Carver, William Owen (1868-1954)

Southern Baptist missiologist

Born and reared in a pious Southern Baptist home in Tennessee, Carver graduated with an M.A. from Richmond College (now Richmond University) in 1891. Five years later, after serving briefly as a pastor and a college professor, he received a Th.M. and a Th.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. He began teaching the New Testament there while a student and was elected to the faculty in 1896. Substituting for an ill colleague, Carver conducted a class in mission in 1897, and two years later he initiated a course in comparative religions and mission. He became head of the newly founded missions department in 1900, a post held until his retirement in 1943. He was thus one of the first in the United States to teach missions exclusively. Though his firsthand experience in other lands was limited to extended visits, he became a recognized authority in his field. Ecumenical and theologically progressive, Carver was one of the first named to the American theological committee of the World Council on Faith and Order. A prolific writer, he published twenty-one books, including Missions in the Plan of the Ages (1909), Missions and Modern Thought (1910), The Course of Christian Missions (1932), and The Glory of God in the Christian Calling (1949).

Alan Neely, “Carver, William Owen,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 118.

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

Carver, William Owen. Missions and the Kingdom of Heaven: The Inaugural Address of William Owen Carver as Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Homiletics in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, October 1, 1898. n.p.: J.P. Morton & Company, 1898.

_____. Missions in the Plan of the Ages: Bible Studies in Missions. New York: Revell, 1909.

_____. Missions and Modern Thought. New York: Macmillan, 1910.

_____. The Bible a Missionary Message: A Study of Activities and Methods. New York: Revell, 1921.

_____. The Course of Christian Missions: A History and an Interpretation. Chicago, New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1932.

_____. The Acts of the Apostles. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1945.


Carver, William Owen. Baptist Opportunity. n.p.: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907.

_____. All the World in the Word: Twelve Bible Studies in Missions for Use in Women’s Missionary Union and Other Study Classes. n.p.: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1918.

_____. “‘Foreign Missions’: The New Era and the New Method.” In Review & Expositor 23 (1926).

_____. The Self-Interpretation of Jesus. New York: Doran, 1926.

_____. Thou When Thou Prayest. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, & Company Inc., 1928.

_____. How the New Testament Came to be Written. New York: Revell, 1933.

_____. Rethinking Missions: A Study of the Report of the Commission of Appraisal of the Laymen’s Foreign Mission Inquiry. n.p.: n.p., 1933.

_____. The Re-Discovery of the Spirit. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1934.

_____. The Furtherance of the GOSPEL. n.p.: The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1935.

_____. Sabbath Observance. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1940.

_____. Christian Missions in Today’s World. New York, London: Harper, 1942.

_____. God and Man in Missions. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1944.

_____. Why They Wrote the New Testament. The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1946.

_____. These Twenty Years in World Missions: 1925-45. Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1947.

_____. The Glory of God in the Christian Calling: A Study of the Ephesian Epistle. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1949.

_____. Out of His Treasure: Unfinished Memoirs. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1956.

Mullins, E.Y., H.W. Tribble, and W.O. Carver. The Faith and Its Furtherance. Nashville, TN; n.p.: Broadman Press; The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1935; 1936.


Allen, Wm. Loyd. “The Review & Expositor: A Century of Engagement and Encouragement.” In Review & Expositor 1 no. 1 (Winter 2004): 21-34.

Barnette, Henlee H. “Contributions of William Owen Carver to the Missions Movement Among Southern Baptists.” In Baptist History and Heritage 39 no. 2 (Spring 2004): 77-80.

Carver, George A. and H.C. Goerner. “William Owen Carver.” In Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists. Edited by Lynn May, n.p.: Baptist Sunday School Board, 1982.

Culpepper, Hugo H. “Missions, Evangelism, and World Religions at Southern.” In Review & Expositor 82 no. 1 (Winter 1985): 65-75.

_____. “William Owen Carver: Mentor of Southern Baptist Missionaries.” In Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement. Edited by Gerald H. Anderson, et al., 85-92. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, Books, 1994.

Daily, David W. “Between Province and World: Comparative Religion in the Missionary Apologetic of William Owen Carver.” In Baptist History and Heritage 32 no. 1 (January 1997): 48-60.

DeClaisse-Wolford, Nancy L. “Four Influential Managing Editors.” In Review & Expositor 99 no. 3 (Summer 2002): 343-5, 358, 376-8, 394.

Dobbins, Gaines Stanley. “William Owen Carver, Missionary Pathfinder.” In Baptist History and Heritage 14 no. 4 (October 1979): 2-6, 15.

Falls, Helen E. “William Owen Carver: Advocate for the Biblical Mandate to Live God’s Word in Missions.” In Baptist History and Heritage 31 no. 1 (January 1996): 23-30.

Goerner, H. Cornell. “W.O. Carver: Man of Many Parts.” In Baptist History and Heritage 3 (July 1968): 67-93, 124.

Johnson, John N. God’s Glory in Missions: In Appreciation of William Owen Carver. Louisville, KY: Nilses, 1985.

_____. “W. O. Carver.” In Baptist Theologians. Edited by Timothy George and David Dockery, 284-399. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1990.

Johnson, Ronald W. “The Continuing Challenge of Mission to the World.” In Review & Expositor 101 no. 1 (Winter 2004): 67-85.

Means, Frank K. “An Appreciation of William Owen Carver.” In Review & Expositor 51 no. 2 (April 1954): 147-54.

Myklebust, Olav Guttorm. Study of Missions in Theological Education: An Historical Enquiry into the Place of World Evangelization in Western Protestant Ministerial Training with Particular Reference to Alexander Duff’s Chair of Evangelistic Theology. 2 vols. Oslo: Egede Instituttet, 1956-1957, esp. 2: 79-80, 314, 319.

Nettles, Tom. The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity. Vol. 3: The Modern Era. Fearn, Scotland: Mentor, 2007, esp. 222-28, 231-32.

“The W.O. Carver Centennial.” In Baptist History and Heritage 3 (January 1968): 1-2, 60-1.

Wills, Gregory A. “Southern Seminary and Progressive Religion 1870-1940.” In Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 13 no. 1 (Spring 2009): 64-79.

Wilson, Mark R. “Sounding a False Alarm: W.O. Carver and the 1914 Controversy Over the Virgin Birth.” In Baptist History and Heritage 39 no. 2 (Spring 2004): 81-4.

_____. William Owen Carver’s Controversies in the Baptist South. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2010.



Portrait photo of a young Carver from the website of the Archives and Special Collections division of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Used by permission.