in Thailand (Siam) there were two types of pastoral care. One type we might call the "Dean" style. It was built on trust between the pastor and the church and allowed church members a large role in church life. From the member's perspective this type of pastoral leadership was "kindhearted." The second type we might call the "Eaton" style. It emphasized discipline and treated church members with mistrust. From their viewpoint, it was a "mean spirited" (ใจดำ) approach to pastoral care. This division into two styles of pastoral care, admittedly, might be too simplistic for the actual historical practice of pastoral care in the two missions, but it does provide us with some insights into the practice of pastoral ministry in the past. For our purposes in this chapter, it especially helps us to understand events that took place in the church in Phet Buri under the pastoral leadership of the Rev. E. P. Dunlap, the Rev. W. G. McClure, and other missionaries responsible for the pastoral care of that congregation.
As we saw in Chapter Three, the Rev. E. P. Dunlap became pastor of the Phet Buri Church in 1878. By most accounts, Dunlap was a sincere, dedicated, highly motivated, and hard-working missionary who devoted all of his time to his work. The members of the church believed him to be generous and kind-hearted, and he was esteemed by people of Phet Buri at all levels of society. Dunlap held that the fundamental work of the mission was evangelism, and he himself was a highly effective evangelist, much more so than other missionaries. He also had a deep affection for the members of the Phet Buri Church, and after he became the church's pastor the number of new converts increased quickly. In 1879, the church added 32 new members, and it grew both spiritually and in the breadth of its activities. One of Dunlap's colleagues in Phet Buri once wrote that the Holy Spirit was clearly present in his work. Dunlap's one weakness as a missionary, however, was his health; he was so committed to his work that he did not take care of himself physically. In October 1879, thus, Dunlap's health was so broken that he had to return to the United States.
After Dunlap left, the Siam Mission appointed another missionary to take his place, but it wasn't long he also had to leave for medical reasons. When he left, there was no male missionary available to take his place, so for the two years1880 and 188 two single women missionaries, Mary Cort and Sarah Coffman, ran the Phet Buri Station. Among their other duties, they also provided unofficial pastoral care for the Phet Buri Church. This was at a time when women in the United States could not exercise leadership in local Presbyterian churches because it was widely believed that women should not "rule" over men and that it was a violation of biblical teachings if they did. When, however, the Siam Mission lacked men missionaries, it became necessary for Cort and Coffmann to take charge of the church. Their leadership, at it turned out, also sparked resistance in the church itself especially among some of the men who did not like having women over them at all. Elder Klai, for example, was an influential elder in the church who resisted the authority of Cort and Coffman. He felt it was wrong for women to take religious authority. In spite of this tension, the church still grew numerically under the women's leaders while maintaining the same level of activities that it had under Dunlap.
As we saw in Chapter One, in the early church women played an important role in church leadership and pastoral care; but unless they could not avoid it, neither the Siam Mission nor the Phet Buri Church wanted women to have a pastoral role. Thus, in 1881 the mission sent the Rev. C. S. McClelland to Phet Buri to take charge there, including pastoral duties. He proved, however, to be a pastor on the model of Eaton, that is one who did not put his trust in the church he led. When he arrived in Phet Buri, McClelland did not speak Thai and did not have a working knowledge of Thai culture and society. He, furthermore, he proved to have a personality that the church members in Phet Buri found difficult to accept. He spoke bluntly whatever was on his mind. At the same time, he accepted the idea that church discipline and the purity of the church were central pastoral concerns. There were numerous cases where he used discipline to solve what he considered to be problems including dropping church members from the rolls of the church while suspending others from the receiving communion. His style provoked a reaction from the church in a couple of ways: first, the number of new converts received into the church dropped; and second, Elder Klai in particular had problems with McClelland, left the church, and took a portion of the church with him. But, then, McClelland's health failed him, and he had to return to the U.S., never to come back to Thailand. After he left, Dunlap was able to return for a second term at Phet Buri.
Immediately on Dunlap's return at the beginning of 1883, the situation of the Phet Buri Church rapidly improved. The members who had left the church returned, and Dunlap's evangelistic efforts brought new members to the church just as before. The size of the church increased, new elders were elected, and old elders returned, including Elder Klai. Elder Klai also apologized to Dunlap for having left the church, and he was restored to his previous leadership role in the congregation. The pews, which had been emptied of worshippers, were now full again. The rural churches grew, giving was decent, the Phet Buri Church's Sunday school was much larger, women's groups were established, and three Bible women were employed by the church. The Bible women visited both members of the church and families that were not Christians as well; and it is interesting to note that their work had a pastoral quality to it, demonstrating that women have for over one hundred years contributed to pastoral care in Thai churches. In sum, then, the Phet Buri Church during Dunlap's second term as pastor grew rapidly, showed good unity, and was very active.
The philosophy of Dunlap practiced in Phet Buri was based on pastoral care. It was an approach that is not difficult to understand. He intended to build the church's life on the foundation of I Corinthians 13, that is to make love the core of pastoral care.
The Phet Buri Church, in any event, still faced a number of problems including: first, other station work took up a great deal of Dunlap's time. Second, he did not have other colleagues in the station with whom he could share the work load; Third, even though Dunlap was a talented pastor, his primary calling remained evangelism and not pastoral care. He invested a good deal of time to evangelism, which further limited the attention and care he could give to the Phet Buri Church. Finally, while Dunlap was an excellent patron (in the sense of Thai society) to the converts, the problem was that the church depended on him for its life. When he was there it was lively and when he wasn't it grew weaker. It seems as though the church rested on the foundation of a single person, and it was strong because he was strong rather than because of any inherent strength in itself. In any event, in June 1888, Dunlap fell ill again for the same reason as before, namely he worked himself too hard. He had to go back to the U.S., and while he did return to Thailand he never worked in Phet Buri again.
As we have seen in Chapter Three, the convert community in Phet Buri largely liked Dunlap and felt that he worked effectively with them. Other members of the Siam Mission, however, did not share that feeling. After Dunlap left Phet Buri, the mission sent the Rev. W. G. McClure to take his place, and McClure represented the newer generation of missionaries, which did not accept the missiological approach of older missionaries, such as Dunlap. In order to understand the events that took place after 1888, then, we need to look at the philosophy of that faction in the Siam Mission that can be labelled the "anti-Dunlap" faction.
One of the members of the Siam Mission who particularly did not agree with Dunlap's approach was the Rev. Ego Wachter, who was the pastor of the Samray Church beginning in 1884. From nearly the beginning of his ministry at Samray, Wachter was not happy with the members of that church. His views were very similar to those of the Baptist missionary, Eaton. He felt that the members converted to Christianity for personal gain of some sort and not out of a genuine interest in the Christian faith. They were not seeking salvation but only wanted missionary patronage.
For Watcher the purity of the church was a key concern. In his view the concept of "purity" as it applied to churches was a universal one that was the same at all times, places, and in all cultures. Both purity and right beliefs were the same whatever language was being spoken and whatever society was involved. This meant that the purity of the church in Thailand was the same as in America, which meant that the reasons for conversion to Christianity were also the same in both countries. As Wachter and the vast majority of American Protestants understood the matter, conversion began with having a deep sense of one's personal sin and an equally deep willingness to throw one's self on the grace of God. Then, one converted. Now, in fact, not all Americans became Christians in this way, but it was process of conversion that the Presbyterian missionaries in Thailand believed was the right way.
Wachter believed that it was nearly impossible to find a member of the Samray Church that was a true convert. They were not interested in the gospel and were interested only in money and getting ahead. They did not understand the true meaning of the Christian faith nor did they comprehend what conversion was really about. These so-called converts were, in fact, a danger to the faith because they destroyed the church's purity. For any church to be true to the Christian faith, it had to be entirely pure; any failings comprised its ability to lead others to salvation. According to Wachter, the reason the Samray Church was not a true church was because of the missiological approach of the previous generation of missionaries. They had accepted insincere converts in order to have strong statistical growth. Wachter insisted that no matter how large it might be an impure church filled with "dangerous" members could not lead people to Christ. In his view, the church must be a "clean church," a church without blemish that was filled with members whose motivations were pure. It was this kind of church that he sought in his work in Thailand.
After 1885, a group of younger missionaries emerged in the Siam Mission that agreed with Watcher, and while he wasn't the leader of this group his views were very influential in it. This younger generation campaigned to make the concept of the "clean church" the policy of the mission, and they looked on themselves as being a reform group within the mission. Their goal was to maintain the integrity of the mission's churches by insuring that that they did not receive insincere, self-serving converts. They wanted the churches, in their view, to be pleasing to God. Their basic operating principle was to refuse to give converts any financial aid or otherwise aid them even if they were slaves or do deeply in debt as to fall into slavery and sought mission help. In the past, missionaries had on occasion aided converts in such situations, but this younger group in the mission sought to bring such assistance to an end. In effect, they wanted to halt missionary patronage of church members by refusing to behave as older missionaries had. They held that it was a mistake for them to act as the patrons of the converts.
By 1889, the young reform clique had gained a voting majority in the meetings of the mission. Even though these younger missionaries had been in Thailand for only a brief time, did not speak Thai very well, and did not understand Thai society and culture, they established themselves as leaders in the mission. As it turned out, in fact, the younger missionaries were able to take charge of the mission because there was only one senior missionary on the field, Miss Mary Cort, and they looked on her as one of the chief offenders in following the former policies of the mission. Thus it was that when McClure went to Phet Buri to take over the work of the station and the church, he took the attitudes and principles of the young reform group with him.
As we have already seen, after Dunlap left Phet Buri he was replaced by the Rev. W. G. McClure, a new missionary who first arrived in Bangkpk in 1886. His first assignment there was to work at the mission boys' school along with Wachter. In 1889, the mission assigned him to Phet Buri where he found the church to be in a poor condition. One problem was that no one seemed to be able to take Dunlap's place or lead the church as well as he did. Another problem was a brewing crisis in the station with regard to another missionary, Dr. James B. Thompson, a medical doctor also serving at Phet Buri. Thompson was not a clergyman, and in his status as a layman he had been elected as an elder of the church along with several other elders. Once on the session, he tried to raise a question about Elder Klai's status as a member of the session. Elder Klai gambled, and Thompson felt that it was wrong for him to do so and be a ruling elder of the church. Thompson had tried to raise this issue while Dunlap was pastor of the church, but Dunlap was not willing to have it discussed by the session. After Dunlap left, Thompson again tried to raise the question of Elder Klai's gambling, but the other members of the session refused to consider it let alone do anything about it. The result was conflict between Thompson and the other elders, which tension disturbed the peace of the whole church. As a consequence, a large part of the church stopped attending worship and showed no interest in its activities, which in turn soon caused McClure to see these members in a negative light. He thought they were weak and childish in their Christian faith.
The Phet Buri Church, thus, began to decline, but we should note that in spite of the problems it faced it still had some strengths as well. McClure wrote that average attendance at worship was about 60, and the station's three rural churches remained open with regular worshippers in attendance. Women's activities were relatively strong under Cort's leadership, and in general when McClure first arrived things were not entirely bleak.
It seems, however, that McClure did not see these residual strengths in the station's churches. Quite the opposite, he saw nothing but overwhelming problems, which he blamed entirely on Dunlap. He criticized Dunlap because: one, Dunlap lacked strict standards for examining whether applicants were fit or not and thus was too quick to receive new members; two, Dunlap tended to see only the good in the converts and overlook their weaknesses; and, three, Dunlap did not maintain proper church discipline. On this last point, Dunlap was seldom willing to punish lapses in church discipline and thus failed to maintain the purity of the churches under his care. In sum, McClure was convinced that Dunlap's policies were a failure and had to be corrected by the application of new policies and methods. He bluntly criticized Dunlap for "buying" Christians because Dunlap used to promise potential converts who were debt slaves that he would he would help redeem them if they converted. McClure believed that Dunlap's failure to see the weaknesses of his converts had nothing but negative consequences for the station and its churches—and for the work and church in Bangkok as well. The Bangkok converts, he thought, were just like the ones in Phet Buri. Dr. Thompson fully agreed with this critical appraisal and went so far as to call the Phet Buri converts, "heathen Christians." This was strong language. The converts were deemed to be false believers, Christian in name only and no different from "heathens" in general.
The experience and views of Mary Cort, who was a colleague of both men, provide us with some insights into whether McClure's evaluation of Dunlap was fair or not. She observed that Dunlap was a deeply committed missionary who threw himself into his work. He loved others and sacrificed himself for them. She agreed that sometimes he was too generous to the converts, but she wrote that he just could not stop himself from helping those who had fallen into slavery. He was deeply concerned for the lives of the converts. Cort, that is, absolutely did not agree with the criticisms that McClure and Thompson leveled against Dunlap.
After 1889, the Phet Buri Church went into a steep decline primarily because its members did not like McClure. He wasn't willing to extend the help to them that they had been receiving for some years, and they felt that he did not understand or sympathize with them. He seemed unkind to them. At one point, the mission sent a committee to investigate the situation of the churches under the Phet Buri Station, and it reported back that the members felt that McClure didn't want them in the church; and so they had stopped attending worship, the country churches ceased to exist, and Elder Klai and the other elders left the Christian faith entirely. There were no new converts. In 1890, the Phet Buri Church counted 150 members on its rolls, but only 20 came to worship; and of that number, two were missionaries, 14 were station employees, and three were wives of station employees. Only one person attended worship regularly who was not either a missionary or financially supported by the station. By 1893, the number of members who regularly attended worship had dropped to eight.
In spite of the fact that the Phet Buri Church was dying, McClure refused to change his attitudes or methods. He continued to insist that the problems he faced were caused by Dunlap's faulty approach to missionary work. Dunlap, he believed, had built the station's churches on sand rather than on a solid foundation of rock, and the fact that the church was in decline only served to prove the point so far as McClure was concerned. He served in Phet Buri from 1889 until 1906, and for that entire period the Phet Buri Church was weak, had very few members, and the members it did have were mostly station employees. At the same time, McClure's evangelistic outreach failed to win many converts. In the decade from 1889 to 1899, the Phet Buri Church took in only 25 new members, which number included lay missionaries.
The events in Phet Buri that we have described here raise two central questions. First, what was the right way to bring people into the Christian faith? Second, what was the right way to lead converts, once they entered the church, to a strong faith? From what we have seen, the Presbyterian missionaries who worked in the Phet Buri Station exemplified two different approaches to the issues raised in these questions, what we might call the Dunlap approach and the McClure approach. These two approaches differed not a little. It seems clear from the historical record that Dunlap's approach was the more effective one, and it was the one that better meshed with the reality of the converts' lives. His approach was that of a good pastor while McClure's did not adapt itself to local realities in Phet Buri. McClure, thus, was an ineffective pastor whose ministry lead to decline in the number of members, giving, and participation in activities of the church.
McClure knew that the church had grown much weaker during his tenure, and he sometimes became discouraged as a result. But, he reasoned that the church was still better off under him than it had been under Dunlap, because under Dunlap the converts had not been sincere in their faith. McClure was convinced that it was better to have a few strong members than a large number of members who were not dedicated to serving God. While that rationale might be attractive on the face of it, the problem was that under McClure the Phet Buri Church was both small and composed of weak members. We know this from McClure's own correspondence and reports. Thus, when the station employed individuals they generally converted to Christianity, and when these converts left the employ of the station they also left the church and the Christian faith. In comparison with McClure, then, Dunlap's approach was more effective. Looking back from our situation today, we might feel surprised that McClure wasn't able to see that his approach was ineffective. In order to understand the events at Phet Buri, we must look at three factors, which taken together help explain why McClure refused to change his own approach to his ministry.
First, we turn to McClure's ideology (อุดมการณ์). He understood that his beliefs, perspective, ideology, and actions were based on the Bible, the Word of God and therefore correct. They reflected the will of God. This ideological perspective made it virtually impossible for McClure to change his mind about any of his beliefs or actions. He was sure that he believed correctly and acted correctly. There are two particular ideas of McClure's that we should consider in order to better understand his perspective.
The first idea concerned the "millennium," that is the last days or last age of the world. In the view of McClure, God will one day bring the millennium to fruition. It will be an age of perfection. This belief in the millennium was extremely important in 19th century America because many American Christians believed that they were working for its coming. Their work, thus, was God-given, and they were God's ambassadors in their efforts to bring in the millennium for the whole world. American believers in the millennium were sure that it would arrive one day and all of humanity would necessarily enter its age of peace. McClure and the other American Presbyterian missionaries brought this idea with them as part of their "cultural baggage" and adapted it to their situation in Thailand. That is, they were convinced that one day in the future the Thai people would join with the rest of the world and worship God. They did not doubt that Thailand would become a Christian nation. Applying this understanding of the future specifically to Phet Buri, McClure was thus absolutely sure that the it would one day become a Christian city according to God's promises about the future that McClure believed were in the Bible. Drawing on biblical imagery, he believed that he was planting the seeds for that future and one day there would be a great harvest. He believed that he had to struggle in his time so that "in that day" his labors would re rewarded with success. God, that is, would harvest the crop he was planting. Thus, he also believed, he did not have to worry about results in his time. He didn't have to worry if the church declined for a time because in the future it must grow and prosper according to what he took to be the sure promises of God.
In short, McClure was absolutely convinced that he was doing God's work and what was right. He was sure that the citizens of Phet Buri would one day become Christians. Even though the Phet Buri Church was in steep decline, thus, everything was in God's hands and would work out according to God's plans. That is to say, he simply did not see that he should conduct himself in any other way than what he had been doing. Everything would work out in the future.
The second idea that helps us to understand why McClure refused to change his approach in Phet Buri has to do with the basic Presbyterian doctrine of "calling" (การทรงเรียก), which was linked to the idea of the millennium. McClure, as a Presbyterian, was convinced that God had called him to be a missionary and to work in Phet Buri, and subsequent events only confirmed his calling for him. When he became discouraged, he would compare himself to the biblical prophet Jeremiah. Although the Israelites refused to listen to Jeremiah, he was still God's prophet. By the same token, McClure believed that God had called him and was pleased to have him remain in Phet Buri. Again, his system of beliefs kept him from considering new or different ways of approaching his work.
Both of these ideas regarding the millennium and being called by God served to convince McClure that in his approach to missions he was only following God's will. He was doing what God intended him to do. He felt that he had to stay the course whatever problems he might encounter just as the Hebrew prophets persisted in their calling in spite of obstacles. Given all of this, it was all but impossible for McClure even to entertain the notion that he should follow Dunlap's apparently more successful approach.
Second, one of the things that we can see most clearly from the events in Phet Buri over one hundred years ago is that there was a lack of understanding between McClure and the members of the Phet Buri Church. Part of the problem was the typical misunderstandings that happen between people. Culture, however, was also an important factor. Each side had their own culture, which they took as normative in their attitudes about the other. That is, the converts understood McClure through the lens of Thai culture while he looked at them through the lens of American culture.
One point that we have to look at with particular care is the very different ways by which the converts and Mcclure understood what it meant to be a member of a church. As an American Protestant, McClure understood church membership to be a matter of commitment. Churches in the U.S. were "voluntary associations," and their members chose to join them. Membership thus was a matter of commitment. Here we have to return to the concept of "denomination," which we introduced in Chapter One. In the U.S., we saw, there was no established church and religion was considered to be a personal matter. Churches had to recruit their membership, which meant church membership was not a matter of being born into the church. The expectation was that members would take a serious interest in their church. It also meant that Americans gave their loyalty and put their trust in systems of belief (such as being a Presbyterian) and institutions (such as the Presbyterian Church) rather than in individuals.
The good folks (พี่น้อง) of the Phet Buri Church were not born into the same society as McClure. Thai society in that era was a patron-client society, that is a society in which patrons (ผู้อุปถัมภ์) looked after their clients (ผู้รับอุปถัมภ์). That is, every person in Thai society had a patron to which they were expected to show loyalty. It was understood that the King was the patron of the whole nation and all Thais were his clients. Traditionally, clients could not choose their patrons and had to accept whoever they were assigned to. In more recent years, however, the patron-client structure shifted sufficiently so that commoners could choose their patron; and, of course, people sought patrons who were kindhearted and generous. Patronage was a matter of social security as patrons were expected to look out for their clients and help them deal with various problems they might face. Some scholars consider the relationship between patrons and clients to have been contractual in nature; each side had certain responsibilities to fulfill in the relationship. In difficult times, the patron aided clients and was expected to show them compassion. By the same token, clients were expected to give their loyalty to their patron and be ready to serve them at all times. They had to be sensitive to the goodness of their patron. In all of this, we should note that Thai society was based on personal relationships rather than on belief systems or institutions.
From the first days of the Phet Buri Station, the Presbyterian missionaries generally acted as if they were the patrons of their converts in a readily identifiable Thai way. They provided the converts with various kinds of assistance, including legal aid, medical care, employment, and even cash loans. They helped converts win their freedom from slavery. It was naturally understood by the converts, thus, that the missionaries were in effect their patrons. Not every convert became a Christian in order to gain missionary patronage, but once they were Christians the missionaries were their patrons.
The missionaries, however, did not understand their relationship with the converts as being patronage even if they did sometimes seem to act as patrons. For them, the relationship was a religious one. They were leaders of the church, and the members were followers. It was a mutual relationship built on responsibility to the church and to Gold. For the converts, however, their relationship was at least partly built on social patronage. They were dependents (ลูกน้อง) of the missionaries.
The problem was, then, that the missionaries did not accept and may not even have understood the converts' perception of their relationship. They saw themselves as religious leaders and evangelists. They believed that Protestant clergy and other church leaders served God in society much as other Christians did, which is to say they did not see themselves as being like Buddhist monks. In Thai society, however, religious leaders lived their lives apart from everyday society. They were monks who lived in temples. They did not marry, have employment, and were not ordinary persons (คน). They were "set-apart" (พระ) persons. When the converts observed that the missionaries did not behave like monks but did behave as if they were members of a higher social class, it was only natural that they would consider the missionaries to be patrons. They acted like patrons. In Thai society, that is, the religious and worldly spheres are clearly demarcated and religious functionaries operated in the religious sphere. American society did not make such a distinction. The result was confusing for the converts. The missionaries were religious leaders who did not separate themselves from the worldly sphere of everyday life. They acted like they belonged to the upper class. They were privileged and wealthy just as any patron was and they behaved (up until the time of McClure) generously as any patron would.
The "young Turk" reformers described previously rejected the idea of patronage, and more than that they believed that the Thai converts displayed moral weakness and a lack of true faith when they tried to relate to the missionaries as clients. Thus, a serious misunderstanding developed between the two sides. The missionaries believed that the converts were selfish and insincere in their faith. The converts thought the new generation of missionaries wase hardhearted.
From what we have seen here, it was understood by the converts that Dunlap was a good patron because, as we have seen, he was generous and kindhearted in his treatment of them. From the historical record, it is not clear whether he intentionally assumed the Thai social role of patron or not. His actions and behavior, however, so perfectly matched Thai exceptions of a patron that he was seen as one by the converts, and the Phet Buri Church prospered under his de facto patronage. The younger generation of missionaries, on the other hand, disagreed with Dunlap's patron-like approach and criticized him both him and the members of the church for thinking and behaving wrongly.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Phet Buri Church prospered under Dunlap because he behaved as a patron of the converts and declined under McClure because he refused to do the same. McClure was not willing to adapt the church to the realities of Thai society and culture. In other words, at least some of the problems McClure faced in Phet Buri were a result of the differences between Thai and American society and culture.
Third, the final key factor that we will address here has to do with McClure's own personality. In addition to the factors of beliefs and culture, which we've already examined, personality issues also played an important part in his failure to lead the Phet Buri Church and Station effectively. Stated most simply, McClure did not have Dunlap's winning personality. He wasn't very sure of himself. He sometimes wasn't prepared to compromise or listen to the concerns of the church members. He generally took a dim view of them. In fact, he was a good person and intended well, but he did not come across that way to the converts, who considered him unfeeling.
In sum, then, the Phet Buri case is both interesting in its own right and important more generally. It demonstrates the fact that pastoral ministry and leadership must adapt itself to the lives of the members being served. When a church is led according to western principles and approaches, it will not grow and prosper. As we have already seen, then, McClure failed to develop the Phet Buri Church into a strong congregation for three reasons. First, the ideas he brought to pastoral ministry created a gulf between the church members and himself, and those same ideas prevented him from engaging in critical self-reflection and evaluation. He relied on them, instead, to justify himself. He was convinced that God called him to his ministry and that God would lead him through it. Second, Dunlap and the converts looked at his role through the eyes of each side's culture, which caused them to see his role very differently. For Dunlap, the pastor was neither a social patron nor was he like Buddhist monks. But the members felt that any religious leader who was not like a monk did not really measure up religiously. Third, Dunlap was not able to adapt his own personality to the expectations of the converts especially regarding the patron-client social roles of Thai society.
The Phet Buri case was complex, involved numerous factors, and reflects the issues and problems facing the Presbyterians concerning pastoral care in the 19th century. This case also points to important factors involved in that care. One factor was the understanding that the missionaries brought to pastoral care and the extent to which that understanding was effective or not. Another factor was the how well the understanding of the missionary pastors and the churches' members meshed regarding their respective roles. A final factor had to do with the particular pastoral and leadership style of each missionary pastor. As can be seen from the history of the Phet Buri Station, when there were problems with these factors, the missionary pastors were not able to work effectively. In sum, the Phet Buri case helps us to understand the situation of Presbyterian pastoral care at the end of the 19th century and the nature of the problems involved with pastoral ministry.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
Thai Protestant church history, obviously, began in Bangkok, but it does not come as a surprise that from the very beginning in 1828 the goal of the Protestant missionaries was to evangelize the whole Thai nation. It was quit a few years, however, before they were able to finally open the first mission station outside of Bangkok, namely the Phet Buri Station. And while missionary work was expanding in central Thailand, the missionaries at the same time were looking for ways to reach into other regions of the country. They were especially drawn to Thailand's northern tributary states, which had once been the independent kingdom of Lan Na. As we will see in this chapter, it was the Presbyterians who finally realized that dream of northern expansion. In the years that followed their first work in the North, the Baptist mission in Burma also showed interest in expanding into the northern states so that they could work with the Karen people living there. In this chapter, we will look at the historical background of Presbyterian work in the North, and Chapter Six will provide critical reflections on the experience of the northern churches with pastoral care.
Prior to 1860, there were several Protestant missionaries working in Bangkok who wanted to carry the Christian message into the northern principalities, which were dependencies of Thailand (Siam). One who was especially interested in the North was Dr. Dan Beach Bradley who originally worked under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) and later under the American Missionary Association (AMA). He was aware of the northern states because when the northern princes (เจ้าเมีอง) and other dignitaries travelled to Bangkok to renew their fealty to the King they stayed at a temple near Bradley's home. Bradley took the opportunity to evangelize them. Bradley was also aware of the large number of Laotian captives (from modern day Laos) living in the area around Phet Buri, and he seemed to think that they were related to the northerners. He had requested financial aid from the A.M.A. with the aim of starting mission work in the North, but the A.M.A. did not have funds available for such work. As it turned out, however, his daughter Sophia married the Rev. Daniel McGilvary, a Presbyterian missionary. After they were married, McGilvary also became interested in the North, and when he and Sophia moved to Phet Buri one of his goals was to work with the Laotians living in that area. In fact, both of the McGilvarys shared a vision for founding a new station in Chiang Mai, the most important of the northern states.
[Translation Note: in the 19th century, westerners living in Siam referred to the five northern states as "Laos". When spoken, they dropped the "s". They were not referring to the modern day nation of Laos or the Laotian people. "Laos" was in those days composed of the states of Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, and Nan. The first three were also known as "Western Laos."]
What happened next was that from November 1863 to February 1864 McGilvary and his fellow Presbyterian missionary, the Rev. Jonathan Wilson, travelled northward on a survey trip that included Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Lampang. They found that the situation in Chiang Mai offered the best site for a future mission station because the people there seemed most interested in hearing about a new religion. They were the most receptive to new ideas. After the trip, McGilvary was even more enthused at the prospect of a northern station. He wrote to the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in the U.S. that the time had come for a station in Chiang Mai and the Presbyterians were the only ones who could take that important step. God, he argued, was calling the Presbyterians to that task, and the Board dare not fail to heed the call. It had a responsibility that it must fulfill. It must obey God and do so quickly because God had opened the door to the North for its missionaries. The salvation of the people of the North was in Presbyterian hands alone. McGilvary asked for permission to open a new station in Chiang Mai, which it was understood meant opening a new mission as well.
Considering the situation of the Siam Mission in the early 1860s, we might feel some surprise at the tone of McGilvary's letter. Those years were a time when when the mission could barely keep its work in Bangkok and Phet Buri afloat. There were not enough missionaries for all the work they had to do, and Chiang Mai was a long way away from Bangkok. If, however, we understand the expansionist ideology of 19th century Protestant missions, McGilvary's request was not surprising at all.
The 19th century Protestant missionary movement was built on the idea of "expansionism." It was the basic principle it pursued in all of its activities and was especially important in its drive to introduce Christianity into new nations and places. The ideal of expansion explains why the missionaries felt that missionary work had to expand, and it was part of a larger set of ideas that included especially "dualism." The history of philosophy shows that dualism comes in several different forms. In the case of the missionaries, dualism meant dividing the human world into two spheres, namely the sphere of God and that of Satan. It held that those who believe in the Christian God are walking in the light while those who don't so believe live in darkness. These two spheres or kingdoms are at war with each other, and they cannot be reconciled. At times the missionaries described themselves as being soldiers who were fighting in a spiritual war for the salvation of those suffering under Satan's rule. They believed that those who had not been baptized and were not Christian believers were destined to live in Hell after they died. They lived, that is, in a pitiable state. The missionaries also believed that such people were their responsibility, and they felt a burden to help those who were not saved escape their fate. For this reason, they were conscious of the need to expand the sphere of Christianity as quickly as possible in order to save those who were not Christians.
The Presbyterian missionaries frequently turned to the Bible to explain their motivation for expansion, esp. Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus commanded his disciples to, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (NRSV) They took this passage to mean that Christ commanded them to carry the Christian message to all the world. The missionaries also referred to the Apostle Paul's vision in which he was commanded to take the gospel over to Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). The Presbyterians in Thailand took command contained in that vision to be an example to them. They felt compelled, that is, to go to the assistance of the people of Chiang Mai, or Phet Buri, or any place else just as Paul was called to Macedonia.
Besides these biblical references, the missionaries also referred to the "promises of God" to explain why they had to carry Christianity into the North. They argued that the Bible contains God's promise concerning "that day" (วันนั้น), which for them was a reference to the millennium that was discussed in Chapter Four. They believed that the millennium was to be an age ruled by peace after which Jesus would return. It was be an age in which God ruled the whole world with justice and would defeat Satan. In that age, every one will worship Christ and follow him. God, they were certain, promised that all of this will happen just as it is written in the Bible. They cited verses, such as Psalm 72:16, 102:13, 110:3, and 126:5-6 to demonstrate that God had promised that there will come a day when all the world will come to Christ and be his (e.g. Isaiah 60:1-7). All of this was for the missionaries a grand vision, and they believed that God was using them to expand the gospel in order to finally attain "that day" when the whole world will receive Christ as its saviour. For this reason, they felt compelled to expand the scope of their work so that one day in the future the whole world would be Christ's just as the Bible promised.
