Developing ways to operate global Gospel outreach

Chapter 2 The Development of Nazarene World Mission Administration

Parker, J. Fred. Mission to the World: A History of Missions in the Church of the Nazarene Through 1985. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 1988.

This material is reproduced here under the educational "Fair Use" provision of U.S. copyright acts. Some minor editing has been done.

No emerging organization comes into being with an operational structure fully in place. In its beginning phases, such infrastructure is simple and minimal. But with growth comes the need for ever-increasing organizational machinery to provide coordination and control, along with continuity and development. Astute, long-range planning may anticipate the need for such expansion. However, more often than not, modifications are injected as the need arises and in the direction called for at the moment. Like Topsy, the character in Uncle Tom's Cabin who explained her existence by saying that she "just growed," management structures usually follow a need-response pattern. It could also be called a "build-your-wagon-as-you-go" procedure.

When the pioneers of the Church of the Nazarene were putting the pieces together to form the denomination that officially came into being at Pilot Point, Texas, on October 13, 1908, they had high hopes and ambitions for the future. However, they had no inkling of what phenomenal expansion was in store for this fledgling group of 228 churches. Consequently, the organizational structure developed as the denomination grew, with several major restructuring periods along the way.

The world missionary phase of the church was of critical concern. "No area of the church's activity," wrote Timothy L. Smith, "needed central direction as much as foreign missions." Each of the three parent bodies that came together at Pilot Point was already involved to some degree in foreign mission activity. Each also had its missionary committee or board to direct the work. True, the support structure was shaky and the missionaries abroad were largely "living by faith," but the commitment of the new denomination to world evangelism was firm. This was enunciated in its first (1908) Manual: "We seek holy Christian fellowship, the conversion of sinners, the entire sanctification of believers and their upbuilding in holiness, together with the preaching of the gospel to every creature" (p. 22, italics added). This last phrase has been retained in every subsequent edition of the Nazarene Manual.

Bresee's oft-repeated statement: "We are debtors to every man to give him the gospel in the same measure as we have received. it," became the clarion call of the denomination. Out of it grew a flourishing world mission enterprise that has been a hallmark of the Church of the Nazarene since its inception.

"If we believe what Bresee said is true, then every man is owed E-1 evangelism1." -- Thom Fish, pastor. That means hearing the gospel in one's own mother tongue and in an appropriately contextualized way.

Mission Structures Prior to the Pilot Point merger in 1908

The Association of Pentecostal Churches of America

The eastern branch of the Church of the Nazarene, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, came into being in the New York area on December 12, 1895. In its original resolutions were the words: "We will cheerfully contribute of our earthly means as God has prospered us, for the support of a faithful ministry among us, for the relief of the poor, and for the spread of the gospel over the earth " 2

When the administrative structure of their three-church association was set up, a Missionary Committee of six persons was selected to include the three pastors and three laymen. Chosen were Rev. William H. Hoople, Rev. John Norberry, Rev. E. W. Sloat, O. J. Copeland, Henry Elsner, and A. M. Owens. In addition, it was voted to add "a sister from each church . . . to act as Auxiliary to the Missionary Committee." The three selected were Mrs. Willis, Mrs. Rowe, and Mrs. Sandford. The seeds of an eventual women's missionary organization were thus sown.

The broad power of this one committee was evidenced when, a year later, it was given the responsibility to effect a union with the Central Evangelical Holiness Association of New England, which had begun in March 1890. The union was consummated in April 1897 and brought to 17 the number of churches in the enlarged APCA.

The Missionary Committee of this new body was to consist of 12 members to be elected at the annual meeting. The group elected constituted a who's who of the eastern church: William H. Hoople, Hiram E Reynolds, A. B. Riggs, H. N. Brown, E. E. Angell, F L. Sprague, C. BeVier, J. C. Bearse, E A. Hillery, D. Rand Pierce, H. B. Hosley, and J. N. Short. William H. Hoople was its first chairman.

