Lottie Moon (A Biographical Sketch): Navigating Theological and Missiological Controversy

Lottie was back in America for less than a year, she sailed for China again in November of 1877. However the time she had spent in America was time enough for her to renew some sort of contact with Crawford Toy. [1]  Toy was a language professor who she new well from her days at the Albemarle Female Institute. He was now a professor at the newly formed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some suppose that he possibly proposed marriage to Lottie during the early days of the Civil War, but the war had intervened.[2]

A flurry of letters were exchanged between Toy and Lottie once she was back on Chinese soil and momentarily it seemed as though Lottie Moon and Crawford Toy would be married. However, a stark theological difference appeared to be in the way. Toy had embraced Darwinian Evolution and this seemed at odds with Lottie’s understanding of the Scriptures. Lottie sought to understand things from Toy’s perspective and read the books he sent her; however, she could not be reconciled to Toy’s beliefs.[3] For Lottie, Toy’s liberalism, especially his non-historical view of Genesis was a deal breaker and the wedding never took place.[4] With her sister Edmonia back in the United States and her marriage plans cancelled, Lottie Moon had cut all ties to the Western World and fully immersed herself in mission work.[5]

Before Lottie had returned to the United States it was apparent that there was tension on the mission field.  T. P. Crawford and James Boardman Hartwell were both assigned to the Tengchow district and were at odds with one another over business issues and mission policy. Crawford had business dealing with natives from Hartwell’s church and made demands for the church to discipline its member. However, Hartwell’s church insisted on censuring Crawford instead and a feud between the two men and their churches ensued. [6]

Lottie walked a fine line between the rival missionaries and did a great deal to keep the peace on the mission field. Possibly unaware of the extent Crawford’s private business, Lottie was, “loyal to Crawford.”[7] She would invoke the wrath of Hartwell later when she moved into his China residence after it had been vacant for some time while he was on an indefinite furlough in America. Despite the difficult situation, Miss Moon kept the peace by remaining maintaining her membership at Crawford’s church while also supporting Hartwell’s North Street congregation.[8]

Somewhere in the middle of the opposition between Crawford and Hartwell was the issue of paying native pastors. Crawford was vehemently in opposition to natives receiving funds from the Mission Board. He would later write and deliver a paper entitled, “The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Employment of the Native Assistants.”[9] This issue would eventually cause Hartwell to break ranks with the Foreign Mission Board, accusing the board of being unscriptural; he would make his appeal for missionaries to be supported by churches alone. At a time when unity was much needed, Crawford became an active force for schism within the denomination as well as its mission board.[10]

Miss Moon began an earnest inquiry into the Chinese culture and developed her own sense of missionary strategy. One element of particular interest was the issue of dressing like the culture. Other mission agencies were shaving heads and dawning authentic Chinese garb with much success, while others close to Lottie were critical of Chinese dress.[11] Lottie would eventually navigate a position that would allow for her to dress like the Chinese and embrace their culture as long as it was not contrary to the Scriptures.[12]

[1] Ibid.,112-119.

[2] Irwin T. Hyatt. Our Ordered Lives Confess: Three Nineteenth-Century American Missionaries in East Shantung. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 98.


[3] Hyatt., 98-99.

[4] Mohler.

[5] Hyatt, 99.

[6] Allen. The New Lottie Moon Story, 105.

[7] Ibid. 106.

[8] Allen, The New Lottie Moon Story, 106-107.

[9] Ibid. 120.

[10] Ibid., 196-197.

[11] Hyatt, 101-102.

[12] Philip A. Pinckard. “Lottie Moon.” Lecture, MISS 5330 Christian Missions Workshop from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, LA, January 5, 2012.


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