Fleming, Daniel Johnson (1877-1969)

American missiologist

Fleming was born in Xenia, Ohio, and graduated from the College of Wooster. After completing a short-term mission assignment in India, he earned advanced degrees at Columbia University (M.A., physics) and at the University of Chicago (M.S., chemistry). He also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. In 1904, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions appointed him and his wife, Elizabeth (Cole), missionaries to Lahore, India, where they served for eight years. While on furlough, Fleming completed a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. When family health problems made a return to India impossible, he accepted a position at Union Theological Seminary, New York, serving first as director of the newly established Department of Foreign Service and later as professor of missions (1918-1944). In addition to his work at Union, he lectured widely at other academic institutions and missionary conferences. He also served on the staff of the Laymen’s Foreign Missions Inquiry in India.

Although Fleming had an impact on many through his teaching, his greatest contribution to the Christian mission was through his writing. He wrote or edited twenty-three books and published seventy-five articles. Through his writing he sought to rethink the missionary enterprise in response to the questions raised by biblical higher criticism, the social sciences, and increasing global consciousness. He hoped to build a theory and practice of mission that would be viewed as ethical by thinking people both in the United States and in countries where American missionaries were sent. Whither Bound in Missions (1925) provides the most comprehensive statement of his thinking. His later books, which were more widely recognized, and which were devoted to the cause of world unity, include Each with His Own Brush (1938), The World at One in Prayer (1942), and Bringing Our World Together (1945).

Lydia Huffman Hoyle, “Fleming, Daniel Johnson,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 214-5.

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

Fleming, Daniel Johnson. Attitudes Toward Other Faiths. New York: Association Press, 1928.

_____. Building with India. 1922. West Medford, Mass., The Central Committee on the United Study of Foreign Missions; New York, Missionary education movement of the United States and Canada, 1922

_____. Contacts with Non-Christian Cultures; a Case Book in the Christian Movement Abroad. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1923.

_____. Devolution in Mission Administration, as Exemplified by the Legislative History of five American Missionary Societies in India. 1916. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1916.

_____. Helping People Grow: An Application of Educational Principles to Christian Work Abroad. New York: Association Press, 1931.

_____. Whither Bound in Missions. 1925. New York: Association Press, 1925.

Union Theological Seminary. Exercises connected with the inauguration of the Rev. Daniel Johnson Fleming, Professor of Missions; the Rev. Harry Frederick Ward, Professor of Christian Ethics; the Rev. Eugene William Lyman, Professor of the Philosophy of Religion. At the opening service of the eighty-third academic year at the Seminary, September twenty-sixth, nineteen hundred and eighteen. Together with an address given at the eighty-second commencement, May fourteenth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, by the Rev. Henry Preserved Smith (1918).


_____. Each with His Own Brush; Contemporary Christian Art in Asia and Africa. New York: Friendship Press, 1938.

_____. Ethical Issues Confronting World Christians. New York: The International Missionary Council, 1935.

_____. Limitations of an Intellectual Approach in Missions. New York: Missionary Research Library, 1957.

_____. Marks of a World Christian. New York: Association Press, 1919.

_____. The Social Mission of the Church in India. Calcutta: Association Press, 1913.

_____. What Would You Do? When Christian Ethics Conflict with Standards of Non-Christian Cultures. New York: Friendship Press, 1949.

_____. The World at One in Prayer. New York, London, Harper & Brothers, 1942.

Missionary Research Library Collection“, Burke Theological Library “contains collections of named missionaries’ papers and institutional records within geographic divisions” including Fleming’s writings under the South Asia division.


“Daniel Johnson Fleming.” Courtesy of E. McClung Fleming. In Hutchison, William R. Errand to the World: American Protestant Thought and Foreign Missions. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.