[P4951] Missionary Renegades: Resisting the Metanarrative in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey

Created by Carolyn Goffman
Tuesday, 11/21/17 10:30am


American missionaries and educators on the ground in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey often found themselves at odds with their governing organizations back in the United States. While some clung to the Christian conversion project, others scrambled to find new ways to make themselves useful, desirable, and even indispensable, to the local populace.

This Panel comprises three narratives of renegade missionaries in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, showing how their relationships with local hosts not only inspired them to revise their missionary goals but also disrupted relationships with other missionaries and governing Boards back home.

Speaker One explores late-nineteenth century interactions between Syriac Orthodox Christians and American missionaries in the under-studied region of "Eastern Turkey," the area from Diyarbakir to Mosul. Placing American sources in dialogue with local documents written in Garshuni from the Patriarchal archives of the Syriac Church in Mardin, this paper demonstrates the collaborative and fluid relations among American missionaries and local Christian, Muslim, Armenian and Kurdish communities, and offers new insights into these wide-ranging but tightly knit communities.

Speaker Two describes the intensely pro-Turkish rhetoric of a former missionary educator who ultimately aligned herself with the goals of the new Turkish Republic. Mary Mills Patrick, president of the American College for Girls in Istanbul, had a long history of strategic adaptation to historical and political forces. As an educator of Armenian women, however, she was well aware of the massacres before and during the First World War. This paper compares two unpublished manuscripts that describe the horrors of "race hatred" in the Ottoman Empire with her published works that extol the value of a unified, homogenous Turkey, arguing that Patrick set aside her sympathy for the Armenians in favor of the College's continued existence.

Speaker Three explores the pacifist views of missionary Edith Parsons, who returned to Turkey in the 1920s as principal at the American Collegiate Institute in Bursa. During the Second World War, Parsons actively opposed the pro-war stance espoused by Reinhold Niebuhr's interventionist-advocating publication, Christianity and Crisis, which argued that pacifists were dangerously naïve. Drawing on primary sources that describe Turkey in wartime and the debates among Protestant groups, this paper explores the development of Parsons' pacifism against the backdrop of neutral Turkey, which nonetheless experienced the privations of war and the mobilization of Turkish men and resources to prepare for invasion that never came.





Faith J. Childress

(Rockhurst University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Allen Hibbard

(Middle Tennessee State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Carolyn Goffman

(DePaul University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Henry Clements

(Yale University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;