A full-time leader was considered necessary to develop the world missionary program, and in October 1897 H. F. Reynolds was selected for the task. Thus began a long and distinguished career in this capacity. As Mendell Taylor put it: "Dr. Reynolds was destined to become the embodiment of missionary fervor and passion which has characterized the church. From this moment until his death [in 1938] Dr. Reynolds never ceased to radiate an influence in behalf of missionary interests."3

Specific foreign missionary endeavors did not actually begin until December 1897, when a group of five missionaries was sent to India. In that number were Lillian Sprague, Carrie Taylor, Rev and Mrs. M. D. Wood, and E. P. Wiley. This was followed in 1901 by the sending of John Diaz back to his native Cape Verde Islands to start church planting work there.

The Church of the Nazarene

In the West, the Church of the Nazarene, organized in Los Angeles by Phineas E Bresee in October 1895 was absorbed in a church-by-church expansion. There were no groups or associations of congregations to bring together, such as was the case in the East or was taking place in the South. Bresee considered this development of new congregations as missionary work.

"Perhaps no missionary work needs more to be done than the planting of centers of fire in this country," he wrote in the November 12, 1903, issue of the Nazarene Messenger. However, he then went on to add: "Yet, Christian hearts long to find immediate access to the lands and people who have never heard the blessed, glad tidings of the Christ of Calvary. . . . It seems as if the time has come when we should take up the missionary work both at home and abroad, in a more systematic way. To this, I call your prayerful attention" (p. 2).

This flicker of global interest was perhaps prompted by Mary A. Hill, who. the previous year, had recruited a group from Bresee's church to go to China to reopen an abandoned mission in Shantung province. This project, however, was never officially adopted by the church.

A positive response did come at the following annual assembly when, for the first time in the eight-year history of the Church of the Nazarene, a Committee on Missions was set up. This committee, made up of Leslie E Gay, a Mrs. Armour, C. W. Ruth, and Mrs. DeLance Wallace, brought in two major recommendations:

  1. That this Assembly proceed to organize a missionary society to be known and designated as the Home and Foreign Missionary Society of the Church of the Nazarene. . . .
  2. That a board of fifteen shall be elected by the Assembly to act as a General Missionary Board of the Church of the Nazarene, to be nominated in this first instance by our General Superintendent and elected one by one by this Assembly.4

The board was duly elected with the following officers chosen from their number: president, P. F. Bresee; vice presidents, Leslie F. Gay, C. W. Ruth, Mrs. DeLance Wallace; secretary, Mrs. Lillie D. Bothwell; treasurer and recording secretary, Leora Maris. Later J. W. Goodwin became recording secretary and Leslie F. Gay, treasurer.

The first project of the Missionary Board was the opening in 1904 of a Spanish mission in Los Angeles under the leadership of Mrs. May McReynolds. Converting "heathen immigrants" did not satisfy Leslie Gay's concept of missions, however. So, he persuaded the 1905 Assembly to pass a resolution urging each congregation to give a tithe of its total income for foreign endeavors. This concept of "10 percent giving" was picked up many years later as an official norm for missionary support.

In the spring of 1906 came the opportunity to sponsor the Hope School for orphans and widows in Calcutta, India. The Missionary Board accepted the challenge and promised $1,800 a year plus $25 for each widow and child.

The Holiness Church of Christ

In the South, where congregational autonomy was the pervading spirit, any missionary endeavor was carried on under local sponsorship. Furthermore, the "faith missions" idea was strongly emphasized, which, in effect, absolved the church itself of direct responsibility in the missionary enterprise. Nevertheless, missionary interest ran high. Some even felt that this and rescue mission work absorbed so much attention as to be detrimental to church growth.

When in 1903 Samuel M. Stafford established a pioneer mission in Tonala, Chiapas, southern Mexico, he did so with the firm support of Pastor R. M. Guy and his congregation in Pilot Point, Texas. Then, when the various holiness groups of the South united under the banner of the Holiness Church of Christ in November 1905, this Mexico project became a common interest.

The need for supervision as well as support for this work was apparent, for Stafford was of an entrepreneurial stripe and inclined to take things into his own hands. As a result, J. D. Scott was appointed missionary secretary and treasurer. "All our churches are kindly advised to send their missionary offerings [to him]" was the rather pointed directive.

In 1906 the Pilot Point church listed 17 missionaries on its roll, but there is no indication that this one church fully supported them all. Besides the ones in Mexico, these missionaries were reported to be at work in Japan and India as well.

