Born and brought up in a Protestant parsonage in southwestern Germany, Coerper had a personal awakening while studying for the ministry that brought him into contact with pietist circles. After ten years as a parish pastor he was called in 1899 to Hamburg, where, following Hudson Taylor’s suggestion, he founded a German branch of the China Inland Mission (CIM). A similar attempt had already been made in 1897 at Kiel, after a visit by Taylor, but this effort had been taken over by the Berklum Mission. Thus it was left to Coeper to transplant the CIM heritage to Germany—a difficult undertaking in a country where several notable mission operations for China already had been initiated.
Transfer of the headquarters to Liebenzell, in southwestern Germany, the hinterland of the powerful Basel Mission, led Coeper to enlist support of neo-pietist groups like the German branch of Christian Endeavor, which enabled him to set up his Liebenzeller Mission as a more self-contained agency.
Overseas work was begun in the Chinese provinces of Hunan (1901) and Guizhou (1906), then in Micronesia, and, after World War I, in Japan. Even after Coeper’s retirement in 1936, the mission retained its specific stance of evangelicalism in loyalty to the German regional churches.
This story is reproduced, with permission, from Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions.
- Kurt Emil Koch, Heinrich Coerper und sein Werk (1964).