Missionary Training

Name Abstract
Gossner (1836) and the Berlin Mission Societies

Because Berlin was home to three protestant mission training organisations, these are easily confused, when actually they stood in sometimes fierce competition with each other, one being old-Lutheran, one being aligned with the Lutheran state church (which condoned the persecution of old-Lutherans), and one attempting to be supra-confessional. All the divisions and rifts between Protestants in the mission field coalesced in Berlin. Jänicke established a missionary training institution in 1800 which was continued by (old-Lutheran) Rückert. The Berliner Missionsgesellschaft was formed in 1824 under the umbrella of the Prussian State Church, and the pietist Gossner Mission emerged in 1836.

Basel Mission Society (1815)

This was a strategic transnational joint venture to train missionaries for the colonial fields and prospective territories of the protestant colonial powers. The only missionary training seminary that preceded it in Germany was that operated by Jänicke and Rückert in Berlin. The success of the Basel Mission Society set off a string of similar ventures in Berlin, Barmen, Hamburg and elsewhere, however, Basel’s advantage as a non-German headquarters eventually revealed itself in the world wars, when Germans were extradited or interned.

Neuendettelsau Mission Society (1841)

The Neuendettelsau mission society near Nürnberg in Bavaria became very influential in mission activities in New Guinea as soon as Germany claimed that territory, alongside the Rhenish and Steyler mission societies. The key figure in that involvement was Rev. Johann Flierl who also founded Elim mission at Cape Bedford, later conducted by Rev. Schwarz. Other luminaries from Neuendettelsau were Rev. Carl F. Th. Strehlow of Finke River and Hermannsburg, and Rev. Paul Löhe, a founder of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia in 1921 and its theological seminary in Adelaide in 1923.

Moravians (Herrnhut) (1722-1869)

The Moravians are a pietist community of brethren, properly called Unitas Fratrum, who emanated from a refugee village organised by Zinzendorf at Herrnhut (Saxony, Germany) from where they missionised around the globe. They had a strong commitment to spreading the word of Christ and understood themselves as a remnant people, which gave them a ready identification with many of the peoples whom they missionised, who were also exiled from their homelands, disempowered and diminished in number.


In Australia some thirty Moravian brethren missionaries from Germany and Britain were active for almost seventy years, from 1850 to 1919. Their entry into the Australian colonies was initiated by Charles LaTrobe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, from a family of noted Moravians. Moravians started missions at Lake Boga (1850-56), Ebenezer (1858-1904), and Ramahyuck (1862-1907), they also made an attempt in South Australia at Lake Kopperamanna (1866-68), and in Queensland Moravians were at Mapoon (1891-1919), Weipa and Aurukun (1898-1919). The 'Moravian model' became a powerful inspiration for missionising. The first Aboriginal mission in Queensland at Zion Hill was also designed ‘along Moravian lines’.

Hermannsburg Mission Society (1849)

Hermannsburg Mission Society was founded by Ludwig Harms in 1849 in a spirit of post-revolutionary revivalism and rebellion. Hermannsburgers were active in Australia for thirty years and tended to adhere to a strictly Lutheran confessionalism, which contributed to the factionalism dividing the Australian Lutheran communities for decades. It has become a centre for world mission and operates today as a mission society of the Lutheran state church of Hannover (Lower Saxony).

Hermannsburg missionaries became involved in Tswana and Zulu missions in South Africa, Tamil and Dalit missions in India, Tartar missions in Georgia, Kurdish missions in Persia, missions in Brasil, Ethiopia and central Africa and the ‘inner mission’ among immigrants in North America and elsewhere. In New Zealand they were involved in Maori mission (1876-1892) and in Australia in the well-known missions to the Dieri (1866 to 1874, at Coopers Creek) and among the Aranda (1875 to 1894 at Finke River, Hermannsburg). Hermannsburg graduates in the Brisbane area formed the German-Scandinavian Lutheran synod which initiated a mission at Mari Yamba.

Dresden Mission Society

The Dresden Mission Society was the first confessional Lutheran mission society established in Germany. The Australian colonies became its first mission engagement in 1838, at the same time as the first Gossner missionaries also arrived in Australia. The theological formation of the Dresden missionaries set them at odds with colonial policy.

Jesuits in the Northern Territory (1882-1902)

The first Catholic presence in the Northern Territory was a string of Jesuit missions in Darwin and the Daly River area, conducted for twenty years, with nineteen of the twenty-one staff Austro-Hungarian German-speakers.