For some thirty years before the First World War, the Church of England maintained a mission of help to the Assyrian Church of the East (popularly known as the Nestorian church) in its then homeland, a corner of eastern Turkey and north-western Persia. The Mission had a controversial history. At home, not everyone could appreciate the rationale of a mission which was to aid an obscure and heretical body and which strictly forbade any conversions from this body to the Anglican church. In the field, the missionaries had to do battle with xenophobic governments, with rival American and French missions, and with the Assyrians themselves, whose confidence proved difficult to gain. In some respects the Mission was unsuccessful, but it had notable accomplishments, especially in scholarship and in ecumenical diplomacy.
Besides being the history of a Victorian missionary society, the present study deals in some detail with the history of the Assyrians in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - both as the survival of an ancient church with hierarchy, liturgy, and theological formulas, and as an ethnic minority in the Middle East. Illustrations and maps enhance the value of the book as a source for the history of the time and place. This is the first study of the relations between the church of England and the Church of the East, and is based on largely unpublished documents in English and Syriac.
`valuable contribution ... His magisterial control of the documents and his sensitivities to the mission effort provide a standard against which other analyses of mission organizations and programmes will be compared ... truly an important book'
Journal of Theological Studies
`an erudite and highly readable account of the Anglican Church's relations with the ancient Church of the East'
`Dr Coakley's very readable history charts the early contacts between the Church of England and the Assyrian Church ... This is an excellent addition to the history of Eastern Christian communities and the fruit of much careful research and perceptive insight into the motivation and vision of those concerned.'
The Glastonbury Bulletin
`For those who relish a rich blend of history, travelogue and theology, served up with unobtrusive but first-class scholarship, this will be a book to enjoy as well as to learn from.'
`This is an excellent study, and certainly fills a gap in nineteenth century missiology, and Anglican ecumenical relations.'
Bryan D. Spinks, Churchill College, Cambridge, Scottish Journal of Theology, 1993
'This intricate history is traced in considerable detail by Dr Coakley in this well-documented and learned work ... likely to remain the standard work on this somewhat recondite subject.'
Gerard Irvine, Theology
'Coakley has tried to find whatever he could on the various staff members of the mission and has followed his leads; he found a few more letters, unrevised diaries of published works, and albums of photographs, twenty-two of which are reproduced here, a rich visual complement ... fascinating book.'
John Joseph, Franklin and Marshall College, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 26:2
'Disappointing though the results of the missions usually were, one cannot but admire the heroism of the missionaries, especially after reading J.F. Coakley's enthralling account of the Anglican mission to the Church of the East. Dr Coakley gives a thorough description of the Assyrian mission which is fascinating to read ... his book is an invaluable chapter in the history of relations not only between the Western Churches and the Eastern communities but
between the West and the East more generally.'
Alastair Hamilton, University of Amsterdam, Heythrop Journal, July 1994
'It is remarkable for its archival detective work, scholarly precision, and appreciative tone...There are some wonderful photographs and fascinating footnotes.
International Bulletin of Missionary Research
'this book should be added to library collections on Middle East mission ... It is a solid record taken from previously unpublished letters and articles seldom used. The quotations from these sources, 429 footnotes, and a select bibliography are invaluable resources for Middle East scholars.'
Paul Morgan Musser, Missiology: An International Review, Vol. XXII, No. 3, July 1994
'One of the great merits of Coakley's book is that it gives a variety of interesting and acute perspectives on the ecumenical and educational achievements of the Mission ... this history of the Assyrian Mission makes a valuable contribution to the general political and social history of the area as a background to the main events.'
Nelida Fuccaro, University of Durham, The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 21, number 1
'This scholarly and carefully-researched work is an important contribution both to the modern history of the Syrian Church of the East and to the study of missions and their methods. The first thing to be praised in Dr Coakley's book is the very necessary, and beautifully clear, explanation of terminology in his introduction. It is hard to do justice to the impressiveness of this book. ... a vivid sense of the day-to-day devotion of these Christian men
and women who lived so hard, and gave up so much, in face of every kind of hardship and frequent frustration. ... this book will deliver a message which is no less impressive for its quietness.'
Robert Murray. Sobornost incorporating Eastern Churches Review, Volume 16:2 1994
`Coakley tells this story of grinding tragedy with insight, formidable command of the sources (both English and Syriac), and with dignity. Superb and haunting scholarship.'
Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Brown University, Religious Studies Review, Volume 21, Number 2/April 1995