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The City Mission movement started in Glasgow in January 1826 when David Nasmith, founded the Glasgow City Mission (Scotland). It was an interdenominational agency working alongside churches and other Christian agencies to provide for the spiritual and material welfare of those in need.
Agencies in the movement are variously called "City" or "Gospel" or "Rescue" Missions.
- Jesus said "I have come to preach the gospel to the poor, freedom to captives, to give sight to the blind, and free those that suffer" (Luke 4:18)
- In accordance with contemporary social welfare practice the objective of missions is not to keep their clients dependent upon handouts but to give them skills and the Christian environment to release them from their poverty, addiction or problems. For some people this is not achievable and long term support may be necessary.
The City Mission movement is worldwide:
- with the dual purpose of providing spiritual ministry and meeting human need to the most disadvantaged in whatever form necessary in the local community. This includes the poor, hungry, unemployed, sick, homeless, abused, socially disadvantaged, psychologically disturbed, intellectually impaired, drug and alcohol addicted people, in prison, aged, underprivileged, uneducated and minorities. The projects/programs provided range from spiritual, food, clothing, accommodation, education at all levels, living skills, spiritual counsel, agriculture, sustainable living, self-help programs, welfare/human services programs, health care, drug and alcohol programs, rehabilitation of offenders. There are many other areas in which missions work to make a difference in the lives of people worldwide. The services are provided with compassion and without discrimination
The City Mission World Association (CMWA) provides the opportunity for the various missions to meet and support each other, membership is open to incorporated Christian organisations or associations that:
- subscribes to the fundamental truths of the Bible.
- targets its ministry at a city or urban population
- combines evangelistic and caring (diaconia) ministry to those with human need due to suffering, distress, misfortune and/or helplessness.
Nasmith visited the United States and Canada in 1830, setting up 31 missions supported by various benevolent institutions. He founded missions in France, the London City Mission, the London Female Mission, the Dublin Christian Mission and a number of other ministries.
The first World Conference of City Missions was sponsored by the Sydney City Mission (now Mission Australia) was held in Sydney Australia in 1988.
Subsequent conferences were in:
- Birmingham, England, 1991 that formed the City Mission World Association (CMWA)
- Washington DC, USA, 1994
- Helsinki Finland 1997
- Glasgow Scotland 2000
- Sydney Australia 2003
- Kansas City MO, USA, 2006
- Australia - Mission Australia
- USA -Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
- UK and Ireland - British Association of City Missions
- Website of City Mission World Association, as of 2012, see link below.