- Carey, William
- ( 1761-18 34 )pioneer of the Protestant missionary movementWilliam Carey was born in Paulerspury, Northamptonshire, England, on August 17, 1761, the son of a schoolmaster. He was raised in the Church of England, but following a conversion experience in his 18th year he joined a Congregational church. While making his living as a shoemaker, he began preaching as opportunity allowed. He married Dorothy Plackett in 1781.In 1783, Carey joined a nearby Particular (Calvinist) Baptist church and was rebaptized. In 1785, he moved to Moulton, where he assumed a job as schoolmaster. He became a Baptist minister the following year, though possessing little formal education. An avid reader, he eventually mastered several classical and modern languages.Carey traced his interest in the world and in missionary activity to his reading of the Last Voyage of Captain Cook and other books about foreign countries, including accounts of Moravian and Lutheran missionary activity and the outreach efforts to Native Americans by New England Con-gregationalists. After several years of contemplation, he concluded that it was the duty of Christians to spread the Christian message to all nations. He faced resistance from fellow ministers who reasoned that it was God's responsibility and not their own to convert the unbelieving nations, a reasonable position from the Calvinist perspective of predestination.Carey persisted, and in 1792 wrote a booklet, An Enquirey into the Obligation of Christians, to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen. This brief work convinced many of his colleagues to organize the Particular Baptist Society for Propagating the Gospel amongst the Heathen in 1792, the first such organization in the English-speaking world. A short time later, John Thomas, a Baptist who had spent time in Bengal, made an appearance in Northamptonshire, and along with Carey was chosen to begin missionary activity in India. Carey sailed in June 1793.Not particularly welcomed by the East India Company, which controlled Calcutta, Carey and his family settled in the Dutch settlement at Serampore farther inland. During his first six years, he mastered some local languages, but was beset with the mental deterioration of his wife. He was joined in 1799 by Joshua Marchman and William Ward. In 1801, the British governor-general appointed him to a teaching position in Calcutta that later evolved into a professorship at Fort William College. He used his position to secure government protection for the mission and assistance in their publication of Bibles and Christian literature. Carey's wife finally passed away in 1807. Six months later, he married Charlotte Rumohr, a Danish convert, with whom he lived until her death in 1821.Though the mission did not make many converts, its success in translating the New Testament into various languages and its assistance to the initial wave of British missions in India from across the Protestant spectrum, inspired many in England to support the emerging missionary endeavor. The Baptist Missionary Society would provide a model for others that would be established by the other British Protestant bodies.In 1827, Carey and his colleagues broke with the Baptist Missionary Society, in part over ownership issues. In the 1830s, the mission suffered financial instability, and after the death of Carey (June 9, 1834), and then Marshman (1837), the mission collapsed, and the college Carey founded at Serempore closed.Further reading:■ William Carey, Letters from the Rev. Dr. Carey (London, 1828)■ Mary Drewery, William Carey: Shoemaker and Missionary (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978)■ John Clark Marshman, The Life and Times of Carey, Marchman, and Ward, Embracing the History of the Serampore Mission, 2 vols. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans & Roberts, 1859)■ A. Christopher Smith, "William Carey, 1761-1834: Protestant Pioneer of the Modern Mission Era," in Gerald H. Anderson et al., eds. Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1998): 245-54.
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.