- While Christianity penetrated Asia from the Middle East quite early, according to some legends even in the first century, organized Protestant missionary work only began early in the 18th century. The worldwide missionary impulse that was to become such an important part of 19th- and 20thcentury Protestantism was initiated with the arrival of Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plutschau at Tranquebar on July 9, 1706. They started the Danish-Halle Mission, the origin of the Lutheran movement in India. The mission welcomed the first Asian converts to Protestantism, one of whom, a wealthy widow named Clorinda, helped build the first Protestant church in Asia.in the 1790s, as other missionary agencies were founded in England, india was considered a natural first target. In 1793, British Baptist William Carey arrived in India with the support of the newly founded Baptist Missionary society. The work expanded with the arrival of John and Hannah Marshman, the latter being particularly helpful in gathering financial support.Congregationalists took the lead in the 1795 founding of the London Missionary Society (LMs) (which also attracted support from Presbyterians and low-church Anglicans), which sent Nathaniel Forsyth as its first missionary to india in 1798. The Church Missionary Society (CMS), an Anglican sending agency, commissioned missionaries for india in 1813, and the British Methodists sent their first team the following year. Unable to settle in india, the group redirected their attention to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) returning to india in 1819.In the meantime, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), founded in 1810, sent its first contingent of missionaries to India in 1812. Two of the ministers, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice, converted to the Baptist faith and became key promoters of American Baptist missionary work - Rice back in the United States and Judson in Burma (now Myanmar) as its first Protestant missionary.The second focal point for Protestants in Asia was China. Robert MoRRisoN, with the backing of the LMs, arrived at Macao on February 20, 1809; he secured a post as translator and thus the right to remain. He translated the Bible into Chinese and compiled a Chinese dictionary. Among his early converts, Tsae A-ko was the first to be baptized (1814) while his first convert, Leong Fung Fa (1787-1855), became the first Chinese minister, ordained in 1823.As a way to get around Chinese resistance to foreigners, early German missionary Karl Gützaff (1803-51) suggested that Christian physician/ evangelists be sent into the country. in 1824, Peter Parker arrived as the first medical missionary; four years later, the Medical Missionary society in China was established. Medical missions would subsequently spread across China, india, Korea, Japan, and then throughout Asia (not to mention other parts of the world). The spread of medical missions provided an important opportunity for women to assume leadership roles in the mission field.The LMs developed an early interest in Malaysia, sending missionaries in 1815. At the suggestion of Robert Morrison, an Anglo-Chinese school was opened at the key trading center of Malacca in 1818. The school served the Chinese community of Malacca for the next generation.Japan began receiving Protestant missionaries in 1859, a result of American pressure to open the country to the rest of the world. Within the first year, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and Reformed church missionaries began work. in 1878, all restrictions on missionary activity were lifted, and both the number of missionaries and the number of churches they represented shot up dramatically.Protestant efforts in Korea were blocked until Horace Newton ALLEN, a Presbyterian, settled in seoul as physician to the American legation. After saving the life of a royal prince in 1884, Allen won an opening for missionaries. Within a year both Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries had arrived; in 1887, the first congregations were established. The first Korean Protestant was the young man who served as Allen's interpreter.Through the first half of the 20th century, the early missions grew into ever larger subunits of Western denominations. Little effort was made to create indigenous churches, and as in other locations, new denominations independent of Western missions arose. several such churches in China, like the Local Church and the True Jesus Church, grew to be substantial bodies. China also became an early target of the Pentecostal movement. In 1907, Mr. and Mrs. T. J. McIntosh, Rev. and Mrs. Alfred G. Garr, May Law, and Rosa Pittman arrived in Hong Kong, ready to spread the message of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.World War II brought immense changes to Asian Protestantism. For example, in 1940, the Japanese government insisted that all Protestant churches merge into a single organization, the United Church of Christ of Japan. Several churches, including the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church, refused and were officially nonexistent for the duration of hostilities. After the war, General Douglas MacArthur, head of American forces, called for a thousand missionaries to come to Japan. Many hundreds did arrive, but Protestantism still claims less than 2 percent of Japan's population.Christianity was even more disrupted in those lands captured by Japanese forces. in China, for example, many Christians abandoned their homes in the coastal regions and moved far inland. Japanese forces also overran Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma.Korea suffered from brutal Japanese rule between 1910 and the end of World War II, when the country was divided in two. The North Korean government has reduced Christianity to a token presence. in contrast, Protestantism, especially the Presbyterian Church, has thrived in the South. Seoul is now also home to the largest single Christian congregation in the world, the Yoido Full Gospel Central Church, which counts its members in the hundreds of thousands.The most significant postwar change in Asia occurred in China, where civil war brought an antireligious Communist government to power in 1949. In 1950, it expelled all foreign missionaries and moved to suppress the various indigenous churches. As a first step, it forced all of the Protestant churches into one organization, the Church of Christ of China, which was mandated to operate under what was known as the three-self principles. The church was expected to be self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. Christianity would have to survive without the leaders and financial support of any foreign religious bodies. in addition, the church was expected to support the new government. Attempts to suppress the church in China reached their apex during the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when churches were ordered closed and religious activity forbidden altogether. That policy proved unworkable and in the late 1970s was replaced by limited toleration.The missionaries expelled from China were redistributed to other nearby lands, many becoming active in diaspora Chinese communities. Most affected was Taiwan. Taiwan had received Protestant missionaries since the middle of the 19th century, with Presbyterians having the most success. only the Presbyterians were able to develop significant work during the 1915-45 Japanese occupation. The Republic of China on Taiwan was initially hostile to Christian missions, but gradually moved toward a more tolerant policy.As the 21st century begins, Asia remains the area of the world with the smallest percentage of Christians (about 8.5). The total Protestant population is about 200,000,000 or 5.5 percent. South Korea is the most Christianized of Asian countries, about 35 percent Protestant. Hong Kong, the longtime British colony and now a Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China, has taken on a special role. The site to which many Christians fled following the Chinese revolution, Hong Kong is known for its free religious environment. it is now home to a multitude of Christian denominations and the staging area for missionary organizations throughout southeastern Asia.See also Bangladesh; Bhutan; Central Asia; India; Indonesia; Japan; Korea, People's Republic of (North); Korea, Republic of (South); Russia; Singapore; Sri Lanka.Further reading:■ Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1998)■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Donald Hoke, ed., The Church in Asia (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001)■ J. Herbert Kane, A Global View of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1971)■ J. Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, eds., Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2002)■ A. Scott Moreau, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.