Perhaps prompted by Stafford, C. B. Jernigan, editor of the Holiness Evangel, published a plea for missionary support and involvement in his October 1, 1906, issue. "The door of Mexico stands wide open," he wrote. "The hands of the brown man, our nearest neighbor, are stretched out to us calling for help." Under the impetus of this article, the work in southern Mexico expanded rapidly. However, there is little evidence of control from the homeland, and matters were in disarray at the time of the 1908 union at Pilot Point.

It was during this time that a young student at Texas Holiness University in Peniel, Texas, Harmon Schmelzenbach, was wrestling with a pent-up desire to fulfill his call as a missionary to Africa. He could not wait to finish his training. With the blessing and promised support of both the college and the Peniel church, he set sail from New York on May 5, 1907. He was destined to carve a legend in the annals of missionary history in Swaziland. The following spring, months before the Pilot Point union, his supporting church and college joined Bresee's Church of the Nazarene.

The Pentecostal Mission

A center of powerful missionary interest that was to become a few years later part of the Church of the Nazarene was the Pentecostal Mission of Nashville. This group, brought together by J. O. McClurkan at the turn of the century, had an early association with the missionary-minded Christian and Missionary Alliance. This, along with the turn of international events at that time, incited an unusual zest for missions. Though the CMA affiliation was short-lived, the vision for world evangelization did not wane. A 25-member local board of missions was elected to "foster, direct, and finance" this avenue of ministry. They lost no time in launching an overseas project. In 1902 a group of perhaps 10 persons set out to found a mission in Colombia. They stopped off in Cuba on the way, where they learned that, owing to a civil war situation that had developed in Colombia, they would not be allowed to proceed to their desired destination. Undaunted, most of the group elected to stay in Cuba and attempt to establish a mission work there. More details of this venture will be found in the Cuba section of Part Two of this volume.

In 1903, Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Anderson were sent to Guatemala. Then, in 1904, work was begun at Igatpuri, India, northeast of Bombay, where four missionaries under the leadership of R. G. Codding established a work that spread to Khardi and Vasind. (Also see Part Two under India.)

Although the missionary effort was to be a "strictly undenominational and a faith work," monthly contributions were solicited and duly recorded by the treasurer. They averaged between $200 and $400. Large special offerings were also received at camp meetings and other gatherings. It was noted, however, that "only $4,000 of the $9,000 annual cost of the foreign missionary venture regularly came from the Nashville membership."6

Tentative agreements as early as 1911 concerning the union of the Pentecostal Mission with the Church of the Nazarene would have made Nashville the missionary headquarters of the church. The 1911 General Assembly was held in Nashville at the invitation of the Pentecostal Mission, and even though the hoped-for union failed to materialize at that time, there was talk of at least combining the missionary work of the two groups.

When the union was finally consummated on February 13, 1915, it was agreed that the Nazarene General Missionary Board would "assume financial responsibility for the missionary work of the Pentecostal Mission." Though certain conditions were attached, the work in India with nine missionaries, Cuba with five, and Central America with four, were specifically mentioned. The Articles of Agreement continued: "It is expressly understood that the former members of the Pentecostal Mission will use their best endeavors through all the avenues that they have to contribute to the support, not only of the missionaries which are being transferred but all the missionary work under the board of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene."

The diverse nature of the organization, supervision, and financial support in each of the above missionary programs presented a challenge to the framers of the constitution of the newly formed denomination. The evolution of the administrative and promotional structure is an interesting study in itself.

The Development of the General Board And the Department of World Mission

When East and West united in 1907 in Chicago to form the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, two leaders, one from each constituency, became the architects of missionary strategy for the new denomination. They were Leslie F. Gay, a Los Angeles layman, and H. E Reynolds who was already missionary secretary of the eastern group.

Among Gay's recommendations to the Chicago assembly, painstakingly detailed, was the proposal that there be separate mission boards at each administrative level: general, district, and local. At the general level, the existing two missionary boards would be replaced by a General Missionary Board with headquarters in Chicago. This board would consist of 16 members, 2 from each district (of which there were four in the East and four in the West).

All documents, deeds, bequests, money, pledges, contracts, and so forth would be turned over to the new board "immediately." This board would be authorized to employ an executive secretary to be paid from missionary funds.

