|Administrative History||The Eclectic Society was founded in 1783 by a number of Anglican clergymen and layman as a discussion society and was instrumental in the founding of the Church Missionary Society in 1799. Its early members included John Newton (1725-1807) clergyman and poet and John Venn (1759-1813) rector of Clapham and founder of Church Missionary Society. The Eclectic Society met fortnightly in the vestry of St John's Chapel, Bedford Road, London. It first discussed foreign missions in 1786 and the subject was subsequently discussed again in 1789 and 1791 as there was a growing realisation of the scope for a society to evangelise indigenous peoples around the world. Foreign missions was again discussed in 1796, by which time both the Baptist and London Missionary Societies had been founded, but it was not until three years later that action was taken. |
In 1797, Josiah Pratt, a clergyman from Birmingham who came to London as a curate, joined the Eclectic Society and in February 1799 he proposed the following question for discussion: "How far may a periodical Publication be made subservient to the interest of Religion?" The discussions led, two years later, to the starting of the Christian Observer which became for much of the nineteenth century a valuable organ of Evangelical principles and work. The following month, the subject for discussion was "What methods can we use more effectually to promote the knowledge of the Gospel among the Heathen?" and it was ultimately resolved at this meeting to form a society. At a public meeting in April, the Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East was formed.
Reference: Eugene Stock, History of the Church Missionary Society, Vol 1 (London 1899)
|Custodial History||Presented to the CMS by Miss D. S. Pratt, April 1960; transferred on permanent loan to the University of Birmingham by the CMS in the 1980s.|