A missionary hero

I've been inspired learning about the history of 19th century Canadian missionary George Leslie Mackay. Mackay went to Taiwan in 1874, settled in the north of the island (where there were no other missionaries), and in almost thirty years of ministry saw many local churches started. He appointed local leaders for the local churches, rather than choose to lead them himself. Although sent by the Canadian Presbyterian Mission, he refused to establish formal Presbyterian government in the Taiwanese churches, saying this would be an accretion from another culture. (There is an irony here, his insistence that local believers ought to be free to organize their churches as they felt led is actually a vibrant example of the core Presbyterian idea that churches should be led by elected elders).

One biography concludes with this inspiring quote:
Possessing an authoritarian temperament, as his critics correctly charged, he exercised his power to carve out for the native Christians a degree of autonomy and freedom perhaps unparalleled among China missions of his day. That he is still lionized in Taiwan by Christians and non-Christians alike, long after most other Victorian missionaries have been forgotten or deconstructed, testifies to the enduring bonds that mutual affection and respect can forge between people of sharply different cultures.
"Authoritarian temperament" is probably a good academic way of saying he was a stubborn old coot, but if so, he was stubborn about good things -- to preach the Word, to adapt to the local culture and to believe God could guide and equip the local converts without importing church policies and structures from his Canadian culture.

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