Preservation and Reopening of the Records of the Episcopal Church in Liberia

Archives staff have recently completed the rehousing and preservation of an important collection of missionary correspondence with the Church in Liberia (1822-1952).

Though the Episcopal Church's first official mission was established in Liberia in 1836, the collection's earliest pieces of correspondence reflects the presence of Episcopal missionaries as early as 1822, when they arrived with a group of colonists. In 1828, several DFMS-trained  Episcopalians, including James Thomson and his wife, embarked unofficially for the West African coast and founded a mission school. The school was well-established by 1836, when the Church recognized the value of the work and formally made James Thomson the first missionary to Liberia. The consecration of Bishop John Payne in 1851 marked Liberia as a formal missionary diocese.

Work in Liberia began on the coast in Cape Palmas and over the next 100 years expanded into the interior of the country, establishing schools and clinics in remote regions and founding Cuttington College (now Cuttington University), which has survived temporary closures and political upheaval to remain one of Liberia's premier institutions of higher education. The collection includes some material related to Cuttington, including two histories of the institution.

Under the episcopacy of Bishop George Browne in 1982, the Episcopal Church in Liberia formally joined the Church of the Province of West Africa, but it has retained its covenant relationship with The Episcopal Church to this day. The letters in the Liberia Mission Personnel Records are a valuable resource for understanding the missionary experience in the numerous stations in Liberia, and trace the Church's evolving approach to its only African mission.

For more information, or to access our collections, please contact us.