Fuller Theological Seminary
THE INFLUENCE OF EVANGELICALISM FROM AMERICA TO ARMENIA BETWEEN 1795 -1845
A Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Course MH 500 Global Evangelical Movements
By Jack Hakimian Winter 2006
Introduction Evangelicalism Evolves in America: Missionary Pioneers Evangelicalism Spreads To Armenia: New Movement The Mission: Muslims The Means: Armenians The Manner: Persecuted The Mind: Peshtimaljian
3 4 6 6 7 9 11
Evangelical Patterns: Key Observations
Introduction Evangelicalism, like yeast, has worked through the dough of the church for the last 250 years leaving a lasting impression. This word, “evangelicalism”, has various meanings in different geographical and cultural context.1 What does this term mean in our American and European context? According to Professor, Jehu Hanciles the best definition and most widely accepted seems to be D.W. Bebbington definition.2 Bebbington writes, “Evangelical religion: conversion, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be called crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Together form a quadrilateral or priorities that are the basis of Evangelicalism.”3 Evangelicalism had its origins in Britain and spread into America by the mid 1700’s.4 However, from America it began to grow all over the world. The movement early on affected believers of various backgrounds and denominations. In fact, it was so diverse and wide spread that Lewis writes, “Evangelical engagement during the nineteenth century with multiplying range of societies led to a spectacular kaleidoscope of cultural permutations, adaptations, disruptions, and transformations”.5 Truly, evangelicalism in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was the driving force of Christianity as a renewal and missions’ movement..6
Dr. Jehu Hanciles, “Lecture: How Would You Define an Evangelical” (Fuller Theological Seminary: Global Evangelical Movement Course, 2006) Lecture. 2 Dr. Jehu Hanciles, Lecture. 3 D.W . Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (New York, NY: Routledge, 2002) pg 3. 4 Bebbington, 20. 5 Donald M Lewis, “Christianity Reborn the Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Erdmans Publishing, 2004) pg 46. 6 Lewis, 31.
The objective of this paper is to examine the missiological climate of evangelicalism in America at the end of the eighteen century and the methods used to spread the evangelical message to other parts of the world during the beginning of the nineteenth century. Due, to length constraints, this paper will focus on the missionary motives and methodologies by examining the work of the American Evangelical Missionaries in Armenia between the time line of 1820 and 1845. In order to get a good understanding of the context I will have to trace the American evangelical missions’ movement that began to climax around 1795 to the early years of the nineteenth century. My objective in this paper is to demonstrate clear patterns of behavior with evangelicals and social realities amongst the recipients of their ministry that tend to demonstrate consistent advancement of evangelicalism in foreign fields.
Evangelicalism Evolves in America: Missionary Pioneers In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the face of evangelicalism changed dramatically in America.7 Evangelicals began to exercise their preaching efforts towards the unconverted.8 They went from seeking revival in churches to wanting to see the heathen saved. According to Noll’s abridged chronology, the years’ leading up to 1795 demonstrates the missionary zeal of the evangelicals.9 For example, in 1778- Thomas Coke appeals to Methodist to work in the Africa Mission field. Then, in 1779-Charles, Simeon becomes a key figure for Anglican evangelicals. Then, in 1784-, The General Evangelical Society is founded to recruit
Mark A. Noll, “The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, W hitefield and the W esleys” (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003) pg 192. 8 Noll, 192. 9 Noll, 193. The entire chronology after this statement is taken from Noll’s point-by-point chronology on page 193. Due to space, I have footnoted that Noll is the original author of the paraphrased chronology I have written. The events demonstrate the increasing growth of missionary consciousness amongst evangelicals over the seventeen-year period (1778-1794).
missionaries for Ireland. Then, in1792- William Carey publishes an article that appeals for missionary outreach. The next year he and his family began a mission’s work in India. Then, in 1793-Richard Allen and other African Americans found Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church as the first black Methodist church in America. Then, in 1794-, Samuel Marsden arrives in Sydney to launch missions work in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Seventhly, in 1795Robert and James Alexander Haldance are converted and begin using their wealth for promoting para-church and dissenting education and evangelism.
