Elizabeth C. Parsons edited volume, The Greatest Work in the World: Education as a Mission of Early Twentieth-Century Churches of Christ: Letters of Lloyd Cline Sears and Pattie Hathaway Armstrong is now available.
This volume of correspondence contains exchanges written between Lloyd Cline Sears (1895–1986) and Pattie Hathaway Armstrong (1899–1977), two influential leaders in early educational efforts of the Churches of Christ. Spanning the years 1915 to 1921, the letters document their writers’ romance, but they are more than simply love letters. They also express an educational philosophy and an understanding of Christian purpose as inspired by the Stone-Campbell Movement and held in tension with the intellectual and social ferment of the times. Posts from family members J. N. and Ida Woodson (Harding) Armstrong as well as from Pattie Cobb Harding, wife of James A. Harding, augment those of the principal authors. Their correspondence allows rare access to privately expressed thoughts of men and women attempting to live as Christian educators at the outset of an uncertain and rapidly changing twentieth century. The letters also offer lessons for contemporary American Christians in these even more volatile times.
Elizabeth C. Parsons is Lecturer in Religion, Culture, and Development at Boston University School of Theology. A direct descendant of the letter writers, she is also author of What Price for Privatization? Cultural Encounter with Development Policy on the Zambian Copperbelt (2010).
The volume has received very positive reviews:
“This book is a marvelous glimpse into perceptions on Christian liberal arts education in the correspon- dence of a young couple whose past and future weigh heavily in Churches of Christ higher education. Their granddaughter, Elizabeth Parsons the editor, has indefatigably searched to establish the backgrounds for these letters and supply information on all the persons mentioned. The outcome is remarkable.”
—THOMAS H. OLBRICHT
Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Religion, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
“There are few occasions when a book comes along that completely catches you by surprise. Such is the case with The Greatest Work in the World, edited by Elizabeth C. Parsons. . . . What prompted a religious tradition like the contemporary Churches of Christ, known for its sectarianism, its sectionalism, and its bias against the labors of the intellect, to engage in a frenzy of educational effort in the first decades of the twentieth century? These efforts left remnants of genuine but short-lived schools across the midwest and southwest. These schools valued holiness and liberal education and were known for their counter-cultural embrace of the kingdom of God as lived out in hard scrabble outposts such as Cordell, Oklahoma. What they stood for will surprise you.”
—ROBERT M. RANDOLPH
Chaplain to the Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
“The letters Elizabeth Parsons has collected and edited reveal much about the relatively unknown worldview of the Churches of Christ in the early twentieth century on matters of gender, education, and theology. The Sears’s correspondence provides a unique and valuable window into what mattered to a group of people wrestling with the heritage of their faith as they confronted the challenges of the rapidly changing world around them.”
—LORETTA HUNNICUTT, Professor of History, Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA
“This volume provides rare insight into the inseparability of religious beliefs and the formation of educational institutions among theologically conservative white southerners a century ago. These fascinat- ing letters, ably edited by Elizabeth Parsons, reveal hidden dimensions of the early Churches of Christ—a kingdom-centered mission ethic, countercultural pacifism, support for marital partnership, and commit- ment to liberal arts education. I recommend this fine book with great enthusiasm.”
—DANA L. ROBERT
Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission, Boston University, Boston, MA
Media, Examination, and Review Copies:
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Martha Smalley of the Yale-Edinburgh Group sent out a reminder that the call for papers for this years conference at Yale Divinity School will be closing on March 1. She writes:
This is a reminder that paper proposals for the June 25-27 meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group should be submitted to me via email attachment by March 1st. See information about the meeting and its theme at http://divinity-adhoc.library.
Those who are planning to attend the meeting are encouraged to pre-register and request accommodations at http://www.library.yale.edu/
For those of you who submitted applications for funding from the David M. Stowe Fund for Mission Research: we received many applications and are in the process of evaluating them. We will notify people by February 25th.
John Wang of the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) sent out the following message about the EMS Northeast Regional Conference:
The schedule of presentations and registration information for the regional conference of the northeast region of the Evangelical Missiological Society is attached. This information will also be posted online at http://www.emsweb.org/regions/
The topic for the conference is Controversies in Mission. This year, we have eight papers and a presentation forum. Topics include immigration, historical evaluation, insider movements in both Muslim and Jewish contexts, contextualization, Western mission, theology of mission, and African Christianity. We hope it would be an enriching experience for all the participants.
The date is Saturday, March 28, and the location of the conference will be at First Baptist Church of Flushing in Flushing, New York. See the attached files for schedule and registration information.
The CGCM offers its resources, materials, and personnel to support a variety of unique and interesting websites. In conjunction with an international network of libraries, universities, and interested individuals, the center gathers hard-to-find materials and makes them easily accessible.
Among its newest projects, the center is now hosting CGCM Visiting Researcher Catherine Corman’s “In the Midst.” This project is the result of several years of interviews Corman conducted with Barbara Beach Alter—an American Presbyterian missionary to northern India. Alter and her husband James rejected conversion as central to missionary activity in favor of service to the surrounding population. The multimedia site was launched in a celebratory gathering attended by over 40 people, including family and friends commemorating Barbara Alter’s extraordinary life as a missionary. CGCM doctoral students Daryl Ireland and Eva Pascal helped design the website to feature Corman’s innovative audio autobiography, which allow listeners to hear Alter’s stories by theme in her own voice. The story can also be explored by place and by time. Corman has also created a podcast that is now available on the website.
