On 27 October 1922, at the office of the Christian Alliance in Bedford Street, London, a group of people met “with bowed heads, and hearts trusting only in God” to launch what would become Crosslinks. 

There were no balloons, no champagne. Instead, the birth of the Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society (BCMS) was a quiet affair. The group of believers met “with sadness of heart” as they clung in faith to their deepest held convictions. It was time to leave an older, more established organisation, one they regarded “with affectionate or even passionate devotion”. 

A new society was needed. It was a serious step.

Gospel convictions

In 1799, just over a hundred years before, in a noisy room above the City of London’s Castle and Falcon coffee house in Aldersgate Street, two-dozen men met to found the Church Missionary Society (CMS). 

This society would proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, sending “missionaries to the Continent of Africa or other parts of the heathen world”. It would send out those who had “experienced the benefits of the gospel” and who earnestly wished to make known “the grace and power of the Redeemer”. 

William Wilberforce, an MP and passionate reformer, was one of its first backers. In Real Christianity, he argued for the authority of Scripture, and for Christians “exerting themselves”. Pointing to the saving work of Christ, he urged repentance. Churches must retain gospel convictions.

CMS took the gospel to the furthest corners of the world. A century on, as the First World War ended and theological liberalism took hold in England, the society’s leaders pushed for a new flexibility. In particular, they loosened their requirements regarding the faith beliefs and practices of missionary candidates.

A decisive break

This development led to unease within CMS. While evangelicalism might do well to shed its prejudices, it must not scrap its convictions. A group led by Daniel Bartlett realised that, to retain the original principles and purposes of 1799, they had to make a decisive break. The Bible Churchman’s Missionary Society (BCMS) born in October 1922. Today, it’s known as Crosslinks. 

The new society began fresh gospel initiatives with energy and determination, trusting God to provide resources for a work that honoured His name. It sent off men and women to Burma and the Arctic. In Britain, it established a theological college in Bristol. It became a strong voice, helping disrupt attempts to replace the Book of Common Prayer, and strengthening Anglican churches at home and abroad.

Staying faithful

God has been faithful to those who broke away. Today, Crosslinks is thriving and continues to retain its vision: to bring God’s word to God’s world. 

We celebrate the decision of October 1922, a stand taken for the sake of the gospel. Would we be so brave? The events of that year remain relevant as we strive for loyalty to the Bible within the current worldwide Anglican Communion.

In mission today, we are well aware of our opportunities – and responsibilities. We pray for that same sense of purpose and uncompromising determination, to be faithful in our day and generation.

Read a longer version of this history. 

Sources

G R BALLEINE A History of the Evangelical Party in the Church of England (1908); CHARLES BARTLETT Why a new Society? (1922); G W BROMILY Daniel Henry Charles Bartlett - A Memoir (Morrison & Gibb1959); HOOTON & WRIGHT The first twenty-five years (BCMS 1947); H E HOPKINS Charles Simeon of Cambridge (Allen & Unwin 1977); H C G MOULE Charles Simeon (1892); Eugene STOCK The History of the CMS (1899); William WILBERFORCE Real Christianity (1797).