In 1867, the McGilvary family travelled to Chiang Mai, and when they arrived they found lodging in a small sala near the Thapae Gate. Large crowds assembled at the gate because they had never seen white foreigners (กุลาขาว) before, and the McGilvarys took the opportunity afforded by the crowds to engage them in discussions about religion in what amounted to personal evangelism. Sophia McGilvary played an important role in these discussions. Sometimes she would invite a group of women to sit with her and discussion religion. It was something new for northern Thai society to see a woman teaching religion "like a man." In 1868, the Wilson family also arrived in Chiang Mai, and not long after the missionaries established a church on 18 April 1868, which today is First Church, Chiang Mai. In that same year, the first northern Thai (คนเมือง), Nan Inta, decided to converted to Christianity. He was from what might be considered Chiang Mai's "middle class," an educated individual who had spent nearly a year in conversations with the McGilvarys. From those discussions, he came to the conclusion that the Western world view and religion were correct. Nan Inta was baptized on 3 January 1869, which date marks the beginning of the northern Thai Christian community. By August of that same year, the church numbered seven men three of whom were quite poor while the other three had about the same social status as Nan Inta. Like him, they were educated and well versed in their religion. Two of them had been abbots and another was the herdsman of the chao muang's (prince's) cattle. Thus, by September 1869 the Presbyterians had every reason to hope that their church would be able to grow rapidly.
As far as the people of Chiang Mai were concerned, the whole idea of a new religion from the West was strange to them, and the idea of conversion was stranger still. It was simply a given in northern Thai society that everyone shared the same religious commitments. Individuals might have different religious ideas, but they all shared the same religion. Viewed from the perspective of the history of pastoral care, it is clear that the Thai churches in that age were built on the foundation of the conversion experiences of their members. Thus, it is important to understand the meaning of conversion if we are to understand church life historically.
The conversion of the first seven northern Thai converts marked a significant change in their lives in at least three ways. First, So far as their relationship with their former religion was concerned, we have to realize that religion in Chiang Mai in the 1860s was not merely one part of life such as it is today. It was the very center of society, and virtually every aspect of life had religious connections. Given that fact, the Presbyterian missionaries' dualistic ideology caused them to believe that all of northern Thai society was satanic. Therefore, converts had to withdraw from that society so that when the seven men converted they had to make a clean and immediate break with society. The became social outcasts. Conversion, thus, meant moving from the society they were born into to a society centered on the church. When the Bible calls on the followers of Christ to give up their former lives and seek new things (e.g. Ephesians 4:17-24), thus, what that meant for the northern Thai converts was that they were expected to discard important elements of their social life.
Second, Concerning keeping the Sabbath, the missionaries' religious faith placed great importance on the necessity of the converts' protecting its sanctity. This meant that no work was to be done on Sundays. The problem was that northern Thai society did not accept Sunday as being a particularly holy day. It was a patron-client society, furthermore, which valued the right of patrons to call on the labor of their clients whenever they desired that labor. This was a problem because the patron class in Chiang Mai saw Christian strictures against working on Sundays as a threat to their power as patrons. It limited the exercise of their power according to conditions that had never applied in the past. Once, not long after he converted, Nan Inta's patron called on him to work on a Sunday, and he had to beg his patron's pardon that he couldn't do so. Nan Inta explained to his patron that he wasn't refusing to work for him, and he was willing to hire someone else to go in his place. In this case, his patron excused him, but it seems likely that the chao muang (prince) of Chiang Mai took note of the fact that receiving baptism was tantamount to reducing the power of the patron class. It must have appeared to him that Nan Inta honored a power higher than the patron class and higher than him, namely the Christian God. He must have become worried that this new religion would become politically dangerous if it became widespread.
Third, Regarding the Bible, at this time it had not been translated into northern Thai. The only translation available was in central Thai, which meant that in order to read the scriptures converts had to learn central Thai. The result was that Chrsitians became one northern Thai group that was exposed to central Thai (Siamese) cultural influences at an early stage in the penetration of the North by Bangkok, which began at about this time.
Thus, the experience of conversion had significant impact on the converts' personal relationships with each of their patrons and even had an impact on on their use of central Thai (Siamese). All of which suggests that the conversion of those first seven converts must have been heartfelt because of the serious consequences conversion had for them. It was dangerous as well because Chao Kawilorot ruled Chiang Mai with a firm hand and with a vigilant eye to preserving his own power—as can be seen from subsequent events. In September 1869, two of the converts, Nan Chai and Noi Sunya were executed at the order of Chao Kawilorot. [Note: for many years the Thai church has known Noi Sunya (สุนยะ) as Noi Suriya (สุริยะ) but contemporary mission records and northern Thai documents refer to him as "Sunya," which usage will be followed here.] After these two Christians were executed, the other five immediately fled as did all of the missionaries' servants. When the Bangkok government heard what had happened, it sent a commissioner (ข้าหลวง) accompanied by two missionaries to Chiang Mai. When this mission reached Chiang Mai after a journey of two months, it met with Chao Kawilorot and McGilvary and Wilson. The commissioner informed Chao Kawilorot that the King had ordered that he not kill any of his subject needlessly. At the end of the meeting just as Kawilorot was leaving the audience hall, McGilvary accused him of killing the two Christians illegally and unjustly. In a fit of anger, Kawilorot said that the two were executed for disloyalty to him, and he stalked out of the meeting. After this meeting, the two mission families remained in Chiang Mai while Chao Kawilorot travelled to Bangkok to take part in ceremonies declaring his fealty to the King. He had left orders that the missionaries were to leave when he returned, but as it turned out he died in June 1870 while traveling back to Chiang Mai.
The murder of Nan Chai and Noi Sunya had a large impact on the the development of the northern Thai church, including pastoral care. Three points stand out. The first had to do with the Christian converts who converted after these events. For the most part, they were lower class individuals who lived at the margins of society; they most particularly included people who were charged with being demon possessed (เป็นผึก็ะ) or were suffering from serious illnesses, which were thought to be caused by one's karma (กรรมะ). Those who were thought to be possessed were especially looked down on with disdain. At the same time, there were very few converts from the middle and higher levels of northern society, which meant that for the most part church members were from that segment of society that was underprivileged and despised. Second, instead of the large numbers of converts the missionaries had expected prior to September 1869, the number of actual converts was very small especially immediately following the execution of the two Christians. From that time down to the present, Protestants have been a small minority in the North, which may well not have been the case but for these events.
Third, the role of the missionaries also changed in two ways: one, if there had been the expected larger growth of membership of the church with only two mission families to oversee all of the mission's work, it would have been more difficult for the missionaries to be the single leading force in the church. They would have had to have given a larger role to northern Thai church leadership, and the northern Thai Christian movement would have been more authentically northern Thai. The role of the missionaries, thus, probably would have been smaller than it actually turned out to be. Two, before the persecution of the Christians, the missionaries lived at a level relatively close to the rest of society, and they were not particularly influential socially. In the period after that event, the they emerged as individuals of high social status on a level with the upper classes of patrons, which created an increasingly large gap between them and the northern Thai Christian community. The missionaries also gained some political influence and, in effect, became the patron class for Christians. At the same time, they were the leaders of the church who lived in a way very different from the rest of the church. In the chapters that follow, we will see that these two developments had a good deal of impact on northern Thai pastoral care.
In sum, Chao Kawilorot's persecution was successful. His goal was to limit the influence of the new religion, and we have to admit that he accomplished that goal. Even though Christians in the North today say that the northern Thai Church has been built on the suffering of the two martyrs, that is not actually the case. In fact, it was quite the opposite. After the persecution, the Chiang Mai Church died. Of the original seven members, two were killed and three renounced their new faith, which left Nan Inta and a Christian who lived in Chiang Rai. And even Nan Inta made himself scarce for a period of time, during which he was not willing to have anything to do with the missionaries. As for them, they couldn't carry out any evangelism because they feared that anyone who converted would be executed. When the mission was able to restore the church, Christians were what they remain today, namely a small minority. In 1872, four men converted to the Christian faith, but two of them died soon after, and by 1875 there were only five northern Thai Christians.
For a period of about seven years after the execution of Nan Chai and Noi Sunya, the Laos Mission gradually restored its work and improved its situation. At first, as we have seen, the converts fled the church and the missionaries couldn't do anything. They had to live as quietly as possible, but eventually they began to lay the foundations for their future work a little at a time. They, for example, built two houses for themselves, which consumed a good deal of their time and energies because of the difficulties in building western style homes in Chiang Mai at that time. The city lacked both the building materials and skilled workmen. Besides their construction work, the missionaries experimented with starting up a small school in 1870. They soon had to close it, however. About five years later (the exact date is not certain), Sophia McGilvary began to teach a small group of girls on her veranda, which group eventually grew into the Chiang Mai Girls' School (Dara Academy today). During this period, McGilvary continued to practice rudimentary medicine as he had done from the beginning. In 1872, the Board of Foreign Missions (BFM) sent a trained physician to Chiang Mai, Dr. Charles W. Vrooman, who was the first western doctor to work in northern Thailand. [For further information on Dr. Vrooman, see Chapter Two of "Prelude to Irony".] Vrooman did not stay long as his health was poor, and he found the work discouraging. Before he left, however, he and McGilvary took a long exploration trip to Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang, Nan, and Phrae to discover the best location for the Laos Mission's next station.
In any event, for the period from 1869 to 1876 the Christian community was very small and there was not a single woman who belonged to the church. Most of the members were rural people, and the only strong member of the church was Nan Inta. In 1875, he was elected to be an elder (กำเมืองว่า "เฒ่าแก่" ภาษาไทยว่า "ผู้ปกครอง"), the first northern Thai to be so elected.
In 1876, however, things began to change, which led to a gradual resurrection of the Christian community. In January of that year, the first two women joined the church, Pa (Aunt) Kamol and Mae (Mother) Noo, and the following September saw another three women become members. By the end of the year the congregation numbered 14 northern Thai members, most of whom we should note converted at the mission's hospital. One of the first things the missionaries did with these converts when they showed interest in the Christian faith was to teach them the central Thai script so that they could read the Bible. McGilvary and Wilson took turns fulfilling the pastoral duties of the church and generally conducted themselves as did the missionary "pastors" in the Siam Mission. Which is to say, they functioned more like acting pastors than full time ones.
In 1876, the Chiang Mai Church established the first Sunday school in the North. The missionaries were the teachers, and the curriculum included central Thai literacy and Christian doctrines. In the following year, 1877, the church held its first infant baptism, and the church also observed its first Week of Prayer, which mostly involved revivalistic services each evening. Although the church continued to grow in size and activities, it continued to face the problem that becoming a Christian was considered socially unacceptable. The of Christians' neighbors generally felt antipathy toward them because Christians refused to have anything to do with the religious ceremonies and activities of their neighbors. According to missionary teaching, Christians weren't allowed to enter temple grounds, to observe Buddhist holy days, or seek the care from traditional medical practitioners (หมอผี). All of these things were a part of northern Thai social life and considered important, especially because even today northern Thais put great store in expressions of communal unity. They continue to believe that making merit and propitiating the local spirits are communal activities, not private or individual preferences. They held, in the period under study here, that Christian refusal to take part in the religious life of their community amounted to a destruction of communal unity and was also offensive to the spirits.
One problem that we have discussed before had to do with church discipline. On the scale from "kindhearted" to "mean spirited," McGilvary himself tended to fall somewhere in the middle. It is true that he forbid converts from working on the Sabbath, take part in spirit worship or merit-making, use traditional medicine, or have anything to do with another religion. In theory, if a convert was found guilty of these things they could be suspended from communion or even excommunicated from the church. In practice, McGilvary tended to be more restrained in his actual exercise of discipline. Even so, control of the church remained in missionary hands because the Chiang Mai Church session had only one northern Thai member, Nan Inta, When the session met there were always two or three missionary members and only one northern Thai member.
In addition to the fact that pastoral ministry long remained in the hands of the missionaries, the churches faced another long-term issue that had a great impact on pastoral care. That is, geographically the converts lived in widely scattered places so that small Christian groups lived here and there widely separated from each other. The missionaries felt that each of these scattered groups was too small to be a church itself. They thus enlisted mereged smaller groups into one large "congregation," which we might call a "regional church."
These regional churches were the result of two factors. The first was the geographical one just describe, namely that the convert communities were small and widely scattered. The second factor was the missionaries' understanding of what it meant to be a church and the relationship between a church and its members. They held that every Christian must belong to a church, and they looked on the church primarily as an organization rather than as a community of believers living in the same village. They believed, furthermore, that a church should have a building, a reasonable number of members, some one to look after it, and enough elders to form a session. No Christian group could be considered a church if it lacked these things, and the problem was none of the small rural groups had them. No group met the missionaries' standards for being a church. The solution was to gather a number of small groups together into a single "congregation." At first, thus, every convert was a "member" of the Chiang Mai Church no matter where they lived. It was not until 1880 that the mission founded new congregations, which themselves also functioned as regional churches. One group would be the center of the church. The church's building was usually found in that center, and the church called itself by the name of the village where the central group was located.
Given the geographical realities they faced, we can understand why the Laos Mission created regional churches. The regional grouping of small Christian communities, nonetheless, created problems in caring for the members of regional churches. First, the members themselves did not learn that churches are essentially communities or that their church belonged to them. Instead, they understood a "church" to be an organization established for them by leaders from outside their own community. As we will see, in later times it was hard to convince members of such a church to take responsibility for it. It really wasn't theirs to be responsible for. Second, regional churches were very difficult to care for pastorally because their members were widely scattered and generally got together only on Sundays, if then. Just reaching the various groups was especially hard during the rainy season. Thus, visitation was difficult as was carrying out congregational activities. Church members, in sum, experienced "the church" as a somewhat distant reality from their daily lives, and it was difficult for them to see the importance and necessity of the church itself.
After 1875, both the church and institutional work of the mission began to expand. On the institutional side, we have already seen that Sophia McGilvary began a class for girls' on her veranda. Thereafter, the Board of Foreign Missions sent two young women missionary teachers to Chiang Mai to turn that class into a girls' school. They arrived in 1879 and started their school that same year. It was the first missionary institution of its kind in northern Thailand, and by December it had two teachers and thirty students. In 1888, the Laos Mission established a boys' school in Chiang Mai, and in 1890 it founded another boys' school in Lampang. The next year, 1891, the Lampang Station also started a girls' school. The Chiang Mai and Lampang Stations also each had a hospital, and in 1892 the mission set up a press, the "American Mission Press," which was the first printing establishment in northern Thailand. In sum, the mission's institutional work expanded rapidly.
As for the churches, there was relatively rapid growth both in the number of members and in the expansion of their geographical spread. The year 1880 is especially important in northern Thai church history because it marked the founding of three new churches. The first was the Bethlehem Church with Nan Inta providing oversight and care informally. At first, the congregation was small and weak. The second church founded in 1880 was the Lampang Church, which was start by McGilvary with a local member of the patron class, Chao Phya Sihanot (เจ้าพระยาสีหนาท), in charge of the church. He had converted in 1878. The church was founded with seven members, and not long after that Chao Phya Sihanot was jailed, ostensibly for debts. He believed it was because he had become a Christian. He was freed in 1883, but most of the other members of the church had left their new faith; and the church was a church in name only. The last church founded in 1880 was the Mae Dok Daeng Church, which was formed on Christmas day. It soon began to grow, and it encompassed a number of villages and was, as described above, a "regional" church.
At the same time, individuals in other villages and regions also began to show interest in the Christian religion. Beginning in 1885 and to the south of Chiang Mai, Christian groups were formed in Thung Paeng and Chang Kham. In other directions, there were groups established in Mae Pu Kha and Chiang Saen. The Chiang Saen group were led by a remarkably capable elder named Nan Suwan (หนานสุวรรณ). Interest in the new religion also emerged in the area around Chiang Rai, which the missionaries first visited in 1886, and in 1888 McGilvary founded the Chiang Saen Church (คริสตจักรเชียงแสน). The Chiang Rai Church was established in 1890 with its church building located in the village of Mae Korn. Christians from the village of Nang Lae also belonged to this church, but because of the distance between the two villages each one held its own worship services. Again, we see the influence of the missionaries' reliance on the "regional church" structure, which even went so far as to result in one church having two separate worship services.
As a result of the northern Thai church's numerical and geographical expansion, the Presbyterian missionaries felt that it was time to establish a presbytery for them to belong to. A "presbytery" is a regional level in Presbyterian church government similar to districts (คริสตจักรภาค) in today's Church of Christ in Thailand. It is made up of representatives (who must be ordained elders) from each church and all of the ordained clergy under its jurisdiction and has the responsibility to govern and care for its member churches. On 17 June 1885, elder representatives from four churches (Chiang Mai, Lampang, Bethlehem, and Made Dok Daeng) and all of the ordained missionary clergy held a meeting to establish the North Laos Presbytery under the Synod of New York. (A "synod" is a mid-level governmental body in the Presbyterian Church, which is made up of all of the presbyteries in a given region). Officially, then, the four churches were no longer under the authority of the mission and were, instead, member churches of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. In practice, however, the missionary clergy were always in the majority in the presbytery, and the mission thus continued to govern the churches in fact, if not in theory.
In addition to the expansion of its churches and institutions, the Laos Mission also sought to increase the number of its stations as well. In 1880, McGilvary spent six months in Tak and wanted the mission to open a new station there, but the Board of Foreign Missions refused permission. Thereafter the Bangkok government contacted the mission and asked it to open a station in Lampang, requesting specifically that it start a hospital there. The King was willing to donate land to the project, and both the Laos Mission and the Board of Foreign Missions agreed to undertake a station in Lampang, which was begun when a missionary family moved there in 1885. At the time, there were only three members left in the Lampang Church.
After 1885, both the churches and mission work grew rapidly, and the mission opened another four stations. Lamphun Station: the first convert in Lamphun was Nan Chaiwana (หนานใจวะนะ), a resident of Ban Paen, who converted in that same year of 1885. Within a short time, a new Christian community emerged in Ban Paen. When the missionaries saw this hopeful situation developing in Lamphun, it was decided to open a station there, which they did. Then in December 1891, the presbytery founded the Lamphun Church as the seventh church on its rolls. It also was a "regional church," which had 121 members scattered through 18 villages. As the number of converts continued to increase, the presbytery established two more congregations, the Bethel Church (Ban Paen) and the Wang Mun Church; both congregations each had over 100 members.
Phrae Station was the next station opened by the mission. The first convert in Phrae was Noi Yuang (น้อยยวง). He was blind and went to the mission hospital in Lampang in hopes that the missionary doctor there could restore his sigh. That proved not possibly, but Noi Yuang still became interested in Christianity and was baptized in 1890. The reason the Laos Mission opened a station in Phrae was because not long after 1890 there was a severe rice shortage, and the Lampang Station helped distribute rice in Phrae. The missionaries involved realized that the rice shortage had created conditions conducive to their evangelism, and they decided to establish a station in Phrae. It began in 1893, and a church was established the following year with 27 members. At first the Phrae government engaged in oppression of the Christians especially by calling them to perform corvée labor frequently including on Sundays. As a result, the church grew only slowly.
Nan Station was the next station opened by the Laos Mission. It was begun in 1895 by a team of three missionaries at a time when there were still no converts. In September 1896, however, the North Laos Presbytery founded the Nan Church with sixteen members. The number of converts grew mostly because of the work of northern Thai church leaders, especially Elder Kham Ai (คำอ้าย) who was originally from Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai Station was the last station found by the Laos Mission in the North. As noted above, there were churches already established in Chiang Rai before the station was begun. In addition to the churches at Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai, there was also a congregation (founded in 1892) in Wiang Pa Pao. By 1896, the year the Chiang Rai Station began, these congregations had a total of 244 members, all gained through the evangelistic efforts of the churches themselves. They were generally strong churches, and they grew steadily. Finally, the mission founded a station outside of the North at Kengtung, located in British Burma. The Kengtung Station remained open, however, for only three years (1904-1907) because the mission did not have the personnel and financial resources to sustain it, and the station was closed in 1907.
At the same time that the stations expanded their church work, their institutional work also grew. In 1900, the Chiang Mai and Lampang Stations had boarding schools for girls and for boys, hospitals, and dispensaries. The Chiang Rai Station had a day school and a dispensary. Phrae had a school and a small hospital, and the Nan Station had a small school. After 1900, every one of the stations developed a full set of institutions. What we must emphasize here is that after 1890 the Laos Mission began to focus increasingly on its institutional work and increasingly invest most of its resources in that work. Eventually, the institutions became the foundation on which all of the mission's work was built. It is true that even those missionaries working in the mission's schools and hospitals frequently devoted their weekends to visiting and working with the rural churches. What we will find in the next chapter, however, is that their weekend pastoral care was irregular and ineffective.
In sum and as we have seen, the history of the Laos Mission from the time the McGilvarys first arrived in 1867 onward was the story of mission expansion. Presbyterian evangelism in the North was more effective and developed more rapidly than in central Thailand (Siam). Membership increased so that by 1900 the mission's churches had 2,440 members, and the mission also had schools, hospitals, and dispensaries in every one of its stations. If, however, we view this history from the perspective of pastoral ministry, we find that the mission failed to establish an effective pastoral care system, a story we will pursue in Chapter 6.
When we study church history in northern Thailand, we generally focus on the work of the Presbyterians as being the foundation of Christianity in the North, and we tend to forget that there were also Karen tribal churches located there as well. In fact, there have been Karen Baptist churches in the North for more than a century. Their historical experience has not been the same as the northern Thai churches even in the field of pastoral care.
Karen church history began in Burma, not Thailand. The first Karen convert was baptized in 1828, the same year that the first Protestant missionaries arrived in Thailand, which meant that there had been Karen Christians and churches in Burma as long as there had been missionaries here in Thailand. The first Karen convert, Ko Tha Byu, proved to be a capable evangelist, and he won many converts to the new religion. The missionaries who worked with the Karen in Burma were Baptists. For the most part, their work in Burma was similar to that of the Protestant missions in Thailand, that is they founded schools, hospitals, and established printing presses. Not only were their methods similar, but the missionaries in Burma also experienced the same problems. These included a lack of equipment, inadequate financial support, poor missionary health, and difficulties in travel. One important difference, however, was that the Baptists experienced great success in their evangelization of the Karen. Another key difference was that for the most part it was the Karen Christians themselves who won other Karen to their faith. Their churches grew by their own efforts instead of being largely the work of missionaries, such as was the case in Thailand. It was the Karen Christians themselves who pioneered evangelism in new areas. At the same time, once Karen churches were established they received very little aid from the Baptist mission. Most churches had pastors, who were supported financially by the churches themselves. By the same token, evangelistic work with the Karen was due to the energy and sense of responsibility of the churches even though it was not mission policy that the Karen should take such an active part in their own evangelization. It arose out of their own self-conscious commitment to evangelism.
The experience of the Karen churches in Burma is important to Thai church history because from an early date both Karen Christians and the Baptist missionaries were interested in conducting evangelism among the Karen in Thailand (Siam). Their first attempt was in Chonburi Province, but there were no converts. It was not until 1868 that the first Baptist missionary from Burma, the Rev. James Norris, travelled to northern Thailand to conduct evangelism with the Karen. He had Karen evangelists traveling with him, and his primary goal was to survey the prospects for evangelism in the North and collect information to report back to the Baptist mission in Burma. Norris and his team were impressed with what they found and felt that there was every reason to believe that a serious evangelistic effort in northern Thailand would gain many converts.
The vision that led the missionaries and Karen in Burma to engage in evangelism in the northern Thai states was the belief that somewhere east of Burma there was a Karen king who ruled over a large populous Karen mountain kingdom. It was believed that this kingdom was located either in one of the northern Thai states or on their border. Those who believed in this vision hoped that if they could convert this Karen king and his kingdom that all of the Karen would then become Christians. To that end, they were willing to engage in evangelism among the Karen in the northern Thai states.
In 1879-1880, a Christian Karen trader who travelled to Chiang Mai ran into a group of Karen who had heard about Christianity from the Presbyterian missionaries. Those missionaries, however, could not speak Karen and did not understand the Karen culture. The trader decided to stay in Chiang Mai for a time and teach this group about the Christian faith. He also taught them to read and write Karen. When the trader returned to Burma, he reported to the missionaries what he had discovered, which only further motivated them and Karen church leaders to evangelize the Karen in the northern Thai states.
In 1881, four Karen missionaries travelled to Chiang Mai, and when they arrived they consulted with Dr. McGilvary of the Presbyterian mission. McGilvary helped them to get permission from the Prince of Chiang Mai to carry out evangelism in Chiang Mai territory. The four missionaries, however, soon found that the Chiang Mai Karen did not appear to be interested in Christianity or were afraid to show any interest because there was still some persecution of Christians. There were no converts, and the Karen missionaries decided to go on to Lampang instead because they had heard there were Karen living in that territory as well. They did in fact find three Karen villages, namely Ban Tet (บ้านเทศ), Ban Noh (บ้านเนาะ), and Ban Kae (บ้านแก). On visiting these three communities, all three of them, numbering more than 500 residents, accepted Christianity. While the other two Christian groups have long since disappeared, the Ban Noh Church remains active down to the present and is the point of origin for Karen Christianity in northern Thailand.
It is clear that the four evangelists were extremely excited by the results of their evangelism work with the Lampang Karen. Before they had begun, the four had agreed that they would stay in northern Thailand for a long period of time, but in light of their evangelistic success they decided that three of them would return to Burma and bring their families back to the North with them to establish long-term residence here. All three were experienced pastors. The fourth evangelist was Mong Tuey (หม่องทวย), a man who before this trip did not have a good reputation especially with the Baptist missionaries in Burma, who were not pleased when they heard that he was joining the team to go to Thailand. As it turned out, however, Mong Tuey had turned over a new leaf and proved to be reliable and honest, and he ended up staying with the Lampang Karen for more than twenty years. When the three others returned to Burma, they left him to stay until they returned, but when they did go back they ran into problems with the Baptist Mission. It was displeased with them because, first, they had promised to stay in Thai territory for a long period of time but then soon returned; and, second, in the missionaries' opinion they had spent too much money in travel expenses. The missionaries accused them of misusing their funds, and the mission was not willing to reimburse them for travel costs beyond what had been budgeted for them. The three evangelists and other Karen involved in the case reacted negatively to the mission's charges. The evangelists rejected the idea that they had broken their promise to stay in Thailand. Quite the opposite, they intended to return to Lampang to do just that. However, under these conditions they were not willing to go back to Thailand and in the end did not, which meant that no went back to work with the Lampang converts that were waiting for assistance. In particular, none of the converts had been baptized because there was no clergy to conduct the baptisms.
In 1882, two Baptist missionaries and six Karen evangelists visited the Christian group in Lampang and baptized 75 individuals in two villages, but this team stayed only for a brief period of time before returning to Burma. So it was that Mong Tuey became the one who provided unofficial long term pastoral care and oversight of the Lampang Karen Christians. In 1885, they sent four boys to Burma to study theology, and it is important to note here that they were the first individuals from northern Thailand to receive a formal theological education. Unfortunately, for various reasons not one of the four returned to the Lampang churches. In later years, the Lampang Karen Christians sent still more young men to Burma for theological training, but it turned out that not one of them ever came back to Thailand to pastor the churches. Some did return but not as pastors. In 1887, the Christians in the three villages formed the Chiang Mai Karen Association. The idea for the association came from the churches themselves, and it was formed under no other authority than its own.
One difference between the northern Thai and Karen churches was that the Karen churches were not dependent on missionary leadership and assistance. Thus, for example, they formed their own association while it was the Laos Mission that established and led the North Laos Presbytery for the churches under the mission's care. But for the Karen, the missionaries did not establish or lead the Chiang Mai Karen Association, and in fact it was sometimes ten years or more between missionary visits to the Karen churches. Thus the formation of the association was dependent on the churches alone. It had three member congregations and met once a year for an annual meeting that was an important festival time for the churches' members. All of them would attend, and the meetings lasted for a week. They included singing and preaching, and the annual meeting was a time for good fun that helped build unity and fellowship among the Christians. In northern Thailand, the annual meeting was important to the Karen Christians' unique identity.
The Karen churches were generally isolated and faced a number of problems, which meant that they did not grow or expand. Within a short time, there were only two churches left, and the number of members remained stable. Among the problems facing these two churches were: first, they had to contend with an economic challenge because their members were generally very poor and lived somewhat hand to mouth. Second, the Karen Christians also had to deal with political difficulties especially as the Bangkok government began to expand its control of the northern states. The government official sent from Bangkok did not particularly like the Karen tribal people because they did not see them as being Thai (Siamese). Dealing with these officials was, thus, difficult. Third, the Karen Baptist churches also imposed religious isolation on themselves. They did not seek to develop relationships with other Christian groups, which in the North meant the Presbyterian mission and its churches. If, for example, members of the Presbyterian mission's churches visited them, the Presbyterians were not allowed to participate in communion with them. In general, then, there was little contact between the Karen Baptist and northern Thai Presbyterian churches for several reasons including language, social, cultural, and denominational differences. Instead of receiving encouragement and support from the Laos Mission and northern Thai churches, the Karen Baptist churches remained isolated and limited in their resources. The fourth problem these two churches had to contend with was another denominational issue. As was the case among the Karen Baptists in Burma, the two Lampang churches only celebrated the sacraments when there was a clergyman present to officiate. Even local pastors could not perform baptisms or hold a communion service unless they had been ordained. Thus, the churches seldom received the sacraments and sometimes had to wait five or even ten years between opportunities. Finally, the isolated situation of the churches and their distance from the Karen churches in Burma meant that they received insufficient pastoral care, Christian education, and other important ministries of the church. What they did receive, they had to provide for themselves. They did maintain some contact with the churches in Burma, but it was not very regular, which meant that they did not have anyone to supplement what they had to provide for themselves. Presbyterian missionaries and elders did occasionally visit them, but those visits did not amount to anything when it came to providing assistance to the churches.
For all five of the reasons above, in sum, the two Lampang churches did not grow. Their isolation, on the other hand, did have some positive consequences because they had to take full responsibility for their own congregational lives. For example, when the churches had a school, the teachers were from the churches themselves, and the churches took full responsibility for the school. These two churches, thus, developed a level of independence unlike that the Presbyterian mission churches around them. In one sense, they were stronger and more self-reliant, but at the same time they were hampered by a lack of both the spiritual and economic resources.
After 1900, however, the situation with the two Karen churches in Lampang began to change, and they started to expand in numbers and in territory. They did so as a a consequence of their own evangelistic efforts. Through those efforts, they gained new Christian converts in the areas around Mae Sariang and Mae Sot. It was in 1914 that the first convert was gained in Mae Sot, and in 1922 a Christian group was formed in Mae Sariang. From that time one, the number of Karen Christians in the North gradually grew.
According to Dr. Anders Hovemyr in his book, In Search of the Karen King, both the Karen churches in Burma and in northern Thailand emphasized pastoral care from their beginnings. Every church wanted a pastor and most of them had one. These pastors usually had some theological training, usually about one or two years, but for the most part they were members of the church they served and did not engage in full time pastoral ministry. In Karen, they were called "thra," which means "teacher" in English. Usually, the church's "thra" had to work for his own living just as did everyone else in the church. Like other members, they farmed during the week normally, they limited their pastoral duties to Sundays. They might receive some compensation from the church—sometimes food, sometimes rice. In any event, having a pastor was not something strange or unusual for the Karen churches such as it was for the churches under the Presbyterian missions. The Lampang Karen did have trouble finding pastors at first, but eventually they normally did have pastors who usually went to Burma to receive their pastoral training.
In one sense, the Karen churches' pastoral care system had several positive benefits to commend it. Most of the churches had their own pastors most of the time. The system encouraged the churches to be self-reliant. It reduced the role of Western missionaries in church leadership and served to correct the impression that Christianity was a foreign or Western religion. The pastors lived among the people as they lived, and they shared in the joys and sufferings of their parishioners just as they did on the model of Christ.
At the same time, however, Karen pastoral care was not full time and the pastors received only limited training, which suggests that the system of Karen pastoral care had its weaknesses as well. The fundamental problem was that the quality of pastoral care was limited because the pastors had only small amounts of time to devote to their pastoral ministry. They only served on Sundays, which meant that church activities were limited to that day alone. They carried out very little Christian education even as pastors had only limited theological knowledge to teach their parishioners. Preachers, as a rule, were able to work on their sermons only on Sunday morning just before they gave them because the rest of the week they had to work in the fields from dawn to dusk. Any preparation for teaching had to be done on Sundays as well. In sum, while it is true that the Karen Baptist churches did usually have pastors, the quality of pastoral care they could give was not very effective.
