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Two world Christian groups honor Methodist leader John Mott

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John Raleigh Mott
Nov. 7, 2005

By Stephen Brown*

GENEVA (ENI) — John Raleigh Mott, a Nobel Peace Laureate who was the first honorary president of the World Council of Churches, has been honored in Geneva where the ecumenical organization has its headquarters.

At a Nov. 4 tribute of Mott — who died in 1955 at the age of 89 — the Rev. Samuel Kobia, the WCC’s chief executive, noted one of the sayings of the U.S. Methodist layperson: “Plan as if there were no such thing as prayer. Pray as if there were no such thing as planning.”

Kobia, who is a Methodist himself, was accepting a gift to the WCC of a portrait of Mott from the World Student Christian Federation, of which the New York-born Methodist was a founder, chief executive and chairman. The federation celebrates its 110th anniversary this year.

It was in these roles, and as president of the World Alliance of Young Men’s Christian Associations, that Mott helped to build the network of movements, conferences, agencies and churches that would make possible the creation of the WCC in 1948, Kobia noted.

Mott, who grew up in Iowa, began his career as a missionary statesman in the Student Volunteer Movement of the late 19th century, and soon thereafter became a traveling secretary for the YMCA. He was one of the six founders of the World Student Christian Federation in 1895.

“A Methodist layman, he was one of the great champions of the ministry of the laity. And even in his 90th and final year, he encouraged the full participation of students, young people and lay people in both Christian service and leadership,” Kobia said.

Mott was a forceful advocate of the need to create the World Council of Churches and was the preacher at the opening service of the WCC’s inaugural assembly in Amsterdam in 1948.

Michael Wallace, the student federation’s chief executive and also based in Geneva, said in presenting the portrait, “Mott’s influence was and is enormous. It is impossible to say how many people he inspired to go into missions, how many students he inspired through WSCF, what influence he had on international affairs, and how many people were brought into the ecumenical movement by him.”

Mott shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work in establishing and strengthening international Christian student organizations that worked to promote peace.

*This story was distributed by Ecumenical News International.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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