100th Birthday of E. Stanley Jones observed in Baltimore

Good News

March/April 1984

Who was the most famous American missionary of this century? Which mainline church leader was popular enough to fill Madison Square Garden with his listeners eager to listen to him preach? What Methodist minister has associate with Gandhi, Nehru, and Roosevelt?

The answer, of course is E. Stanley Jones.

In his 60-year year career as missionary to India, writer of 28 popular books (two of which were million-sellers), and as a globe-trotting evangelist, Brother Stanley, as he liked to be called, made a vast impact upon his times.

On January 3 another crowd gathered because of Stanley Jones, this time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. The event was located in Jones’ native Baltimore. Sponsoring the celebration was United Christian Ashrams, founded by Jones to promote the Christian ashram concept – an India-style deeper life conference.

Retired UM Bishop James Matthews, husband of Jones’s daughter Eunice and head of the Ashram movement since Jones’s death in 1973, acted as master of ceremonies during the celebration.

The day started with a nostalgic expedition to the Clarksville farmhouse where Brother Stanley was born. The next stop was the Baltimore cemetery  where both Jones’s and his wife’s graves are located (within ten yards of Bishop Francis Asbury’s grave).

Jones first landed in India as a Methodist missionary in 1907, freshly graduated from Asbury College. All he had to prepare him for his task was utter dedication to God and a Hindustani grammar. It was enough.

By the 1920s Jones was breaking new ground in Indian United Christian Ashrams, evangelism by lecturing to great crowds of Hindu and Muslim intellectuals. Out of his experiences came his massively influential book, The Christ of the Indian Road.

All through his life, Jones broke the molds. He was solidly evangelical yet committed to radical social reform. He was spiritually minded, yet he kept his finger on world events. In a valiant six-month effort in 1941, he tried and actually came close to preventing war between the United States and Japan.

It’s no wonder that Time magazine in 1938 called him “the world’s greatest missionary.” Perhaps it is also appropriate to call him the century’s greatest Methodist.


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