News Archives

Book series tells history of United Methodist mission

11/17/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - In the 19th century, the religious groups that eventually formed the Evangelical United Brethren Church ministered to the German immigrants who made their home in the United States.

But the mostly rural Protestant denomination had an international impact far beyond its size, eventually establishing mission work in Sierra Leone, China and elsewhere in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and South America. And its involvement in the ecumenical movement was so strong that it became the first denomination to join the World Council of Churches when the organization was founded in 1948.

"By the time of its union with the Methodist Church in 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren had developed mission leadership so well that in many places, churches were able to be come autonomous at the same time as their countries became independent following the colonial movement," reports a new book, On the Journey Home: The History of Mission of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, 1946-1968.

Published by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, On the Journey Home is one of a seven-volume series exploring the history of mission within the United Methodist Church. The book, written by J. Steven O'Malley, can be ordered through the agency's Service Center.

Charles Cole, a retired board executive, serves as editor of the series. A second book, Initiatives for Mission, 1980-2002, will be published by the end of the year.

Although earlier volumes about Methodist mission work were compiled through the former Methodist Church Board of Missions, the written story of mission essentially stopped at 1939 and included only one branch of today's church. That was a reason Cole conceived the idea for the series in 1998, and the project later received funding through the office of the board's top staff executive.

A larger reason was to educate the church's membership. The mission agency had became aware, according to Cole, "that people in the churches didn't understand why we were carrying out mission the way we were."

A general question, for example, was why the board's entire mission budget was not used to deploy missionaries. "As these histories will show, beginning in the '50s and crystallizing in the 1960s, the church came to the conclusion that we needed to develop indigenous leadership in other countries," he said.

The churches in those countries also wanted greater participation in mission, Cole added. The results of such an emphasis are evident in such places as the Philippines and parts of Africa, where membership is growing.

Another concern, voiced by those teaching mission in seminaries and others, was that "the standard history of mission just emphasized the role of leadership, which was mainly white men," he said.

When the United Methodist History of Mission project was initiated, the board had four goals:
· To complete the history started in The History of Methodist Missions by Wade Crawford Barclay and J. Tremayne Copplestone.
· To provide readable narratives accessible to both scholars and general church membership.
· To do justice to the contributions of women, ethnic minorities and indigenous leaders to the history of mission.
· To compile information for a video and other resources that could be used to orient staff and missionaries on mission history.

The volumes are not being published in order - the first book is actually volume 4 - but Cole hopes the entire series will be available by the end of 2004.

In addition to Initiatives for Mission, which is volume 6, the other books in the series are The Missionary Spirit: The History of Mission of the Methodist Protestant Church, 1830-1939, Volume 1, by Ruth Daugherty; Five Dollars and Myself: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, 1845-1939, Volume 2, by Robert Sledge; Mirror and Beacon: The History of The Methodist Church, 1939-1968, Volume 3, by Linda Gesling; From Missions to Mission: The History of Mission of The United Methodist Church, 1968-2000, Volume 5, by Robert J. Harman; and Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, Volume 7.

The books must be ordered individually through the Service Center, but the whole series can be purchased at a discount, Cole said. For more information, call (800) 305-9857.

Back : News Archives 2003 Main

Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add to your list of approved senders.