As we can see at the turn of the eighteen century, the spiritual climate of evangelicalism began to change. The reasons for this change were due to the decline of Calvinism and the political and economic factors in the world.10 Chopourian writes, “In the article ‘The American Missionary Spirit, 1828-35’ it is argued that the changing economic and political patterns in the United states made the period and age of Christian benevolence, with its religious expression. The religious phase was the united endeavor aiming at the conversion of the world.”11 Some of the key people that brought this new outlook of missions were people like T.J. Freinghuysen, Presbyterians Tenants, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield who was the key proponents of the First Great Awakening in America.12 These revivals in America helped create an atmosphere of conversation and evangelistic passion. By the second Great Awakening, which ended in 1800, the missionary fire grew so intensely that by 1810 students of Andover Theological Seminary formed one of the greatest missionary organizations of that time. The main
Giragos H. Chopourian, “The Armenian Evangelical Reformation Causes, and Effects”(New York, NY: The Armenian Missionary Association of America, Inc, 1970) pg 19. 11 Chopourian, 19. 12 Chopourian, 19-20.
influencer of this new movement was Samuel Hopkins.13 In his book “Inquiry into the Nature of Holiness” written in 1773, he argued, “if being cast off by God is necessary in order to secure a greater good than one’s own salvation; the Christian ought to be willing to be cast off ”.14 Also, the idea of establishing God’s kingdom on earth under the “Millennial Concept” helped perpetuate a missionary zeal amongst the Andover students. It was from this school that men were raised up who preached with passion and conviction that unregenerate people should repent and trust in the salvific work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.15 Chopourian writes concerning these men: “….traditions from which the missionaries had come was mostly in operation both in their life and work. Time and again, the missionary literature exposes their opposition to papacy, celibacy, ceremonialism, episcopacy, monasticism, and the Armenian Church’s sacraments and theology. In contrast, they insist upon the importance of spiritual religion, the reform of a corrupt church, the acceptance of the biblical standards of the teaching of Christ and the early church, and revivalist kind of preaching”.16
Therefore, the climate in America had changed from merely awakenings amongst protestant congregations to a proactive movement of seeking conversions amongst the heathens and spiritually deceived believers in the Roman and Eastern Oriental Churches. It was this growing sentiment for missions, political crisis in the world and a millennial theology that sparked a fire in two missionaries from Andover Seminary to go to the Middle East and preach the gospel to Muslims. Evangelicalism Spreads To Armenia: New Movement The Mission: Muslims
Chopourian, Chopourian, 15 Chopourian, 16 Chopourian,
20. 20. 21. 21.
It is in the previous context that we see these American missionaries crossing the Atlantic to start their evangelical work to Muslims. However, it was not long before they realized that converting Muslims to Christ was a very difficult task. The American Missions Board said at their annual meeting, “As to Mohammedans, there is no doubt in the mind of any man acquainted with these countries, that so as things remain in their present state, the profession of Christianity by a Muslim man will bring upon him inevitable and immediate death. The rules, and the people of all ranks, would act with equal zeal, and would bring down the exterminating axe with steady and inexorable vengeance”.17
Therefore, with this roadblock the missionaries turned their attention to the Armenian people. They believed if the Armenians returned to their Christian heritage they would be fit to evangelize their Muslim neighbors in an effective fashion.18 In fact, Chopourian writes that Goodell received new instructions, which were “to reach the Armenian population of the city,-an intelligent, enterprising and wealthy part of the people, who might be expected to exert a powerful influence for good throughout the Turkish Empire, when once they should embrace the truth as it is in Jesus”.19
The Means: Armenians In Jerusalem around 1820, they would meet the three Armenian priests Bishop Dionysius Garabedian, Archbishop Jacob Aga, and Bishop Hagop.20 These men according Tootikian, “Had moved out of St. James Monastery of Jerusalem in protest against the ‘sunken morals of the clergy.’ They were also instrumental in describing the existing spiritual state of the Armenian Apostolic church to the American missionaries. Moreover,
Chopourian, 25-26. Chopourian, 26. 19 Chopourian, 26. 20 Chopourian, 24.
they stressed the dire need of the Armenian masses for education and knowledge of Scriptures and informed the missionaries about the existing political and social conditions of the Armenians under the Ottoman rule.”21
Two of them would later join the missionaries and begin immediately to labor together for the conversion of Armenians. However, when things got tense between Christians and Muslim fanatics in Beirut they left with the missionaries to the Island of Malta for the work of printing Armenian litetuare. They began with an Armeno-Turkish tracts and then Armeno—Turkish New Testament.22 As time proceeded, the missionaries established a mission board in Constantinople, Turkey. In 1833, John Der-Sahakian met the American missionaries and the active missionary outreach began. Formerly Sahakian had been a student at the patriarchal academy under the famous teacher Gregory Peshtimaljian.23 This teacher had greatly challenged students like Sahakian to think critically about the superstitions of the church. The church at this time taught that it was the sole responsibility of the church to read and interpret the Bible, the church could never err (infallibility), that works (seven church sacraments) were needed to be saved, and communion was the act of partaking of the real body and blood of Christ.24 Due to this corruption, Sahakian was seeking to bring reformation, but did not know how.25 When news had reached him that two missionaries from America had arrived to spread false teachings the young man was curious to meet them. He wanted to see first hand what these men were propagating.26 In 1833, Sahakian came to the mission in the suburb of Ortakeuy and his life was dramatically
Tootikian, 21. Arpee, 94. 23 Arpee, 94 24 Chopourian, 79-80. 25 Arpee, 96. 26 Arpee, 96.
changed. Sahakian and his friend Minassian began to work with the American missionaries to become interpreters of the message to the Armenian people. After a few months, Sahakian was appointed general superintendent of mission high school at Pera.
