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Fifty years of The Bible Missionary

Bible Missionary number 1 Bible Missionary number 180

The Bible Missionary is 50 years old. The first number was published in May 1956 and it has been kept going for half a century, firstly at four-month intervals and later quarterly, by its editors, Alfred Norris (17 years), Peter Watkins, David Rowley, Graham Jackman (16 years) and Tony Jarvis.

How the knowledge of the Gospel has been spread abroad in those 50 years! In the first issue of the magazine Harry Tennant wrote of the divine purpose in the command "Let there be light" and the Brotherhood's mission "that Thy way may be known upon earth".

In that first issue the editor reported the preaching that was under way in France, Scandinavia and British Guiana. But now, half a century later, the journal is filled with good news from the four corners of the earth! Truly, as the prophet Daniel learned, concerning the time of the end:

"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever . . . Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." (Daniel 12:3,4 NIV)

The birth of the CBM

The Bible Missionary came into being as the organ of the new Christadelphian Bible Mission, which had been set up in October 1955. This came about as the result of a series of providential events. After World War II the Christadelphian ALS (Auxiliary Lecturing Society) decided to build on the evident success of the pre-war Vacational Campaigns movement and on the work of the National Campaign in 1942 to "preach the Gospel in every town and village in Britain". Much to the consternation of doubters who saw mountains of stumbling blocks in going outside British shores, the ALS decided they would advertise in European newspapers!

The advertisements were duly placed in leading journals in France, Norway and Holland, and there was a goodly response. The Oslo Aftenposten insert on 4 January 1947, for example, brought 178 replies, which were followed up by Brother Tom Barling and his team. The result was that Helge Myrvang of Eidsvoll came to Britain to be baptised in 1948. Thereafter, preaching efforts followed in Orléans in France and in Oslo and Eidsvoll in 1950 and these merited regular follow-up campaigns.

Then, in 1953, Sister Lorraine Spence of British Guiana, who had been baptised by Brother Roland Smith during a working contract in that country, came on holiday to Britain. Roland took her on a Bible campaign in Montrose, Scotland, led by Brother Harry Whittaker. She was so moved by this method of preaching that she cried: "Why can't something like this be done in our struggling ecclesia in Georgetown?" This was the catalyst for a six weeks mission to Guiana in 1955 by Brothers Harry Whittaker and Alan Hayward.

Already, a letter from five brothers had been sent to the Secretary of the ALS, pleading for overseas preaching to be coordinated and financial appeals to be made to British ecclesias. After the exciting reports of the response in Guiana, as well as the work in Europe, a conference of involved brothers and ALS members was arranged for 29 October 1955. With much enthusiasm a committee of nine was appointed. At their first meeting they decided upon the name "Christadelphian Bible Mission - the Overseas Section of the ALS" and within a few months there were active missionary operations in Africa, the Caribbean islands and South America, as well as in Holland, Germany, France and Scandinavia.

While remembering those who laboured so mightily in the Word in earlier years, particularly in the nineteenth century, this dynamic half century has, under the Father's good hand, been a remarkable period. It has seen the formation of the ACBM (Australasian Christadelphian Bible Mission) in 1962, the CBMA (CBM of the Americas, formerly the Pacific Coast CBM) in 1968, and more recently the CBM(SA) in South Africa in 1997.

The Bible Mission in the UK has since been separated from the ALS and has been company registered as the CBM. The CBM Guide now lists over 130 countries where the four Bible Missions are preaching. But, with God's help, there is yet more to be done; there are sheaves of harvest grain still to be gathered in.

Stanley Owen
from The Bible Missionary, no. 180, April 2006

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