The American Academy of Religion has sponsored research into how the social composition and identity of Christians in India differs from that in the diaspora. The project is ongoing, but the second workshop convened on September 20th at Boston University to review and consider what has been learned thus far. Scholars from India and the United States, as well as a number of delegates from Greater Boston’s various Indian churches met together to hear and interact with the findings.
Thomas Thangaraj, from Boston University, offered the keynote address. In addition, Jesudas Athyal, a visiting researcher at the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, and Joshua Kalapati of Madras Christian College presented the project and led the conversation.
East Rock Institute is our partner in this project.
Here is the latest newsletter.
This newsletter includes an article by Hye Jin Lee about the project on page 6 but a link to the entire newsletter is included here for readers who want to get better acquainted with this organization.
In advance of Rev. Lisa Beth White’s visit to BUSTH on March 21 to give a seminar “How to Lead a Mission Trip,” she sent the following to help people considering participating to figure out where she’s coming from:
According to Robert Wuthnow, approximately 1.5 million American adults
leave the US each year on short term mission trips. Short term
mission trips have grown in popularity since the 1970s when a few
volunteers began traveling to participate in mission projects.
In 1997, I was an adult volunteer with U.M. ARMY (United Methodist
Action Reach Mission by Youth). Youth groups gather to build
wheelchair ramps, do yard work and light home repairs – and I was
hooked. I’ve worked with adult international trips, domestic youth
trips, and even local mission projects for upper elementary age
students. I stay involved in short term mission because people want
to make a difference, to put their faith to work, and I feel it is
important to help by guiding theological reflection on the practice of
short term mission.
My approach to teaching people how to lead short term mission is to
provide a framework for people to use in planning their own trip, and
to provoke thinking beyond the logistic issues of trips. Small group
discussion of case studies allows participants to begin thinking
theologically about short term mission.
The only other thing I’d add is that when I got involved in STM, I
only saw it from the church viewpoint – that STM was beneficial to
both the recipients and as a tool for spiritual growth for the
travelers. But when I started reading the literature on STM, it
became clear that there are many critical issues to think carefully
about – dependency, objectifying the poor, power and privilege,
mutuality in mission, etc. I hope that my work will bridge the STM
movement in the local church and the critical reflection of the
academy in such a way that the practice of short term mission can be a
more thoughtful process to the benefit of the global church.
Two articles about the ERI and CGCM collaboration appeared in the October 2012 issue of ERI’s newsletter. Both are included here.
Three faculty members–Drs. Robert, Daneel, and Thangaraj–and seven students attended the 2012 ASM Eastern Fellowship last weekend. Daewon Moon filed the following report:
The 2012 ASM Eastern Fellowship was held at the Maryknoll Sisters
Center in Maryknoll, New York on November 2–3, with the theme
“Classics of Mission Spirituality.” STH alum, Prof. Ben Hartley of Palmer Seminary, presided.
Dr. Rady Roldan-Figueroa of Boston University gave his presentation on
the spirituality of Bartholome de Las Casas (1484–1566), a Dominican
missionary and social reformer in the Americas. Roldan-Figueroa
discussed the significance of Las Casas’ treatise “De unico vocationis
modo” (“On the Only Way of Conversion”), focusing on distinctive
characteristics of sixteenth-century Spanish spirituality in the
Observance movement within the religious orders.
Sister Claudette LaVerdiere of the Maryknoll Sisters presented her
research on the spirituality of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers (1882–1955),
the founder of the Maryknoll order. While a student at Smith College
in 1904, Mary Josephine organized a Mission Study Club for Catholic
students. Her recognition of women’s power for mission significantly
contributed to the formation of the Maryknoll Sisters, which sent its
first missionary sisters to China in 1921. Mother Mary Joseph’s focus
on cultivating character became an integral part of the spirituality
of the Maryknolls, who adopted the motto “Making God’s love visible.”
Dr. Grace May of City Seminary of New York gave a talk on Margaret
Emma Barber (1866–1929), a missionary to China who was a spiritual
mentor of Watchman Nee, the most influential leader in the Chinese
house church movement. Strongly influenced by the Keswick holiness
movement in England, Barber emphasized the discipleship training of
indigenous people, particularly the training of local “Bible women” to
reach out other women.
Dana Robert and Rady Roldan-Figueroa are in Costa Rica this week attending the Latin American Theological Fellowship’s CLADE V conference. The purpose of the conference is to pull together a diverse group of Christians from churches, agencies, institutions and movements in Latin America and the Caribbean for discussion and reflection. The theme for this conference is: “Following Jesus in God’s Kingdom of Life. Guide us, Holy Spirit!” Prof. Robert will be participating on a panel of friends from outside Latin America who will share their own reflections on what they have heard. BUSTH doctoral student Ruth Padilla DeBorst is the group’s general secretary.