In sum, a comparison of the experience with pastoral care of the Karen Baptist churches and Presbyterian northern Thai congregations suggests that they were not much different. This was the case in spite of the fact that the Presbyterian churches seldom had local pastors because the missionaries felt that only seminary trained clergy could care for churches capably, that pastors had to work full time, and that churches should pay their pastors themselves. In the meantime, the Karen churches had pastors who did not receive formal theological preparation and worked only part-time. In actual fact, however, the northern Thai churches had a position that was functionally similar to that of the Karen pastors, namely the office of elder. Elders were the leaders of their congregations who had received at least some training. Before conversion to Christianity, many of them had completed the highest level of Buddhist study and had the honorific title of "nan" (หนาน). They thus had a relatively high level of religious knowledge, and while they were not officially appointed to the office of pastor they in effect carried out duties in their churches similar to those of the Karen pastors. They both worked on a part-time basis, usually only Sundays. In practice, then the two systems of pastoral care were not much different. The one significant difference was that the Baptist approach to Karen pastoral leadership encouraged the local churches to take responsibility for themselves while the Presbyterian approach encouraged the churches to look for support and depend on outside agencies, namely the mission stations.
In the years from 1867 to 1800, the churches under the Laos Mission spread from their starting point in Chiang Mai to Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae, Nan, and Chiang Rai. The work of the mission also expanded. That pioneering work was truly impressive as the mission introduced a number of significant westernizing influences into northern Thai society. Viewed from the perspective of pastoral ministry, however, we have to insist once more that the mission failed to introduce a permanent system of pastoral care into the northern Thai churches and failed to prepare trained and educated pastors as well. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the churches lacked the foundations of pastoral ministry, and there was no movement in the direction of establishing those foundations. The mission, instead, continued to rely on the "old" system of pastoral care by which the missionaries looked after the rural churches from their urban stations.
The Karen churches in the North also faced obstacles in the creation of a pastoral care system. At first, it seemed that the Karen people were interested in become Christians, and there was considerable hope that the Karen churches would expand rapidly. As it turned out, however, those numerous obstacles prevented Christianity expanding among the Karen before 1900.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
In Chapter Five, we studied the development of church and mission work in the North from their beginnings in the 1860s when the McGilvarys opened work in Chiang Mai until 1900. That chapter looked at both the histories of the Laos Mission, Karen tribal work, and the history of pastoral care of both the northern Thai and Karen churches. In this chapter, we return to the history of the churches in the North in that same era to analyze in more detail the consequences of the Presbyterian missionary approach to their work for pastoral care in their churches.
In one sense, it is not quite appropriate to use the term "pastoral care" with church work prior to 1900. The Presbyterian missionaries didn't see themselves as pastors in our modern sense, and in their training of northern Thai church leaders they weren't preparing those leaders for pastoral leadership in our modern sense either. At the same time, the missionaries did see themselves as exercising oversight over and responsibility for the northern churches. In their approach to church leadership, they themselves were the primary leaders and the local elders were secondary leaders to them. From the very beginning the missionaries thus did not take an "incarnational" approach to church leadership, meaning that they did not live in the communities they served. They were ethnic northern Thais. They did not understand very well the ways of life of the northern Thai, and they failed to see the value of northern Thai identity and culture. The missionaries, furthermore, lived in mission compounds located in the larger cities of the North while the members of their churches were for the most part rural people. For all of these reasons, there was a significant social gap between the missionaries as the chief pastoral care givers of local churches and the lives, cultures, and societies of the members of their churches.
Actually, the model of pastoral care given by individuals who are not members of the society of the church is abnormal because it is in the nature of societies that both leaders and followers come from that society. In the case of the northern Thai churches, hwoever, the highest level of leadership did not come from northern Thai society. This unusual situation lead to a number of consequences, including: First, the missionaries expected that their northern Thai churches’ leaders would lead their congregations in ways familiar to the missionaries themselves. They would, that is, have a set of leadership and administrative skills appropriate to Western societies. When the missionaries observed that local church leaders did not have such skills, they learned that they could not place trust in local leadership. Second, it is the nature of leadership in any society that leaders and followers must depend on each other. Leaders, in particular, can’t lead if their followers do not trust them to lead, which means that followers have a degree of their own power in the leader-follower relationship. This was not the case in the northern Thai church. The churches had no influence over their missionary leadership because the missionaries did not depend upon them for anything. The missionaries retained their status and power whether the churches supported them or not, and their leadership role in no sense depended on their acceptance by the churches. The Phet Buri Church is a case in point. As we saw earlier, McClure remained the pastor of the church for many years even though his pastorate was not acceptable to the church’s members. The consequence in the northern churches was a gap between the churches and their highest level of leadership, the missionaries.
Third, the churches’ missionary leaders lived at a much higher social level than did the members of the churches. In terms of northern Thai society generally, they were influential and wealthy so that there was a wide social gap between them and the churches. As a rule, there was very little consultation between missionaries and church members. The missionaries alone made policy decisions, which in a sense placed them in a parental relationship with the churches. It must be emphasized here that the ecclesiastical leadership exercised by the missionaries followed neither the northern Thai society leadership forms nor the cultural traditions of that society. It did not reflect the social structures of the North whereby patrons (เจ้านาย) depended upon the acceptance of their clients (ลูกน้อง) in order to exercise their authority. The relationship between patrons and clients was an adult relationship. The wealth of the patrons came from the production of members of their own society so that they and their clients were mutually dependent upon each other. In the case of the missionaries, however, their personal income and most of their working budget came from overseas. And since the missionaries were sent by and employed by a foreign agency they were not dependent upon the churches they led while those churches were dependent upon them. Such a relationship is more normally that of adults and children, not leaders and followers.
These features of pastoral care in the northern churches had an important impact on their lives, which impact included: One, The missionaries tended to consider the churches to be “their churches” and church members to be “their members.” They felt, that is, that the churches belonged to them. As a consequence they seem to have taken the attitude that they owned the churches more than that they served them. Their approach was not that of the biblical model of “suffering servants.” Now, it must be emphasized that in general the Presbyterian missionaries in northern Thailand were willing to sacrifice a good deal for their work. It is just that in their relationship with the churches they did not did not “live with them, eat with them, and be like them” (อยู่กับเขา กินกับเขา เป็นอย่างเขา). Their leadership was more that of bosses (เจ้านาย) than servants (ผู้รับใชั). Which is to say that they did not model an approach to pastoral care based on servanthood. The model the churches took from them was one in which church leadership was a matter of power and social status.
Two, the northern Thai churches lacked the freedom to make their own decisions, and important decisions were generally made for them. The Laos Mission thus ran their churches on more of an episcopal model, which was very much at odds with Presbyterian representative form of church polity in the United States. The missionaries, furthermore, appointed themselves “bishops” and allowed the churches no say whatsoever in whether or not the missionaries would exercise authority over the churches. A church could not decide, thus, which missionary would be its pastor, and that meant that its pastoral leadership did not arise from the life of the church itself. The missionary pastor was not responsible to the church nor was the church responsible for its pastor.
Three, this form of missionary pastoral care reinforced the churches’ financial dependence on the Laos Mission especially because a number of local church members were in the employ of the mission. They worked in missionary , schools, hospitals, and as evangelists. In all of these positions, northern Thai Christians received salaries from the mission, and a good number of local members actually moved to the live around the city mission stations so that the missionaries could employ them. All of this only served to reinforce missionary patronage and the clear impression that the missionaries were not responsible to the churches or church leadership. The contrast with the role of pastors in the United States needs to be emphasized here. In the U.S., Presbyterian churches in cooperation with the presbytery to which the church belonged selected their own pastors. The churches paid their pastor’s salary, and the pastor was responsible to the session of the church he served. Such was not the case in the North.
Four, throughout its history, the members of the Laos Mission generally believed that they would have to provide leadership for the churches for many decades to come They neither expected nor hoped that the northern Thai church could take responsibility for itself in the short term. Thus, the mission generally trained northern Thai Christians to fulfill roles as assistants to the missionaries themselves—assistant evangelists, assistant teachers, and assistant hospital workers. Except in a few cases, they did not prepare church members to be leaders in their own right. It must be said again that the missionaries’ belief that the northern Thai churches could not lead themselves was born out of their prejudices about “heathens”. They were convinced that they could not trust any person born into a heathen society even if that person had converted to Christianity. Their previous heathen condition rendered them unfit to exercise leadership in the church.
In sum, the Laos Mission’s approach to pastoral ministry did not lay down a solid foundation for the exercise of that ministry by northern Thai pastors. In spite of the missionaries’ own sense of ministry and their desire to serve God, the approach described above kept them from developing strong local churches. It also kept them from creating an effective system of pastoral leadership for the churches.
The most important single fact that we must keep in mind concerning the pastoral care of northern Thai churches prior to 1900 is that it was conducted primarily by members of the Laos Mission and only secondarily by northern Thai lay leaders. Missionaries made the policy decisions, created the structures, and established the procedures related to pastoral care. Thus, the quality of pastoral care depended on missionary leadership far more than it did on the churches or their lay leaders. The importance of this fact is that the missionaries struggled with especially two problems in carrying out their leadership and oversight of the local churches, which problems impacted especially the rural congregations.
The first problem concerned missionary health. In the early decades of the Laos Mission, missionary health in general was not very good, especially because they came from colder climates and found adapting to northern Thailand’s semi-tropical climate difficult. In terms of the churches, this means that their highest level of leaders were not all that healthy. A large percentage of the Presbyterian missionaries sent to the North soon became ill and within a brief period of time had to return to the United States. In the cases of missionary pastors, most of whom were men, the health of their families was also involved; if a wife or child was seriously ill, the whole family had to return overseas. All of this coming and going meant that missionary work in general and pastoral care in particular were not stable. It also meant that at any given time there were not enough missionaries to give effective care to the churches. There was a constant turn over of missionaries as well, which meant that those working with the churches were often newer missionaries who didn’t speak northern Thai very well, weren’t close to local church members, and didn’t understand their culture. It was very difficult, in sum, to maintain continuity in church work given the impact of missionary ill health on that work.
The second problem the Laos Mission faced in providing pastoral care to its churches was that after 1890 the mission began to rapidly expand its work while failing to adapt its older administrative style to changing circumstances and needs. It continued to behave administratively as it had when it was a much smaller operation. As a consequence, it faced a number of crucial issues including:
First. The highest authority in the mission was exercised by its annual meeting. Every issue concerning mission policy had to be passed by this meeting of the whole mission, and when differences occurred they had to be settled by a vote. This fact introduced an element of politics into the life of the mission, which at times loomed large in the mission’s life. Because the makeup of each annual meeting changed as missionaries came and went, policies passed one year were rescinded or modified the next. The result was a lack of continuity in mission policy, which meant that the highest authority in the mission (and over the churches) lacked stability. It also meant that individual missionaries and the stations increasingly ignored mission policy and any central authority in the mission. Stations developed different policies and procedures of their own, and there was a sense of everybody “doing their own thing” in the mission.Second. In order to supervise the daily work of the mission, the annual meeting elected a number of committees, which in actual practice proved incapable of overseeing that work. For one thing, they had little authority. It was also difficult to coordinate work between the various stations because they were so far apart geographically. It was difficult, for the same reason, even to call committee meetings.
Third. The mission lacked a clear leader or set of leaders. Dr. McGilvary might have filled that position, but in fact he was only one member among others and not the mission’s leader. It is true that he was the senior missionary on the field, but he himself tended to be humble and wasn’t willing to exercise authority over others. And the other members of the mission did not see him as a power figure. Thus, there wasn’t an individual or a group that had clear authority over the work of the mission, which meant that the work drifted along and individual missionaries followed their own wishes and pursued their own ideas. There was no clear center of authority and no clear, consistent policy to guide them; and as a consequence the mission lacked unity of purpose, direction, and practice in its work. In effect, it lacked discipline.
Fourth. These same administrative characteristics were also found in the individual stations. That is, many missionaries tended to do their own thing. They frequently did not listen to each other so that the stations, like the whole mission, lacked discipline and sometimes lacked unity.
The inherent administrative weakness and lack of discipline in the mission had a profound impact on its churches. There was no clear ecclesiastical administrative structure. There was also a failure to develop a clear, long-term policy for developing pastoral leadership and care.
In terms of the Laos Mission’s oversight of its churches, one word that is important is “distance”. Mission stations were located in urban centers. The churches were rural. They were thus distant from each other geographically. The missionaries were foreigners who were distant from the language, culture, and life styles of the churches. The missionaries were a social elite, which meant again that they lived at a social distance from the ways of life of the local churches. It must be stated again that the system of pastoral care established by the Laos Mission was not grounded in the world of the churches themselves. (In theological terms, it was not incarnational). As a result that system created an image of pastoral care, which was that is was urban. The rural churches were not responsible for it. It was based on power exercised from outside the churches. It was not about service but, rather, was conducted by wealthy individuals and thereby seemed to be about wealth. In sum, pastoral care was not the concern of church members; it was the concern of individuals outside of and socially superior to the churches. Pastoral care did not belong to the churches.
As has been sated before, when the Laos Mission was a small mission with only a few converts, its methods of operation were not a matter of great concern because the missionaries were able to work in close proximity with rural church members. Those members were still new converts and exhibited the enthusiasm and commitment to their new faith that is often a mark of converts. But when the number of converts grew and the mission rapidly expanded the scope of its work, the problems described in this section began to have a negative and long lasting impact on the care of the mission’s local churches. Subsequent events only served to underscore the magnitude of that impact.
From what we have seen thus far, it is clear that the Laos Mission found it difficult to establish an effective system of pastoral care for the churches under its care. Still, there was a period when the mission did seriously begin to develop the pastoral care of those churches, and the events of that period are an important part of the history of Thai pastoral care because the mission was not successful in the attempt. In fact, the events of this period if anything slowed the emergence of pastoral care in the northern churches. Those events, because they were so important, also help us to better understand the obstacles facing the mission in developing pastoral care in the North.
Prior to 1890, the Christian converts in the North were scattered, had only a limited knowledge of their new faith, and there were just five churches none of which had a northern Thai pastor. The only pastors were missionaries. They were the only ones tasked with care and oversight of the five congregations. Apart from the missionaries, the one important northern Thai church leader was Kru Nan Ta, a capable and effective evangelist. He was ordained in 1889, making him the first northerner to become a clergyman. Kru Nan Ta, however was not a pastor.
At this time, the mission had established a school for training evangelists with the Rev. William Clifton Dodd serving as the director of the school. The school had two older students who were well thought of by the missionaries because they were both good workers and good students. Thus, in December 1893 the North Laos Presbytery ordained these two men and appointed them as pastors of two congregations. Kru Noi Lin became pastor of the Lamphun Church, and Kru Wong was sent to be pastor of the Mae Dok Daeng Church. At the same time, Kru Nan Ta was appointed as acting pastor of the Chiang Mai Church because the mission did not have sufficient force to provide a missionary pastor of that church. As it happened, one of the church’s northern Thai elders was responsible for the congregation’s Sunday school, making this the first time that the leadership and pastoral care of the church was entirely in northern Thai hands.
As it happened, there were a number of other men who were studying at the Training School, and when Dodd left on furlough his successor, the Rev. Robert Irwin, took the opportunity of his appointment as director to expand the northern Thai role in pastoral care. Irwin believed that northern Thai church leaders were fully capable of leading their own churches. It was not necessary, as most of the missionaries believed, to wait for a long period of time before turning authority over the churches to them. At the school, Irwin carried out a number of activities to enhance the leadership skills of his students. He, for example, held mock meetings of presbytery so that the students, who were all older men, could learn how to lead and participate in them. His goal was to prepare the students for an expansion of the number of northern Thai pastors.
At the next meeting of North Laos Presbytery in December 1894 and under Irwin’s leadership, the presbytery voted to ordain six Training School students and license another three. It appointed most of these men to serve as pastors. At the same time, the presbytery passed a resolution calling on the churches that were about to receive these new pastors to take responsibility for part of their salaries. This was in keeping with the campaign to encourage churches to support themselves, which was a popular emphasis among the missionaries at that time. That is, under Irwin’s leadership the presbytery established a significantly new policy regarding the pastoral care of its churches by which, first the churches would all have their own pastors and, second, the churches would be responsible for a part of their salary. In anticipation of what happened next, we should note that there had not been any preparation for placing pastors in the churches. The congregations had not received any instruction or training concerning pastoral ministry, which would seem to be a necessary for step for churches that had no history or experience of having their own pastors. There was, furthermore, no prior consultation with the churches. The sudden change in policy seems to have happened almost on its own at the meeting of the presbytery based on the sense that the Training School’s students were ready to serve as pastors.
Irwin was also the chairman of the Evangelism Committee of Chiang Mai Station, which under his leadership now established a new evangelism policy with three key provisions. First, the missionaries working in the station were to visit all of the station’s churches to explain and promote the idea of church self-support. Second, Chiang Mai Station was to send a letter to the other stations of the Laos Mission seeking their support for the church self-support movement and asking them to promote this movement among their churches. Finally, the committee voted to make changes concerning the system of paid evangelists then in place. Up to this time, each station had a team of evangelists, which the station paid with mission funds. Irwin and other members of the Chiang Mai Station’s Evangelism Committee did not agree with this way of conducting evangelism, and they decided to reduce the financial compensation some of the station’s paid evangelists received and entirely suspend compensation for some others. The problem was that some of the newly installed pastors had been paid evangelists, which meant that just as they were beginning to serve their congregations as pastors the station reduced their incomes. The churches, meanwhile, were not ready to compensate them at the same rate as the station had been paying them. Taking up pastoral ministry, thus, put a serious financial burden on these new pastors.
Even though the churches had not been prepared and there were other problems, at first the new system of pastoral care showed some positive results. Some of the churches could support their pastors financially, for example the Lamphun Church. Also, the new pastors in general showed a good level of responsibility and competence in spite of the fact that they were not that familiar with pastoral ministry. Even so, the churches, mission, and pastors encountered three problems that threatened the stability of the new system of pastoral care. These included: First, there had not been a plan laid out in advance for placing pastors in churches. Most of the churches had never had a pastor and didn’t understand what pastoral ministry was all about. The curriculum of the Training School, meanwhile, emphasized evangelism and did not teach very much about pastoral care, which meant that the new pastors themselves had not been prepared to give pastoral care to the churches they served. Second, the members of the Laos Mission were not unified in support of the new pastoral care system. In particular, Dr. McGilvary was not pleased with Irwin; he felt that Irwin had acted too precipitously concerning the question of evangelists’ salaries. Several other missionaries did not agree with the idea of having so many northern Thai pastors. They felt that the Laos Mission should increase the number only slowly. And when Dodd returned he especially objected to ordaining so many new clergy. Third, the pastors were not happy with the salaries they were receiving, which they felt was less than they should be getting. The church were also unhappy at having to spend so much money supporting their pastors.
The annual meeting of the North Laos Presbytery for 1895 marked the first time that the northern Thai representatives (pastors and church representatives) comprised a majority of the presbytery. Being the majority, they took this opportunity to reshape the new pastoral care system in two ways. For one thing, the pastors requested a substantial increase in their salaries, in some cases amounting to a doubling of their income. For another thing, while the churches supported the pastors’ requests for increased salaries they were not willing to pay those salaries themselves. They called on the mission to pay them instead. When these two points were turned motions, both passed. Increased salaries for the pastors was approved. The churches were not expected to pay those salaries.
Irwin attended these meetings, but he did not participate actively in them because he was quite ill and thus played little role in the decisions that followed. Dodd was also present and did play a significant role. He and the majority of the other missionaries felt it was impossible that the mission would pick up the tab for the pastors’ salaries. So, he called on the presbytery to reconsider its previous policies, and eventually the presbytery established a special committee to study all of this. That committee finally agreed to support the pastors financially but at a reduced rate. It also recommended that the presbytery begin to use paid evangelists again. It should be noted that this was the first time in the history of the Laos Mission that its churches resisted the policies of the mission. Their resistance was firm and surprising enough to warrant the appellation of “revolution”.
In analyzing the events of the “pastors’ revolt of 1895,” it is apparent that Irwin made three mistakes, which had a negative impact on the development of pastoral care in the Northern churches. First, he treated the expansion of pastoral care and the promotion of church self-support as one thing, which they weren’t. He attempted to place pastors in the churches and at the same time get the churches to pay for all of their own expenses, including the salaries of their pastors. The problem was that the churches had never had pastors and didn’t understand why they should. They also did not understand why they had to pay for pastor care esp. when they weren’t consulted in the placement of pastors in their churches in the first place. The churches felt that the missionaries were expecting too much from them, more than they could give. Had Irwin not confused these two issues, the churches probably would not have objected to having pastors. Second, Irwin only made matters worse by bringing the salaries of the mission’s paid evangelists into the picture. The evangelists, including a number of newly appointed pastors who had been evangelists, were very displeased with Irwin’s policy of reducing or entirely cutting their salaries. The reduction of evangelists’ salaries at the same time that some of them became pastors only made things more complicated and confusing. It also displeased other church leaders and members because evangelism was an important, valued activity. Third, apart from the fact that there had been no groundwork laid with the churches or the pastors for this expansion of pastoral care, Irwin and the other missionaries involved failed to follow up on the new pastors. There was no evaluation provided. One reason for this failure may have been the lack of unity in the mission concerning the placement of pastors in local churches, which made it difficult to follow up with the pastors.
A close examination of the events of the pastors’ revolt of 1895 suggests that an extensive, effective, and stable system of pastoral care should have been possible at that time. Those events give the impression that northern Thai church leaders were ready to create such a system. The failure to do so in the 1890s was an administrative failure on the part of the Laos Mission. That much is clear. The missionaries themselves, however, did not see things that way. Quite the opposite, because of these events they developed a still stronger antipathy toward northern Thai church leadership. In their view, the events of 1895 only proved that northern Thais were not able to lead for themselves; they were not sufficiently committed to leadership roles. That is, the missionaries did not see these events as a failure on the part of Irwin, and instead they laid the blame for all that happened on the northern Thai pastors. The pastors, supposedly, were greedy and lacked leadership skills. The missionaries also faulted the churches for not being willing to support the pastors financially. As a consequence, the Laos Mission lost interest in developing an indigenous pastoral care system, and it was a long while before anymore northern Thais were ordained as clergy and before any more northern Thais were placed in the churches as pastors. Some of the missionaries wrote back to the Board of Foreign Missions in the U.S. that it would be another one hundred years before the northern Thai could lead and pastor their own churches themselves. After 1895 northern Thai church leaders were not trained for pastoral ministry for some fifteen years, which meant that there was no movement at all during that time to establish a system of pastoral care for the churches.
It is clear then that the Presbyterian missionaries in the North reacted strongly and negatively to the event surrounding the pastors’ revolt of 1895. Those events only confirmed for them their prejudices against northern Thai church leadership. Their reaction raises the question of the actual ability of the northern Thai pastors. How capable or incompetent were they? A survey of the historical record left by the missionaries themselves shows that the northern Thai pastors in actual fact did not fit image of them held by the missionaries. Missionary descriptions regarding each pastor individually shows the following:
Kru Wong (ครูวงค์) was appointed to be pastor of the Mae Dok Daeng Church. The missionary record suggests that he was not a particularly competent or successful pastor, and the members of his congregation did not respect him very much. After he resigned from his pastorate, he moved to Lampang where he served for many years as an evangelist at the mission hospital. In general, missionary records indicate that he served capably in that capacity.
Kru Lin (ครูลิน) was sent to the Lamphun Church, and the missionaries reported that he was a lazy pastor. The members didn’t like him. He didn’t do any visitation. He was greedy and was always asking for things from the missionaries. Finally, he and nine families from the Lamphun Church moved to Wiang Pa Pao. Eventually, Kru Lin became an evangelist, worked with Dodd, and went with him to established the Kengtung Station in British Burma.
Kru Chai Ma (ครูใจมา) was a member of the Bethlehem Church. After he was ordained, he served in Lampang as an evangelist for five years and then went to work as a missionary in what is today the nation of Laos. The Presbyterians had begun work there with the Kamu tribal people and had gained a good number of conversions. Kru Chai Ma, however, committed a “moral lapse,” which probably meant an affair with a Kamu woman. The mission dropped him, and after that he name disappears entirely from the missionary record. Later events suggest that he remained with the Kamu and made his home with them. For a long period of time the Laos Mission was unable to contact the Kamu because they were located in what had become French territory. Finally, after 1920 Presbyterian missionaries began to visit the convert communities in Laos again, and they discovered that Kru Chai Ma had become the leader of those communities and was taking care of them. There was quite a large convert community that had grown up as a result. It should be noted that when Kru Chai Ma was dropped from the mission’s work force, one of the missionaries wrote that Chai Ma was a typical example of northern Thai church leadership, which was untrustworthy. As it happened, he turned out to be a good church leader and de facto pastor who gave himself to his ministry in spite of the fact that he received no income or support for doing it. After the missionaries reestablished contact with him, they gave Kru Chai Ma no little praise—but no one wrote that this faithful and committed church leader was a typical example of northern Thai church leadership generally!
Kru Buk (ครูปุ๊ก) was from Lamphun, and after he was ordained he was sent to be the pastor of the Bethel Church, Ban Ben. According to missionary reports, he was a hard working pastor and worked very effectively. He gave excellent care to the members of the church, and when he died one missionary praised him as being an outstanding pastor.
Kru Supha (ครูสุภา) was also from Lamphun and worked with the Lamphun Church. He was ordained in 1895 and died in 1900. He too, according to the missionary record, was an effective and capable pastor. He was especially dedicated to calling on his parishioners.
Kru Pannya (ครูปัญญา) was for many years the assistant pastor of the Chiang Mai Church. He was a very capable individual and in later years taught at the Theological Training School. For a time, he was the single most important single northern Thai leader of the northern Thai churches.
Kru Chai Ma (ครูใจมา)—not to be confused with Kru Chai Ma above—was from Mae Dok Daeng. At first, he did seem to be a capable church leader or worker and before long he resigned from church work and moved to Phrao (พร้าว). Not long after he moved to Phrao, he became became a paid evangelist in 1901, but in fact most of his work was pastoral work with the Phrao and Chiang Dao Churches. Kru Chai Ma was already well along in years and continued to work into his 80s, being considered a highly respected church leader in his area. Missionary records agreed and noted that he worked very effectively.
Of the seven pastors listed above, five apparently conducted themselves fairly well and worked effectively. Only two, Kru Lin and Kru Wong failed completely at pastoral ministry and thus exemplified the missionaries' attitudes toward all of the northern Thai pastors. In addition to these seven clergymen, the presbytery appointed three licensed pastors; and according to the mission's own records all three worked effectively as well. We should also not forget Nan Ta, the first northern Thai clergyman. He was also the first northern Thai pastor and served the Chiang Mai Church for many years. Again, according to Laos Mission records he gave impressive service to the church during all of those years. Thus, Irwin was correct in his belief that the northern Thai churches could capably see to their own pastoral care. We must emphasize this point again. A century ago it was entirely possible that the northern Thai churches could have had an effective system of pastoral care for most of the congregations. It would not have been easy to establish. That is true. But it was possible. The obstacle that made that system impossible in the end was not the churches or their leaders. It was the ideology of the majority of the missionaries, which kept them from agreeing with Irwin or seeing for themselves that the churches were ready and able to lead themselves and see to their own pastoral care.
From what we have studied so far in this chapter, it is clear that the Rev. Robert Irwin had an unusual perspective on and approach to missionary work, which was very different from his colleagues in the mission. At the time that he taught at the Training School, he was working in Lamphun, and he use a variety of creative teaching techniques with the students. At the same time, he attempted to prepare the Lamphun churches to be financially self-supporting.
It can be argued that Irwin is a significant figure in the history both of northern Thai church history generally and more narrowly in the history of northern Thai pastoral care. The results of his approach and perspective showed that the attitudes and methods of the majority of the Laos Mission’s members were not the only way to conduct missionary work in the North. Those results also demonstrate that his approach could have been successful if he had received more support from the mission. His ideas concerning church leadership and pastoral care did differ a great deal from those of the majority of the mission. From the time he first arrived in the North in 1890, Irwin observed that the indigenous system of political leadership, based on the rule of the northern Thai princes, demonstrated that the northern Thai were fully capable of leading themselves politically. They, he noted, had their own complex religious system, which they could also run competently without any assistance from anyone else. They had a culture and political system that was centuries old. In other words, Irwin observed that the northern Thai could take care of themselves. Why then, he wondered, couldn’t they lead their own churches? That is to say, Irwin disagreed with those missionaries who believed that the Laos Mission had to govern the churches for many decades to come.
After Irwin worked in Lamphun and then Chiang Mai, he was appointed by the mission to the Nan Station; and he started his work there on the premise that he should prepare the Nan Church to become a self-supporting and self-governing congregation. He specifically sought to establish a system whereby the church could carry out evangelism without outside support. In general, he took a creative approach to many aspects of his work in Nan, which lasted from 1895 to 1900, which included:
- In making decisions regarding almost every facet of congregational life, Irwin met with the members of the church and asked them to help make decisions. He did this so that the members could develop themselves and their role in the church. While Irwin still had the final authority, he gave the congregation a large voice in decision making.
- Irwin supported the Nan Church in establishing its own parochial school. While he understood the importance of education for the Christian community, he organized it in a way different from that of the other mission stations. The other stations established mission boarding schools run by missionaries, but Irwin put the station's school under the church and had the session serve as the school board. Irwin himself had no role in running the school other than serving as an advisor to the session. The hiring of teachers, curriculum, and administrative of the school were all in the hands of the session. At one point, the session tried to turn the school back over to Irwin, but he was not willing to accept it. The session had to run the school themselves. In this way, it both learned what its role was and gained valuable administrative experience.
- Another way in which Irwin differed from the other members of the Laos Mission concerned the planting of rural Christian communities. While in Nan, he hired two or three elders from other stations to move to small rural communities in Nan, such as Muang Tueng (เมืองเทิง). Irwin bought land in each communities so that the elder could make a living. Each elder was also given a home and a salary as well. Once everything was in place, the elder was expected to start up a Christian community and to stay on as its leader. From this point, each community could be developed as self-supporting and self-governing local congregation.
Irwin was not physically strong or well, and in 1900 he had to return to the United States for health reasons. The missionaries who took his place did not continue his policies but followed the standard model used in the other stations instead. This meant that in the end Irwin's approach was not successful in Nan. The important things to note here are that there were other usable approaches to mission work other than the "standard model" and that the reason Irwin's approach did not work was because it did not receive support from the other members of the Laos Mission.
After his stint in Nan, Irwin was sent to the Lampang Station for a period of time and then appointed to the Phrae Station, which was the last station he served. He was in Phrae from 1903 to 1905. When he arrived, both the station and the church were very weak, and the mission was planning to close the Phrae Station entirely because it did not have enough missionaries to maintain it. Given that fact, Irwin decided to prepare the Phrae Church to be a self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating congregation as a test to see if a northern Thai church could achieve that status.
Irwin pursued a number of strategies to achieve his goal of strengthening the Phrae Church so that it could stand on its own; these included: First, he turned over authority to the session just as he had in Nan. He was willing to serve the session in an advisory capacity, but he was not longer willing to be the "head" of the church. Second, since he was no longer the church's chief administrator, Irwin felt that he should also turn over responsibility for the spiritual life of the church to the session as well. He thus had the elders take responsibility for visitation, preaching, leading worship, and the other pastoral ministries of the church. Third, Irwin ordered that each of the rural Christian groups have their own head, who was usually elected by the group itself. He both wanted the rural groups to get used to running their own life, and he wanted to be sure that each group had a leader.
The session of the Phrae Church experienced various problems especially concerning finances and planning, and at one point the elders asked Irwin take back responsibility for running the church. He refused, and the session had to labor one. Eventually, he was proud of the way the session took hold of its tasks especially because it began to make and carry out plans with consulting him at all. He was sure that the church could take responsibility for its own life. In December 1905, Irwin returned to the U.S. on furlough, and the mission did not have anyone to replace him. It thus closed down the station and placed the Phrae Church under the responsibility of the Lampang Station. It gave permission to one of the Phrae elders to conduct the sacraments.