The rather elaborate structure Gay had devised was adopted, and the 16-member board was duly elected. H. F. Reynolds, even though voted to be one of the two general superintendents (along with P. F. Bresee), was elected chairman of the board and general missionary executive secretary. He continued to serve in this dual role until 1915.

When the Holiness Church of Christ united with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene at Pilot Point, Texas, in October 1908, a new dimension was added to the foreign missionary enterprise. A principal change was the addition to the Missionary Board of two representatives from each of the new group's seven districts, plus two each from three new eastern districts that had been formed. This brought the total to a cumbersome 36 plus one additional person from Chicago, which, the previous year, had been established as the headquarters of the board.

However, integrating the three missionary programs was not a simple task. Particularly at issue was the Mexico program, which there was great reluctance to accept. Perhaps Stafford's usual high-powered presentation at the Pilot Point assembly had turned people off. The commercial overtones were also a stumbling block. There was no question, however, that he had substantial supporters in the South who were ready to stand with him.

To help solve the problem, Bresee proposed that the elected 37-member board be divided into three separate boards according to the geographical areas from which they had been chosen. In effect, this meant a perpetuation of the three divisions of the church East, West, and South at least for missionary purposes. Leslie F. Gay, writing in the November 19, 1908, issue of the Nazarene Messenger, explained it this way: "For one more year it was considered best for each of these divisions to carry on their own work and seek to perfect and adjust all work in foreign fields for greater efficiency, hoping that by another year all fields can be taken up under one management" (p. 14). Among other advantages, this would leave the southern group alone to wrestle with the thorny "Mexico problem."

But Reynolds was not pleased with the arrangement. Not only was it contrary to the spirit of the union that had been consummated, but it would deny him, as general missionary executive secretary, access to the whole church for promotion and fundraising. His agitation no doubt sped up the integrating process so that the 1909 meeting was of a united board.

To further consolidate the situation, E. H. Sheeks of the South group was elected treasurer in place of Leslie Gay. The generally improved financial picture also inspired optimism. During that year of separate operation, a total of $16,472 had been raised for missions -- $8,023 by the West, $5,287 by the East, but only $3,162 by the South. Suspicion was strong that substantial private contributions sent directly to Stafford had affected the South's reported total.

By the time the 1911 General Assembly convened, there were 24 districts. According to the formula that had been established, this would have created an unwieldy Foreign Missions Board of 48 members plus the ex officio personnel. To avoid this, legislation was introduced to divide the United States constituency into six missionary divisions, cutting across both district boundaries and the old East/West/South sectional lines. A minister and a layman from each division were to be elected to the Board of Foreign Missions. The three general superintendents and the missionary executive secretary would be ex officio members.'

Up to this time, the only standing board in the general church was the Board of Foreign Missions. However, it had responsibility for both foreign missions and home missions, plus some marginal interests such as rest homes and orphanages. In a significant move, the 1911 General Assembly ordered the creation of a separate Board of Church Extension to care for the home missions work and other adjunct items. This left the Board of Foreign Missions with a clear and exclusive area of responsibility. Two other general boards were also created: the General Board of Publication and the General Board of Education.

Since the 1911 General Assembly was being held at Nashville at the invitation of J. O. McClurkan's Pentecostal Mission, there was hope that this group would choose to unite with the Church of the Nazarene. When this did not materialize, the suggestion was made to at least combine the missionary programs of the two groups. However, although some helpful liaison was achieved, no workable organizational structure could be devised. When the union was finally consummated following the death of McClurkan, the addition of its considerable missionary program to that of the Nazarenes gave added stature to the Board of Foreign Missions.

In 1912 Bresee proposed opening a work in Japan. There had been an incipient beginning some years before by two of the Pilot Point-supported missionaries mentioned above, Misses Lillian Poole and Lulu Williams. Though reinforcements had been sent out in 1910 by the "southern" board, health problems decimated the group, and the work collapsed. With experienced missionaries available and groundwork already laid, it was a logical choice for the first new overseas venture of the Board of Foreign Missions.

At this time also, Reynolds tightened the administrative reins by inaugurating a highly detailed field report system. He also worked out basic procedures for the recruitment and appointment of missionaries.

