On a cold winter day in November 1881, Rev. Albert Benjamin Simpson resigned from his pastorate at the prestigious Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. Two weeks after his resignation, he conducted a meeting in the Caledonian Club Hall on West Thirteenth Street and Eighth Avenue. Seven other people showed up on that Sunday to huddle in a “cold and cheerless dance hall” to seek God’s will on evangelism and missions. Little would they know the fire of the Holy Spirit would radiate from this little prayer gathering to form an international mission movement that would eventually become known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Driven by a passion to know Jesus Christ (Deeper Life) and make Him known to the nations (Missions), A. B. Simpson formed two organizations: the Christian Alliance (1887) and, not long after, the Evangelical Missionary Alliance. The Christian Alliance is a “fraternal union”, a fellowship of like-minded Christians, regardless of denominational backgrounds, with the sole purpose of pursuing a deeper and fuller relationship with Jesus Christ in order to support efforts to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. The Evangelical Missionary Alliance, on the other hand, provides training, sending, and strategic planning for missionary deployments. In April 1897, the two organizations amalgamated to become one, called The Christian and Missionary Alliance – with deeper life and missions as its foundational values.
By focusing on the Person of Jesus Christ, A. B. Simpson was able to unite this movement, consolidating efforts to send workers into the mission field. Conventions were held throughout the United States and Canada. The Missionary Training Institute was established in New York in 1889 to provide training and sending out of workers. By 1893, the Alliance had become a missionary force. Within a span of six years, 180 missionaries were sent out to work on 40 missionary stations in 12 fields, including Congo (Zaire), Sudan, India, China, Japan, Bulgaria, Palestine, Alaska, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
The Christian and Missionary Alliance Movement in Canada
While the work of the C&MA was taking off in the United States, God was creating a parallel movement in Canada. In December 1882, Rev. John Salmon began ministry in Toronto (near Bloor and Yonge), where he embraced and taught the Fourfold Gospel. Not everyone in the church accepted his teaching on divine healing (Christ the Healer). On February 1, 1887, Rev. Salmon began an interdenominational ministry at his home, focusing on the Fourfold Gospel. Attendees were from a variety of Protestant traditions, including Congregationalists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Plymouth Brethren, just to name a few. The movement soon became province-wide. Two years later, John Salmon invited A. B. Simpson to Toronto to explain the works of Christian Alliance and Evangelical Missionary Alliance. This visit resulted in a union between the American and Canadian movements, with Canada having its own national body, named The Dominion Auxiliary Branch of the Christian Alliance. On January 1, 1981, this Canadian auxiliary branch became a fully autonomous entity, known as The Christian and Missionary Alliance Canada, under the leadership of its first president, Rev. Melvin P. Sylvester.
The Canadian branch of the Christian Alliance elected William Holmes Howland (1844-1893) as its first President, with John Salmon as Vice President. Howland, an Anglican, was Toronto’s 25th mayor (1886-1887). Under his leadership, Toronto was nicknamed “Toronto the Good”. Howland and Salmon would frequent the slums of Toronto, ministering to the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. The young Robert A. Jaffray would eventually join the Alliance movement in Canada, and commissioned to work in China by A. B. Simpson at a church on 1249 Queen Street West, Toronto.
The Mother of Chinese Alliance Churches in Canada
In 1932, Ruby Johnston of the Alliance Gospel Hall in Regina Saskatchewan noticed the large number of Chinese immigrants in the area. Calling on her friends, she purchased and distributed Chinese gospel tracts. Within a few years, the Chinese who became Christians began fellowship and worship gathering at homes. In 1955, the ministry was officially named Regina Chinese Christian Fellowship. The first Chinese Alliance Church in Canada, named Regina Chinese Alliance Church, was organized in 1961 with Rev. Augustus Chao as their first pastor. For Ruby Johnston’s earnest involvement ministering to Chinese immigrants, she is affectionately titled as the “Mother of Chinese Alliance Churches in Canada”. Ruby passed away in 1983.
Seeing the need for fellowship among Chinese churches, the Canadian Chinese Alliance Churches Association was formed on September 9, 1967 in Regina. Beginning with 4 churches, it has grown to over 90 member churches day, with more than 200 pastors serving 22,000 congregation members, with 40 International Workers.