The Phrae Church was not pleased with this development, felt as if it was an orphaned child, and the session ran into three immediate problems. First, the session was composed entirely of elders who live in the city of Phrae, and they did not go out into the countryside to visit the rural groups. Second, the members of the church did not acknowledge the authority of its elders the way they had acknowledged the authority of the missionaries. Third, at the same time divisions appeared with in the session itself. Given these problems, it looked as if the Phrae Church was not going to make it on its own, and the members of the Lampang Station were afraid that this experiment in self-government was not going to work and the Phrae Church would die. In 1908, two members of the Phrae session resigned, apparently because of drunkenness; and as a result of their resignations the situation in the church improved. In the years from 1909 to 1912, the situation of the church steadily continued to get better. At first, the number of members of the church had declined, but then it began to increase again. For a period of six months, Elder Wong from Lampang moved to Phrae to help the church, which he did very capably. Things continued to develop in Phrae to the point that the church established its own boarding school.
The members of the Laos Mission, however, continued to worry about the situation in Phrae, and in 1912 it appointed new missionaries to reopen the station. The church immediately fell back under the control of the missionaries. Strangely enough, in the period before Irwin the Phrae Church was known for its lack of local leaders, and after the missionaries returned in 1912 it again became known for lacking local northern Thai leadership. In fact, the Phrae Church was also considered by the missionaries to be the weakest of the mission's city congregations especially because of its lack of local leadership. In sum, the system of church leadership in Phrae divides into three periods: in the first period, before 1903, the missionaries ran the station and church, and the church was weak. In the second period, 1905-1912, the church was self-governing and growing stronger. In the third period, from 1912 on, the missionaries ran the church, and it was once again weak.
It has to be clearly understand that the Phrae Church was not problem-free during the years when the session ran it. The congregation, rather, went through periods of decline and advance under the leadership of the Phrae elders and elders from Lampang. The important point is that in spite of the difficulties the church faced between 1905 and 1912, it could govern itself better than the missionaries could because of the factors that have already been discussed in this chapter. The elders, for example, were local people. The missionaries came and went a good deal, and there was a serious lack of continuity in their efforts. While the period of rule by the session may not have been the best form of leadership possible, when the missionaries gave the Phrae Church the opportunity to support, govern, and grow itself, the church met the challenge set before it. And it was stronger under the governance of its own elders than it was under the missionaries.
In the earliest years of the Laos Mission when the first seven men converted to Christianity, McGilvary and Wilson intended to train them as evangelists and pastors. The events of September 1868 intervened, however, and they never did establish a training program for the converts. Years later in 1883 after McGilvary returned from a furlough in the U. S., he felt that it was time that the Laos Mission got serious about training its evangelists. He had already begun to train two individuals himself, and he presented a plan to the mission to establish a more regular training program for evangelists. Among other things, McGilvary proposed that the students receive a stipend because all of the prospective students were adults with families to care for. As it turned out, his proposal failed to come to fruition because other members of the mission turned it into a major program based on western educational models. This expanded plan was more than the mission could carry out.
Just a few years later, the Rev. C. Clifton Dodd became a member of the Laos Mission and not long thereafter began to talk about starting a training class for evangelists. And in March 1899 he started the Chiang Mai Training School for Evangelists. For the most part, those who entered the school were elders and older men; mission records refer to only one woman who studied at the school, namely Pa Wan (ป้าวัน), who was an evangelist at the mission hospital in Chiang Mai. By 1891, Dodd's school conducted classes for twenty-five weeks during the year and had 35 students, several of whom were studying to become pastors. The school had two primary objectives: first, to prepare evangelists; and second, to prepare men to work as missionary assistants in a number of fields. Nan Ta assisted Dodd at the school, and we can say that he was the first northern Thai instructor of theology. Dodd and Nan Ta did face some problems, for example a lack of teaching materials in northern Thai, but on the whole the schools seems to have been going well.
In 1891, Dodd moved to the Lamphun Station and took the training school with him. The new location, however, was not convenient for many of the students, and the school experienced a drop in enrollment for a time; but then enrollment picked up again. Not long after he moved to Lamphun, Dodd went on furlough, and Irwin took his place as we have already seen. Under Irwin's leadership, the purpose of the school changed; he intended for the students to become local church leaders, and he used a number of creative teaching techniques to that end. An important example was the one where he had the students form a mock presbytery, again as we saw earlier. Irwin was excited by the results of this educational experiment. The mock presbytery had committees, and the "MIssion Committee" decided to actually send out some of the students to carry out evangelism. It went so far as to raise funds for its evangelists and successfully sent out two students to carry out evangelism.
In 1895, however, Dodd returned and the mission went through the events of the Pastors' Revolt and the problem of pastoral salaries. That event had an immediate negative impact on the training school, namely the number of students fell precipitously for two reasons: First, several students who had been previously enrolled in the school were displeased with the events of the Pastors' Revolt and were unwilling to return to class. Second, since the mission was emphasizing self-support and there were no salaries for evangelists, prospective students had no motivation for entering the school. Then, in 1897 Dodd moved to Chiang Rai, and while the mission did not close the training school officially it drastically reduced its program. The "school" no longer had its own facilities, faculty, full-time staff,or a regular student body. In most years the Chiang Mai Station held short courses of one or two weeks. It was not until 1912 that the mission founded a theological school in Chiang Mai, which it considered to be a new endeavor that had no connection to the training school for evangelists, which quietly and gradually died away.
The period 1867 to 1900 was an extremely important era in the development of pastoral care for what has become the Church of Christ in Thailand. If the Laos Mission had invested its resources and emphasized the overall care of it churches in this era, it would have been much more likely that the churches today would have a strong system of pastoral care. In fact, however, the mission did not make pastoral care a fundamental priority and did not invest much of its resources in pastoral care. Instead, it displayed a strong prejudice toward northern Thai church leadership. They did not trust that leadership and showed little inclination to turn pastoral authority over to it. As a consequence, the Laos Mission failed to establish a strong, effective pastoral care tradition in the northern Thai churches, a failure that continues to have a negative impact on the northern districts of the Church of Christ in Thailand down to the present.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
The era after 1900 was an important time for the Presbyterian Siam Mission, one that saw a good deal of change. It was during the twenty years covered in this chapter that the mission established a system of pastoral care for its churches in central and southern Thailand. At the beginning of this period, the mission had only a few churches. They included three churches in Bangkok, First Church (Samray), Second Church, which met at the Girls’ School (Wang Lang), and Third Church, which is today the Sapan Luang Church. The churches in Phet Buri included the city church and four rural congregations. The only other congregation under the Siam Mission was the Bethlehem Church in Nakhon Sri Tammarat. Among these churches there was only one Thai pastor, Kru Yuan Tiengyok (ครูย่วญเตียงหยก). He was ordained as pastor of the Samray Church on 24 November 1896 and was the first Thai pastor of a Presbyterian church in central and southern Thailand.
One reason why the Siam Mission had so few churches after more than forty years has to do with the concept of the "clean church," which has already been described above in Chapter Four. Based on this idea, the mission establish a policy of refusing to acts as patrons to its converts as Thai society understood patronage. As we have already seen, the missionaries generally took conversion to be a religious matter and not one that obligated them to become patrons of their converts. Conversion, rather, was a matter of becoming conscious of one's sinful nature and then of turning to Christ, the one who could save them from their sin. The missionaries held that this was what the Bible taught about conversion and salvation. As it turned out, however, very few people in Thailand converted to Christianity because they became conscious of their sinful nature. The result was that the churches under the Siam Mission grew only very slowly and had only a limited membership. The mission also faced other obstacles including limited personnel and finances.
Even though the churches of the Siam Mission were small and few in number, the churches in Bangkok have a long history of pastoral care, which history influenced the other churches of the Siam Mission as well. As we have already seen, by 1900 there were only three Presbyterian congregations in Bangkok—First Church, Second Church, and Third Church.
First Church (Samray), established in 1849, was the oldest Presbyterian church in Siam proper and its northern principalities. From the congregation's founding up to 1896, it was led by a succession of missionary pastors until Kru Yuan became the pastor in that year. At that time the session of the church was also composed entirely of Thai elders, which meant that First Church was the first congregation in either of the Presbyterian missions to be entirely led by Thais themselves. The missionaries still did play some role at First Church, especially in Christian education.
Kru Yuan is thus an important figure in the history of Thai pastoral care. He was born in 1850 to an ethnic Thai mother and Chinese father. As a child he lived with the Mattoons, and when they returned to the United States for furlough they took him with them. After he graduated from the Bangkok Boys' School, he served as an evangelist in Ayutthaya for a period of time and then returned to Bangkok to teach in the boys' school for ten years. It is worth noting here that Kru Yuan was not trained for pastoral ministry and did not have a theological education, although he may have studied personally with missionaries at times. His preparation for pastoral ministry, rather, was through his many years as an elder on session of the Samray Church. At the time he became the pastor, the church was located near the boys' school, and most of those who joined or regularly attend the church were students and faculty of the school. There were just a handful of others who lived nearby and had become members of the church. The church, in other words, was very dependent on the school for its life.
The Samray Church's dependence on the boys' school became a serious problem in 1903 when the school relocated away from the church. An important segment of the church's membership moved with the school, which greatly weakened the congregation especially because it was located far from other Christian communities. Kru Yuan had a plan that called for purchasing property near the church and creating something of a Christian housing development. In 1904, the church and the school joined in forming a worshipping group at the school's new location. There were no missionaries involved in this development, which led to the construction of a new church building. In 1909, this group became the Sueb Sampantawong Church (คริสตจักรสืบสัมพันธวงศ์), also known as Fourth Church.
We should note that both First Church and Fourth Church grew out of the boys' school and were very close to the school in their formative years. The same was true of Second Church, which grew out of the girls' school. It began in the school and used a classroom for Sunday worship. Most of those who attended worship were students, faculty, and alumnae of the school, which meant that all of the members of the church were women and girls. It was thus a women's church and was also quite small in numbers. Mission records claim that the church's worship did not have much of a feeling of worship because the congregation met in a classroom. In addition, the school's faculty was hesitant to invite outsiders to join in worship because they felt protective of the girls. The church thus did not carry out much if any evangelism, and it did not have a close relationship with the other churches. It also had very few activities other than "King's Daughters," which was made up of both students and teachers and held a variety of activities including prayer groups, social events, and an annual meeting. Most of the members of King's Daughters were students. The pastors of the church were missionaries who had other responsibilities as well so that the position was a part-time one.
We can thus summarize the early histories of First Church, Second Church, and Fourth Church as being similar in a number of ways. And when the fifth congregation, Wattana Church (คริสตจักรวัฒนา), was later formed it too shared these same similarities. In terms of pastoral care, there were four key shared aspects that need to be emphasized, as follows.
The first aspect was that the churches' students or graduates of either the boys' or the girls' school,. This meant that once most of the churches' members graduated they moved away from proximity to their church but did not remove their name from the church's rolls. The problem, of course, was that once they moved away they found it difficult to attend worship regularly or to take part in congregational activities. This meant that these four churches tended to be weak congregations. At the same time, most of those who did attend worship were students who had not become Christians and thus did not add to the strength of the church. Equally to the point, the members of these congregations did not live in communities served by their congregation such as most church members around the world are. They were together only when school was in session and even then the members who were graduates were not present in a single community. At the same time, however, the members of these four churches were mostly well-educated and those who had already graduated tended to be well off financially. The four churches thus were generally strong financially and their members were well able to lead them themselves, which meant that the churches had the potential to grow and become stronger congregations. From the beginning, the churches that were founded by the two Presbyterian missions tended to be either quite well off financially or less well off. The well off churches were the ones that had the best chances of having pastors while the poorer churches seldom had pastors.
The second aspect that all four of these churches shared was that they conducted very few activities of their own. The pastor or a member of the church might lead Sunday school or have some other minor activities, but for the most part the churches did very little. Youth activities other than Sunday school were conducted by the schools. The churches did not reach out into society, and evangelism was done by the schools with the students. In actual fact, there was little distinction between the activities of the church and the school, and the churches tended to function as chaplain units. This aspect of the churches began with First Church (Samray), and when the boys' school moved to a new location and eventually became Bangkok Christian College, it cause a serious crisis in the life of the church.
The third aspect shared by these churches, excepting only First Church, was that for the most part their pastoral care was carried out by missionaries and was part-time. It was an added responsibility for the missionary "pastors" rather than their primary responsibility, which is not what pastoral ministry is supposed to be about. Most of the missionary pastors did not have a basic commitment to pastoral ministry, and there was a constant changing of missionary pastors. This type of pastoral care had less of a negative impact on the churches than might be expected, however, because the Bangkok churches had more capable Thai leaders and some sense of being their own churches, which was not generally the case in the North.
The fourth aspect shared by these churches was that their pastoral care was more in the nature of being chaplaincy work than actual pastoral care. Now, chaplaincy work can be considered a form of pastoral care, but it is carried out in an institutional setting rather than in a church. In the case of these churches, pastoral care was directed primarily at children and young people in a close institutional setting. In Chapter Two, we saw that the idea of "institutionalization" was fundamental to the work of both the Siam and Laos Missions. The Bangkok churches exhibited this idea and its practice as fully as any of the Presbyterian mission churches under either of the two missions. They were born out of mission educational institutions, which were closed communities set apart from Thai society generally. They were founded to support the Christian members of those institutions, which institutions were dedicated to destroying what the missionaries took to be Siam's most serious single problem, heathenism. Their goal was to convert their students from that heathenism and thereby make them new persons.
The Siam Mission report for 1911 describes the mission's policy for church growth and pastoral care. At that time First Church (Samray) was still the only church served by a Thai pastor, and it was a self-supporting congregation as well. The problem was that the church was both weak and did not reach out to its larger community. The image we have of Kru Yuan is that of an older, highly respected pastor who was not particularly capable, which meant that the church did not do very much in the way of activities. It is quite possible that he was the image of what the missionaries thought was a "typical" Thai pastor. The 1911 report stated it was mission policy at that time not to increase the number of Thai pastors or evangelists but, rather, to increase the number of missionaries. There were three reasons given: One, the mission wanted to increase its evangelism and felt it need more missionaries to do so. Two, the mission wanted more missionaries because the churches needed improved pastoral care. They were not getting that care, which meant that the churches were weak and their members lacked commitment. Three, the mission also need more missionaries because it wanted to increase its training of Thais to become pastors and evangelists. The report explained that missionaries had to undertake all three of these tasks because (in the mission's view) Thai church members weren't serious in their faith. They weren't like the Chinese and Japanese Christians, which meant that the missionaries had to help them lead.
It is worth noting here that during these years the Siam Mission was beginning to see the necessity of pastoral care for its congregations. The missionaries observed that their churches were losing members because they lacked oversight and care. The mission, however, was not yet ready to allow the churches to take the lead in providing pastoral care, and the churches themselves did not yet understand that they required Thai pastors if they were to become effective congregations.
One important factor in the expansion of the role of Thai leadership in the mission's Bangkok churches was the annual Conference of Christian Workers (CCW), which was founded in 1905 by the Christian physician, Dr. George B. McFarland. McFarland was the son of missionaries and was born in Phet Buri, but he was not a member of the Siam Mission although he was very supportive of its work and assisted it constantly. When he founded the CCW, he was its first leader, but as it developed Thai church leaders took an increasingly important part in it. It became especially important after 1910. Those who attended the annual conferences included elders, deacons, and other interested church members. Some years it met more than once, and the CCW conducted other activities as well including especially overseeing two evangelistic preaching points. The CCW thus played a key role in encouraging the development of Thai church leadership, which contributed indirectly to making it possible to develop Thai pastoral leadership.
In 1913, the Siam Mission founded its Bible Training School with the Rev. J. B. Dunlap (not to be confused with E. P. Dunlap in Phet Buri) as the principal. It used classrooms at Bangkok Christian College for instruction and had some seven to nine students, all older and experienced men. Although the mission intended that the school be a permanent institution, it ran into a number of serious problems, including:
- Dunlap had other mission duties and could not devote his full attention to the school;
- The school didn't have its own facilities;
- There wasn't a permanent faculty, and the school had to depend on a revolving set of instructors;
- The school had a limited budget;
- There were no Thai-language textbooks available; and
- Most of the students did not read very well in any event.
Taken together, these six obstacles meant that the Bible Training School was not a stable institution.
By 1914, there were only five students left at the school (2 from Cholburi, 2 from Phet Buri, and 1 from Bangkok), which had been moved to a space underneath (ใต้ถุนบ้าน) one of the mission homes. The mission's annual report noted that the school required better oversight than it was receiving. In 1916, the mission moved the school again, this time to Phet Buri and placed it under the care of the missionaries stationed there. There were nine students who studied for one four month term. As before, the teaching was done by a number of missionaries who took turns, and the students were older, experienced men most of whom were evangelists. At this time, a mission report noted that the Siam Mission was passing out of its pioneer period and entering a new era, which required of it more teaching and training of its churches especially in the areas of worship and the Christian life. This report also observed that the men who studied at the school mostly desired to become pastors, but they were not ready for that responsibility and still required more training. And as it turned out 1916 was the last year that the school held any classes.
From the experience of the Bible Training School, we see that the Siam Mission was becoming somewhat more aware of the importance of pastoral care especially because the school did in fact emphasize training for pastoral ministry rather than evangelism. It taught courses on preaching, worship, the sacraments, church music, and church government. It remains true, however, that the mission did not change its basic policy, which was to invest most of its financial and personnel resources in its boarding schools. Even though it was beginning to feel the need to better develop its churches, it still did not devote much in the way of resources to them. We see this clearly from the Bible Training School itself. It did not have its own facilities or full-time staff, and it had only a very modest budget. In sum, the mission failed in this attempt to strengthen its churches as well as in preparing the school's students to become pastors.
In 1915, the Siam Mission had appointed its second Thai pastor, Kru Kim Heng Mungkraphun (ครูกิมเฮง มังกรพัีนธุ์). He was chosen to be pastor of Second Church; it was at this time that the church had moved out of the Wang Lang School to a new site. The reason the church moved was so that it could have greater freedom over its own life, and in the course of making this move the church selected Kru Kim Heng as its pastor. His personal story was similar to that of Kru Yuan. He had originally been an elder in the Samray Church and the principal of the Samray School. He was well-known in the Christian community and an experienced preacher who was older in years. At the same time, the church also elected a new session, and the church asked that members from other churches who lived close to its new location move their membership to Second Church because the original members of the church was small, scattered, and mostly women. In all of this, it appears that Second Church was seeking to become a more regular congregation and not just an appendage of the Girls' School. These events marked something of a new beginning for the church. That same year, 1915, Kru Kim Heng was elected as the first Thai chairman of the Conference of Christian Workers.
The third Thai pastor, Acharn Pluang Sudikham (อจ. เปลื้อง สุทธิคำ), was ordained in 1918 as pastor of Fourth Church. His background was, again, similar to that of Kru Yuan and Kru Kim Heng in that he had been a school teacher, was a capable preacher, and was an ordained elder. And he too had been elected chair of the Conference of Christian Workers. After he became pastor of Fourth Church, he established prayer groups and conducted evangelism. Of the three churches with pastors (Samray, Second, and Fourth), Fourth Church was the most active and lively.
By 1920, Samray Church had 37 members, and Kru Yuan was 70 years old; he had been pastor of the church for 24 years. During his tenure, the church did not develop much or grow. Meanwhile, Second Church under the leadership of Krum Kim Heng had increased in its membership to 90 members, but the church remained very closely associated with Wang Lang School. Under Ach. Pluang's leadership, Fourth Church grew rapidly and had a membership in 1920 of 124 members. Pluang was a capable leader, and in later years he would be elected moderator of the Church of Christ in Siam (today's Church of Christ in Thailand).
As for Third Church (Sapan Luang Church today), it was established in 1896 as a Chinese congregation, and from the beginning it had a history that was quite different from the other Presbyterian churches. It did not have its origins, that is, in one of the mission's educational institutions. It was a small church to begin with, grew only slowly, and experienced a number of problems. One of the most important of those problems was that the Presbyterians didn't have any missionaries who spoke Chinese, which meant that the preaching and other work of the church had to be conducted in Thai and then translated into Chinese. By 1901, Third Church had 58 members who spoke for different Chinese dialects. It did have an ethnic Chinese leader, Kru Soi (ครูซอย), who was a member of the Chinese Baptist Church in Bangkok. Although a Baptist, he was the most important Chinese leader in the congregation, and the Siam Mission hired him as an evangelist. In fact, his work was similar to that of a pastor, and it appears that he was a very capable pastoral care giver. There was a missionary who had oversight of Kru Soi, the Rev. Frank L. Snyder. He couldn't speak Chinese. From the beginning, the members of Third Church were generous givers. They not only supported the activities of the church itself but also sent money to assist churches in China. In his care of Third Church, Snyder emphasized visitation.
The single most important issue facing Third Church was the fact that a good number of its members were overseas Chinese, which meant that they travelled back-and-forth from China to Siam a great deal. Even those who had established a permanent home in Siam made frequent trips back to China. All of this coming and going meant that the life of the congregation was not very stable. This was also a problem in pastoral care. The two key marks of this church were, first, it emphasized evangelism; and, second, its members gave generously to the work of the church.
Third Church's first regularly installed pastor was Chung Kia, who served from 1903 to 1907 under Snyder's guidance. Kru Soi apparently was also involved in the work of the church. In 1908, Snyder began to expand Presbyterian work with the Chinese, in large part because the departure of the Baptists had left a vacuum in work with the Chinese. Observing that the Baptists were not likely to return, Snyder felt the Presbyterians had a responsibility to evangelize the overseas Chinese because there was not other mission agency available to do so. He began to visit the Chinese Baptist churches in the Cholburi region and found that most of the Baptist converts were long gone. He did, however, find one church still in existence. It had some 20 members but was not conducting regular worship or preaching and had not been visited by a missionary for many years. Thereafter, the Presbytery of Siam received this church, the Panutsanikom Church (คริสจักรพนัสนิคม), into the presbytery as its second Chinese congregation. The mission tried to provide oversight of this congregation but found it difficult to do so because the church was so far away from Bangkok. It did send an evangelist to help the members at Panutsanikom, but none of the missionaries went as well.
In 1912, Third Church experienced an unexpected problem with Kru Soi, who was 77 years old that year. He evidently left his wife to marry another woman, and when the missionaries called him to account he was not willing to listen to their counsel that he return to his original wife. He resigned from his position with the church, which created something of a crisis in pastoral leadership for the congregation because he was the single most important leader of the church and served the missionaries as their translator. This meant that Third Church had to search for a new pastor, and while it was doing so several different missionaries served temporarily as pastor of the church. In 1915, the congregation invited a pastor from China to come to Bangkok and serve it, but he last only for one year. The following year, 1916, the congregation added two men to its staff, both of them coming from China. One of the two was Tan In Keng. He had studied theology in China for two years and continued his studies by mail after he moved to Bangkok. In that same year, the church also started up two small schools. In 1917, the church called another new pastor, Lo Chi Song, and about this time the congregation began to worship as two separate groups, one worshipping in the Teochew dialect and the other in Cantonese. There was also a separate group worshipping at Klong Toei. By 1920, then, Third Church had a pastor, which it was able to support from its own resources. Unlike the other Bangkok churches, however, it called its pastors from China, which fact served to preserve the Chinese identity of the congregation.
In sum, by the year 1920 every one of the Presbyterian churches in Bangkok had its own pastor, and it was generally accepted by the churches that they should have a pastor. As for the pastors of the three ethnic Thai congregations, none of them had received formal theological training. All three had found their way into the pulpit through their experience as teachers in the mission’s schools and elders in their churches. They were, that is, experienced men that the churches knew and trusted even before they were called as pastors. Third Church was the only Chinese Presbyterian church in the city and the only church to call its pastors from overseas. The Bangkok churches thus were the first group of Presbyterian churches in Siam to receive regular pastoral care from ethnic Thai or Chinese pastors, which is to say that they were out in front of the other churches in Siam in this regard. The reason for this was that they alone had the resources, especially the financial resources, needed to support their own pastoral care. Another factor of some importance was that the form of pastoral care the missionaries introduced into the churches was very Western in form and conception. The urban churches, most especially those in Bangkok, seemed to find it easier to adapt themselves to this style of congregational leadership than did the rural churches. Whatever the factors may have been, we should emphasize here again that the first group of churches to receive regular pastoral care from their own pastors (as opposed to missionary pastors) was the congregations in Bangkok.
In general, there was considerable difference between the way in which the Siam Mission worked with the churches in Bangkok and in the provinces. This difference carried over into pastoral care. While the Bangkok churches began to develop their own pastoral care system after 1900, the provincial churches still depended on missionaries for pastoral leadership. The mission, in fact, worked with them based on much the same model as the Laos Mission used in the North, namely the "regional church" model.
The history of pastoral care in the churches of the Phet Buri Station from 1900 to 1920 can be divided into two periods. The first period was from 1900 to 1907, the period that the Rev. E. P. Dunlap continued to head up the station and provide pastoral oversight of the city church. As we have already seen, during his tenure congregational life in the churches languished. The rural churches were all closed, and the Phet Buri Church was a small congregation that had few activities. Only a small number of people attended worship, and almost all of them were station employees. One change took place in 1902 when Kru Soi from Third Church, Bangkok, went to Phet Buri to do evangelism among the overseas Chinese living there. In the following year, the Phet Buri Church began to receive some Chinese members; but the station found it difficult to work with these new members because they did not speak Thai, and the missionaries in Phet Buri could not speak Chinese. Beginning in 1908, the station hired a Chinese worker. More generally, in these seven years the station did emphasize evangelism including an increased number of trips into the rural areas of the province. The results were marginal at best. For the most part, in any event, the station continued to put most of its efforts into its institutional work, and there was only a minimal amount of church and pastoral work done.
The second period began in 1907 when the Rev. John A. Eakin moved to Phet Buri and took over responsibility for the station from McClure. Eakin was an experienced missionary who had worked in Siam for more than ten years, spoke Thai well, and had a good understanding of the Thai people. Prior to moving to Phet Buri, he had been in charge of the mission boys' school in Bangkok and built it into a widely respected institution. He was a capable administrator, and when he moved to Phet Buri he realized that the station was very weak. He wrote that he had two objectives for the station: first, he wanted to strengthen the church; and, second, he intended to increase the amount of time devoted to rural evangelism. He did not spend any of his time on institutional work and, instead, concentrated on rural evangelism and taking care of the Phet Buri Church. Because he spent time on rural itineration, the four rural churches soon began to revive and showed signs of increased activity including especially regular worship. At the same time, Mrs. Eakin began to work with the women of the church.
By 1910, the rural churches began to grow numerically for the first time in 20 years, that is since Dunlap left Phet Buri. Eakin's evangelistic efforts thus were showing results. In 1909, the Phet Buri Station's churches had a total of 171 members, which in 1910 grew to 215, a 26% increase. In comparison to the years that McClure led the station, these are impressive numbers. Eakin emphasized rural evangelism, which for him involved visitation in the homes of rural people. In those visits, he would talk with the people about the problems they were facing in their lives, and he would also distribute basic medicines. When he found pockets of interest in Christianity, he established a small group, which he would then try to visit at least once a year. In 1910, he divided his rural visitation into two separate routes, which together had a total of 12 small groups nine of which conducted regular worship services.
There were several factors involved in this increase in the number of members of the Phet Buri churches. The first factor was Eakin himself. He was both a skilled administrator and evangelist. The second factor involved the unusual circumstances that the Phet Buri Station found itself in at this time. For once, it had a full complement of five missionary families on the field including two missionaries working full time in evangelism and pastoral ministry. This unusual situation allowed Eakin to devote the bulk of his time to evangelism.
The third factor had to do with the ethnic Thai assistances who worked with the missionaries at that time. The station used its ethnic Thai assistances to strengthen the rural churches and groups as well as conduct evangelism. There were at least three and often more assistants, some of whom actually moved to live with rural congregations while the rest worked with Eakin in the city. These assistants did some evangelism but also gave pastoral care to the various Christian groups. For example, one of the station evangelists was Kru Maeng (ครูเหม่ง) who was located at the Bangkrabun Church (คริสจักรบางกระบูน). While he was officially employed as a station evangelist, Kru Maeng devoted the bulk of his time to the pastoral oversight of the church. As a way of giving support to him and the other Thai pastor-evangelists, the station conducted a training program that emphasized pastoral care more than it did evangelism. It included it own Conference of Christian Workers modeled on the Bangkok conferences described above, which in Phet Buri involved local churches leaders in both planning and conducting the conferences. The stated goal of the conferences was to strengthen the churches and organized Christian groups especially in terms of Christian education. At the same time, the station intentionally sought to develop the city church as a model congregation for the rural churches and groups, a pattern we have already seen used by the Laos Mission in the North.
Eakin's approach to his work and his success in it created a serious need for pastoral oversight of the Christian groups he founded. Those groups were composed of full members, converts who were studying the Christian faith, and people who were interested in Christianity but had not decided whether they would convert or not. These groups were thus fluid and not stable, and they required a good deal of attention. In 1913, there were 46 such groups involving 658 individuals. For the most part, those involved had little understanding of the Christian faith and most of them could not read or write. The station's annual report for 1913 stated that all of these groups required a great deal of teaching and training and that this work was both essential and very demanding.
The way the station responded to the needs of its groups was to have Eakin, other missionaries, and the station's evangelists constantly travel regular circuits out into the countryside. Eakin felt that it was especially important that the same individual visit the same group, and that person had to be someone that the group liked and trusted. He understood that the members of these groups had become interested in Christianity because of the impression particular evangelists had made on them. They, in that sense, bonded with the evangelist, and it was thus important that the same evangelist take responsibility for them. Thus, the evangelist (who frequently was Eakin himself) had to visit the group frequently. Eakin also followed the example of the Apostle Paul by writing regular letters to the various groups, which he entrusted with the station's evangelists to deliver.
The missionaries in Phet Buri found, however, that frequent visits and sending circular letters were not enough when it came to giving pastoral care to its rural groups. By 1917, the station had begun to train its evangelists to take oversight of the rural groups, and it had formulated a policy of sending the evangelists to live with the various groups as leaders. It also began select "natural leaders" in the groups for training especially in conducting worship.
In sum, Eakin and the Phet Buri Station still adhered to the "regional church" model (See Chapter 5.3), which depended on the missionaries themselves as its foundation for caring for the churches. They were, thus, the model for pastoral care in Phet Buri, which was a model that was very different from the approach of the missionaries in Bangkok. The Phet Buri Station, instead, seems to have developed its work in a way that was much more like what was being done in the Laos Mission, an approach that depended on training and rural visitation. As for Eakin, he was a vibrant, energetic, committed, and hard-working individual who modified the Siam's Mission's institution-centered strategy by emphasizing institutional work less and evangelism and church oversight more. He appears to have understood the importance of pastoral care. At the same time, however, he still worked within the older regional church framework.
The origins of the Christian movement in Nakhon Sri Tammarat are similar to those of Chiang Rai in the sense that a church was founded there before there was a mission station. In the years after 1880, there began to be converts in Nakhon Sri Tammarat from the evangelistic work of E. P. Dunlap while he was stationed in Phet Buri. And after he returned from the United States he conducted evangelistic work there. In 1895, the Bethlehem Church was founded, and after that Dunlap and his wife spent several months in Nakhon Sri Tammarat.
