"An Appeal for Sound Missionaries in Siam" by Boon Mark Gittisarn (December 29, 1949)
In the late 1940s, the Protestant churches in Thailand were in transition. American Presbyterian missionaries who had left during the war had returned and expected to pick up where they left off in 1941. However, they failed to sufficiently account for the wishes and expectations of Thai Christian leaders who had overseen their own churches for many years during the missionaries' absence during the war.
Boon Mark Gittsarn was one of those Thai leaders who was not content for missionaries to call the shots. Boon Mark left his denomination, the Church of Christ in Thailand, and resigned his pastorate at Second Church in Bangkok to start a new, independent church simply called Bangkok Church. The American Presbyterian Mission, which had founded and was heavily invested in the Church of Christ in Thailand, was headed in an ecumenical and modernistic direction that de-emphasized evangelism in favor of schools, hospitals, and development work.
But Boon Mark was all about evangelism and had strongly fundamentalist leanings. As indicated in the article below, at the end of 1949, Boon Mark connected with the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), an organization started by American fundamentalist Carl McIntire in direct opposition to the World Council of Churches. This connection provided for Boon Mark an avenue to amplify his complaints about the American Presbyterian Mission to a broader American Christian (fundamentalist) public who would have been sympathetic to his concerns. The article below was written by Boon Mark and appeared on page 4 of McIntire's newspaper, "Christian Beacon" on Dec 29, 1949.
An Appeal for Sound Missionaries in Siam
Thursday December 11, 1949
Dear Friends in the Fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ:
When I came back from my northern trip, visiting the churches, I found a short note from Rev. John Young, whom I had not known before, who wanted to see me. I cannot make it out what is the business. Next day Rev. Young came and he told me about the I.C.C.C. of which I had not heard before. Wonderfully we have a long conversation about the churches and the problems of the East. They have invited me to their meeting. They let me have a privilege as one of their delegates. I really have a great joy to have a part in the service as interpretation and translation. We really have a real joy in the fellowship and service.
I used to be a pastor of the Second Church of Bangkok. It was because of the modernism and the lukewarm of elders and deacons so I resigned from the pastorship and put up my own independent church. Our new church grows in every way. In the evangelistic work our team has traveled throughout Siam, north, south, east, and west. We have sold in a year’s time nearly hundred thousands of Scripture portions and religious tracts. We are not only preaching the Gospel but visiting and encouraging churches.
Now I want to tell you the real situation of churches in Siam. There are about seventy churches in the Church of Christ in Thailand. But there are about five churches that are able to support the pastor and there are only two churches that have pastors at present. They have reported in the year 1947 they have about 1400 new converts, and this year they reported that more than one house were cut off from the rolls of the churches. I just came back from visiting churches and I found out that most of the churches go backward and degenerate. one of the churches has about 300 members and the offering is only about 100 ticals per month, equal to only five dollars U.S. The members are not poor; they have money to smoke cigars and chew betel nut, which will cost them about 15 ticals monthly. If every one of them will give to the church that much for one person, the offering will run up to 1500 ticals. For that sum of money they can be self-supporting and self-propagating and they can have one evangelist of their own. One of the churches has about 200 members and there are only ten persons attending the church on Sunday. I have explained all of these things to you so I can show you how bad the situation is. The church and mission cannot better the condition, though they have tried their best in their own way. There is one chief reason for these degradings.
It is because of modernism. There are too many modernistic missionaries and nearly all of the churches are in their control. Of course, the modernistic group has more power and they have their say. The fundamentalist has to do what they (the modernists) have decided. I know one of our good missionaries who wanted to have position in the seminary, but they put a modernist in the place. The poor missionary has a broken heart, and he has gone home sick and died there in America. Most of the native leaders have to do what they say or else they have to be silent.
The Presbyterian Mission has accomplished three steps and now they come to the fourth step, that is, the step of brotherly partnership. Mission and church are in partnership but there is no sign of progressing. I dare to say that my church alone has done in the evangelistic field more than all the mission and the church combined. I am not in the position of boasting, but I want our friends to know the real situation of the mission and Churches of Christ in Siam.
The activities of the mission are almost entirely localized to the schools and hospitals. The missionaries are happy to preach and teach in their school and hospital but they neglect the masses. More than half of the workers on their staffs are Buddhists and most of their “Christian” workers are worldly and modernistic. What can we expect from such organizations? “Money and dollar gold I have, but I cannot tell you to rise up and walk.” More than one hundred and twenty years old is the age of the church and mission but still they are lying down on the bed nursing and cannot walk. The very moment we separate from the old church and old mission we can walk right away, and we can run also! They make the excuse that the churches are poor and have no good leaders. That is not true. The church is not poor and there are many good leaders. When the missionaries had lost the spirit of evangelizing and sacrificing, what are we going to expect of the native leaders? There you are. One hundred and twenty years and we have only dying churches!
Now I want to appeal to you, our dear friends of the fundamental faith, as following:
- Send us many fundamental missionaries, like the early missionaries who came here, who will do the pioneer work and evangelize Siam.
- We do not want to have school and hospital but we want to have a real fundamental Bible school in Bangkok which is the center of the whole country.
- There are many good missionaries of many missions, the Missionary Alliance, the Pentecostal, the World Wide Evangelistic Crusade. These missions do not join the Church of Christ in Thailand or World Council of Churches, but they do not speak out against the modernist and social gospel. So we want the missionaries who will not be silent but try their best to win the modernistic church back to the old faith.
- We want to have a center in Bangkok so that we can carry on the Lord’s work effectively.
- We want to have some good literature on the Bible course and biography of the good missionaries.
All of these things are needed immediately, for the churches are dying and non-Christians are perishing daily.
Boon Mark Gittisarn
(Pastor of the Bangkok Church)