Henry Venn was born and bred among the British evangelical aristocracy at Clapham. Wilberforce, Grant, Macaulay, Stephen, and Thornton were at the height of their powers -- leading the campaign against slavery, promoting public morals, founding philanthropic and missionary societies -- at the turn of the nineteenth century.
As powerful leader of the most prominent British missionary society from 1841 to 1872, Venn unhesitatingly used his connections with politicians and statesmen to further the missionary cause. He often found himself at odds with government, but he mastered the art of lobbying skillfully for his interest.
Henry Venn was a man of generous hospitality who entertained countless guests in his home. Sir Leslie Stephen, his nephew, conjectured that in evangelical circles noted for their somber mood Venn must have been something of an embarrassment with his irrepressible humor.
Venn was an outstanding administrator. Early on he perceived the need to provide the missionary movement with a clear theoretical framework. Out of his search for principles of missionary action emerged the indigenous church ideal that has figured prominently in all missionary thinking since.