The Manner: Persecuted Soon the Apostolic Armenian Church began to persecute the mission school and demanded that all parents withdraw their children.27 All this persecution expanded Sahakian’s influence. Later Sahakian was called to the prestigious school in Haskkeuy to work with a friendly and cooperative priest by the name of George Ardsrouni. Arpee writes about this priest, “Endowed with great personal magnetism and boldness of speech, priest George, although he never became a Protestant, was at this time, both in school and parish, a most worthy representative of the evangelical cause;…”28 However, Sahakian was removed as he was in Pera, because the opposition from the state-church was severe. Nevertheless, evangelicalism grew. By 1838, the evangelical movement grew to about five hundred adherents.29 During this time, the two American missionaries worked hard. Goodell was conducting weekly Bible studies and prayer meetings in the Turkish dialect. Dwight was preaching in the Armenian tongue. As a secret society, the Evangelical Union organized in 1836 and steadily grew under Sahakian’s leadership. Interestingly the Americans engaged in a work of building the Sultan of Turkey’s favorite palaces, which in turn made their work of building an evangelical church easier.30 As a result, many of the Armenian state-church
Arpee, 96. Arpee, 96. 29 Arpee, 99. 30 Arpee, 100.
leaders sought to change the patriarchal vicar Stephen “the Dove” because he had been open to the missionaries. Being weak in power, they continued in their persecution and eventually changed the leadership with Jacob Seropian, Bishop of Marsovan, and Amasia. On February 19, 1839, Sahakian and Paul of Physica were arrested and thrown into the patriarchal jail. Without trial, they were sent into exile by imperial edict. Later the priest George was arrested and exiled to the Convent of Armash, near Nicomedia. On March 3, all missionary publications were banned or destroyed. The persecution continued until the Sultan Mahmoud died. After this, all the Protestant opponents lost their influence and actually saw themselves in need of Protestant England’s help when Ibrahim Pasaha invasions began.31 By 1840, the exiles were back in Armenia by the invitation of the Protestant opponents. In May 1840, Stephen “the dove” was placed back into power. The response of the common people was very positive to evangelicalism and once again, it began to grow. In 1832, Goodell went and visited the city of Nicomedia. When he arrived, he left Armeno-Turkish tracts and a New Testament with a priest. This led to an awakening in the church. Kit Varjabed was the principal of the parish school. He was so passionate that he began to gather other priests and laymen who met daily for the study of scripture.32 According to Arpee, “In 1838 the band numbered sixteen souls. The fundamental doctrines of the gospel-so we are told by the missionaries who visited them-were very clearly apprehended by these men, and earnest spirituality was their distinctive mark.”33 These men were later called “Christian Brethren” and they sparked a revival that would give the evangelical cause momentum.34
Arpee, 103. Arpee, 106. 33 Arpee, 106. 34 Arpee, 106.
When the awakening sparked the Armenians it is recorded that, “Everywhere the tone of religious feeling appeared to be changing. The clergy sought more and more in the Bible the topics for their public discourses. In the public places at the capital, such as coffee shops and bazaars, the new doctrines were freely discussed.”35 Amazingly the revival like an avalanche continued to grow in Armenia and even took a Pentecostal form some fifty years before the Azusa Street Revival of Los Angeles. In fact, Pentecostal Scholar and Historian Allan Anderson writes, “A revival began in Russia and Armenia in 1855, with people speaking in tongues, but was soon limited to a group in the Black Sea area who called themselves Pentecostal Christians. In 1880, an experience of Spirit baptism was received by a group of Armenian Presbyterians who began to fellowship with the Russian Pentecostals. An eleven-year old Russian boy had prophesied in the 1855 revival about coming Turkish invasions and the Russian and Armenian Pentecostals started leaving for North America from 1900 to 1912. They formed Pentecostal congregations there that had predated the classical denominations in origin by fifty years.” 36
The Mind: Peshtimaljian One person by the name Gregory Peshtimaljian needs recognition as a type of John Baptist that prepared the way for the American missionaries’ message. Arpee writes concerning him, “That the period of the evangelical movement is closely associated with the name of Gregory Peshtimaljian, the famous principal of the patriarchal academy. The reform movement in the Armenian church before the year 1839 owed its existence in large measure to this man’s influence.” Peshtimaljian, it cannot be argued was influential in bringing reform and laying the foundation for the evangelical movement. So, passionate was he in his criticism of contemporary
Arpee, 109. Allan Anderson, “An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity”.(Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004) pg 24-25.