In 1890, the Siam Mission established a station in Nakhon Sri Tammarat following the general pattern we have seen used with other new stations. The missionaries built homes for themselves, founded a school, and initiated medical work, and the station functioned as the center of all Christian work. This station, however, was a small one that was distant from Bangkok, which meant that it usually had only one or two families who usually had very little time for church work. The Dunlaps, in order to fill the gap, had to return to the area every year to carry out evangelism and provide oversight of the converts. Dunlap followed the same approach that we have already seen him use in Phet Buri. He still had, that is, the heart of a pastor, worked very hard, and was loved by the people. By 1904, members of the Nakhon Sri Tammarat Station began to visit the rural Christians, but they were not able to provide regular oversight because of the small number of missionaries.
The most important local leader in Nakhon Sri Tammarat was Kru Chaeng Mitrakul (ครูแจ้ง มิตรกุล). He was the head of the medical assistants at the mission hospital and was the first and only elder of the Bethlehem Church. He was also a preacher at the church, and the missionaries frequently praised him for being a dedicated evangelist, a capable elder, and a trusted advisor. He was also in charge of the church's Sunday school, which was a position of considerable importance usually filled by missionaries themselves. In light of all of this, it is worth noting that an ethnic Thai leader of this quality was still only an "assistant" who worked for the missionaries in one of their institutions instead of a full-time church worker. It is also worth noting that the members of the station understood the importance of providing pastoral leadership for the churches. In 1906, for example, the station set a policy of doing evangelism only in the city itself because it was very difficult to provide the pastoral oversight distant Christian groups required. The missionaries could provide such care for groups that were close to the city. The station, that is, limited its evangelistic and ecclesiastical reach rather than invest someone like Kru Chaeng in church work.
In the years after 1904, the Dunlaps continued to visit the rural Christian groups from time to time until 1909 when they spent six weeks in Trang and had good results evangelistically. The Siam Mission, as a result, decided to open a station there, and the Dunlaps were the ones who started the Trang Station. This meant that they were not able to do any more work in the Nakhon Sri Tammarat area.
In 1911, the Nakhon Sri Tammarat Station held its first Conference of Christians, following the same model as the conferences in Bangkok and Phet Buri. One important benefit of these conference meetings was that they provided an opportunity for Christians, who tended to be scattered across the countryside, to get together, build unity, and consult with each other. They were also useful for building a sense of Christian identity. After 1911, the Bethlehem Church gradually increased its membership and established groups in a number of places including, for example, Ban Don (บ้่านดอน), Ban Na (บ้านนา), and Ko Samui (เกาะสมุย). Many of the participants in these groups were ethnic Chinese, and they posed the same problem in the South as they had in Bangkok and Phet Buri. It was hard, that is, for the station to provide them with good pastoral care esp. for those who were overseas Chinese and did not live permanently in Siam.
As for the Trang Station, the missionaries stationed there founded it on the same pattern as the other stations, beginning with the building of mission homes. Both a school and a hospital were established, and in 1912 the Trang Church was begun. The Christians in Trang had originally been members of the Bethlehem Church in Nakhon Sri Tammarat. Still, Dunlap's approach to mission work was quite different from that of most of the other members of the Siam Mission in a number of ways. First, he emphasized evangelism and was an effective evangelist, which meant that the Trang Church grew fairly rapidly. Second, he was highly respected by the general public, local elites, and government officials, and he maintained a good personal relationship with both local and national government officials. Third, He allowed church members full opportunity to lead, govern, and take part in the administration of the Trang Church. While he was the moderator of the Trang session, there were four elders also on the session, which meant that they were the majority voice on it. Fourth, Dunlap not only emphasized the training of his evangelistic team, but he also gave them a good deal of responsibility and authority. At the same time, he devoted a good deal of asn important part of his time to rural evangelism and visited the rural Christian groups frequently as well as visiting the homes of folks who were not yet Christians. Fifth, as we have seen before, Dunlap had the heart of a pastor. He once wrote that the members of the Trang Church has the same need for pastoral care as the first generation of Christians in the early church. In 1915, for example, the Trang congregation experienced a series of deaths one after another, and Dunlap devoted a good deal of time to visiting and consoling the families of the deceased.
Even though Dunlap did in some ways take a different approach to mission work than most of the other members of the Siam Mission, in other ways he adhered closely to basic principles share by all of them. Most importantly, he did not clearly distinguish pastoral ministry from evangelism, and he joined his colleagues in the mission in his emphasis on evangelism as the foundation of all church work. He also adhered to the same "regional church" model as other missionaries by which he established the station's foundation in the city of Trang and worked from that center outward toward the countryside.
It is clear, in sum, that the stations in Nakhon Sri Tammarat and Trang shared several characteristics including:
- Christian groups were widely scattered apart from each other.
- The majority of church members were of Chinese ethnicity.
- Both stations were small.
- Although there was some training of local leaders, both stations failed to prepare local people to either conduct pastoral ministries or assume the role of pastor.
- In both stations, the missionaries gave more attention to other aspects of mission work than they did to pastoral ministry.
Even though the missionaries did give some more attention to pastoral ministry than they had in the past, we must conclude with the observation that these two stations shared similar conditions with the northern stations of Phrae, Nan, and Chiang Rai. They, that is, were small stations, had only a very few missionaries stationed in them, had limited resources, were unable to give their churches adequate oversight, and were not able to establish a pastoral care system for them.
From this survey of the pastoral care of the churches under the care of the Presbyterian Siam Mission, it is apparent that there were two main currents that appeared simultaneously in the period from 1900 to 1920. The first current might be termed the "original" or "old" current, which tended not to see the importance of pastoral ministry for the Thai churches. It emphasized evangelism and educational and medical institutional work instead. At the same time, however, a second current also emerged by which some missionaries and Thai church leaders began to see the significance of pastoral ministry, which led to an increase in pastoral training and the placement of pastors in congregations. We should note, however, that in these two decades there were only a handful of Thai (or Chinese) full-time, regularly installed pastors, not more than three or four individuals at any given time and these only in Bangkok. That is to say that by 1920 and with the lone exception of Bangkok the churches of both the Siam and Laos Missions still did not have a pastoral care system of their own. Pastoral care still resided in the hands of the missionaries and did not have anywhere near the status or "clout" of evangelism, medical work, and educational work.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
From our study of the history of Protestant pastoral care in northern Thailand, the period 1890-1899 witnessed several important events. In 1893 and 1894, several men were ordained as pastors, but then in 1895-1896 the nascent pastoral care system created by the Laos Mission fell apart. Thus, while the decade began with the hope that the northern churches would have their own system of pastoral care, that hope was dashed by the end of the decade. The mission also failed to follow through on an effective program of theological education, and it stopped ordaining northern Thais as clergy and pastors. These events, as we will see in what follows, had a profound affect on events and developments in the years after 1900.
The first ten years after 1900 might be called the "silent years" in the field of pastoral ministry in the North. There was not a great deal that happened, which meant that it was a decade that confirmed the Laos Mission's older ways of working with its churches. Very little of substance changed, and the mission continued to adhere to its "regional church" patterns of operation. Individual churches were spread across large swatches of territory with small enclaves of Christians scattered here and there. Church work continued to be station-centered with the missionaries working from the center outward toward the rural areas. In these ten years, the membership of the churches increased by 70%, but only two new churches were founded, a fact that only confirmed the regional church pattern.
In any analysis of of this decade, it is evident that its events and developments actually did not have much to do with pastoral ministry. Still, the consequences of those events and developments had more than a little impact on how pastoral care would develop and not develop in the churches. The main historical currents of these years had mostly to do with the geographical expansion of the Laos Mission as well as the mission's work generally. Both the mission and its churches especially emphasized expansion, which reflected the mission's "ideology of expansion" and in turn had a major impact on the way they did business. That ideology was most apparent in the Laos Mission's drive to expand its work into Kengtung in British Burma, but it also manifested itself in the mission's expansion of its institutional base.
In 1893, the Revs. Daniel McGilvary and Robert Irwin took an exploratory trip into the Kengtung State of Burma, which they felt could be an important region in the expansion of the Christian faith and the Laos Mission's work. At the time, there had not been any Christian evangelism conducted in Kengtung. In their conversations with the people of Kengtung, McGilvary and Irwin found that they seemed interested in the Christian faith and that, significantly, they spoke a language very similar to northern Thai. The two missionaries were thus able to use their northern Thai pamphlets and scripture portions as means to share their religion, and they were excited by the fact that they could communicate so well with the people of Kengtung. When McGilvary and Irwin returned to Chiang Mai, they reported back to the Laos Mission and urged the mission to consider expanding its work into Kengtung. It was, they argued, the mission's duty to do so.
There was, however, a problem. It was generally understood in international Protestant missionary circles that Burma was Baptist territory, and there were in fact plans for establishing Baptist work in Kengtung State. When McGilvary and Irwin learned of those plans, they felt it was a good thing that the Baptists intended to take responsibility there because the Laos Mission already had more than it could handle in the Northern States. There were others in the mission, however, that did not agree with them and did not want to leave Kengtung in Baptist hands. This was especially true of Dodd and Dr. William A. Briggs, both of whom felt that the Baptists could not work effectively there because they did not know the language and culture of the people as well as the members of the Laos Mission did. They believed deeply that it was thus the duty of the Laos Mission to establish a presence in Kengtung State. God, they felt, was calling them them there, and they had to go, and to do otherwise was to refuse the call of God.
The matter had to be decided by the Board of Foreign Missions in New York, and while the Laos Mission waited for its permission to expand its work into Kengtung State the American Baptists founded a station there in 1901. Finally, the mission received permission from the board, and in 1904 it established its Kengtung Station. The Dodds were one of the two families to open the station. At first the Presbyterians and Baptists in Kengtung worked well together, but soon enough problems arose. There were misunderstandings and differences of perspective, which caused serious tensions both on the field and between the Baptist and Presbyterian boards in the United States. Both sides initiated studies of the Kengtung people, and a period of negotiations ensued. Eventually, the Presbyterian board decided that it did not have sufficient resources and personnel to work effectively in Kengtung State, and in order to solve the dispute over Kengtung with the Baptists it would be best for the Presbyterians to withdraw. In 1907, then, the Laos Mission closed its short-lived Kengtung Station, but the "Kengtung Question" did not end there. The mission continued to plead with the board for a return to Kengtung, and it continued to send both missionaries and northern Thai evangelists to visit there. At the same time, Dodd and other members of the Laos Mission became interested in Yunnan Province in southern China. In 1910, Dodd travelled from Chiang Rai to Yunnan on a trip of several months duration to carry out a careful survey of the languages and cultures of the various tribes in that province.
All of this impacted pastoral care in the northern churches in at least two ways. First, while the churches depended on the Laos Mission for pastoral oversight and nurture, the mission itself devoted a huge amount of time and attention to finding ways to expand into Kengtung State. It was time and attention taken away from the churches, which meant that to a degree the mission neglected the churches and their members. Second, the mission also tried to involve the churches directly in its vision of expansion. It, for example, asked them to donate money to further the Kengtung work and later that in Yunnan. The mission, furthermore, sought to plant in the churches the principles that they were responsible for spreading the Christian faith into new territories and that this evangelistic duty was the chief work of the church. Evangelism was the means for the churches themselves to grow spiritually and numerically. Pastoral ministries, that is, were held to be secondary and subsidiary to evangelism, which view was to have serious consequences for the nurture of the churches in the coming decades.
Laos Mission expansion was not solely a matter of geography; it also involved the mission's ongoing activities including esp. its institutional work. Prior to 1890, the mission had only a few educational and medical institutions, but after that date it expanded the number and scope of both fairly rapidly. After 1900, that expansion accelerated still more rapidly so that every station had at least one boarding school if not two. Every station also had a hospital or, at least, a medical dispensary. From 1892 onward, Chiang Mai Station also had a press, and in 1908 it opened a leprosy hospital.
The mission invested large amounts of personnel, resources, time, and attention in its institutional work, which investment can be measured partly by the time the missionaries themselves devoted to it. In 1899, the mission had 33 members of whom nine (27%) were assigned to evangelism and church work. Another twelve (39%), worked in the institutions. The remaining eleven missionaries were wives whose primary duties were at home with their children. In 1909, by way of comparison, the mission had 37 members, six of whom were on furlough in the U.S. Of the remaining 31, ten worked in the mission's hospitals and ten in its schools totaling twenty members of the mission (65%) invested primarily in institutional work. Of the remaining eleven missionaries, only five (16%) were assigned to do evangelism and church work.
This substantial commitment to institutional work had an equally significant impact on the mission's churches. Two points need to be made here. First, in theory the Laos Mission intended to use its institutions to strength the local churches, but in practice it invested so much in its institutions that they grew much more rapidly than the churches. The mission's "exploding flower" strategy, which intended to build strong congregations by beginning with the city churches and institutions and work out toward the rural churches actually failed to direct crucial mission resources to the rural churches and Christian groups. It truly was a centralizing system instead of one that reached out into the countryside as the missionaries intended. This was because:
- The missionaries themselves generally had very little time to devote to working with the churches;
- Many of the rural congregations' most capable leaders were pulled into the cities to work in the station's institutions, which meant that the churches actually had to compete with the schools and hospitals for leadership; and,
- The mission tended to rely on its institutions to carry out ministries usually done by the churches. The schools thus became its basic agents of Christian education and the hospitals the primary agent for social service and evangelistic outreach. The unintended lesson that the churches learned was that these ministries were not their responsibility. Their responsibility, rather, was merely to conduct worship and build church buildings.
All of this was compounded by the fact that during this period, the mission emphasized a policy of self-support by which the churches and the institutions were supposed to be responsible for their own financial support. In the case of the institutions, this policy made sense and was practicable. The hospitals in particular could support themselves financially through the sale of medicines and medical fees for services rendered. The schools could charge tuition and other fees. The churches, on the other hand, had only limited financial resources being mostly what they could collect in offerings. The city churches did have more financial resources because many of their members were mission employees who had regular salaries, which was not the case for the rural churches and groups. Rural church members generally had only small incomes that were not regular or dependable and depended on the weather. Because they had only limited resources, they could not afford pastors even if ones were available.
In sum, the mission's system of operation centered on its city institutions sucked leadership resources out of the churches, hoarded the bulk of the mission's resources in the institutions, and in all of this effectively made it difficult if not impossible for the rural churches and groups to receive the pastoral care and oversight they required and could not provide for themselves.
Second, the mission's institutions developed into power centers in their relationship with the churches because they encompassed knowledge, skills, personnel, and financial resources that the churches did not have. In the context of northern Thai society, this meant that they also became "patronage centers" in Christian society because they employed northern Thais as teachers, medical assistants, and in various other positions. While it can be said that the churches were also institutions of a sort, they existed more at the margins of northern Thai Christian society. The highest levels of that society, which included the missionaries and some northern Thais, was much more connected to the mission's institutions and lived in urban centers. They had much less to do with the churches on a daily basis. The rural churches and groups thus were distant from the station centers both geographically and socially, and they were generally poorer and had little influence. In sum, the churches were weaker than the institutions, less self-sufficient, and somewhat neglected by the missionaries esp. in comparison to mission's institutions.
The Laos Mission was well aware of the fact that its churches did not receive sufficient attention, and in 1896 it established a clearer policy for working with them. In 1903, the mission instructed its stations to divide their churches into groups with each group having a missionary responsible for it. This supposedly "new system" was actually the old regional church model that was already in place, the only difference being that it encouraged the missionaries to be more diligent in visiting and providing oversight for the rural churches. This supposedly new approach especially drew on the old regional church idea by actually increasing the fundamental role of the missionaries as the most important church leaders. It did not promote indigenous church leadership but instead fostered a sense among northern Thai Christians and the missionaries themselves that the ultimate responsibility for the churches lay with the mission and not the churches.
In sum, the years 1900 to 1909 was a period that saw virtually no new developments in pastoral care. In the aftermath of the Pastors' Revolt of 1895, no new pastors were appointed to the churches. No new northern Thai clergy were ordained. As had been the case from the beginning, the churches were under the authority of the missionaries. Local elders still ran them on a daily basis. All in all, this was a decade that preserved and promoted the regional church approach to local congregational life and leadership.
In the next decade, beginning in 1910, things were not much different from the previous ten years. The Laos Mission continued to emphasize geographical expansion although the focus changed from Kengtung State to Chiang Rung, Yunnan Province, southern China. The mission campaigned for a new station there, and it eventually received the permission of the Board of Foreign Missions to establish that station, which it did in 1917. The Dodds again participated in opening the Chiang Rung Station. At the same time, the mission also remain committed to institutional work. In 1916, for example, the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. established a special fund for the work of its two mission in Siam, and when those missions began to use money from the fund they devoted 70% to institutional work and only 21% to evangelism and church development.
One of the most important events of this decade for the Laos Mission's churches was the small pox and malaria epidemic that began in 1911 especially in the Chiang Mai region. The mission responded by sending medical teams into the countryside to do vaccinations, care for the ill, and conduct evangelism. It also donated vaccine to the Siamese government in support of the government's efforts to stem the epidemic. As a result of the mission's medical work during the epidemic, hundreds and then thousands of people converted to Christianity. They were mostly poor rural folk who had been negatively impacted economically by the epidemic, which continued through 1913 and sporadically as late as 1916. After 1913, however, the rate of conversion dropped sharply.
The reasons so many people converted during the epidemic years included: First, it was widely perceived that the missionaries could cure the diseases causing the epidemic, and many northern Thais believed that this was evidence of the power of the Christian God. They converted to Christianity as a result. Second, the social dislocation caused by the epidemics forced many people to look for new patrons, and many of them felt that the missionaries made dependable patrons, which again led them to convert to Christianity. Third, in some cases some people thought that the missionaries gave medicine only to Christians. They may have felt this way because the Laos Mission did place heavy emphasis on evangelism during this period as it distributed medicines. There is no evidence, however, that the missionaries or their evangelists ever withheld medical assistance because those in need were not Christians. Still, it seems that there were times when medicine was given to Christians before it was distributed to others, which could well have led to the feeling that it was safer to convert.
In any event, it is clear that the epidemics of this period led to a significant increase in the number of Christians in the North. In 1910, the Laos Mission had a total of 4,038 members in its churches, which then increased by 1914 to 6,934. This was increase of nearly 3,000 members in just four years—that is, an increase of 72%. More generally, the twenty year period from 1900 to 1920 marked one of the periods of greatest numerical growth in church membership in the entire history of the Laos Mission. In 1900, the mission's churches numbered 2,400 members, and in 1920 that number had grown to 6,649. The number of churches also grew from 15 churches in 1900 to 37 in 1920, an increase of 22 congregations. We should not see in these statistics, however, any fundamental change in the mission or its churches. The mission's approach to its work and church life remained virtually unchanged, which is to say it continued to emphasize evangelism over all other forms of ministry, work from the center out, and rely on the "regional church" structure of congregational life.
As for the local churches, worship was the single most important core activity followed in significance by building new church buildings. The missionaries themselves from the earliest years of the Laos Mission emphasized the significance of having attractive permanent church buildings because in northern Thai society Buddhism place a great deal of importance on attractive, impressive temple buildings as being necessary to a "real" religion. Therefore, the missionaries reasoned, it was equally important for Christians to have their own attractive places of worship. And it is true that traditional northern Thai society did put a great deal of importance on temples as the centers of rural communal life. Northern Thai Christians thus agreed with the missionaries that attractive church buildings were a necessity for their congregations. The missionaries, furthermore, felt that building a church building was one good way to encourage local church members to take a larger part in the life of their church. Well constructed church buildings also created an impression of permanence and stability as if to prove that the Christian faith was there to stay in the North. Thus, in the decade beginning in 1910 there were a number of building campaigns in the various churches, and several churches successfully built new buildings.
Another activity that spread through the rural churches was the establishment of local schools. This movement really began before 1900 with several congregations starting small schools. The missionary who was most responsible for this development was the Rev. John H. Freeman, who was located in Lamphun. That station thus generally had schools associated with its rural churches, and in the years after 1900 more and more churches followed their lead. In 1908, for example, Laos Mission churches had 23 rural schools, and by 1912 the rural schools had a total of 801 students (compared to a total of 876 students in the mission's boarding schools). The rural schools were in session usually for only a few months per year, and they were generally held either in the church building or a small bamboo structure of some kind. The teachers were mostly individuals who had studied for a period of time in one of the boarding schools. The schools were run by the churches, and in some schools sometimes the mission paid their teachers and sometimes they paid the teachers themselves. The curriculum was simple, being mostly reading and arithmetic, and the school usually wasn't divided into classes. There was very little in the way of instructional materials. The teachers usually worked out their own curriculum, which normally placed heavy emphasis on the Christian religion.
In the years prior to 1910, as we saw above, very little happened in the area of pastoral care and ministry, but in the decade that followed there were a number of significant developments so that it was something of a transition period in pastoral care. More than anything else, northern Thais began to take increased responsibility. Three key developments are as follows:
First Development. From 1894 onwards, there were no more northern Thais who were ordained as clergy because of the reaction of the Presbyterian missionaries to the events of the Pastors' Revolt of 1895. This meant that the number of northern Thai clergy gradually diminished. Kru Buk, for example, died in 1912. And there were very few northern Thais engaged in pastoral ministry. Kru Chai Ma was still working in the Phrao-Chiang Dao region as he had before, but by this time he was more than 70 years old, and his official title was that of evangelist although he performed pastoral duties as well. Kru Pannya Chaiwan was the assistant pastor of First Church, Chiang Mai, but he carried out several other responsibilities including teaching theology. In 1911, three more northern Thai men were ordained as clergy; of these three, two served as evangelist and one, Kru Srimo Wichai (ครูศรีโหม้ วิชัย) was appointed as a second assistant pastor of First Church. In 1915, another two men were ordained. One worked as an evangelist, and the second, Kru Kham Ai Chaiwan (ครูคำอ้าย ไชยวัณณ์), was also appointed to be an assistant pastor at First Church.
From all of this, it is clear that First Church Chiang Mai was building a strong pastoral team under the leadership of the church's head pastor, the Rev. Howard Campbell. In addition to three assistant pastors, Campbell also had a number of evangelists. Circumstances forced him to take a team approach to pastoral ministry because First Church had a large and widely scattered membership. He divided the congregation into two "circuits," one in the city itself and another out in the rural countryside, and he supervised the pastoral work in both circuits. Campbell himself also travelled extensively visiting the church's rural membership, and he once wrote that in some years he spent more than one hundred days in rural visitation. The bulk of the pastoral work, however, fell to his team of assistants, and he stayed in touch with their work through weekly meetings, which he also used to provide counsel and training for the team. In sum, Campbell's approach reflected what had become the Laos Mission's traditional approach to pastoral care, which remained urban based and centered on the station. There was still little or no thought given to the possibility of locating members of the team with the rural groups, which would have been difficult in any event because they were dispersed over a wide geographical area.
Second Development. In the period after 1910, the northern Thai churches did not have any northern Thai pastors at all—unlike the churches in Bangkok, which had their own Thai pastors. The situation in Bangkok and in the North was similar, however, to the extent that both the Presbyterian missionaries and the churches themselves had begun to see the importance of a Thai or Northern Thai pastoral ministry. In the North, the Laos Mission began to move in that direction by appointing northern Thais to the position of assistant pastor as we have seen in the case of First Church, Chiang Mai, which had three ordained assistant pastors. The city churches in the other stations also began to appoint northern Thai assistant pastors although some of them were elders rather than ordained clergymen. In Nan, for example, Elder Nan No (เฒ่าแก่ หนานโน) was the assistant pastor. He carried out visitation and also did some evangelism. Since the Nan Church had a large number of members in rural areas, it had a visitation team that apparently was under Nan No's direction. Both the Chiang Rai and Phrae churches had assistant pastors from time to time. In Lampang, Noi Jantha (น้อยจันตา) was the city church's assistant pastor in 1919. He was responsible for visitation, overseeing church activities, and taking charge of the church when the missionary pastor was not present.
In surveying Presbyterian churches throughout Siam, we see then that they were divided into three categories in terms of pastoral ministry:
- First Category: the Bangkok churches, which all had Thai pastors and were generally independent of immediate missionary supervision;
- Second Category: the urban congregations in the North, which had assistant pastors who worked under missionary supervision; and
- Third Category: the rural churches throughout the country and the urban churches of the Siam Mission, which did not have ethnic Northern Thai or Thai pastors at all and were still under the full authority of the missionaries.
Besides these three categories of churches, the Phet Buri Church was a special case. Eakin sent station evangelists to live in and oversee the station's rural groups and churches. They were not considered pastors as such but still performed some of the functions of pastors.
Third Development. While the missionaries continued to play a key role in Presbyterian pastoral ministry in the North, the years after 1910 saw that role begin to diminish. One reason was that the older generation of missionaries who had been used to "naturally" exercising authority over local churches began to retire or die. Thus, for example, both McGilvary and Wilson died in 1911. Another reason was that the emphasis in both missions on institutional work left the missionaries with little time to carry out pastoral duties. Finally and for whatever other reasons, the Presbyterian missionaries were generally more willing to hand over the care of the local churches to northern Thai pastoral leadership.
All of this does not mean that the Laos Mission promoted changes in the basic structure of church life, which has remained fairly constant down to the present. It meant simply that there was a greater willingness to replace missionary pastoral leadership with northern Thai leadership. This decade was a period of change in which the churches began to have greater responsibility for their own leadership, but it was not an era of fundamental change.
At the same time that northern Thais began to play an increased role in pastoral care esp. in the urban centers, the Laos Mission reestablished its program of theological education. We will remember that Dodd initiated theological training in 1889, but after 1896 the Training School gradually declined. Campbell took over from Dodd, and at first he tried to maintain the Training School as before with full-time students, but he soon had to change the school into an itinerant program that travelled to various rural churches and held classes in them. After a further period, he returned to teaching in Chiang Mai but only for brief period of time each year. For example, in 1909 Dr. McGilvary ran the school, and it lasted for only eight days.
It eventually became clear that this type of theological training was of little use and was not able to produce effective local church leadership. At this same time, a wealthy American Presbyterian, Mr. H. L. Severance, donated US$15,000 to the Board of Foreign Missions for theological training in the churches under the Laos Mission. The mission thus was both prepared to start a new program of theological education and had sufficient funding to carry out the program.
In 1912, thus, the Rev. Henry White opened the "Theological Training School," which had the dual purpose of preparing pastors and local church leaders. It followed the model of American theological seminaries. At the beginning of 1913, the school had fifty students of whom six were preparing for ordained pastoral ministry. White continued to serve as principal of the school, and the Rev. Roderick Gillies joined him as a second missionary instructor. Kru Srimo and Kru Kham Ai were also instructors in the school. In 1914, the school experienced its first crisis as Gillies fell seriously ill and could not teach just as White was returning to the United States on furlough. There were no other missionaries available to teach, and for the next two years Kru Srimo and Kru Kham Ai took full charge of the school until White returned in 1916. That same year, 1916, the Theological Training School moved into its new facility, which was called the "Severance Building."
Although it now had it own facilities, the school began to experience financial difficulties, and in 1917 it had to reduce the number of students to just eighteen. The curriculum emphasized biblical studies and also included systematic theology and some Christian education courses, mostly aimed at teaching Sunday school. The school year was nine months long, and on Saturdays and Sundays the students went out to rural congregations to practice in the field what they were learning in the classroom. The students were older men and were mostly elders and other experienced church leaders.
The year 1918 marked an important change in the history of theological education in Thailand because that was the year that the Theological Training School began to receive students from Prince Royal's College (PRC), the mission boys' school in Chiang Mai. This meant that the school no longer saw local church elders as its primary source of candidates for preparing local church leadership. Instead, it began to focus on students who had attained the highest educational level available at that time. This change reflected a basic principle of Presbyterian pastoral care, namely that pastors should be well-educated so that they can properly teach their parishioners concerning the Bible and living a Christian life. The theological training provided by the training school thus was still more like that of Presbyterian seminaries in the United States. As it turned out, however, in 1918 there were only a few PRC students who planned to continue their studies at the Theological Training School. In the following year, 1919, the Laos Mission (now the North Siam Mission) started a "Central Fund" to support the school. It asked local churches to help contribute to the fund so that it not only provided the school with financial support, but it also gave the churches more of a sense of involvement in the school.
By 1921, the Theological Training School had 34 students coming from all five of the northern stations. Even though these students were preparing themselves for pastoral ministry, they were in fact more interested in missionary evangelism, and their field work assignments were mostly related to evangelism. And some of the students actually did carry missionary work. In 1920 two students, for example, worked with Presbyterian missionaries in Yunnan Province, China, and in November 1921 another ten students went to Yunnan for a period of a few months. In 1926 the school sent out 16 students at the end of the term, some going to Isarn and some to Tak. Throughout this period, most of the students that graduated from the Theological Training School either went to work in mission institutions or as evangelists. In 1923 or 1924 the school changed its name to the McGilvary Theological Training School. The reason was because Mrs. Sophia McGilvary died in 1923, and the school wanted to honor both her and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Daniel McGilvary, by naming the school after them.
The year 1926 marked another important moment in the history of the McGilvary Theological Training School because of a significant change in the curriculum. While one track of the new curriculum was still aimed at local church elders as it long had been, the school added a second track intended for graduates of the mission's schools throughout Siam. In that year, six new students were admitted to the school including three from central Siam. The school year was now divided into two terms and the students spent a total of six months in the classroom after which they returned to their homes to work there under the direction of the mission station from which they came. Practical theology was introduced into the new curriculum and was taught by the Rev. Howard Campbell. At first, the new curriculum caused some challenges for the school esp. because it had to add to the number of instructors, which increased its operating costs. The school also had to raise the standard of its instruction and acquire textbooks. There were still other problems including the need to provide the students from central Siam with their own food as they weren't familiar with northern Thai cuisine. For the most part, the new curriculum was taught in English. Its basic purpose was to raise the educational level of the school so that its graduates would be not only well-educated but also able to provide capable leadership to the churches.
In general, then, developments in theological education in Siam from 1912 to 1928 saw a general raising of the standards of that education. There were, however, still serious issues to be faced. In 1928, Gillies, who had become principal, reported that the McGilvary Theological Training School faced three major problems. The first problem concerned which style of education it would provide, that of a Bible school or a seminary. Would it primarily teach local church elders and retain a lower standard of education, or would it be a seminary that admitted better educated students and trained them to be clergy? Gillies himself was not sure which direction the school would take. The second problem was that the financial standing of the school was not very secure. This was a familiar and long-standing problem. The third problem, according to Gillies, was that the school was not a Thai educational institution. It was founded by the missionaries for their purposes. The churches had no part in the planning, founding, or daily conduct of the school. Student scholarships were funded from the United States. The school was administered by missionaries and, as we have seen, the curriculum and methods of instruction were largely Western. The churches and their members, thus, understood that theological education was the responsibility of the missionaries.
This third problem has remained a key issue down to the present. According to Gillies, the training school was not a Thai educational institution especially because the local churches had little to do with it. For the most part, the instructors were missionaries, and even the textbooks were in English. On closer examination, it can be seen that even the method and goals of instruction were imported by the missionaries from the United States and reflected a model of education long familiar to them. In sum, there remained a wide gulf between the theological education provided by the training school and the churches.
As we have seen in this chapter, there was both change and continuity in the pastoral care of the Laos Mission's churches. The most important change was that the Presbyterian missionaries in the North began to see the importance of pastoral ministry just as did those in the Siam Mission. They began to take seriously the need to train ethnic northern Thai leaders for the churches. And they began to allow those leaders to act as pastors in local churches. The missionaries, however, did not transfer full authority over the churches to their ethnic Thai "colleagues," and the basic structures and methods of operation both in the mission and in the churches remained the same.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
As we have seen thus far, by 1920 the churches of both the Siam Mission and Laos Mission (also known in later years as the South Siam Mission and North Siam Mission) did not have their own system of pastoral leadership. The only group of churches that had their own ethnic Thai pastors were the ones in Bangkok. In this and the following chapter, we will find that the two decades after 1920 were a period of increased change in Presbyterian pastoral ministry in Siam, but we will also not be surprised to learn that the more fundamental historical currents of church life did not change very much. In this chapter, we will examine the history of pastoral care throughout Siam from 1921 to 1930 including the emergence of revivalism as an important movement among the Thai churches. We will find that the revivalistic movement had a large impact on the care and oversight of the churches both before and after World War II.
