An introduction to USPG's History

Throughout its existence of 300 plus years, USPG's role has been to contribute to and encourage the development of the Anglican Church – and more recently the United Churches – around the world. Over the centuries it has done this in different ways, but always with the aim of seeing churches thrive to become autonomous members of the Anglican Communion, contributing to both the life of the Anglican Church and the country they are part of.

USPG itself was formed in 1965 when the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) and the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) merged, with the Cambridge Mission to Delhi (CMD) joining in 1968, but the Society’s origin is in the Royal Charter of William III forming the SPG, which was issued to the Revd Dr Thomas Bray. It’s early focus was pastoral ministry and education among British settler communities in North America and the Caribbean, but the SPG’s work gradually extended worldwide and to all communities, and in the mid-19th century a third strand developed, medical work.

UMCA's creation was a response to David Livingstone’s speeches at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in 1857 following his return from his first journey across Africa. UMCA became a distinctive organisation, working in the area that became the countries of Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

The Cambridge Mission to Delhi was formed in 1877 to carry out the theologian, BF Westcott’s vision of a serious and respectful engagement with Indian religious tradition. Focussed on the city of Delhi and the surrounding area, much of its work was carried out by two religious communities, the Brotherhood of the Ascension and the Community of St Stephen, for women.

The rapidly changing world of the mid-20th century, and particularly decolonisation, challenged traditional mission thinking and activity, leading to new concepts developing which emphasised the interdependence of the world church with relationships becoming those of equal partners. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, USPG's role has increasingly become one of facilitation, enabling the movement of ideas, resources and people around the world church.