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The Society's Family Tree

Since 1823, the Society and its predecessors have changed their names to reflect the scope of its work a number of times. A closer look at these names gives an insight into ICS's development. Two separate strands of mission societies ultimately joined to form what is now ICS.

(Adapted from Brian Underwood's Faith Without Frontiers)

Canada and North America

Newfoundland Society for the
Education of the Poor
(Newfoundland School Society)

Founded 30 June 1823

In this, Britain's oldest colony, evangelicals were concerned for the spiritual state of the people. Samuel Codner, a fish merchant who traded there, called a meeting at the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill 'for the purpose of establishing a Society to promote the education of the numerous poor in Newfoundland.' The object of this Society was 'to teach the people the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the way of salvation in them.


Western Australia Missionary Society
Founded 30 September 1835

As the western Australian colonies began to grow, the need for spiritual provision for the settlers became more and more apparent. Existing mission agencies were not meeting the need, so the evangelical Western Australian Missionary Society was established for missionary work by Captain Frederick Chidley Irwin.


Newfoundland and British North American Society for Educating the Poor
Name change effective 13 May 1829

This name change reflects the wider vision of the Society, moving beyond Newfoundland into the rest of the Canadian and North American colonies. The Society saw there was great need for education and spiritual guidance.


Australian Church Missionary Society
Name change effective 1836

The Western Australia Missionary Society's work developed rapidly, particularly as emigration to Australia increased, and the new name reflected its broader geographical scope.


Church of England Society for educating the Poor of Newfoundland
and the Colonies

Name change effective 30 July 1846

The intention for this change of name was for the Society to become an official educational agency of the colonial church. This highlighted some of the tensions between such endeavour and missionary work. The Society had been founded to educate, but from the beginning was also alert to more general missionary opportunities.


Colonial Church Society
Name change effective 1838

This new name reflected the desire to see the Society's field of operations expanding to meet needs in all colonies, particularly as The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), the only other missionary organisation that had been focused on the colonies said that they could not meet the needs of all those asking for help. The Society broadened its scope to all the colonies, with the aim of sending out workers to minister to not only British colonies but also other areas where there were English-speakers. Work was thus undertaken in North America, South Africa and Europe.

The Colonial Church and School Society
Founded 1 January 1851

Both the above strands were working within the colonial field and were based on the same evangelical principles, with the same support base and areas of work.
The merger brought the benefits of one large colonial Society that would secure the support of the whole evangelical body of the Church of England and also, reduced administration costs enabled more funds to be put into the work itself. The geographical scope of the new Society ranged from Canada, North America, South America, India, West Indies, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and increasingly, Europe was a major focus of its efforts.

Colonial and Continental Church Society
Name change effective 1861

The new name reflected the twin spheres of operation for the Society - the colonies and continental Europe. It continued to pioneer work amongst English-speakers and also worked amongst foreign language groups in British territories.

Commonwealth and Continental Church Society
Name change effective 1 July 1958

The two World Wars of the 20th Century had a major impact on the work of the Society, and much of the work had to be suspended during the conflicts. Resulting economic issues led to there being an emphasis on work in the colonies becoming self supporting. By 1950 the Missionary Society of the Canadian Church has assumed responsibility for most of the work previously funded by the Society there, as the founding of the Bush Church-Aid Society in Australia in 1919 had led to Australian work becoming self supporting. This new name reflected the realities of decolonisation and the development of the Commonwealth

Intercontinental Church Society
Name change effective 11 June 1979

Abbreviation: ICS

The majority of the Society's work was now outside of the Commonwealth as the spiritual needs of an increasingly post-Christian Europe dominated the agenda. (Briefly the Society was known as Intercon during the 1980's.)



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