“Stand for the New Testament order and trust God for the consequences": Sarah Andrews and the emergence of Churches of Christ as a global Christian tradition, 1916-1961
Hegi, Jeremy Paul
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This dissertation examines the role that Churches of Christ missionary Sarah Andrews (1863-1961) played in transforming the denomination’s identity in the twentieth century. In partnership with Japanese missionary Iki Naemura, Andrews extended the presence of the denomination to southern Japan. This international growth of Churches of Christ inculcated a global consciousness within the North American denomination. Moving beyond denominational concerns centered on its geographic region in the American South, by the mid-twentieth century, Churches of Christ existed as an international network of congregations with a presence in forty different countries across the globe. Discourse about Andrews by denominational leaders reflected a growing self- awareness as a global Christian tradition as Churches of Christ moved beyond its American origins. Andrews shaped Churches of Christ in the twentieth century both directly and indirectly: she extended the global presence of the denomination and also became a mirror in which denominational leaders reflected the developing identity of their tradition. This dissertation resituates Andrews’s importance to American Christianity beyond denominational hagiography and standard historiographical interpretations of women in the American missionary movement. By examining Churches of Christ history through the lens of its chief missionary woman, this dissertation demonstrates how integrating women’s history into the historical narrative challenges the established historiography. The project traces how Churches of Christ’s perception of Andrews’s role was transformed over her forty-five-year career. When she left for Japan in 1916, Churches of Christ leaders saw her as subservient to male authority. As the years progressed, however, Andrews’s stature as a missionary grew. In the periodical culture of Churches of Christ during this period she inhabited a series of images that reflected denominational leaders’ growing perception of Churches of Christ as a global Christian tradition. These shifting images reflect the growth of Churches of Christ’s global presence and identity in the twentieth century. Sarah Andrews dwelt in a tension in Churches of Christ orthodoxy that both enabled her success and ingratiated her to the leaders of the denomination. On the one hand, she subordinated herself to the strict boundaries surrounding women’s public roles in the denomination. On the other hand, she creatively navigated those boundaries as she developed male indigenous leadership and planted churches that reflected the doctrinal commitments of Churches of Christ. As a result, a network of congregations emerged in southern Japan that would not only have the fortitude to withstand the turbulent years of World War II, but also symbolize the emergence of Churches of Christ as a global Christian tradition. Andrews’s story serves as a case study that demonstrates how global connections shaped the identity of an American Protestant denomination.
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