This era in the history of the Thai church began with an important event when in 1920-1921 the two Presbyterian missions in Siam united to form a single mission known as the American Presbyterian Mission (APM). The union of the two missions was especially important in the sequence of events that eventually lead to the formation of the Church of Christ in Siam in 1934. The two presbyteries connected with the missions, however, did not unite. The Laos Presbytery had been renamed the Presbyterian of North Siam, and the Siam Presbytery had become the Presbytery of South Siam. Theoretically, then, the churches under each of the two presbyteries did not belong to the same ecclesiastical body in Siam, but in fact when the two missions joined we can assume that the Presbyterian churches throughout Siam had a closer relationship to each other. In 1921, there were 50 churches in the two presbyteries with a total membership of 8,282 members. There were eleven ordained clergy and another 122 lay preachers, presumably all elders.
In general the mission continued to emphasize both institutional work and geographical expansion as it had in the past. In these years, it was especially interested in expanding its work into Yunnan Province in southern China, Northeastern Siam, and Luang Prabang in French territory. There were significant changes taking place, however, including the following: first, the mission began to transfer administrative control over both mission institutions and local churches into Thai hands. There was a growing consciousness among the Presbyterian missionaries that it was inappropriate to limit Thai Christians to the status of being their assistants. This growing consciousness was reflected in the terms they used to refer to the Thai. In the past, the missionaries called them "natives," a term that seemed slightly derogatory as if the Thai people weren't quite fully civilized or had an inferior culture. Beginning in this decade, the missionaries more and more began to use the term "nationals" in reference to the Thai people, a term that some missionaries continue to use even in the present. It seemed to better represent the changed attitudes of the missionaries concerning both their role and that of their Thai colleagues in ministry.
Second, As a result of this new attitude concerning the role of "the nationals," the mission did begin to place more authority in the Thai hands especially in the churches. The mission and the churches began, that is, to develop a system of pastoral care. As we have seen in earlier chapters, up to this time only the churches in Bangkok received regular pastoral care from Thai pastors. Beginning in 1920, churches outside of Bangkok began to receive full-time pastoral care including even some rural congregations. By 1930-1931, all of the city congregations throughout the country had their own full-time Thai pastors, excepting only the Phrae Church. At the same time, the number of missionaries working as pastors was reduced although some of them did continue to help provide some pastoral care in some situations. In the 1920s, thus, local churches began to develop a greater consciousness of the importance of pastoral leadership. At the same time, they began to realize that the older generation of elders who had not received theological training generally could not help churches develop to the extent they should.
Third, Another important change was the increase in the number of Thai pastors with a theological education, something that had been rare in the past. In the period 1920 to 1930, the McGilvary Theological Training School graduated 18 students who then entered the pastoral ministry after graduation, which suggests that local churches were increasingly aware of the importance of trained pastoral leadership. At the same time, the Presbyterian missionaries came to understand that they could not provide adequate pastoral care for their churches. It had to be given by Thai pastors. Theological training was made even more important in this period by the fact that previously most of the Thai pastors had been older and elders when they were ordained as clergy and many of the churches' pastors were still older men who had not received a theological education.
Originally, ruling elders had two responsibilities: they oversaw the work of their own churches as their title implies, and they were evangelists. It was generally understood that an evangelist should be an elder as well. Later, the idea that evangelists should be elders was extended to the office of local pastor as well, since ruling elders already had some pastoral responsibility for their church by way of their office. From the very beginning, the Presbyterian missionaries, especially in the North, understood that it was only "natural" that churches should be led by elders since they were by definition older and more respected individuals, again as the title of "elder" implied. They were close to their local community and accepted as leaders by it. Therefore, it was deemed unnecessary to have someone come into the churches from outside to serve as pastor. It was better to have local elders take pastoral responsibility instead. By the 1920s, however, missionary thinking was changing, and they began to push for full-time pastors who had received theological training. Pastors, that is, had an occupation and should receive financial compensation. These views spurred the expansion of trained pastoral care at an increasing pace.
We have seen the development of pastoral ministry by which elders became pastors in the history of the Bangkok churches in particular. Now, that pattern was replicated in other Presbyterian churches as well, particularly in the North. In Phrae, for example, there was a leading elder, Lum Puntupongse (ลุม พันธุพงศ์) who had served as a ruling elder for many years—since the time of Irwin (see Chapter 6) in fact. In 1921-1922, he was appointed as assistant pastor of the Phrae Church and received a salary half of which was paid by the mission and half by the church. As another example from Phrae, the rural church at Ban Pa Pueng (บ้านป่าผี็ง) was going through an impressive period of revival that included a rapid increase in the number of new members at a rate few other churches in the country could match. As a result, Elder Chanta (จันทา) was appointed to oversee the church. He was from Lampang and worked at Pa Pueng until 1926. Another elder, Elder Inkham (อินคำ), took over for him. Although both of these men were elders, the missionaries understood them to be exercising pastoral care of the congregation. Their primary duties were to train the new converts in the Christian faith and to visit and encourage them. They also visited the sick and did spent some time distributing Bible portions.
The Wiang Pa Pao Church (คริสตจักรเวียงป่าเป่า) provides still another example of how elders became pastors. In about 1920, Elder Suk Khunasawat (สุข คุณาสวัสดิ์) was a leading elder of that congregation, and while he was not yet officially pastor of the church a missionary wrote that he was, in fact, fulfilling the role of one and that he had the heart of one. He gave consolation to the suffering, aided those in need, and was a good counsellor. Eventually, he was able to study at the theological training school. Elder Suk's success in what amounted to pastoral ministry is recorded in the annual report of the Presbyterian Mission for 1928, where it is noted that his leadership was instrumental in the relatively rapid growth in membership the church was experiencing at that time. Some time later, the Wiang Pa Pao Church called Elder Suk to be its pastor, and he was ordained into that ministry on April 6, 1929.
There was still another change that facilitated the expansion of a system of pastoral care among the churches affiliation with the Presbyterians. That was improvements in communications both in terms of roads and postal services. These improvements brought churches closer to each other in terms of travel and provided local church elders with more opportunities to study theology.
The Expansion of Pastoral Care in the North
From what we have already seen above, it is clear that the churches and missionaries in northern Siam were working to increase the number of churches served by pastors especially in the urban centers. In Lampang in 1923, Kru Pat Chindawongse (ผัด จินดาวงค์) was ordained and installed as pastor of the Lampang Church although it took the church five years before it was able to pay his salary without outside assistance. It is worth noting that missionary records for 1923 show that missionaries filled the Lampang pulpit only five times during the entire year, which reflects the trend that the missionary role in the local churches was decreasing. At the same time, however, the fact that the missionaries were place more authority and responsibility in Thai hands did not mean that the churches themselves were going through much change. Quite the opposite, the old missionary system based on the centralization of power (see Chapter 3) continued as before. This was certainly the case in Lampang where the station evangelist, the Rev. Duangdee (ดวงดี), travelled through the countryside visiting the rural Christian groups. In 1924, he was installed as the pastor of two rural congregations, Chae Hom and Muang Yao, which churches each paid half of his salary.
In Chiang Mai at this same time, elders who had been ordained as clergy began to itinerate among rural churches and organized Christian groups. In 1924, Kru Banchong Bannasit (่บรรจง บันสิทธ์) was ordained and began working with the Chiang Mai Church although he was not officially its pastor. Kru Kham Ai Chaiwan (คำอ้าย ไชยวันณ์) became the part-time pastor of the "Leper Church" (the Santitam Church today), while Kru Chai Ma was still in Phrao helping with the church there. He was, we may remember, among the first generation of northern Thai ordained clergy (see Chapter 6) and one of the most successful of his generation. One missionary summarized his work in Phrao by noting that Kru Chai Ma preached, cared for the sick, comforted those who were suffering, prayed with the dying, performed the sacraments, taught Christians who were straying from their faith, and spread the Good News of Christ. In the decade of the 1920s, there were still very few Thai pastors who carried out this full set of pastoral duties, and Kru Chai Ma remained a true pioneer of pastoral care.
In Nan in 1926, the Rev. Pannya Chairungsri (ปัญญา ไชยรังษี) and his wife, Mae Kru Sri Kham (ศรีคำ), moved to Wiang Sa where Kru Pannya served as pastor and Mae Kru Sri Kham opened a school under the care of the church. This was a new strategy in Nan, to send clergy to live with and work with the rural Christian groups. For many years, the churches and rural groups had been divided into two geographical districts, the northern and the southern districts, which were served by missionaries and Thai leaders going out into the countryside to visit them. When Kru Pannya moved to Wiang Sa it was with the understanding that he would take pastoral responsibility for the whole southern district. At the same time, Elder Nan No (หนาน โน) moved to the northern district and undertook pastoral care of its churches and groups. It is important to note that the idea of sending pastors to live with the rural Christians in the two districts did not come from the Presbyterian missionaries of the Nan Station but from but from the team of Thai leaders that worked for the station. It was evidently an attempt to change the centralized approach so that pastoral care givers were close to the people they served instead of living in the city of Nan at a significant distance from them. As it turned out, this attempted change was not successful. Within a short time, Kru Pannya and Mae Kru Sri Kham returned to the city where he took up work with the church there. As for Nan No, there is no record of his work in the northern district.
In Chiangmai, meanwhile, Kru Banchong Bannasit was installed as assistant pastor of the Chiang Mai Church in 1928, and the next year the church called him to be its full-time pastor. At the same time, he was ordained, and he was the first full-time northern Thai pastor of the church since the time of Nan Ta (see Chapter 6). And, in fact, he was the first regularly called and installed northern Thai pastor of the church in the whole of its history.
Of all of the churches in the North, however, it was the congregations in Chiang Rai that developed the most rapidly. Mission records report that in 1930 Kru Singkao Suriyakham (สิงห์แก้ว สุริยะคำ) was ordained and installed as pastor of the Chiang Rai city church. In the following year, 1931, five of Chiang Rai's ten churches had pastors. Four of the churches installed pastors for the first time in that year while Kru Suk (see above) continued to serve as pastor of the church in Wiang Pa Pao. The four new pastors were all graduates of the theological training school, and the fact that the Chiang Rai churches were willing to call these new graduates to be their pastors indicates both that they were increasingly understanding the importance of pastoral care and the Presbyterian premise that pastors should be theologically trained. The same seems to have been true in Phrae where Kru Duangchun Puntupongse (ดวงจันทร์ พันธุพงศ์)was assigned care of the city although he was not yet officially installed as its pastor. He also carried some rural evangelistic work as well.
The Expansion of Pastoral Care in Central Siam
At the same time that the churches in the North were expanding their system of pastoral care, the churches in central Siam were doing the same. In 1921, Wattana Wittaya Academy moved from its original location to the site where it is located today, which at the time was outside of Bangkok. Mission records indicate that when the school moved Second Church almost died because most of its members were connected with the school, which was now too far away for them to travel back and forth. For the same reason, when the school moved to its new location the Wattana Church (Fifth Church) was established at the new site. In the meantime in 1922 or early in 1923 Second Church called a new pastor, Kru Chareon Sakulkun (เจริญ สกุลกัน) to be its pastor. His story was similar to that of other Bangkok pastors in that he had been a teacher and elder before he was ordained and installed as a pastor. He was not born into a Christian family and studied at Bangkok Boys' School (now Bangkok Christian College) and while there became a Christian. He became a teacher at the boys' school and taught for about eight years. After his installation, he became one of the most prominent pastors nationally. Meanwhile, in 1925 Kru Yuan Tiengyok retired as pastor of the Samray Church, and he died in 1927. From the time of his retirement, the church went without a pastor for many years.
In May 1924, the Rev. Paul A. Eakin moved from the Phet Buri Station to Bangkok. He was the son of the Rev. John Eakin and had worked very effectively and successfully in Phet Buri. He moved to Bangkok to work with the pastors there, and after his arrival he interviewed each one of them in order to find ways to solve the various problems they were facing. He also visited each of the churches regularly and preached in them, and he taught Bible class for the members of the churches. As it turned out, however, Eakin carried out this work for only a brief time before he was assigned to other duties. At least, however, this was the first time in Thailand that there was the idea that there should be someone to work with pastors as, in a manner of speaking, a pastor to pastors.
As for the Chinese churches, while the other churches in Bangkok each had their own pastor Third Church had three full-time pastors. The Sathorn Church had split off from Third Church, and it also had its own pastor. Third Church also had several organized worshipping groups (ศาลสธรรม) associated with it, most of which were located in Chonburi Province. Four or five of these groups had originally been under the Maitrichit Church (Bangkok Baptist Church). Each one of Third Church's groups had its own pastor. All of them were immigrants from China who were called by the church to Siam to serve as pastors.
Outside of Bangkok, the Sripipulthum Church, Phet Buri, ordained and installed Kru Puang Akkapin (พ่วง อรรฆญญ์) as its first Thai pastor. But most of the rural churches and Christian groups in Phet Buri Province continued to be without their own pastors. Missionaries and evangelists sent by the station provided oversight and travelled through them on regular schedules. Things remained in this state until roughly 1930.
The Expansion of Pastoral Care in the South
The churches in the South were the last ones to have Thai pastors; prior to 1930, the missionaries still led the churches just as they had from the beginning. In that year, however, the Bethlehem Church, Nakhon Si Thammarat, with missionary encouragement, invited Kru Chareon Sukulkun to be its pastor. The reason the missionaries wanted him to move to Nakon Si Thammarat was because at that time the Presbyterian Mission was having trouble finding someone to assign to that station, and it looked like a good opportunity to encourage Thai leadership. They chose Kru Chareon because he had a good deal of experience and had proven himself successful in leading churches.
In 1930, the Trang Church called Charles Hoch (ชาลี ฮ็อค) as its pastor. Even though his name is a western one, his mother was Thai; and he spoke Thai extremely well. Previously, he had been an evangelist and was in charge of the rural Christian groups affiliated with the Phet Buri Station. Thus, the year 1930 marks the beginning of Thai pastoral leadership in the South.
During the decade of the 1920s, Thai pastoral care among Presbyterian churches in Siam achieved a new level of development. The Bangkok churches continued to receive regular pastoral care as before, and nearly every church in the mission station centers also had Thai pastors, many for the first time. Lastly, some rural churches began to have pastors although the rural pastoral care movement did not develop nearly to the extent of the urban churches. Another important development was that the number of theologically trained pastors also increased.
We should observe, however, the churches confronted a number of problems in developing their own system of pastoral care, as can be seen from a mission report written in 1928. It noted three main challenges facing the churches; first, they lacked qualified candidates for pastoral ministry. Second, they did not have the money to support full-time pastors, and they often had to request financial support from the mission. Third, according to the report, the current system of pastoral care was still largely foreign to the Thai churches and would only become "truly Thai" when pastoral care was fully turned over to them. The report does not define what "truly Thai" pastoral care might be, simply observing that the emerging system of pastoral care was not yet particularly in accordance with Thai society.
In sum, a system of Thai pastoral care was beginning to emerge. Quite a few churches began to have a succession of pastors, were able to at least partially support their pastors financially, and as we saw in previous chapters the Presbyterian mission had developed a program of theological education aimed at training pastors. However, as we have also seen, this emerging system of pastoral care was still fragile and unstable. It's future was still uncertain.
To this point, we have seen that as of 1930 the Protestant churches of Siam had not yet developed an extensive system of pastoral care reaching most churches. That would remain the case in the next decade as well. In the meantime, another ecclesiastical development appeared on the scene in Siam, which has had an immense impact on Thai pastoral care as well as on Thai churches generally. That development is revivalism, which has had the purpose of revitalizing local churches so that they can better evangelize Thai society. While revivalism did not directly concern itself with pastoral care, it created a new framework and environment within which pastoral care was carried out, and it has remained a key influence on Thai pastoral care down to the present.
Revivalism as a historical phenomenon is a Western religious movement that has its origins in the Protestant Reformation. As we saw in Chapter 1, the Reformation churches split into two major branches, which have continued into the present. One branch emphasizes knowledge, understanding, and education and largely holds that Christians must understand in order to believe. The Christian life is a matter of understanding seeking faith. In general, the Presbyterians are a part of this branch. Protestantism's second branch contends that a deeply, even passionately held faith must precede understanding and knowledge and is the motivation for seeking deeper understanding. In nineteenth and earlier twentieth-century Siam, the Baptist churches historically were the clearest examples of this second branch. All of this being said, it should be understood that dividing Protestants into these two large categories is largely a matter of analytical convenience. In reality, the two branches are harder to distinguish and can converge to such a degree in particular groups and denominations that it is all but impossible to separate them.
Revivalism is linked to the second branch of Protestantism, the one that favors experience over intellect, in the sense that revivalists believe that "true" faith begins with the heart and moves to understanding. "True Christians," that is, must have a heart-felt, personal experience with God. This type of revivalism emerged clearly throughout colonial America as far back as 250 years ago and was the manifestation of a desire among a certain class of Christians for a deep and lively faith and for churches that were alive. They felt that those in the branch of Protestantism focused more on intellect lacked commitment to God and the Christian faith. What the revivalists desired thus was truly committed Christians who were saved by their faith, individuals who had a deep personal experience of God dwelling in them that they could date precisely—that is, a conversion experience. Such individuals felt that they had been saved, cleansed of their sins, and were committed to God's work. And they had a desire to see that others had the same saving experience with God that they had.
Revivalism was a recurring movement in the United States beginning in its colonial era, but it was not a constant one. At times, however, it would explode unto the American religious scene in a great wave of revivals, and when these great revivals occurred in the U.S. (and in Europe and in the other English-speaking nations as well) divisions would take place in local churches between those who supported enthusiastic revivalism and those who did not. Those who rejected the more emotional forms of revivals generally argued that such revivals were inappropriate because they relied too much on feelings, which made them unstable and open to abuse. By the end of the nineteenth century, thus, the churches in America had become seriously divided over revivalism, and this division had a major impact on the churches in Siam. The two opposing sides in this division were the "modernists" and the "fundamentalists."
The modernists held that the church has to adapt itself to the age in which it lives, and they felt that many churches were holding on to out-dated beliefs that no longer make sense. The modernists generally supported the critical study of the Bible, which they did not believe was infallible. They also more often than not emphasized social service and working with the poor. The fundamentalists rejected modernist thinking, and they emphasized the importance of believing in what they considered to be the saving doctrines of the Christian faith. These fundamental doctrines included five in particular;
Fundamentalists generally held that the basic work of the church is evangelism, that is leading others to what they believed was salvation in Christ.
- the divinity of Jesus Christ;
- the Virgin Birth;
- bodily resurrection;
- Christ had to die to atone for human sin; and
- the inerrancy of the Bible.
This division between the modernists and fundamentalists was both a theological division and a division in the mission of the church, which was found in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. as well as American Protestantism generally. These divisions first appeared in the Siam Mission in the 1920s. The strongly conservative wing of the denomination was much stronger in the late nineteenth century, which meant that some modernist Presbyterian clergy were defrocked for did not "really" believing in Christ and the Bible. In the American church, however, there was a third party that began to develop in strength, namely the moderates. They saw both the strengths and weaknesses of the other two factions and concluded that the denomination should steer a more centrist and less judgmental course. The felt there should be more toleration of differing viewpoints for the sake of the unity of the church, and eventually this moderate position came to dominate Presbyterian thinking.
As for the Presbyterian churches in Siam, revivalism and something of the fundamentalist approach began to take hold beginning in 1924 and have continued to be influential down to the present. In January 1924, the Rev. Dr. W. E. Biederwolf, a Presbyterian evangelist, and his team conducted revivalistic services in Bangkok. As a result, the Bangkok churches developed a deeper interest in revivalism and even called a conference of the churches to discuss ways to inspire stronger life in their congregations. A particular concern for evangelism was one consequence of this movement in Bangkok.
In November 1925, another well-known American evangelist, the Rev. Frank Buchman, arrived in Bangkok and brought with him an unusual approach to church revivals. He used "house parties" (in Thai in those days they were called "เฮ้าพาติ") to inspire local revivals. He held one of these house parties at the Bible Training School for Women in Bangkok, and one of those who attended was the Rev. Chareon Sakulkun, the pastor of Second Church. The house parties brought together a small group of people for two and one-half days of sharing, meditation, and confession; and on this occasion the event made a strong impression on its participants. It was for some of them a turning point in their Christian lives. They felt closer to both God and each other. At first, Kru Chareon had not been accepting of the idea, but after he took part in this particular house party and saw the results he was fully supportive. In January 1926, he held a second house party, which was even more powerful and successful than the first one, and after that Kru Chareon held a series of house parties in various Christian centers with a variety of groups. This "house party movement' was, in fact, the Thai church's first experience with a revivalistic movement.
As the house party movement expanded in Bangkok, it also spread to other Christian centers. Two members of the Phet Buri Church, thus, participated in an event in Bangkok, and when they returned home they shared their experience with others there. The church then invited Kru Chareon to conduct two house parties in Phet Buri, the second taking place in February 1926. Some of those who took part felt that they had experienced the Holy Spirit. After this, Kru Chareon and his wife, Kru Sagad started to hold house parties throughout the country. They, for example, took a team from the Bible Training School for Women to Trang in 1927, and in the years following Kru Chareon, Kru Sagad, and others from the school visited many other places. For the most part, they had good results to the point that two of the participants in a house party in Pitsanuloke were so impressed that they followed the team to Chiang Rai to take part in a house party there.
The house party movement was historically important to the churches of Thailand for several reasons including,
- The house party experience under the leadership of Kru Chareon was a national movement among the Presbyterian mission's churches. Previously, there had been little contact between the churches in various regions, especially between those in the North and the rest of the country. The house party movement was a step toward greater unity among the churches, which facilitated the founding of the Church of Christ in Siam just a few years later.
- The house party movement also facilitated the spread of revivalism in the Presbyterian churches and as a consequence reinforced the significance of evangelism to the churches. As an element of their missionary heritage, the churches understood that once they were in a state of revival their primary task was to share their faith with others. Evangelism thus remained the most important single ministry of the churches.
- Kru Chareon himself was a pastor who had been well-known before his connection with the house parties. He now became still better known and in truth became the first pastor to have some thing of a star quality about him. His role in the house parties thus brought pastoral ministry into greater prominence just as he was the first pastor to be prominent nationally.
- Although Kru Chareon was the single most important leader of the house party movement, women played a significant role in it as well. Kru Sagad was second only to her husband in importance to the movement, and she sometimes held parties for women's groups and led them on her own. The Women's Bible School, as we have seen, regularly contributed team members who travelled with Kru Chareon and Kru Sagad. In general, then, the house party movement opened the door to greater leadership by women in the lives of the Presbyterian mission churches in Siam.
- Finally, as a rule the house parties had a positive impact on the churches where they were held. Members felt that they had grown in their faith and in their commitment. They engaged in more Bible study. The house party experience inspired them to make more plans and carry out more local activities. In some churches, active youth groups grew out of the experience.
From this point on, the revivalist movement among the Protestant churches of Siam can be divided into a series of periods beginning with the house party movement. The next period began in 1930 and can be called the the period of the Burma Gospel Team, which was a revivalistic team from Burma composed of nine students from Rangoon University and two missionaries working In Burma. The team visited three major Christian centers, Bangkok, Pitsanuloke, and Chiang Mai, and later two members of the team also went to Phet Buri. In Bangkok, the team visited the Chinese churches in the city as well as various Christian institutions with the purpose of leading people to deeper spiritual experiences with God (นำวิญญาณ). The revivalistic services led by the team made a deep impression on many who attended them. The services were emotional and inspirational and involved intense experiences with prayer, testimonials, times for confession of sin, and calls for accepting God more deeply (การกลับใจ). Through out the country, Thai Christians were impressed with the commitment, personal qualities, deportment, and love display by the Burma team. This was esp. the case with young people because it was something new and up to date that touched them deeply. The idea was soon born that there should be a Thai evangelistic team that would go out to the churches on the model of the Burma Gospel Team.
Both the house party movement and the Burma Gospel Team movement revealed the feelings of at least an element among Protestant church members that their congregations were spiritually deficient and in need of reform. During this same period, evangelists from China visited Siam's ethnic Chinese churches from time to time to carry out revivals. There was, then, a strong interest in revivals both among ethnic Chinese and ethnic Thai congregations for the purpose of inspiring them to new life. This was especially the case among the Bangkok churches.
In 1931, a team from Siam composed of Kru Suk Pongsnoi (สุข พงษ์น้อย), Margaret McCord (Presbyterian missionary), and Kru Singkao Suriyakham (from Chiang Rai) travelled to Burma to observe how the gospel teams there were trained. When they returned, a gospel team event was held in Nakhon Sri Tammarat in cooperation with Kru Chareon Sakulkun and had good and hopeful results. The gospel team then returned to Bangkok and carried out similar events there. In April 1931, another team from Burma joined with the Thai team to form the "Siam-Burma Gospel Team," which then visited all of the stations of the Presbyterian mission. Their activities included lectures, discussion groups, the singing of praise songs, and carrying out evangelism. The team worked together for a full month, and the thing they it emphasized most was an exchange of experiences and mutual prayer aimed at an awakening among the churches of both Siam and Burma. A missionary who travelled with the team wrote that the purpose of the team was to inspire a new Pentecost so that the churches might experience the spirit of Pentecost.
In their month together, the joint gospel team had almost no time for rest or even sleep. It members were constantly active, and as a result of their efforts more than one hundred individuals converted to Christianity. From that point on, gospel teams became popular among the churches that would soon form the Church of Christ in Siam. The seminary in Chiang Mai, for example, started its own gospel team. In Lampang, another team was formed, which engaged in prayer, Bible study, and visited the rural churches such as the congregation at Chae Hom (แจ่ห่ม). Another team was formed in Nan. A central figure in the emergence of the gospel team movement was Kru Boonmark Gittisarn (บุญมาก กิติสาร). He had been a member of the joint gospel team and travelled with the Thai team to Korat after the Burmese team left for home. After 1931, he became an evangelist in Bangkok, and in 1934 he became the pastor of Second Church. From that point on, he increasingly became a leader of the revivalistic movement among the Thai churches.
Then in 1933, yet another gospel team from Burma visited Siam, this time going initially to Nakhon Pathom to work with the Mom people there. Thereafter, the team split into two groups; one went to Bangkok and the other to Lampang and Chiang Rai. This team then returned to Burma. From this point on, the gospel team approach spread still more widely throughout the churches in Siam. Virtually every Christian center had a team. In some cases, it was the local city church that set up a gospel team, and where that was not the case the Presbyterian mission stations took the lead. The teams were normally composed of five to ten members and they were usually formed in the urban centers where they would engage in Bible study and prayer groups in preparation for visiting the rural Christian groups and churches.
There are a number of observations that should be made concerning the gospel team movement, namely:
- It is particularly important to note that the gospel team movement was truly a movement rather than an organization or institution. Local church members were excited, interested, and wanted to participate so that the movement originated with the churches. And as is the case with movements, it did not take one clear form. There was no handbook, no curriculum, no coordinating committee or organization. Various groups conducted themselves in their own ways.
- Equally as important, this movement was largely led by Thai church members themselves. It is true that some individual missionaries took part in it as leaders, but the "stars" of the gospel team movement where Thai church leaders such as Kru Chareon. Again, it is true that the gospel team model came from outside of the churches and the country, but the reason it spread as rapidly and widely as it did was the churches embraced it and provided its leadership. Thus, this revivalistic movement marked an important moment in the transformation of the Thai churches from being mission churches to becoming "national" churches.
- The goal of the gospel team movement was to revive and renew local churches, in a sense to recreate them so that their members were alive in their faith and hungry for the Holy Spirit. At the same time, there was a pastoral aspect to the movement. Sometimes, the gospel teams would conduct what amounted to pastoral care of local church people particularly by visiting and encouraging local church members.
- Still, it must also be observed that in at least one important way the gospel team movement did not represent a break with the missionary past. It still operated from the center out in the "regional church" approach that particularly marked the work of the Presbyterian missions, especially in the North. In Phrae, Lampang, and Chiang Rai, for example, the gospel teams were composed of teachers and elders from the city who would go out to visit rural Christian groups and churches for three to five days. They did what the missionaries in years past had done, that is to teach the Bible, preach, hold classes on various other subjects, have times for playing games, and teach hymns and gospel songs. It was not unusual for a one team to visit several different groups, that is to itinerate just as the missionaries had done previously.
However, it must be said that the local Christians did not see the gospel team visits as being "the same old thing." Quite the opposite, they liked the visits and felt awakened by them. They felt that the gospel team visits were something new. In some ways, as we've seen above, they were correct, but the one thing that did not change was the manner in which the urban churches and institutions continued to dominate rural Christian groups.
In sum, the gospel team movement was something at once new and old. It was new in the sense that it was a church movement and felt new to the churches. It pumped new vitality into them. It was old, however, in the sense that it remained within the structures long established by the missionaries.
As stated earlier, the revivalist movement among the Thai churches progressed through a number of periods or stages, the gospel team movement being the second of those periods. By 1934-1935, this movement began to dissipate as there were few gospel teams sent out. At the same time, the first stage (the house party movement) had also come to an end. The last house parties that we have a record of were held in 1933 by Kru Puang Akkapin in Phrae—both in the city church and in rural churches. Kru Puang was an unpaid volunteer evangelist in the Phrae Station.
The third stage of Thai church revivalism actually began in China where revivals, including a heavy emphasis on evangelism, had become a major current in local church life. There were many revivalists and revival groups working among the Chinese churches. The influence of this movement in Siam was felt by both the Baptist and Presbyterian Chinese congregations in Bangkok, which together invited Chinese revivalists to come to Bangkok. Among those who visited Siam, one that must not be overlooked was Kru Paul Lyn, who had been a student in the United States for some fourteen years. In 1936, he arrived in Bangkok from China and stayed for seven months. While he was located mainly in Bangkok, he also visited Chinese congregations elsewhere holding revivalist services in them with the aid of Kru Boonmark Gittisarn who served as his interpreter. The experience of working with Lyn had substantial impact on Kru Boonmark. It was a spiritual experience in which he sometimes felt the Spirit in prayer and joy in his heart. He felt as if he had been brought face to face with God. He later said that many others had similar experiences as a result of Lyn's work. There were new converts. Nominal members of the churches had been energized and became active again. Lyn and Kru Boonmark travelled as far as the North, and Boonmark later reported that they had the best experience of all in Chiang Rai where the team that travelled with Lyn had a particularly intense time.
Later in 1936, the General Council of the Church of Christ in Siam (กรรมการอำนวยการสภาคริสตจักร) asked Kru Charoen Sakulkun to visit churches throughout the country and hold revivals on the model of Paul Lyn. It appointed Kru Chareon and Kru Singkao Suriyakham as its Revivalism Committee, and sometime later Kru Suk Pongsnoi was added to the committee. He received his salary from the American Bible Society. For a period of three to four months, these three men travelled around the country visiting churches in both the cities and the countryside. One of the themes that they emphasized was financial stewardship including especially tithing. The idea of tithing was new to the churches. Thus, as they conducted revivalism services, the team highlighted giving including tithing with surprising, almost miraculous, results. Quite a few churches began practicing tithing, which practice also had an impact on the personal spiritual lives of their members. In 1937, the Church of Christ in Siam held its second general assembly, and the results of the Revivalism Committee proved to be a focal point of its deliberations. The General Assembly expressed strong approval of the committee's work.
This emphasis on giving and church finances marks an interesting, potentially significant development in the revivalistic movement before World War II. At the time of the Lyn-style revivals, the Church of Christ in Siam had just been founded and did not have its own financial resources, which meant that it had to depend financially on missionary assistance. When the church's national leadership combined revivalism with financial giving, it seemed to be saying that giving is an important part of the faithful Christian life. In the post-War era, the Church of Christ in Thailand almost habitually looked at most of its problems, including those related to pastoral care, as being essentially financial in nature. The solution to those problems was held to be increased financial giving. The roots of this fiscal approach to the development of church and denominational life appear to go back to the era of revivals before the War.
