W. E. Blackstone has been called the “American Christian Father of Zionism.” In 1891, his “Blackstone Memorial,” signed by 400 prominent citizens and political and religious leaders, was directed to President Benjamin Harrison and European heads of state. This document called for the Jewish people to return to Palestine, an objective fulfilled when Israel became a nation in 1948.
But Blackstone influenced the founding of another movement that has touched many nations. At a conference convened by A. B. Simpson in Old Orchard, Maine, on August 9, 1886, Blackstone gave a powerful message entitled “The Need of the World and the Work of the Church.” The world’s need was overwhelming, Blackstone preached, but the church’s response was pitiful. (He pointed out that the per capita missionary giving of his Methodist church was 22 cents—enough to buy four cigars in the year!)
s named one of the twentieth century’s 10 most powerful Protestants by United Press International. For three decades, Clyde W. Taylor, often called “Mr. Evangelical,” led the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), whose worldwide constituency numbered in the millions. Based in Washington, D.C., he effectively raised the evangelical banner and gave the movement legitimacy. His gift for management helped him to organize many of the twentieth century’s most effective evangelical groups.
Quoting Matthew 24:14, Blackstone insisted that Jesus’ return was delayed until the last nation was evangelized. Singling out Tibet as that nation, the cry “Tibet only” became a call to action. “There is enough wealth . . . here on this campground to put a missionary in Tibet and keep him there,” Blackstone challenged. The response? In one hour, the crowd pledged nearly $30,000, enough to support 60 missionaries!
Blackstone’s electrifying message is credited with Simpson forming a new missionary organization at the Old Orchard convention the following year. “I can well remember,” Simpson had written earlier, “the nights I walked up and down the sandy beach at Old Orchard, Maine, in the summer of 1881 . . . and asked God . . . to raise up a great missionary movement to reach the neglected fields of the world, and utilize the neglected forces of the church at home.” He envisioned “souls yet to be born like the stars of heaven and the sands upon that seashore.”
In the January 1, 1882, issue of The Word, the Work and the World (now Alliance Life), Simpson asked, “Has the time arrived to form a new missionary organization?” His answer, encouraged by the response to world mission at that 1886 Old Orchard Conference, was a proposal in the July 1887 issue for the “organization and action” to create the Evangelical Missionary Alliance*.
Two men of vision played a role in forming The Alliance. W. E. Blackstone’s prayer, “Oh, for a tongue and power to wake up the church to her duty,” was answered, as was Simpson’s vision for the globalization of the gospel “by one mighty sweep of the Holy Spirit.”
That same Spirit sweeps through our Alliance today. Will you waken to the call?
*Merged with The Christian Alliance in 1897 to become The Christian and Missionary Alliance