Who Was E. Stanley Jones?

A young photo of E. Stanley Jones and Mabel Lossing Jones (Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections of Asbury Theological Seminary)

Eli Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was born on January 3, 1884 in Baltimore, Maryland, where he grew up before leaving to attend Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. While at Asbury College, Jones was impacted by the experience of the Holy Spirit and a major revival which occurred on campus in 1905. E. Stanley Jones went to India in 1907 as a missionary for the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in 1911 he married Mabel Lossing, another missionary serving there. Yet, his early experiences ministering to English and American expatriates and Anglo-Indians, led him to realize that Christianity was mostly involved in converting people out of their culture as they changed their faith. This led him into working more closely with non-Christians within the Indian context and talking about a “disentangled Christ” that did not come with the trappings of Western culture.

In 1925 he wrote one of his most pivotal books, The Christ of the Indian Road, which sought to interpret Christianity within an Indian cultural framework. He would follow up this work by developing the ideas of the “Christian Ashram,” which used an existing religious concept (an Indian retreat for people to pursue their spiritual quest) as a way to promote Christian discipleship. He also became committed to interfaith dialog as an important component of mission with his round table discussions. Along the way, Jones became acquainted with Gandhi and other leaders of the Indian independence movement. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 and 1963 and won the Gandhi Peace Award in 1963. He was also involved in unsuccessful work between Franklin Roosevelt and the Japanese government prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor to try to avoid World War II. Above all, he saw the Kingdom of God as something which was real and attainable, and as such was a key part of the mission of the Church.

Major Works of E. Stanley Jones:

The Christ of the Indian Road (1925)

Christ at the Round Table (1928)

The Christ of Every Road (1930)

The Christ of the Mount (1931)

Christ and Human Suffering (1933)

Christ’s Alternative to Communism (1935)

Victorious Living (1936)

The Choice Before Us (1937)

Along the Indian Road (1939)

Is the Kingdom of God Realism? (1940)

Abundant Living (1942)

The Christ of the American Road (1944)

Mahatma Gandhi: An Interpretation (1948)

The Way to Power and Poise (1949)

How to be a Transformed Person (1951)

Growing Spiritually (1953)

Christian Maturity (1957)

Conversion (1959)

In Christ (1961)

The Word Became Flesh (1963)

Victory Through Surrender (1966)

Song of Ascents (1968)

The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person (1972)

The Reconstruction of the Church- On What Pattern? (1970)

The Divine Yes (1975)

A young E. Stanley Jones (Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections of Asbury Theological Seminary)

In all, Jones wrote 28 books and gave the royalties to the church for scholarships or the work of evangelism. His written work on Gandhi was influential in the ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the use of nonviolence. Well over 3 million copies of his books have been sold in multiple languages around the world, and they continue to inspire and motivate Christians. In 1938, Time magazine called him “the world’s greatest Christian missionary.” His legacy continues to be carried on by the work of United Christian Ashrams International, which seeks to lead all people to become transformed as they follow Jesus Christ. In 1928, he was even elected a Bishop of the Methodist Church, but he removed his name from consideration after a night of prayer, because he felt his highest calling was to be an evangelist. That was the spiritual calling that defined his life, ministry, and writing.

  1. Stanley Jones died on January 25, 1973 at 89 years of age. His influence on India, mission, and Methodism in particular continues to reverberate. Asbury Theological Seminary Archives and Special Collections also house the Papers of E. Stanley Jones, the Papers of Mabel Lossing Jones, and the Records of the United Christian Ashrams, which continues to draw researchers interested in E. Stanley Jones and his global impact from all parts of the world. The E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary seeks to remain true to Jones’ ideas of contextualizing the Gospel, interfaith dialog, and working for the Kingdom of God in all aspects of mission and evangelism.

A Growing Desire: Missions and Evangelism before the E.S.J. School

An unidentified Christian Ashram in India (Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections of Asbury Theological Seminary)

As early as 1906, Asbury Theological Seminary’s founding president, Dr. H. C. Morrison (1857-1942) had seen the need for ongoing training for Christian evangelists. He, along with holiness ministers C.F. Wimberly and John Paul had envisioned a “Pentecostal School of Evangelism” to be established in Louisville, Kentucky. It was to be a place envisioned for both men and women, for those “giving up their former employment, and ready, with burning zeal to enter upon the blessed work of winning souls to Christ,” to be trained as evangelists. The Pentecostal School of Evangelism never developed, but the passion for mission and evangelism continued.

By 1957, Asbury Theological Seminary’s second president, J.C. McPheeters (1886-1993) also began dreaming of a school of missions at the now established Seminary. He desired to develop courses for missionaries on furlough and even brought Dr. Evyn Adams to Asbury in 1957 to give a series of missionary messages in Estes Chapel. He made plans for constructing a building, which was called the Crary McPheeters Missions and Evangelism Building. There was even some discussion in the Board of Trustees in 1958 to start a school of missions.