It should also be noted that this third era in pre-World War II revivalism developed in waves. Paul Lyn himself was the first wave; the Church of Christ in Siam's Revivalism Committee formed the second wave; and the third wave was marked by the revivals held by the Chinese revivalist, John Sung. Sung was very well-known both in China and among the overseas Chinese particularly because of his unique style of revivalist preaching. He would preach for one to two hours at a time, yelling at the top of his voice at times, sometimes leaping back and forth, and sometimes he would use outlandish gestures. His goal was to excite his audiences emotionally in order to inspire them with the Holy Spirit. While some found his "antics" embarrassing and off-putting, they were only a minority. Local church members were generally impressed with his knowledge of the Bible and his message, which emphasized confessing one's sins and being forgiven for them. Dr. Sung preached in English, and Kru Boonmark was his translator. In fact, whatever Dr. Sung did up on the stage, Kru Boonmark would do the same.
Dr. Sung's first visit to Thailand was in 1938 when he held services at Maitrichit (Baptist) Church in Bangkok. At the time, there were those who supported him and others who did not. After he returned to China, Kru Boonmark asked the General Council of the Church of Christ in Siam to invite him to return, but the council voted against giving such an invitation because some Presbyterian missionaries objected. They felt that Sung was a divisive figure who might cause divisions in the churches. Kru Boonmark was serving at that time as the General Secretary of the Church of Christ in Siam, and when the General Council refused his request he personally invited Sung to come back to Thailand. Thereafter, the General Council reversed its decision and voted to agree to the invitation. Sung returned to Siam early in 1939 and conducted revivalistic services around the country visiting every one of the Christian centers. He usually preached three times a day—morning, afternoon, and at night—and attracted large crowds, and while he conducted his services only in the cities not a few rural Christians attended those services.
The Sung revivals marked the pinnacle of pre-World War II revivalism and continued to have a great impact on Thai Protestant churches after the War. In spite of the fact that there was a good deal of criticism of his behavior and his theological beliefs, it cannot be doubted that John Sung's revivals inspired the churches with deeper spiritual life. Many nominal Christians discovered new enthusiasm and dedication to their faith, and in general Sung's preaching had a positive impact in a number of ways. Enemies became reconciled to each other and divided families also experienced reconciliation. Old sins were confessed. Some individuals showed personalities changes, and there were faith healings. Those who lived through the Sung revivals all but uniformly agree that both churches and church members were awakened in an almost miraculous manner.
The Sung revivals were especially important because Thai church leaders took the lead in introducing them to the churches. Although a few missionaries did support and assist in the process, the actual leaders were Thai Christians themselves. In general, it was not the missionaries who were involved, and there were times when Thai church leaders were uncharacteristically critical of the missionaries to their faces. In the Church of Christ in Thailand, the sense began to grow that Thai churches should be lead by Thai leaders. Dr. Sung thus instilled greater feeling of confidence in their own strengths and faith within the churches. He had a particularly strong influence on the younger generation of "young turks" including, for example, Kru Suk Pongsnoi, Dr. Chinda Singhanetr (จินดา สิงหเนตร) who was a church leader in the North, and most importantly Kru Boonmark Gittisarn.
One of the arenas in which the Sung revivals had their greatest impact was on the history of theological education where they created a major crisis particularly for the seminary in Chiang Mai. The Rev. Carl Elder, principal of the McGilvary Theological Seminary, strongly disagreed with Sung's revivalistic approach. Sung's supporters, meanwhile, had decided that there should be a faithful and committed Bible school that taught a strong message in contrast to the seminary, which was perceived as teaching a weak, unfaithful one. They proposed to the Presbyterian Mission and the seminary's board that this Bible school be housed at the seminary, and they argued that the seminary should be willing to have Sung supporters teach its courses as well as play a major role in the development of theological education. The seminary refused to have any part of this request, and the result was a period of serious conflict between it and those who followed Dr. Sung. At the same time, the revivalist party came to believe that ordination to the office of clergy was not a matter of having a certain kind of education but rather a matter of the Holy Spirit. Whoever received God's call to the ministry should be ordained whether or not they had completed theological training. Matters came to a head when an elder in District One (Chiang Mai) of the Church of Christ in Siam, Boonme Rungruangwong (บุญมี รุ่งเรืองวงค์), applied for ordination even though he had not been theologically trained. Elder, as a clergy member of the district, strongly apposed Kru Boonme's application. He held that the clergy should be well educated and knowledgeable, which meant that they had to have completed a theological degree in order to be effective in their ministries. In the end, however, District One granted Krun Boonme's wish and ordained him as a clergyman.
The Presbyterian mission finally resolved the twin crises over whether or not there should be a Bible school connected with the seminary and the ordination of Kru Boonme by closing the seminary temporarily and reassigning Elder to work in Bangkok. The mission had every intention of reopening the seminary after things cooled down. As it happened, however, after the seminary was closed in 1940 world events intruded, and the seminary was not reopened until several years after World War II.
If we examine the revivalist movement among the Thai churches from the view of the history of pastoral care, several points must be made. First, we should note that the key Thai leaders of this movement were pastors including, for example, Kru Chareon, Kru Boonmark, and Kru Suk and marked the first time in Thai church history that Thai pastors played a leading role in church life. The revivalist movement provided some pastors an opportunity to exercise leadership on the national stage. However, second, we must also observe that leadership in the revivalist movement, as important as it was, was not about pastoral care, and in fact participation in revivalism pulled pastors away from their own congregations to which they were responsible so that they could conduct revivals in other places. And, third, still more significantly the revivalist movement reinforced the dominance of evangelism over pastoral care, a phenomenon that we have seen previously. In this case, however, the evangelism was actually directed at local church members who were seen as the objects of revivalistic/evangelistic concern. The failure to foster pastoral care stands as one of the great failures of this movement.
In order to clarify this third point, take the example of Kru Chareon Sakulkul. As we have seen, Kru Chareon was a leading figure during both the house party and gospel team periods of the revivalism movement. In 1930, he moved to Nakhon Sri Tammarat and where he served as pastor of the Bethlehem Church. He emphasized worship, seeking to make it more meaningful, interesting, and instructive, and his ministry there met with some initial success. However, by 1935 Kru Charoen was no longer pastor of the Bethlehem Church, which meant he served the congregation for only about four years. A Presbyterian mission report for 1935 observed that most of the elders of the Bethlehem Church were school teachers who took turns preaching on Sunday mornings out of a sense of duty rather than enthusiasm. They were weak in commitment and in their knowledge of the Christian faith. They also did not have sufficient time to look after the spiritual life of the church's members or even their own. That is to say that in spite of his commitment and abilities as a pastor, Kru Chareon's revivalistic approach to pastoral ministry did not strengthen the church he served in the long run however much immediate success he might have experienced. When he left after four years, the Bethlehem Church was unchanged and as lacking in life as it had been before his arrival. This was the experience of the churches in the Church of Christ in Siam more generally. In the end, the successive waves of revivalism culminating in the Sung revivals did not have long lasting results.
Fourth, after World War II it was widely believed that the only reason the churches survived the War was because of the Sung revivals, which supposedly had strengthened the churches' resolve, faith, and ability to withstand persecution. In reality, however, local conditions and the situation facing individual congregations was at least as important if not more so than whether or not the church had had a revivalistic experience. This whole subject has not yet received sufficient study, but as far as we can see now it seems that the Sung revivals had more impact on the Protestant churches of Thailand after the War than during it.
Finally, as we have observed several times, in spite of the fact that the churches experienced a number of different changes the old missionary systems and structures remained largely in place. This was true of revivalism in Thailand as well even though it appeared to be a new movement. It too remained tied to the missionary past especially because of its emphasis on evangelism as the fundamental mission of local churches. As we have seen, revivalism was actually a form of evangelism aimed at supposedly lukewarm church members. At the same time, the revivalistic movement promoted old-fashioned missionary centralization by relying on city churches, missionaries, and urban institutions to go out into the countryside to engage in revivalism with rural congregations. Finally, if anything revivalism undermined any possibility of developing a widespread and effective system of pastoral care.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that while revivalism had a positive impact on local churches in a number of ways, it did not finally lead to sustained church renewal. In spite of the conversions, excitement, and effective evangelism that accompanied revivalism in Thailand, in the long-run church renewal remains a key concern and goal that has yet to be achieved.
In general, there are three developments that we can see most clearly in the history of pastoral care after 1920. The first development was the emergence of an actual Thai Protestant system of pastoral care for the first time. Second, Thai Christians were beginning to take a greater role in the leadership of their churches, particularly the Bangkok churches. Finally, in the midst of these changes the churches remained largely wedded to older ways of doing things.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
As we saw in the last chapter, the decade prior to 1940 was marked by the emergence of a number of new movements in pastoral ministry including most especially the revivalism movement. In the years previous to that decade as we have also seen, the establishment of a system of pastoral care had proven to be very difficult. Most of the churches in Bangkok and the other cities had pastors but few if any rural churches did, and in general it is even difficult to speak of a "system" of pastoral care because what there was hardly amounted to a system at all. It was not until the decade of the 1930s that pastoral ministry began to expand into the rural churches. At the same time, the role of the foreign missionaries began to be less important while that of Thai church leaders became more significant especially after the founding of the Church of Christ in Siam in 1934. When the Rev. Pluang Sudikham was elected as moderator of the new denomination, he became a key, highly respected figure both in the life of the church generally and in the story of pastoral care that we are telling here.
At the same time, we must also realize that the older structures of centralization, which we have examined previously, remained virtually unchanged. The old mission stations continued to exert the power and have the authority they always had. The basic structure of the churches also remained much the same, that is in most of the churches members were scattered over wide swatches of the countryside in a number of villages often distant from each other. Mission educational and medical institutions continued to play a dominant role often in place of the churches. Thus, while we may speak of change in pastoral ministry in the years after 1930, it is important to understand that the older structures of mission and ministry crafted especially the Presbyterian missions remained in place.
One of the aspects of local church life after 1930 that must be emphasized was the growing longing in the churches for renewal. Both church members and leaders wanted new life and forms, and documents from the decade reveal that many individuals in the churches felt that the churches lacked commitment particularly in their failure to witness to the gospel. they believed that the churches were weak, and as a result there was an increased search for renewal. This movement had a significant impact on pastoral ministry as well because local church leaders began to see pastors as the most important key to renewal. The churches themselves expected that pastors would be crucial in their development. In all of this, three related subjects marked the decade prior to World War II: (1) renewal; (2) revivalism; and (3) pastoral care.
In the years after 1930, there were two distinct forms of pastoral ministry especially in the northern churches but also in the churches in the rest of the country. There were, first, regularly installed pastors who served a single congregation and, second, itinerant pastors who usually lived in one of the urban mission centers and travelled into the countryside to serve parishioners in a number of villages. This second form of pastoral ministry was found in virtually all parts of the nation outside of Bangkok such as in Phet Buri. One of the clearest examples was to be found in Lampang where during these years there was a pastoral care and evangelism team that itinerated through the rural churches and Christian groups. It was made up of missionaries, the pastor of the Lampang Church, and paid evangelists. The rural churches and groups thus did not have pastors of their own located in their communities. These itinerating teams were similar to the evangelistic teams, which had been a fixture of Presbyterian missionary work since the early stages of the old Laos Mission. By the 1930s, however, the Lampang team had become more of a pastoral care team, which conducted worship services, carried out Christian education, held revivals, and did some evangelism as well. The team thus had something of the role of a pastoral care giver. As a matter of fact, it operated on the model that the Rev. Howard Campbell developed in Chiang Mai, which was described in Chapter 8 (here). It was a model by which the missionary pastor headed up a team that itinerated through rural churches and groups.
The churches of Chiang Rai Province also utilized the itineration model of pastoral care, and two individuals divided the leadership responsibilities for pastoral care. The first was Kru Singkao Suriyakham who worked with the city church and provided it with pastoral services even though he wasn't ordained and not officially elected to the office of pastor. The second person was Kru Dee Ariwongse (ครูดีอารีวงค์), whose responsibility it was to visit and work with rural congregations. The missionaries of the Chiang Rai Station also played an important role in coordinating and supervising pastoral care activities; and they also received regular reports from the teams that visited the rural groups. They, in a sense, served as self-appointed "bishops" to those congregations, and both the churches and their members believed that they must be responsible to the missionaries. This sense was reinforced by the fact that the station evangelists were paid with mission funds.
This same approach was used in Phrae, where the Rev. Gaylord Knox reported in 1937 that the Phrae Station employed about twenty individuals in its hospital, schools, and churches. He observed that the missionaries were like the mothers and fathers of a large family, which is to say that they saw their role as being the parents of the churches and their members. The Northern Thai who worked under them and were employed by them were like their children.
What all of this meant was that pastoral care was a new development in church life that had to fit itself into the churches' inherited structures, which traditionally emphasized evangelism, medicine, and schooling. Pastoral ministry was thus being added as a fourth fundamental ministry that not only had to find itself a place within the other three but was also shaped by them. This was particularly the case with pastors serving urban congregations in Bangkok and other cities who frequently combined other duties with their pastoral responsibilities. Thus, on weekdays a pastor would teach the Bible or English or other subjects in a Christian school depending on their qualifications. They might devote time to calling on sick patients in the Christian hospital or to evangelism. The role of the pastor, that is, had not yet been well-defined and could still involve the roles of school teacher, chaplain, and/or evangelist. In Bangkok in particular pastors normally had to have been teachers prior to ordination in order to be acceptable to their churches. All of which is to say that the office of pastor was evolving and was still combined with other offices.
In this survey of the state of pastoral care from 1931 to 1941, the churches are divided into three geographical areas: Bangkok churches, other city churches, and rural congregations.
First Category: Bangkok Churches
Other than the Samray Church, which did not have a pastor during these years, the Bangkok churches generally had pastors most of the time.
- Second Church - The history of pastoral ministry in Second Church deserves particular attention. At the beginning of 1930, the Rev. Chareon Sakulkul was still the church' pastor, but as we have seen in that year he moved to Nakhon Sri Tammarat. He was followed by the Rev. Suk Pongsnoi who served as Second Church's pastor from 1930 to 1933, and in 1934 the Rev. Boonmark Gittisarn took his place and remained as pastor for more than ten years. It is particularly important to note that all three of these pastors devoted a good deal of their time and efforts to evangelism, and in fact none of them actually did much in the way of pastoral care. This was because: (1) the church was small, having only about 60-80 members; (2) all three pastors were committed revivalists and played important roles, as we have seen, in the revivalism movement. Kru Chareon was a leading revivalist, had a national reputation, and travelled widely around the country, again as we saw above. Kru Boonmark devoted large blocks of his time to evangelism even during his vacations. While pastor at Second Church, he was also elected as Assistant Moderator of the denomination and then as Moderator, which meant that he had many responsibilities to carry out for the national church. It must be said, however, that in the face of all of these other activities Second Church continued to be one of the stronger churches in the care of its members, evangelism, and revivalism.
- Third Church - Third Church (today's Sapan Luang Church) is an ethnic Chinese congregation founded under the Presbyterian mission. In 1932 Sixth Church (Sathorn Church) split off from Third Church and was formed as another ethnic Chinese Presbyterian congregation. The reason for the split was linguistic as the members of each of these churches used a different Chinese dialect. Both congregations maintained regular, permanent pastoral care. In addition, there were a number of other small churches and Christian groups, primarily located in Cholburi Province, that were under Third Church's care. Most of them had evangelists assigned to them who also looked after their pastoral needs. Some also ran small church schools. In general, however, the Chinese churches and groups received more regular pastoral care than the ethnic Thai congregations. Nearly all of these pastors with one or two exceptions were born in China.
- Fourth Church - Kru Pluang was pastor of Fourth church throughout these years, but Monday through Friday he taught at the boys' school, and from 1934 on he was the Moderator of the Church of Christ in Siam, which position had heavy responsibilities. This was especially the case because he was widely respected and trusted, and his advice was often sought after, which meant that he became involved in many aspects of the denomination's life. That is to say, he had only limited time for Fourth Church.
- Fifth Church - Kru Kim Heng was the pastor of Fifth Church, and he was also widely respected, well thought of, and carried out his duties responsibly. However, under his leadership, the congregation experienced almost no growth or progress.
In any event, taken together the Bangkok churches had regular pastoral care that was reasonably effective as seen above. One observation worth noting is that it was the stable, well-off financial situation of the churches that was the single most important factor enabling them to maintain that permanent pastoral care.
Second Category: Other City Churches
For the most part, the urban churches outside of Bangkok received pastoral care, but unlike the Bangkok churches they had trouble maintaining that care on a regular basis. The pastors of the churches in Phrae, Lampang, Chiang Rai, and other cities were usually older men and former ruling elders who often had health issues that limited their effectiveness. In Lampang, for example, Kru Chan Daeng Chindawongse (จันทร์แดง จินดาวงศ์), the son of Kru Pat who had been the first pastor in Lampang, served as pastor from 1930 to 1934. Because of poor health, however, he was only able to work half-time, and he died of cancer in 1934. Or, again, Kru Duang Chuen Puntupongse (ดวงขื่น พันธุพงค์) was the pastor of the Phrae Church beginning in 1931, and not long afterward he contracted tuberculosis and was not able to work full-time. Sometimes he could not carry out his duties at all, and by 1938 he had to resign. Or, still again, Kru Srimo Wichai who died only about one year after he was called to be pastor of First Church, Chiang Mai. In sum, even though most of the urban churches had pastors, at least officially, they frequently still did not receive what we take today to be full and effective pastoral care. This is not to take away from the efforts of the churches and their pastors so much as it is to suggest the challenges they faced in developing pastoral care.
Congregations in this second category also had younger pastors such as Kru Bunchong Bunasit (บรรจง บันสิทธ์) who was pastor of First Church Chiang Mai from 1930 to 1932 or 1933. Kru Chulin Thokthaeng (จุฬินทร์ ตกแตง) was pastor at Phet Buri beginning in 1936. And in that same year Kru Inphan Deetanna (อินปั๋น ดีลตันนา) became pastor of the Nan Church. Krun Inphan provides an important case studied in Thai pastoral care in this decade as his approach to pastoral ministry was very similar to that of later generations down to the present. He was creative, devoted a good deal of time to visitation, and gave himself to his ministry in a way that was also reminiscent of the Rev. E. P. Dunlap (See Chapter Four). He worked, that is, tirelessly to such an extent that it eventually influenced his health, and he had to stop working. He died n 1939 while still serving the Nan Church as pastor. During his tenure, the church itself felt that it came alive not a little. In addition to these other young pastors, Kru Singkao Suriyakham was another in that number that became well known in the national church.
Third Category: Rural Churches
The churches in this third category had a much different experience with pastoral care than that of the urban churches in Bangkok and elsewhere. Congregations in the hinterlands of Chiang Mai, Lampang, Nan, Phet Buri, and Nakhon Sri Tammarat for the most part did not have pastors at all. The care that they received was provided by individuals who lived in the cities and itinerated into the rural countryside following the traditional city-centered, top-down model that we have described before. The urban domination of the rural churches and groups thus continued just as fully as it had before. Even in the rural churches of Chiang Rai, Phrae, Ratburi (which was under the care of the missionaries in Phet Buri), and Trang, where there was some local pastoral care, there were still serious issues. The most serious problem was that pastors typically stayed in rural congregations for only short periods of time and seldom had immediate successors. The churches, that is, did not receive regular, permanent pastoral care.
The rural churches in Chiang Rai were more advanced in terms of pastoral care than congregations elsewhere, which makes them an important case study for understanding the issues and problems rural churches faced as they struggled with trying to establish a regular program of pastoral care. No other groups of churches tried as hard as these to create such a program for themselves. It is not clear why this was so, but it might have had something to do with the fact there were churches in Chiang Rai before a mission station was set up. The result was that those congregations tended to be more independent in their thinking—independent to such as extent that the Presbyterian missionaries sometimes complained about their stubbornness. There were undoubtedly other factors at work as well, which warrant further study.
Prior to 1930, however, Chiang Rai's rural congregations showed little interest in pastoral care, but in that year and thereafter things began to happen. It was in 1930 that Kru Singkao Suriyakham left his position as a teacher in the mission school to become head of the Chiang Rai city church, although he was not made the pastor. At the same time, Kru Dee Ariwongse was in charge of visiting the rural churches and groups following the traditional model of station-centered oversight of rural Christian communities. There were, however, some churches that either had pastors or were at least preparing for the possibility. The Chiang Kham Church (คริสตจักรเชียงคำ) sent one of its young men to the seminary in Chiang Mai to prepare for pastoral ministry. The Sukdara Church (คริสตจักรศักดารา) already had a pastor, being a young man who had just graduated from the seminary in 1929. We should observe that these two instances reflected a newer approach to pastoral ministry by which young men were sent for theological education to prepare them for that ministry. This differed from the older tradition in pastoral ministry by which ruling elders or, at least, older respected men of experience were the ones who became pastors.
In addition, there was Wattanna Church, which had members in two large villages that were at some distance from each other. Both communities had individuals serving them in a pastoral capacity, one an older clergyman and the other a young man recently graduated from the seminary. Another older clergyman served the Chiang Saen congregation while Kru Suk Khunasawat continued to pastor the Wiang Pa Pao Church. All of this demonstrates that several of the Chiang Rai churches had pastors, and even those that didn't began to show a desire for pastoral care. The Muang Pan Church (คริสตจักรเมีองพาน) thus wanted to have a pastor but did not have sufficient income to pay a pastor.
A Presbyterian mission report from this period provides some insight into the pastoral situation among the Chiang Rai churches. It plainly states that the key problem concerning pastoral care was financial. The pastors received very small salaries, which meant that they could not work fully time. They had to work for a living like others as well as conduct their pastoral duties. The report noted that the pastors were unhappy with their remuneration, but the mission did not have sufficient income to assist the churches financially to pay pastors. They had to be happy with the income they had. The report made it very clear that these pastors were providing sacrificial service to their churches. It also observed that the Chiang Rai churches had enough work for 20 to 25 pastors if there was only sufficient money to pay them. Because of the financial limitations of the churches, then, the ten Chiang Rai churches had a total of seven men carrying out pastoral work. Of the seven, one was pastor of the city church and one itinerated through several rural churches while the other five were located in rural congregations. Although this pastoral situation was not particularly good, it was still much better than any of the other Presbyterian centers other than Bangkok.
From what has been described thus far in this section, several observations may be made regarding pastoral care in the rural Chiang Rai congregations during the 1930s:
- The seminary in Chiang Mai began to have a larger and more well defined role in preparing candidates for pastoral ministry. Several rural pastors receiving their training in Chiang Mai, although it must also be observed that the kind of training they received was still not what it has become today. Most students studied for only a year or two at most. Still, the rural churches in Chiang Rai began to take a new approach to pastoral care during the 1930s.
- Following on this first point, we can then see that these churches were using a mixed bag of older and newer approaches There were both younger pastors trained in more modern methods at the seminary and older, respected men who were originally ordained as ruling elders prior to their becoming pastors.
- From about the year 1930, the churches of Chiang Rai showed an increased desire to have pastors, which was a new development in them.
- Finally, it is worth observing that the system being put in place in these churches in the 1930s only began to meet their pastoral needs. Most of the pastors worked only part-timel and thus were not able to devote the time and attention required for more fully effective pastoral care.
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to interview numerous pastors working in Church of Christ in Thailand districts that employ a similar approach to pastoral care as that of the Chiang Rai churches in the 1930s. Most of those interviewed felt that part-time pastoral ministry is ineffective because pastors can't invest the time necessary to make it effective. The experience of the Chiang Rai rural pastors was virtually the same. Financial obstacles prevented them from fully applying themselves to their ministry.
In the 1930s, pastors themselves complained about the very low rate of compensation that they received, which was only about 10-20 baht per month. That was not nearly enough to support a family. From the experience of pastors even today, it is clear that such low incomes have adverse affects on them, their families, and their ministry. They will explain that those poor salaries create three problems:
- Pastors and their families waste a good deal of time looking for goods with the cheapest prices they can find;
- Pastors can't provide their families with good care; and
- Pastors often can't give the church they serve the attention it deserves.
The Presbyterian mission report discussed above makes it abundantly clear that the Chiang Rai churches and their pastors experienced these same difficulties. The rural churches thus desired pastoral care and were ready for it, but the fact that they lacked the funds to employ full-time pastors made it extremely difficult for them to receive effective pastoral care and leadership. The rural churches, in sum, wanted but could not get pastors and thus lacked pastoral care. And what they could get was largely ineffective. What all of this meant in terms of the larger picture of the emerging pastoral care system of the 1930s is that only churches with money could get effective pastoral care—that is, the Bangkok churches first and then the churches in the larger provincial centers second. Rural churches lacked money and other resources, and therefore they did not receive effective pastoral care.
On the "flip side," however, there were a few rural Chiang Rai congregations that were able to overcome all of these obstacles. The clearest example was the Pakuk Church (คริสตจักรป่ากุ๊ก), which was founded in 1888 and was one of the oldest of the Chiang Rai congregations. Originally, it was the Chiang Saen Church, but eventually the whole congregation had to move into British Burma territory. The founder of the church was Nan Suwan, an unusually capable leader who formerly was a member of the Mae Dok Daeng Church near Chiang Mai. The Pakuk Church was quite isolated from other churches, which meant that it received few visits from the missionaries; even so, it was from the first right down to the 1930s a strong, alive, and well-led congregation. In 1930, it still had strong leadership plus two younger men who had both graduated from the seminary and returned to the church; and it thus had a tradition of reasonably capable mutual pastoral care under its strong leadership even though it had never received special attention nor had an installed pastor. As we saw in Chapter Nine, the Wiang Pa Pao Church was another congregation with a somewhat similar profile to that of the Pakuk Church. It seems apparent, more generally, that every one of the Presbyterian mission stations had one or more churches like this. In Nan, for example, the Ban Som Church (คริสตจักรบ้านส้ม หรือ คจ. คุณานุคุณปัจจุบันนี้) was stronger than churches or organized worshipping groups in the province in spite of the fact that it was poor and received little attention or support from the mission station or city Christians. What it did have was a number of elders who were "natural born" leaders. While there were relatively few churches like this, it is worth pondering the fact that they were something like the early churches of nearly two millennia ago (see Chapter One); that is, the members carried out informal, unstructured care of each other.
For some time now in discussions within the leadership of the Church of Christ in Thailand concerning the problems of pastoral care it has been assumed that money is the fundamental problem that must be overcome. Those problems will be solved by providing churches with the wherewithal to pay full-time pastors. As we have already seen, money was an issue historically, but it is worth pondering the fact that there have been churches in the past that could not employ their own pastor and yet through the efforts of their members achieved significant mutual care of each other. Why? What did they have that other churches didn't? Is there something other churches can learn from them that will make a difference in their own congregations? These are important questions and worthy of further historical inquiry.
After 1930, the development of pastoral care among the Chiang Rai churches all but came to a halt, and a 1933 Presbyterian mission report reported that pastoral leadership in most of the churches was being exercised by ruling elders who received no compensation for their work. As before, the report noted that the churches wanted pastors but could not afford to fill the position. The situation was made only worse by the international Great Depression. The few churches that had pastors tried different ways to cope with their pastoral care situation. One congregation divided its income into two portions, giving one to its pastor and using the other for its own expenses. Another church asked a group of its members to tithe and contribute the proceeds to the pastor's salary. The Wiang Pa Pao Church was the only congregation that was able to pay its pastor a full salary, the reasons being that the church was large and he was very capable.
By 1936-37, Chiang Rai had thirteen churches including both the city church and rural congregations. At the time the Presbyterian Chiang Rai Station was still functioning and employed two itinerate pastors who visited the rural churches with the help of one of the missionaries. In addition, there were four regularly installed pastors serving rural churches. By this time, the Church of Christ in Siam had been established and was functioning, and the Chiang Rai churches belonged to its Second District (Chiang Rai-Lampang). The Chiang Rai churches had their own executive committee, and in 1937 it discussed the situation facing its congregations—namely that there was no possibility that every church could have its own full-time pastor. It was thought that the churches should be divided into circuits and each circuit served by one of the existing pastors who would regularly visit each church in his circuit. The Second District's leadership considered this plan to be a new approach to pastoral care, but in fact it was simply another version of the old Presbyterian centralized structure that had become so much a part of the DNA of the churches' lives that they relied on it without even recognizing its presence.
In 1938, then, the Chiang Rai churches established a "Bureau of Church and Evangelistic Work," which was intended to assist the churches in their ministries including especially evangelism. While the bureau did not intend that every church have its own pastor, it did seek to provide at least minimal care for each congregation. Where there were pastors (and evangelists), it took over financial responsibility for paying their salaries. It had three sources of funding available, namely from the churches themselves, from the mission, and from the American Bible Society. The bureau used this income to pay the salaries of five pastors and several other church workers. Even the Wing Pa Pao Church took part although in the past it had paid Kru Suk itself (see above); this meant that like the other churches it sent its contribution to the bureau, which then paid Kru Suk. In all of this, the bureau sought to insure that each pastor received a regular, dependable salary and that each church would receive at least some pastoral care even if it was from an itinerant pastor.
This is not to say that there was no concern to do something about pastoral care. In 1932, thus, the Presbyterian Mission established a policy designed to aid churches financially to the end that they could have a pastor. According to the plan, the mission would pay part of a pastor's salary while the church paid the other part. The mission would gradually reduce its portion as the church increased its until the congregation was able to pay its pastor's full salary alone. The goal of the plan was to encourage churches to become self-supporting. Unfortunately, we do not have a record of the details of the plan, but it is clear from subsequent events that it did not fulfill its goals. For one thing, the Chiang Rai churches felt it necessary to strike out on their own, as we saw above, which they would not likely have done if the mission plan was viable. For another, by 1941 very few rural churches had pastors. What we do not know, however, is precisely why the 1932 plan did not bear any fruit.
We can, however, make an educated guess as to what might well have gone wrong based on the more recent experience of the Church of Christ in Thailand. In 1979, the CCT initiated a project called the Church Self-Support Project '79 (โครงการคริสตจักรเลี้ยงตนเอง 79), "Project '79" (โครงการ 79) for short, which had aims similar to those of the Presbyterian Mission plan of 1932. That project faced at least four major challenges, including:
- In order to successfully completely the project, a church had to have the strength to be successful; it, that is, had to have both financial and leadership resources and potential before it entered the project. Those churches that successfully took part in Project '79 were mostly located in suburban settings and had quite a few members who had good salaries. They had, that is, the financial resources to complete the project. Rural churches, however, usually did not complete the project successfully because they lacked the financial resources of suburban and urban congregations. They had few or no members with substantial regular salaries. Most of their members were farmers who had a season income. Prior to World War II, the financial limitations of the rural churches was greater still because of the world-wide Great Depression.
- Churches that successfully completed Project '79 had to have a strong commitment to providing its members with pastoral care; they had to see the importance of pastoral ministry to their own church. Even in the 1980s, the commitment to pastoral care that the Chiang Rai churches showed in the 1930s was unusual especially in rural churches, which tended to not see the importance of having a pastor.
- Another important factor in successfully completing the Project '79 goal of self-support was the pastor himself (or, rarely, herself). Pastors had to be skillful in planning and in financial management. These were traits hard to find among pastors in the 1980s especially in rural churches and would have been equally rare in the 1930s.
- Project '79 and, presumably, the 1932 mission plan failed to develop the whole life of the churches. They focused primarily on financial concerns.
As we have seen previously, pastoral history up to this point divided itself into four periods: (1) Prior to 1900, Bangkok had only one Thai ordained pastor, Kru Yuan, and the Laos Mission in the North failed to create an indigenous pastoral care system; (2) after 1900, the Bangkok churches began to receive Thai pastoral more regularly; (3) after 1920, the churches in the provincial centers also began to receive more regular pastoral care from Thai pastors; and (4) after 1930, some rural churches started to have their own pastors. However, in general rural churches were not able to employ pastors, and the rural congregations failed to receive regular, effective pastoral care. Actually, other than the Chiang Rai churches, described above, there were no rural pastors except in Trang and Phrae, which two regions did have some churches served by pastors.
