Dennis, James Shepard (1842-1914)

American Presbyterian missionary, author, teacher, and statistician

James DennisDennis was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, and took his formal education at the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) and at Princeton Theological Seminary. After ordination in 1868 by the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. (PCUSA), the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent him to its mission in Sidon, 20 miles south of Beirut; he was there from 1868 to 1871. During a brief return to the United States, he married Mary Elizabeth Pinneo, and together they returned to Syria. Sponsored this time by the PCUSA, Dennis served as principal and professor of theology at the newly established Beirut Theological Seminary. While there, he wrote three textbooks in Arabic for use in seminary classes.

After returning to the United States in 1891, Dennis compiled detailed world missionary statistics and wrote extensively on missiological themes. At Princeton and several other seminaries in 1892 and 1895, he delivered the “Students’ Lectureship on Missions.” He served on the Board of Foreign Mission of the PCUSA and was their delegate to the Ecumenical Missionary Conference in New York City in 1900 and to the Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference, where he took a leading part. Dennis believed that Christianity, as propagated by foreign missions, was the social hope of the nations. In his lectures and writings, he was an optimistic apologist for missions. He wrote Social Evils of the Non-Christian World (1892), Foreign Missions after a Century (1893), Christian Missions and Social Progress, 3 vols. (1897-1906), Centennial Survey of Foreign Missions (1902), The New Horoscope of Missions (1908), and The Modern Call of Missions (1913). With Harlan P. Beach and Charles H. Fahs he edited World Atlas of Christian Missions (1911).

H. McKennie Goodpasture, “Dennis, James Shepard,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 176.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Texts

Dennis, James S. Christian Missions and Social Progress: A Sociological Study of Foreign Missions. Vol. 1. New York: Revell, 1897.

_____. Christian Missions and Social Progress: A Sociological Study of Foreign Missions. Vol. 2. New York: Revell, 1899.

_____. Christian Missions and Social Progress: A Sociological Study of Foreign Missions. Vol. 3. New York: Revell, 1906.

_____. Foreign Missions after a Century. New York: Revell, 1893.

_____. The New Horoscope of Missions. New York: Revell, 1908.

_____. World Atlas of Christian Missions; Containing a Directory of Missionary Societies, a Classified Summary of Statistics, an index of Mission Stations, and Maps Showing the Location of Mission Stations throughout the World. New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1911.


Dennis, James. Centennial Survey of Foreign Mission: A Statistical Supplement to “Christian Missions and Social Progress”, Being a Conspectus of the Achievements and Results of Evangelical Missions in all Lands at the close of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Revell, 1902.

_____. The Modern Call of Missions: Studies in Some of the Larger Aspects of a Great Enterprise. New York: Revell, 1913.

_____. Sketch of the Syria Mission. New York: Edward O. Jenkins, 1872.