An elderly Jones holding up Three Fingers, his common sign for “Jesus is Lord” (Courtesy of the Archives and Special Collections of Asbury Theological Seminary)

In 1961, Dr. Frank Bateman Stanger (1914-1986), Asbury Theological Seminary’s third president reportedly told the Board of Trustees that there was a strong need for a department of missions within the Seminary. The result was to hire Dr. J.T. Seamands, a missionary from India, to become the sole professor of missions at the Seminary from 1961-1983. He joined the work of Dr. Robert Coleman, who served as the McCreless Professor of Evangelism from 1955-1983. Together, on November 10, 1977, Dr. Seamands and Dr. Coleman were joined by Dean Louis E. Caister in making the initial proposal to the Board of Trustees for what would become the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism.

In their meeting from November 6-8, 1978, the Board of Trustees approved the concept of an advanced degree program, and the school itself was finally approved on November 13, 1979 with strong support from the Board. Fund-raising began at that time as well as the search for the faculty positions necessary for such an endeavor.

A School is Born: The E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism

On November 10, 1982 an official groundbreaking was held for the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism. Dr. McPheeters and Dr. Stanger both stood alongside of Asbury Theological Seminary’s fourth president, Dr. David L. McKenna and Dr. Ira Galloway, the Chair of the Board of Trustees as the dream began to become a reality. In 1983, Dr. George G. Hunter III was hired as the first Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism (he taught Church Growth), along with Dr. Malcom McVeigh (Theology of Mission and African Christianity), and Dr. A. H. Mathias Zahniser (World Religions) to join Dr. Seamands. Dr. Ronald K. Crandall (Evangelism) and Dr. Darrell Whiteman (Cultural Anthropology) joined the faculty in 1984, the same year that the Frank Bateman Stanger Building was completed.

While all of the key pieces were in place, the growth of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism did have it challenges. The School was intended to offer higher level degrees, but accreditation problems meant that Ph.D. plans had to be delayed. The first degree offered was the Th.M. in 1983, along with a specialized D.Min. The D.Min. was dropped in 1985 due to low enrollment, and the D.Miss. was added in 1986, although not without some opposition. Concerns about finances, enrollment, and accreditation led some in the faculty and administration to suggest ending the endeavor and returning missions and evangelism back under the School of Theology.

First Faculty of the E.Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, taken about 1984. From left to right: Dr. Ronald K. Crandall, Dr. Malcom McVeigh, Dr. Darrell Whiteman, Dean George G. Hunter III, Dr. Kenneth Kinghorn, Dr. A.H. Mathias Zahniser, and Dr. John T. Seamands.

Strong support from the Board of Trustees, as well as from students, kept the E.S.J. School alive in this difficult period of growth. In 1989 a review committee, chaired by John Kilner, wrote a report sustaining the School and the 1990 Beeson bequest stabilized the financial situation, so that most of the opposition dissipated. In the middle of this difficult time, the first D.Miss. student graduated in 1987, Leaderwell Pohsngap from Meghalaya in Northeast India. By 1990, there were six graduates with the D.Miss. degree, and by 1996 the Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies was finally able to be offered after years of delay. In 1997, Barje Maigadi, of the Buji tribe in Northern Nigeria became the first Ph.D. graduate from Asbury Theological Seminary. By 2020, the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism has produced 102 Th.M. graduates, 74 D.Miss. graduates, and 120 Ph.Ds as a sign of their growth and stability. In addition, the school has graduated 393 MA students in both Intercultural Studies and World Mission and Evangelism.

Deans of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism

George G. Hunter III (1983-2001)

Darrell L. Whiteman (2001-2004)

Ronald K. Crandall (2005-2008)

Terry Muck (2008-2012)

Gregg Okesson (2012-Present)

Faculty of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism

Robert Coleman (1955-1983)

John T. Seamands (1961-1987)

George G. Hunter III (1983-2011)

Malcolm McVeigh (1983-1985)

A.H. Mathias Zahniser (1983-2000)

Ronald K. Crandall (1984-2008)

Darrell L. Whiteman (1984-2004)

Kenneth McElhanon (1985-1990)

Everett N. Hunt (1991-1996)

Eunice I. Irwin (1994-2013)

Robert G. Tuttle (1995-2010)

Howard Snyder (1996-2006)

Terry Muck (2000-2012)

Michael A. Rynkiewich (2002-2010)

Russell West (2002-2015)

Steven J. Ybarrola (2006-Present)

Lalsangkima Pachuau (2006-Present)

Arthur McPhee (2006-2016)

John Hong (2008-2012)

Gregg Okesson (2011-Present)

Stephen W. Offutt (2011-Present)

  1. Sue Russell (2014-Present)

Walter J. Moon (2013-Present)

Philip R. Meadows (2017-Present)

Contributed by:

Dr. Robert Danielson
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Scholarly Communication and Special Collections
B.L. Fisher Library
Asbury Theological Seminary