Trang.Beginning shortly before 1930, the rural congregations in Trang had evangelists located in them. They were not called nor considered to be pastors but simply thought of as evangelists. In terms of their actual duties, however, a part of their work was pastoral. They did some visitation, led worship, and preached so that they were both pastors and evangelists at the same time. When the Great Depression struck, however, neither the Presbyterian Mission nor the local churches could continue to pay their part of these evangelists' salaries, and they had to be let go. So far as can be told from the record, they did not have a lasting pastoral influence.
Phrae. The situation in Phrae was better than that in Trang. In 1932, Kru Pannya Chairungsri moved from Nan to become pastor of the Pa Pueng Church (คจ. ไทยผดุงธรรม) and the Don Mun Church (คจ. ดอนมูล - ปัจจุบัน ตจ. ไทยเจริญธรรม). In 1937, he moved to the Huey Rai Church (คจ. ห้วยไร่ - ปัจจุบัน คจ. ธรรมธาราลัย). Wherever he served, Kru Pannya proved himself to be a competent, effective pastor. In the records, there is also mention of a Kru Tongyu Tarawan (ทองอยู่ ธราวรรณ); he wasn't an ordained clergyman, but he still carried out pastoral duties in some of the rural churches. He was at Huey Rai from 1929 to 1937, and when he left Huey Rai Kru Pannya took his place. Both of these men oversaw both the church and were principals of the congregation's parochial school. Some of the other rural churches in Phrae also had similar leadership, which meant that there was at least some rural pastoral care taking place there.
The data we have available indicates that by the end of the 1930s not only did the pastoral care system not improve in the years leading up to 1940, it in fact was weaker. While we do not have complete statistics, we do know that in 1940 the Church of Christ in Siam had 9,712 communicant members in 68 churches. It is not clear how many pastors it had, but in Chiang Mai there were only two pastors, one in the city church and the other serving the Ko Klang Church (คจ. เกาะกลาง). There were at least two pastors in Bangkok, one at Second Church and one at Fourth Church. There were none in Nan, Phrae, Phet Buri, or Ratburi. There are no reports either from the Second District (Chiang Rai- Lampang) or District Seven (Chinese Churches), which tended to have more pastors than other districts. We can estimate that throughout the denomination there were not more than fifteen pastors, probably less, which is an overall reduction in the number of pastors serving churches.
There were several factors that led to this decline in pastoral care, but the single most important one had to do with the Sung revivals (see Chapter Nine), which had a major impact on the churches in the late 1930s. While the concept of "church renewal" had not entered the thinking of churches in Thailand at that time, it was widely understood that revivalistic campaigns were the best way to renew the life of congregations. Renewal and revivalism amounted to the same thing. As a result of Dr. Sung's work, revivals were sweeping through the churches including even distant rural ones, which hosted revivalistic teams from the urban centers. At the same time, the concern for pastoral care seemed to have fallen off the radar screen, probably because it was felt that revivalism was a more effective way to renew church life. The report for the General Assembly of 1940 thus reported the results of the Sung revivals and indicated that plans were being laid to promote further revivalistic activities in the future. There is no mention of pastoral care in the report, and the development of pastoral care was apparently not deemed important to church development either before or after World War II.
During World War II, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions held a meeting in New York City in 1944 that included missionaries who had fled Thailand and board staff and officials. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare for the missionaries' return after the War, and in the course of their discussions the meeting conducted an evaluation of the work that had been done previously. Three points from that evaluation had to do with pastoral care. First, it was reported that the problems facing pastors were only partly financial. A second related problem was that the pastoral office commanded little respect. Church members generally held such positions as teachers and doctors in much higher regard and felt that pastoral ministry was a less respectable form of Christian service. This lack of respect that congregations showed their pastors was only further compounded by the low salaries pastors received. For these reasons, there were any number of church leaders qualified to serve as pastors who refused to do so just because they felt it was not a worthwhile ministry and it was held in low esteem.
Second, the report of the 1944 meeting in New York stated that another problem facing pastoral care in the Thai churches was that in the past the churches had largely depended on missionaries for their pastoral care. The churches thus did not have to pay missionaries for that care, but they did have to compensate Thai pastors. It followed that the churches preferred missionary pastoral oversight. A related problem was that missionary pastors were seen to be members of the upper levels of society; they had large houses, servants, and wealth and by these tokens were worthy of respect. But Thai pastors had none of these things and, in fact, lived at a social and economic level nearly the same as that of average church members. The fact that the missionaries had received a much higher level of theological education than Thai pastors only reinforced the impression that Thai pastors were less respectable, which impression made it all the harder for them to carry out their duties.
Third, Thai pastoral ministry also faced social and cultural problems. Pastoral ministry was a foreign import that was not indigenous to Thai culture. In Thai society and culture, the religious figures most widely known to people were Buddhist monks who, once they became a monk, separated themselves from the larger society by living in temples. They did not live in society in a way similar to lay people, but pastors did; and this was a problem. Thai pastors held an ordained office and by Christian standards were clergy, but by social and culture standards they were like lay people. They had families, drew salaries, and lived their lives like other people. The church thus were confused as to what pastoral ministry was about and who pastors actually were.
Pastoral ministry in the years before World War II, according to this meeting, involved a number of significant issues and challenges. The pastoral office commanded little respect, and pastors were poorly paid. The missionary heritage of the churches only compounded the problems facing pastoral care. If we return to the idea with which this book began that Thai pastors are the children of two worlds, one Asian and one Western, a key issue facing Thai pastoral care in the 1930s (and before and after) was that it was a Western import from the United States that did not fit with Thai society and the way of life of the Thai people. As a Western import, it was not that relevant to Thai life. [Author's note: it is important to emphasize here that the argument is not that pastoral ministry is necessarily irrelevant to Thai society and culture. It is, rather, that in order for it to be effective it has to be adapted to Thai society and culture. As of the 1930s, evidently, little if any thought had been given to how that adaptation might be accomplished.]
The history of theological education in the 1930s once again reflected all of the issues in that education that we have already discussed previously, especially the attempts to improve educational standards to the point where it was approximately equivalent to a bachelor's degree in the United States or, at least, something higher than a high school education. Both the Presbyterian mission and church leaders thus continued to hold to the Presbyterian principle that pastors should have a formal education and be theologically knowledgeable. As we saw in Chapter Eight above, from 1926 onwards the seminary in Chiang Mai had two different levels of instruction. The higher level of the two was intended for high school graduates (ม. 8) and used English as the medium of instruction. The goal of both curricula was to prepare students for various religious vocations, but in fact they both were primarily directed toward pastoral ministry. The higher level was four years and the lower one was two years.
In 1932, the seminary added a third curriculum for those who completed the equivalent of a 10th-grade education (ม. 6). Its purpose was to prepare teachers for the Christian schools as well as pastors, and it was a three-year course of instruction. By 1935, however, the seminary did not have enough instructors to maintain three curricula and combined this third one with that intended for high school graduates.
In general during the 1930s, the seminary attempted to raised its educational standards and reduce the place of its lowest curriculum. In the period 1934-1936, the number of students dwindled partly because Gillies, who had been the principal for about twenty years, retired and was replaced by the Rev. Carl Elder. This was an important change because Elder was theologically less conservative than Gillies and somewhat more liberal by previous standards, which caused some concern in some circles of church leadership. Elder, in any event, wanted the students to have a broad education that involved the critical study of different perspectives using both conservative and liberal texts. He also very naturally supported the Presbyterian principle that pastors must have a strong educational background.
After he became principle of the seminary, Elder introduced a number of changes including in the school's curriculum. One important change was the addition of a continuing education program for pastors, especially those working in the countryside. The course was intended to supplement pastor's experience in their ministry, and the seminary saw a special need for rural pastors who tended to work in isolated situations. Students were expected to come to the seminary for six weeks of study, and in 1936 there were sixteen students who took the course. In 1937-1938, Elder went on furlough to the United States, and the Rev. John Holladay took his place. After a year, Elder returned, and not long after he and the seminary faced the crisis posed by the fallout of the Sung revivals, which is described above in Chapter Nine.
The decade after 1930 was a period when significant attempts were made to expand pastoral ministry into some rural churches. There were new projects aimed at solving the problems that pastors faced in their ministry. For a number of reasons, however, this was a decade that saw more failures than successes. Attempts to correct the basic problems facing churches and pastors failed to do so, which meant that in the years prior to World War II the local churches, the Church of Christ in Siam, and the Presbyterian mission were unable to create a wide reaching system of pastoral care.Table of Contents
|Introduction||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3||Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7||Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter11|
As we saw in Chapter 10, the Church of Christ in Siam, its churches, and the Presbyterian Mission faced a number of daunting challenges concerning pastoral care both generally and particularly in terms of rural congregations. Even in the urban centers, pastoral care during the 1930s did not develop much beyond what had been accomplished by the 1920s, and even the founding of the Church of Christ in Siam in 1934 had little if any impact on developing a stronger system of pastoral care. As the churches entered the World War II period in 1941, there were four issues in particular that impeded the development of such a system. These included:
- Limited Finances. The rural churches by and large did not have sufficient funds to support paid pastoral care, and even the urban congregations faced financial limitations.
- The Role of the Pastor. Both the status and role of pastors was culturally unclear. Church members were not sure what pastors were supposed to do or why having a pastor was important. As a result, pastors had little social standing and their office was not respected in and of itself.
- Theological Education. There were not enough trained pastors to meet the needs of the churches, and the quality of theological education was limited.
- Revivalism. By 1940, the spirit of revivalism dominated the thinking of church leaders at every level, and the Church of Christ in Siam's national leadership apparently felt that revivalism was the best means for renewing the life of its congregations. Revivalism also left churches with the impression that "good" pastors were ones who were gifted in enthusiastic preaching and adept at adding members to the church.
Given these issues and the obstacles they represented, by 1941 pastoral care in the churches of the Church of Christ in Siam was weak and unstable. It is true that the Sung revivals inspired a new awakening in some, perhaps many, churches; but revivalist awakenings did not lead to an improvement in pastoral care. There were only a few full-time employed pastors, and there was no movement to have more. Pastoral care as a system, thus, was simply not prepared to withstand the conditions the churches suffered through during World War II, a time of severe repression of the Christian religion.
World War II (also known in Thailand as "The Japanese War") began in Thailand on 8 December 1941 when the Japanese army invaded the nation. Although the Thai army initially resisted the invasion, the government soon ordered its troops to put down their weapons; and Thailand became an ally of Japan. When the Presbyterian missionaries serving in the North heard news of the Japanese invasion, they left the country through Burma. The foreign missionaries in the rest of the country were incarcerated for a time and eventually repatriated to the United States. As for the Christian churches, the War marked a period of intense persecution although not a persecution that was uniformly carried out throughout the country. Most churches were closed, but some were able to continue to worship during the whole of the War depending primarily on how local government officials reacted. In some cases, the village headman was a Christian, which meant that the church was safe from persecution. In some other places, local officials were broadminded and did not close the churches under their jurisdiction. Frequently, however, the local officials seized this opportunity to close churches and to pressure church members to convert back to Buddhism. In general, the Christian community suffered, and many Christians rejected their religion while many others were afraid to practice their faith openly. Some burned their Bibles and any pictures of Jesus that they had and others buried these objects so they wouldn't be found in their possession. A division thus developed between those who continued to openly show themselves to be Christians and those who either left the church entirely or "went quiet" while under persecution. The divisions, at times, even split apart families and relatives. One group that was particularly affected was government officials who were Christians; they had to choose between leaving government service or denying their faith. Many left the Christian religion in order to keep from being fired. Even the moderator of the Church of Christ in Siam, Lek Taiyong, left the Christian religion to become a Buddhist. (After the War, he confessed his failure to remain faithful and once again became a Christian). The condition of the churches thus was very difficult partly because of persecution and partly because of the economic depression that accompanied the War in Thailand.
In addition to the oppression the churches suffered during the War and the financial pressures of a depressed wartime economy, the CCT and its congregations faced two additional challenges. For one thing, all of the Christian institutions were seized by the government and either closed or in most cases run as government schools or hospitals. The loss of these institutions only served to further weaken the whole denomination by reducing the leadership, financial, and other resources they provided. Another serious problem that churches in some areas had to contend with was the effort made by Jehovah Witnesses' missionaries from Germany to "convert" church members to the Jehovah Witnesses. While the missionaries from Allied nations had left the country, Germany was officially an ally of Thailand, which meant that German missionaries were free to work in the country. The Bethlehem Church near Chiang Mai, and the churches in Nan were particularly targeted by these missionaries who felt that it was easier to peel off members of other churches than to try to convert people of other religions because the CCT church members already had a grounding in the Bible and the Christian faith. The result was the loss of some members from some churches.
The fact is that the CCT all but collapsed during the War. Its existence was made extremely precarious by the conditions imposed on it by the War. It was difficult to hold meetings. It was difficult to travel. Government restrictions made it doubly hard to hold Christian meetings. The districts seldom met, and as a consequence the churches were largely left to their own devices—isolated.
It was thus impossible to maintain any kind of paid pastoral care. The few pastors that there were had to resign in order to make a living in other ways. Some retained the title of pastor but received no financial compensation. The forced closing of churches in many places only made matters more difficult, especially in rural areas. Some pastors, in fact, left the Christian faith entirely because of persecution. In sum, systematic pastoral care ceased to exist in the Thai churches except in the case of the Chiang Rai churches. The members of First Church, Chiang Rai, for example, felt that wartime conditions made it more imperative than ever for them to have a pastor because of all that they were suffering through. The church thus called the Rev. Inkham Pinit (อิ่นคำ พินิจ) as pastor with the understanding that it would compensate him financially as best it could. Kru Inkham was quite willing to accept the call. The congregation also built a temporary church building. It has to be understood that the Chiang Rai churches were one exception to the general rule that pastoral care came to an end during the War. The other exception was the ethnic Chinese churches of Bangkok. Maitrichit Church, for example, employed the Rev. Jacob (ยาโคบ) as pastor for the duration of the War. These churches faced the problem, however, that most of their members had left Bangkok because it was the target of bombing raids, and the only activity that they maintained regularly was Sunday school. Even though the churches had pastors, there was little pastoral work for them to do.
During the War, Kru Boonmark Gittisarn was the General Secretary of the CCT, which did not yet have an office building. He devoted himself to the work of the church, especially in traveling to rural and distant congregations. He did his best to encourage and support these churches during their time of trial. He occasionally held revivals, and when necessary he appealed to government authorities to allow churches to hold public worship services.
In 1941, the Seventh District (Chinese churches) founded a small Bible school, which initially had only four students and was taught by a Chinese woman from China. The school's goal was to prepare students for church work generally, and it did not focus on pastoral care alone. It had a number of women students. The school was not able to stay open through the War, and after the War it was reopened with missionary assistance. This school eventually developed into the Bangkok Institute of Theology (BIT) and has played an important role in the development of both local churches and pastoral care.
Although District 7 was able to sustain its Bible school for a time during the War, in general the situation facing the churches in Thailand continued to be chaotic until nearly the conflict's end. By then, most government officials were finally persuaded that Christians did not comprise a "fifth column," and it became increasingly clear that the Allied forces had the upper hand. And since Christianity was widely considered to be a Western religion, the Allied victory served to confirm the attractiveness of the Christian faith in the minds of the public. It was as if the Allies' victory was Christianity's victory as well. In some places, thus, churches reopened, but we should understand that in others Christians did not risk starting public worship again until the War was over.
World War II ended in August 1945 at which time the Church of Christ in Thailand was seriously weakened. The nation, too, was suffering in many ways including especially economically as Thailand experienced rampant inflation. There were many shortages and manufactured goods were extremely expensive. All of this made impossible any attempts at restoring or developing a pastoral care system even if there was any desire to do so. Divisions within the CCT and the churches also intensified. In Bangkok, Kru Boonmark and his supporters became an identifiable group with a theological perspective that judged others to be in the wrong. And the Jehovah's Witnesses also continued to create divisions in Chiang Mai, Lampoon, and Nan. Quite a few CCT members in these areas left to join the Jehovah's Witnesses.
On closer examination, however, the most serious division that occurred after the War was one that grew out of the Western Christian split between the "evangelicals" and "ecumenicals". It is almost impossible to translated the word "evangelical" into Thai, and even the various evangelical groups overseas define the term differently. In Thailand, generally speaking, the evangelical churches after the War were those that supported the revivalistic movement that had been born before World War II. They were conservative theologically and especially emphasized the need for Christians to remove themselves from various aspects of Thai society. They held that it was imperative to restore the churches so that they could effectively preach the message of Christ. As was true with the Sung revivals, the evangelicals believed that revivals offered the best means for restoring church life. However, since many of those in the evangelical wing tended to find fault with the beliefs of other Christians, the actual result was numerous splits and divisions, which in turn led to a proliferation of Protestant groups and missions.
The evangelical wing was especially concerned because it felt that the ecumenicals dominated the CCT's leadership, which promoted a man-made theology. Kru Boonmark felt this way, and he eventually felt that he could no longer remain in the CCT and left it entirely. Thereafter, he became an important figure in the founding and development of the evangelical movement in Thailand including the introduction of Pentecostalism. He welcomed foreign missionaries from several different missions and helped them start their work.
The CCT, in sum, faced challenges on almost all fronts. In November 1946, a meeting was held that included the representatives from every district and department of the denomination as well as Presbyterian missionaries and other participants. There were also representatives from the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church present as well. The purpose of this meeting was to lay plans for the future. One of the actions taken at this meeting was that the CCT agreed officially to invite the Presbyterian Mission resume its work in Thailand, but the CCT representatives in the meeting also asked that the CCT have a larger role in the work of the mission. It was also suggested that the church and the mission establish joint committees for carrying out their work in at least four areas, medical work, evangelism, education, and literature. Both sides agreed to this proposal and created a set of joint subcommittees, numbering more than four, to coordinate their work with each other. This meant an increase in the role of the CCT.
The November 1946 meeting considered five proposals concerning pastoral care:
- That the Presbyterian Mission pay pastors' salaries for the duration of the economic downturn;
- That the mission also take responsibility for building houses (manses/parsonages) for pastors;
- That there be training programs for pastors;
- That the mission and the CCT should consult with each other on the problem of pastors serving for only brief periods of time before leaving pastoral ministry for other callings and ways to solve this problem; and
- That the seminary should be reopened, that it admit female students, and that it promote the calling of women pastors.
As far as can be told from the available historical records, neither the mission nor the CCT took any action on any of these five proposals. Both, indeed, gave little if any attention to pastoral ministry to such an extent that the postwar years were virtually another dark age of pastoral care in the history of Thai pastoral care. The Presbyterian Mission showed little interest in pastoral ministry for at least three reasons: first, it was occupied with reestablishing its previous work. Second, the new generation of young missionaries were excited by other, new forms of ministry such as establishing a student Christian center in Bangkok, which became the Student Christian Center, and rural development work, which led to the Rural Life Department as well as the Department of Social Development. Third, the mission took the attitude that the CCT was responsible for local church life, not the mission. If should be noted, however, that the mission that had far more in the way of personnel and financial resources than the CCT, which meant that, as had long been the case, the churches had to make do with their very tight circumstances.
As for the CCT itself, the importance of renewing local church life after the oppression and stagnation of the war years was widely understood, which for most meant returning to the revivalism of the Sung era when the churches were perceived to be alive, alert, and dedicated. The churches of those pre-War years were remembered as being committed to daily Bible study in groups that met in the evenings and as being deeply interested in evangelism. These memories were still influential and led the CCT's leadership to want to long for the glory years of the Sung revivals. In light of all of this, the churches developed a broad strategy of renewal based on revivals, evangelism, and a campaign to convince former members who had left the churches during the War to return. It was hoped that the churches would both grow in numbers through evangelism and the return of former members and grow in Spirit through revivals. And, in fact, during the post-War era local CCT churches did grow rapidly both because of some former members returning and the success of their evangelistic campaigns. It is possible that part of the reason for this growth was that people associated the churches and the Christian religion with the Western powers that had been victorious in World War II and thus were popular with the public.
Pastoral care was a different story. The years after the War were difficult ones in that regard even for the Bangkok churches, which had enjoyed a strong history of pastoral care. In a 1947 report on the condition of the Bangkok churches written by a Presbyterian missionary, the author observed that those congregations were in the same situation as other churches. Few of them had pastors. Most were being run by ruling elders, and for the most part the churches seemed content with their leadership. In the author's opinion, younger members had grown up in the church when there weren't pastors and thus did not see the need for pastoral leadership. They did not understand what pastoral ministry was about or its benefits. The report's author also felt that the Bangkok churches would not be able to sustain either their post-War numerical or spiritual growth without pastoral care and oversight. The missionary argued that effective preaching required a trained pastor in the pulpit and the churches need full-time leadership. The members, furthermore, need someone who could visit them and care for them pastorally.
From 1948 onwards, the CCT continued to favor the model of the Sung revivals as the best way to revive its local churches. During those years, Acharn Puang Akkapin, who was the CCT Moderator and had been personally influenced by Dr. Sung, applied Sung's approach to his own work with local churches. Ach. Puang travelled throughout the country visiting congregations along with a team. They normally went from one church to another, both rural and urban congregations, spending about ten days at each one. They conducted revival services, workshops, and visitation of members. The team always emphasized the importance of evangelism. In July 1948, for example, Ach. Puang and Ach. Suk Pongsnoi visited the Bethlehem Church, Nakhon Sri Tammarat, to conduct revivalistic and evangelistic services. Over one hundred individuals were baptized, and some forty members of the church committed themselves to evangelism. The church established a Gospel Team on the model of Dr. Sung. In April and May of 1949, Ach. Puang used the same approach in Chiang Mai, which included the training of local members, Bible studies, and especially evangelistic training. Thereafter, Ach. Puang returned to First Church, Chiang Mai, in March 1950 and in July 1952. He visited Chiang Mai, that is, three times in four years always with the aim of inspiring new life in the church through the use of revivalistic techniques.
Ach. Puang dedicated himself to the revival of local churches, as can be seen by two further examples. In January 1951, he and his "Revival Inspiration Team" (กองนำวิญญาณ) held revival services at the Sri Pimontum Church (Phet Buri) where 30 individuals converted to Christianity. The team carried out a variety of activities that included both evangelism and renewal of the church together, which reflects the sense that evangelism and church renewal were actually two sides of the same coin. In September 1951, Ach. Puang and Ach. Lek Taiyong held a revival in the churches of District 7, which was the ethnic Chinese district. This was evidently the first time that the Chinese churches had invited ethnic Thai church leaders carry out revivalist and evangelistic services in their congregations. It is worth observing that the Sung revivals began in the ethnic Chinese churches in Bangkok and now Ach. Puang was bringing them back to the Chinese churches again. Apart from the revivalist services themselves, this event is also important because it brought District 7 closer to the rest of the CCT as well as giving still more evidence to the significance of Sung-style revivalism for the denomination as a whole.
As we have noted above, it was not just Ach. Puang who dedicated himself to the use of Sung revivalism to renew the CCT's churches. Other important leaders of the denomination used the same approach. For example, Ach. Tongkham Puntuponse (ทองคำ พันธุพงศ์) and his team visited the Chae Hom Church in January 1950 to conduct revivalistic services; this congregation was part of District Three (Lampang). Their purpose was to inspire the congregation to a deeper level of faith. At the time of the Chae Hom revival, the CCT's denominational magazine, Church News (ข่าวคริสหนักร) reported that the Chae Hom congregation did not have a pastor and relied on assistance from First Church, Lampang, for its leadership. A team from First Church generally visited Chae Hom twice a year. Across the CCT, this was the situation faced by many congregations and serves to illustrate the connection between the use of revivalistic services to enliven local church life and the traditional reliance rural churches place on the urban center churches and institutions to sustain their life. The role of the urban-centered revival teams, such as Ach. Tongkham's and Ach. Puang's teams, simply replicated and carried forward the old system of missionary itineration and the domination of the urban centers over the rural churches. It is not too much to conclude that from missionary times down to the 1950s the Thai churches were ruled by "trickle down" governance—and spirituality.
In order to understand the true situation of post-War pastoral ministry in the Church of Christ in Thailand, it is helpful to look again at the Chiang Rai churches (District Two). As we saw in Chapter Nine, before the War the Chiang Rai churches made a concerted effort to provide pastoral care for their congregations although they did face several obstacles in doing so, and their success was limited at best. After World War II, the Chiang Rai churches grew numerically at a fairly rapid rate to the extent that District Two founded twelve new churches between 1945 and 1950. However, there was not a similar expansion in pastoral care, which actually contracted rather than grew. The Wiang Pa Pao Church, for example, had a very good pastor, Kru Suk, before the War, but after it employed only part-time pastors. District Two relied instead on revivalistic campaigns like the rest of the CCT. Thus, the Moderator of the district, Ach. Amorn Duangnaetr (อมร ดวงเนตร), followed the model of Ach. Puang and had his own gospel team, which visited rural congregations.
A 1952 article in the Church News reported on the various activities being conducted in the seven districts of the CCT. In general, the districts were emphasizing three types of activities: evangelism, meetings, and revivals. There was no mention of pastoral care at all.
At the end of 1951 or at the beginning of 1952, The CCT's District One, Chiang Mai, took a step that further revealed the lack of pastoral care in the post-War era. It created a new office, "head of the church" (หัวหน้าคริสตจักร) in place of that of church moderator, which according to the CCT's constitution had to be an ordained clergyman. There was dearth of clergy, and District One found a way around that fact by allowing ruling elders to be the "head" of the church, which included moderating the local session (คณะธรรมกิจ) as well. This new office was not designed to address the need for pastors; it was strictly an administrative office. The need for this office again underscored the failure of the CCT, its districts, and its churches to create an effective, denomination-wide system of pastoral care.
As for the ethnic Chinese churches of Bangkok and its surrounding region, pastoral ministry continued to flourish as it had before the War. The churches had enough income to employ capable, theologically trained pastors mostly from China. Speaking generally, the history of pastoral care in the ethnic Chinese congregations can be divided into three periods: in the first period, missionaries provided pastoral care for the churches; in the second period, the churches called pastors from China; and in the third period, ethnic Chinese (Thai-Chinese) born in Thailand served the congregations as pastors. In the decade after 1950, the churches were in transition from the second to the third periods. An important reason for the changeover from Chinese to Thai-Chinese pastors was a change in Thai governmental policies concerning immigration from China, which made it much more difficult to bring Chinese pastors to Thailand. When they could no longer call pastors from overseas, the ethnic Chinese churches had to train local Thai-Chinese members as pastors.
As we have seen, before World War II there was only one Protestant seminary in Siam, McGilvary Seminary in Chiang Mai, until 1941 when District Seven opened a small Bible school. At that time, the seminary had already been closed, and District Seven's school eventually also had to close because of the War. The District Seven Bible school began again in 1947 and became the "Bangkok Institute of Theology" (BIT). It continued to be a small institution that was primarily taught in Chinese although some courses were in Thai. Most of the students could read little if any Thai. The school was not academically strong, partly because most of its instructors came from Hong Kong. The school imposed a very strict discipline over its students as well. There were some Thai-Chinese church members in Bangkok who wanted to become pastors, but they mostly were not interested in BIT and studied instead in Hong Kong or Taiwan.
The founding of BIT in 1941 and its reopening in 1947 introduced into the Church of Christ in Thailand another form of theological education, which included at least four elements worth noting here.
- BIT emerged from the need local churches had for pastors and was founded to address that need by the churches through the agency of District Seven. It was not founded by foreign missionaries and did not depend on foreign financial support. By way of comparison, McGilvary Seminary did not emerge from the needs of the local churches in the North, which were mostly smaller and weak. It was founded rather by the Presbyterian missionaries as an institution that was comparatively larger and wealthier than the churches.
- Following on this first point, the churches of District Seven provided direct support to BIT and felt close to it. They felt that BIT was theirs. It began on a small scale and slowly grew in size, which meant that the churches were able to take responsibility for it. In the case of McGilvary Seminary, there was an obvious mismatch between the size and cost of the seminary and what the churches themselves could support.
- From the beginning, women were involved in the founding and development of BIT. It provided women with an avenue to engage in ministry and take leadership within the churches.
- In the beginning, BIT was not designed to be a theological seminary on the scale of McGilvary Seminary. Its initial purpose was to teach the Bible and also evangelism. It intended to prepare its students to work in local churches.
McGilvary Seminary, meanwhile, reopened in 1949 with the Rev. Herbert Grether acting as principal. The students were mostly older individuals some of whom had waited for years for the seminary to start up again. In the decade from 1949 to 1959, the seminary admitted a total of thirty students, thirteen of which graduated; and of those thirteen nine became pastors. The main emphasis of the seminary at that time, however, was not preparing students for pastoral ministry but, rather, providing continuing education for lay people. Thus, in the years from 1949 to 1954, the seminary held a total of eleven training sessions or courses each of which lasted a week or more. They were attended by over 400 people. Most of the faculty were Western missionaries who did not have any experience in pastoral ministry. In sum, the seminary was not yet geared for training students for pastoral ministry, and only a few graduates actually became pastors.
In sum, after 1949 the Church of Christ in Thailand had two educational institutions for theological training, McGilvary Seminary and the Bangkok Institute of Theology. They differed in many respects. BIT conducted its classes in Chinese and intended to train students to work in District Seven. It had a basic curriculum that largely taught the Bible. McGilvary Seminary, on the other hand, attempted to maintain a full curriculum even though it was a small school, and it aimed to be the CCT's national seminary.
At its meeting in 1959, the General Assembly of the Church of Christ in Thailand discussed a number of issues that, taken together, reflected the state of pastoral care after World War II. First, Prior to the formal opening of the Assembly, the CCT organized a three day retreat on the subject of faith development. CCT's officers held this retreat because they felt that the denomination's local churches were spiritually weak and it was thus important to raise the question of spiritual development prior to the meeting of the General Assembly. As we have seen, the CCT's leadership at all levels placed a great deal of emphasis on revivalism both before and after World War II, that is from about 1925 to 1941 and then again from 1947 right down to 1959—a period of nearly three decades. After all of this effort spanning all of those years, the CCT's national leadership felt that the churches were spiritually weak. Whether it was perceived at the time or not, this was a significant judgment on revivalism as a technique for church renewal. It had not led to their renewal.
Second, there was a strong emphasis on local church life at the 1959 General Assembly. The significance and role of the local congregations was taught at various points, which was a departure from previous General Assemblies where the local churches were seldom discussed. It is striking, however, that in all of the instruction and discussions regarding local congregational life the development of pastoral ministry was never considered.
As we have seen in this chapter, the post-World War II era in the Church of Christ in Thailand was virtually a "dark age" in the history of pastoral care. The whole denomination at every level remained attached to a pre-War mindset. There was no sense that after 1945 the church had entered a new era, one that required new approaches and offered new opportunities. This failure to adapt and change was in marked contrast to the Presbyterian mission, which initiated several new projects. The failure to adapt to new times and opportunities was especially seen in terms of pastoral ministry. The CCT simply did not see it important to expand and develop pastoral care; and its national leadership remained committed to the use of revivalism as the best way to renew local church life. It, in fact, continued to rely on what amounted to an ideology of evangelism, which used patently evangelistic attitudes and techniques aimed at reviving local churches. Through all of this, then, the goal of the CCT was to restore its older ways and attitudes rather than seek new directions. In some ways, the post-War experience with pastoral care was reminiscent of the decades following the Pastors' Revolt of 1895 in the old Laos Mission. After that event, as in the post-War years, pastoral ministry languished for decades as church leadership devoted its time and resources to other ministries. In this last instance, it would be another thirty years before the CCT developed programs to promote the expansion of pastoral care. That time was coming, but in 1960 it would still be a long wait until that day arrived.