Orthodox Church that he once said, “When God created man, he made him in his own image, but man has now reversed the order, and endeavors to make God in man’s image”.37 It seems that evangelicals in Armenia appreciated this man. Nevertheless, he died not understanding them. Arpee writes, “Peshtimaljian looked sometimes with dismay at what he considered to be foolish radicalism on the part of the missionaries and their youthful followers…” 38 Evangelical Patterns: Key Observations What can we observe from the growth of evangelicalism in America to Armenia? Firstly, the pattern of growth for the evangelical movement seems to be rooted in peoples yearning to return to basic principles of the primitive church. As Bebbington wrote, “conversion, activism, biblicism, and crucicentrism play quadrilateral role.”39 We know from the book of Acts, these were the same practices emphasized by the Jewish Christian movement and Apostles of the 1st Century. Evangelicals assume like them (Romans 1:14-17) that preaching evangelical gospel truths will lead to victorious conversions of the heathen and life to the dead professing believer.40 Secondly, evangelical growth can be attributed to “activism” and protesting against formalism, traditionalism, and disregard of essential truths by high churches. A classic example of this is observed in the American Missionaries response to Catholicos Matthew when they were told to leave Turkey: “Let there be so many and so good schools established in the nation, that ours shall not only cease to attract attention, but shall become unnecessary and be wholly forsaken. Let there be so much and so good preaching in all the various churches that no one will ever think of coming again to hear us stammer in a foreign tongue. Should he, or any other person, again ask how long we are going to stay, and how much longer they will have to bear with us, show them Isa 6:11,12 and say that when the prophet asked, “how long” he should prophesy, the Lord said, “Till the land be an utter desolation, and the inhabitants be
Arpee, 104. Arpee, 105. 39 Bebbington, 3. 40 Chopourian, 30.
removed far away;” but that we, by the grace of God, were going to stay and prophesy till the land should be greatly blessed, and the people brought very nigh and made very happy as “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”41 In fact, this dissenting element is probably the greatest contribution for its growth. Like Protestantism in Germany under Luther’s leadership, the common person could relate to their dissent, admire their courage and evangelical message of God’s redemption.42 As Lewis writes, “…It is useful to remember that evangelicalism began as a series of inter-connected renewal movements within state-church European Protestant regimes with leaders who saw themselves as direct descendants' of the Protestant Reformation and who manifested that Reformation heritage in their sharp opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.”43 Armenian leaders felt the need for reform and a return to “sola scriptura” in their state-church. Their response to the Armenian Apostolic Church persecutors reveals this priority and their commitment to dissent, no matter the cost: ,”….although we are commonly called Protestants. However, we again declare that we are Armenians by nations, Christians by faith, and obedient subjects of the Ottoman government. Nevertheless, if in religious or civil matters we be in error-for we do not claim to be infallible-we gladly admit it, if you will deign to point out error to us. You well know that the conviction of the human mind is effected only by the presentation of truth, not by the exercise of force; and in the fear of God we can do nothing against our conscience.”44
Lastly, for us to understand the growth of the evangelical movement we must consider the sociopolitical climate the Armenians and Armenians received their message. In fact, according to one author, evangelicalism in America was potent due to its ability to respond to social disruption.45
Arpee, 111. It is ironic that the negative promise of this prophecy to Isaiah was fulfilled. Around 1890 the Ottoman Turks began a systematic effort to kill, displace, and claim Armenian land as their own. Historians regard this as the “Armenian Genocide”. If the genocide was a fulfillment of God’s judgment or a random act evil is theologically unknown. Nevertheless, the spiritual state of Armenians has remained the same or degenerated into passive skepticism due the influence of communism from Russia. 42 Leon Arpee, “The Armenian Awakening a History of the Armenian Church, 1820-186” (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1909) pg.104. 43 Lewis, 33. 44 Arpee, 120-121. 45 Noll, 155.
In Armenia, the evangelical message promised satisfaction in the midst of political uncertainty. In fact, Sultan of Turkey would not have headed the voice of European ambassadors who pushed for religious tolerance if it were not for the political troubles in his Empire.46
Conclusion We can see from the research that there seems to be some clear patterns of behavior with evangelicals and social realities amongst the recipients of their ministry that tend to guarantee the advancement of evangelical revivals.
Anderson, Allan. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Arpee, Leon. The Armenian Awakening a History of the Armenian Church, 1820-1860. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1909. Bebbington, D.W. Evangelicalism in Modern Britain New York, NY: Routledge, 2002. Chopourian, Giragos H. The Armenian Evangelical Reformation Causes and Effects. New York, NY: The Armenian Missionary Association of America, Inc, 1970. Lewis, Donald M. Christianity Reborn the Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Erdmans Publishing, 2004. Noll, Mark A. The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003. Tootikian, Vahan H. The Armenian Evangelical Church. Detriot, Michigan: Armenian Heritage Committee, 1981.