CFP: Return to Sender: American Evangelical Missions in Europe, 1830-2010

Below is a call for papers received by RiAH. Details about submitting proposals can be found after the jump. Proposals are due March 16, 2015.

Return to Sender:
American Evangelical Missions in Europe, 1830-2010

Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, July 15-16, 2015

In 1830 American agencies sent out the first missionaries to continental Europe to establish new churches. This act signaled the beginning of a reverse movement of missionary activities. After two centuries of European efforts to take care of the souls of North America peoples, missionaries in North Americans began to return out of concern for Europe. These trips inaugurated the first stage of reverse mission in the modern era. Studies such as Ian Tyrrell’s Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (2010), Mark Hutchinson and John Wolffe’s A Short History of Global Evangelicalism (2012), Brian Stanley’s, The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Billy Graham and John Stott (2013), revealed the growing global network of Anglo-American evangelicalism. These books are more interested in the impressive list of engagements in the "global south" than in Europe. However, despite the modest investment in Europe, this return movement signaled and previewed the eventual global and multidirectional missionary movement of evangelicals. The central question of this conference is how the experiences of American evangelical missionaries in Europe helped or failed to bridge the contrasts between the two continents.

This conference seeks to enrich existing scholarship by bringing together experts who examine the patterns of American evangelicals’ interaction with European audiences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In particular, the organizers seek to examine the intentions, implementation, and implications of American evangelical missions in the Old World. The organizers invite interdisciplinary, long-term and comparative contributions rather than strictly organizational histories of individual mission posts or agencies, The goal is to reveal the similarities and variety in evangelical missionary patterns in Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, or mixed countries in Europe. Ranging from Ireland to Russia, Iceland to Sicily, these studies should help to identify the impact of levels of economic development, ethnic make-up, political order, social conventions, gender relations, etc. in the structure of transatlantic religious exchange.

Individual papers might address the following questions:

Why and when did evangelical churches and organizations identify Europe as a mission field? How did they perceive subdivisions in Europe? What did they hope to achieve? How stable and enduring (or adaptive) were their programs in the context of a changing international environment? What was the impact of military campaigns and peace operations and other political realities on the missionary enterprise? What and when did they consider the best windows of opportunities? Which competition and which support did the missionaries expect from "colleagues" or in the receiving nations? Did American church and free mission agencies differ in their approach to Europe? How did the missionary intention change over time?

How important were transnational contacts, such as immigrant connections, official denominational structures for the missionaries in Europe? How did the missionaries involve, circumvent, or challenge civic and ecclesiastical authorities at home and abroad? Which instruments did the missionaries favor: proclamation, humanitarian assistance, education? How did political, technological, and communicational developments shape and change the patterns of outreach? How did the confrontation with European Christendom and ideologies such as fascism, communism, existentialism, color the American missionary approach? Has the European scene attracted pre-selected groups, with less racial and ethnic diversity than in other receiving areas? How did mission projects in European countries intersect with similar projects in the European colonies? Did the transfer of leadership of the mission to the receiving cultures (indigenization) resemble similar processes in other parts of the world?

What did the presence of American evangelical missionaries change in the religious relations and proportions in the target areas? How did Americans understand conversion and how did European subcultures respond to that call? Did they increase pluralism or weaken the traditional religious institutions? How did they benefit or suffer from political pressures? Why did some missions succeed and others fail? How close did the recipients identify evangelicals with the broader expansion of American power in the world? Was this a positive or a negative force? Did the incorporation of Europe in the international evangelical network lead to a transfer of American concerns in Europe, such as gender relations, biblical inerrancy, charismatic religion, abortion, intelligent design, prophecy? How did returning American missionaries shape their home churches, communities, programs, and policies in their perception of Europe? Did the European experiences affect evangelical discussions and enterprises at home? Did European evangelicals as a result of these activities gain a hearing in North America?

Proposals (300 words) outlining topic, methodology, argument and significance, plus short CV, should be submitted to Dr. Hans Krabbendam at and prof. dr. Stefan Paas at by March 16, 2015. Three-person panel proposals (1000 words) are also welcome.

The conference is organized by the Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, and the Theological University in Kampen, the Netherlands in cooperation with the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, University of Southampton, the David Bruce Centre for American Studies, Keele University, the Institute of North American Studies, King’s College London. The steering committee comprises Dr. Kendrick Oliver (Southampton), Professor Axel Schäfer (Keele), Dr. Hans Krabbendam (RSC) and Dr. Uta Balbier (KCL). The conference organizers are Hans Krabbendam and Stefan Paas.


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