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Jones, Christian mission leader, dies at 92

The Rev. Tracey K. Jones Jr.

A UMNS Report
By Elliott Wright*

Dec. 18, 2009

The Rev. Tracey K. Jones Jr., a leader in Christian missions, died in Sarasota, Fla., on Dec. 16 at the age
of 92.

Among the last missionaries to enter China before that become impossible in the 1940s, he was head of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries from 1968 to 1980, and author of the most widely used mission study book in the history of the denomination.

Jones had a special concern for presenting mission as the call to Christians wherever they are, and he worked hard to address mission issues in ways that were meaningful to congregations.

“Tracey K. Jones, Jr. was a giant of the mission movement of the church,” said Bishop Joel N. Martinez, the board’s interim top executive. “He lived on the mission frontiers and then gave leadership to the whole mission community through his roles in our mission organizations. He was known for his global mission and his ability to communicate that vision to both laity and clergy.”

Betty Thompson, now retired, who was on the communications and education staff of the mission agency in Jones’ day, said, “Tracey’s leadership came at a time when new patterns of mission around the world were emerging as colonialism ended. He knew that you did not need to cross salt water to be in mission.”

Boyhood in China

Jones, the son of Tracey and Marion Flowers Jones, was born in Boston in 1917 and spent his boyhood between Syracuse, N.Y., and Canton, China. His father was a YMCA missionary and executive. The young Tracey was educated at Mount Hermon Academy, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Yale Divinity School.

He spent his early professional years flying from Delhi, India, to Chungking, China, to work as a liaison between American and Chinese troops. He then joined a group of Methodist missionaries working in the Nanking area. He witnessed the takeover of China by communist forces, and was able to remain for six months after the change. He joined his wife in Hong Kong for a time, and in the early 1950s was pastor of a Methodist church in Singapore.

Jones returned to the United States in 1955. He joined the staff of the then Board of Missions of The Methodist Church and would become the head of the agency’s World Division. He was active in both the National and World Councils of Churches, leading ecumenical delegations to numerous places, including the Middle East.

Mission Interpreter

Jones help to craft the development of The United Methodist Church, formed in 1968 by the union of The Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches, and to combine the mission work of the two denominations. This effort came at a time when attitudes about mission were changing and when the civil rights and women’s movements were engaging both church and society.

“Tracey Jones was a firm supporter of opening all doors in the church to people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds,” Thompson said. “And he was a genuine feminist, understanding and appreciating the contributions that women have to make to the church and its mission.”

Jones’ 1963 book, “Our Mission Today: The Beginning of a New Age,” published by the mission board, sold 300,000 copies.

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Harriett Olson, who currently leads the board’s Women’s Division, recently spoke with Jones by phone, discussing with him matters of organizational importance. “He counseled that change is needed in every era for the vitality of the church,” she said.

After his retirement, he served as a professor at Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, N.J. In later years, he was active in Habitat for Humanity, Hospice, Resurrection House and his local church.

His first wife, Martha Clayton Jones, who was also the child of a missionary family, died in 1975. The couple had three children. He later married Junia Moss, the mother of two sons.

She survives him, along with his daughters, Judith Watson of Milford, Pa., and Deborah Breitenbach of Silver Bay, N.Y.; three sons, Tracey K. Jones III of East Orange, N.J., Robert Moss of Charlotte, N.C., and Tim Moss of Cheyenne, Wyo.; 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

*Wright is the information officer of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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