The 1915 General Assembly reduced the membership of the General Board of Foreign Missions to one member per geographical division. Those elected under this formula were the stalwarts: H. F. Reynolds (president and general secretary), John T. Benson (vice president), Herbert Hunt (recording secretary), E. G. Anderson (treasurer), C. A. McConnell, and Leslie F. Gay. Shortly afterward Dr. Reynolds relinquished the direct leadership of the missionary work, and E. G. Anderson was elected to the combined office of secretary-treasurer of foreign missions.

In 1919 the general president of the newly formed Women's Foreign Missionary Society, Mrs. Susan Fitkin, was added to the board. At this same General Assembly, J. E. L. Moore was elected in place of Herbert Hunt.

A Unified General Board

Beginning with the creation of the 4 general boards in 1911, new ones were added along the way until by 1923 there were 10 such boards. Each had its own elected members and, at first, separate times of meeting. Most confusing of all was that each had its own treasurer, its own budget, and its own field representative, which meant a plethora of fund-raising activities throughout the church.

Although, as early as 1916, steps were taken to have all the general boards meet simultaneously in Kansas City each year, the system became increasingly cumbersome and confusing. Finally, the 1923 General Assembly approved a sweeping restructure of the corporate framework of the denomination. In essence, it called for the creation of a single General Board to administer all phases of the church's program. Among other things, this included setting up a unified budget.

Elective procedures adopted called for a 14-member board. There were to be 12 elected members equally divided between ministers and laymen plus one general superintendent and the general treasurer. The treasurer was to be "custodian of all the funds belonging to the general interests of the church." The elective members were to be chosen by ballot from a list of 12 nominees in each category (ministers and laymen), the six highest in each group being declared elected.

The General Board, in turn, was divided into four departments Foreign Missions, Publication, Church Extension, and Home Missions. Some members served on more than one department. All actions of the individual departments had to be ratified by the total board.

Assignments to the various departments were made by the board itself subject to ratification by the General Assembly prior to its final adjournment. The resulting Department of Foreign Missions consisted of John T. Benson (chairman), E. G. Anderson (secretary), C. A. McConnell, J. E. Bates, and J. T. Little.

In 1928 still further changes were made in the composition of the General Board. The six geographical (educational) zones that had been set up in 1923 now became the basis of representation on the board. The General Assembly delegates from each zone, meeting in caucus, presented one nominee from their respective zones for each of the four departments. This list of nominees was officially voted on by the General Assembly. The result was a 24-member General Board with 6 members preassigned to each of the four departments. There were thus no duplications from any zone on a department.

The resulting Department of Foreign Missions consisted of C. A. McConnell (chairman), C. Warren Jones (vice-chairman), C. W, Davis, R. B. Mitchum, Edwin Burke, and J. E. Bates. Allowance was also made for the Women's Foreign Missionary Society council to nominate two to the department to be elected by the General Assembly. Thus Mrs. Paul Bresee and Mrs. Bertha Lillenas were added.

In 1932, further modifications were introduced in an effort to cut down on the size of the General Board. To compensate, each member would have to serve on two departments. The new plan called for each zone caucus to submit the names of four ministers and four laymen as nominees to the General Board. From these, the General Assembly would elect only one from each category. In addition, four auxiliaries (the Women's Foreign Missionary Society, the Nazarene Young People's Society, the Committee on Church Schools, and the Committee on Education) were each allowed to nominate two persons to the General Board, from which the General Assembly would elect one. A Canadian-British Isles Zone was also created and was allowed one ministerial member. The end result was a board of 17 members, each of whom had the privilege of selecting the two departments he wished to serve on.

The most popular choice proved to be the Department of Foreign Missions. The 1932-36 membership consisted of C. A. McConnell (chairman), J. W. Short (vice-chairman), C. Warren Jones, J. T. Little, J. E. Bates, R. B. Mitchum, George Sharpe, C. E. Thomson (the latter two from the Canadian-British Isles Zone to serve in alternate years), and Mrs. S. N. Fitkin over half the members of the total board.

Subsequent General Assemblies added further modifications to the General Board structure. The 1936 assembly introduced the factor of numerical strength as well as geography in determining representation from each zone. There was the accompanying limitation that no zone caucus could nominate more than one person from a particular district on that zone until all districts had a nominee. This meant that only in rare cases would any district have more than one member on the General Board.

With this numerical formula adopted, the result was a general "upsetting of the fruit basket" with many new names appearing on the roster of the General Board. The Department of Foreign Missions likewise experienced considerable turnover. Those elected were: A. K. Bracken (chairman), Hardy C. Powers (vice-chairman), Samuel Young, R. V. DeLong, M. Kimber Moulton, A. E. Sanner, E. O. Chalfant, and Mrs. S. N. Fitkin.

The 1944 General Assembly made no basic change in the General Board structure, but the increasing popularity of the Department of Foreign Missions resulted in the addition of 2 more members for a total of 10. The problem of imbalance was not addressed until 1948 when legislation was passed to restrict membership in any department to one-third of the total board, whose membership now stood at 24. The 8 elected to the Department of Foreign Missions were: A. K. Bracken (chairman), Roy Cantrell (vice-chairman), L. M. Spangenberg, A. E. Sanner, Selden D. Kelley, Paul Updike, A. E. Ramquist, and Mrs. Louise R. Chapman.

By this time, some semblance of routine had been established in the conduct of General Board business. For the Department of Foreign Missions, it meant meeting for several days ahead of the General Board session to take care of all its business. Chief items on the agenda were hearing personal reports from missionaries on furlough, interviewing prospective missionaries including making assignments to the various fields, and drawing up the annual budget. The budget requests from the fields, as might be expected, totaled much more than available funds, and determining the allocations to each one was a long and painful process. By now the foreign missionary program had become a multimillion-dollar business and was experiencing explosive growth, particularly in the years immediately following World War II.

In 1964 the name of the Department of Foreign Missions was changed to the Department of World Missions, and further modified in 1976 to Department of World Mission. Also in 1976, the title of the operational head of the department was changed to executive director instead of executive secretary. That title was later amended to simply director.

In the major restructuring of the General Board in 1980, the World Mission Department was the least affected of all. In line with the new terminology, however, it was renamed the Division of World Mission, further modified in 1982 to World Mission Division.

Perhaps the most significant change affecting the General Board from 1976 on was the inclusion of representatives from world mission areas in its membership. Less than ten years later, there were 18 such members, constituting 31 percent of the total elected board. What is more, two of these were on its World Mission Department.

Note: The Nazarene General Board members elected in 2013 included 6 from the Africa region, 4 from the Asia-Pacific Region, 6 from the Eurasia Region, 6 from the Meso-America Region, 6 from South America, 18 from the U.S.A., and 2 from Canada.

Reflection questions

  1. How does the development of an organization's infrastructure and operational structure impact its ability to carry out global missions effectively? What are some examples from the chapter that support your answer?
  2. Why do you think that, right from the start, the world missions component of the Church of the Nazarene was considered of critical concern in terms of central direction? How has the denomination addressed this concern?
  3. Think about the role of mission committees or boards in the early stages of the Church of the Nazarene's development. How did these committees contribute to the growth and expansion of the denomination's world mission enterprise?
  4. Different groups came together to form the Church of the Nazarene. These included the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, the Church of the Nazarene in the West, and the Holiness Church of Christ. How did their structures, methods, and focus on missions differ? What impact might these differences have had on the overall mission efforts of the denomination?
  5. How did the mergers with the Church of the Nazarene of organizations specifically focused on world missions help shape the development of the denomination's missionary structure and administration?

     1Timothy L. Smith, Called unto Holiness (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1962), 1:250.

     2Beulah Christian, April, 2, 1902, 3.

     3Mendell Taylor, Fifty Years of Nazarene Missions (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1952), 1:12.

     4"Minutes of the Eighth Annual Assembly, Church of the Nazarene," printed in the Nazarene Messenger, Nov 12, 1903, 5.

     5Smith, Called unto Holiness 1:174.

     6Ibid., 198.

     7Herald of Holiness, Feb. 24, 1915, 10.

     8General Assembly Journal, 1911, 39.

-- Howard Culbertson,

More for you on Nazarene World Missions Outreach

You might also enjoy these