Tippett, Alan R. (1911-1988)

Australian Methodist missiologist, anthropologist, and missionary to Fiji

Tippet earned an L.Th (Melbourne College of Divinity), an M.A. in history (American University, Washington, D.C.), and a Ph.D. in anthropology (University of Oregon). He was a Methodist pastor in Australia before serving from 1941 to 1961 as a missionary in the Fiji Islands. He had unrivaled knowledge of the history of the Fiji mission, much of it gained through research into local affairs. He wrote valuable reviews of early Fijian missionaries and their work. While editor of the monthly Ai Tukutuku Vakalotu, he produced a stream of books and tracts for the Fijian church. His last four years in Fiji were as principal of the Methodist Theological Seminary, where he raised the educational standard. Under his direction, the first Fijian students earned their L.Th. diplomas from Melbourne College of Divinity.

Tippett’s missiological research for various mission agencies and boards took him to Mexico, the Solomon Islands, Polynesia, Ethiopia, and Navajo Indian reservations in North America. From his extensive studies in the South Pacific came his classic Solomon Islands Christianity (1967). He was an authority on animism and, in 1974, addressed the Lausanne International Congress of World Evangelization on the subject.

From 1965 to 1977 he was professor of anthropology and oceanic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Mission, Pasadena, California. He became a colleague and friend of Donald McGavran, leader of the church growth movement. In response to what he felt were subbiblical attacks on the movement, he wrote Church Growth and the Word of God (1970). In 1977 he retired to his native Australia to prepare a number of manuscripts for publication. They eventually appeared in Introduction to Missiology (1987).

Darrell Whiteman, “Tippett, Alan R.,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 673.

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.



Tippett, Alan R. Aspects of Pacific Ethnohistory. South Pasadena, CA.: William Carey Library, 1973.

_____. Bibliography for Cross-Cultural Workers. South Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 1971.

_____. Church Growth and the Word of God; The Biblical Basis of the Church Growth Viewpoint. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970.

_____. The Deep-Sea Canoe: The Story of Third World Missionaries in the South Pacific. Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 1977.

_____. Fijian Material Culture: A Study of Cultural Context, Function, and Change. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1968.

_____. Introduction to Missiology. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1987.

_____. Oral Tradition and Ethnohistory: The Transmission of Information and Social Values in Early Christian Fiji, 1835-1905. Canberra: St. Mark’s Library, 1980.

_____. People Movements in Southern Polynesia: Studies in the Dynamics of Church-Planting and Growth in Tahiti, New Zealand, Tonga, and Samoa. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.

_____. Peoples of Southwest Ethiopia. South Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 1970.

_____. Solomon Islands Christianity: A Study of Growth and Obstruction. London: Lutterworth P., 1967.

_____. “Sun on the Slip-Rails”, A Booklet of Simple Lines About Simple Things. Suva: Fiji Methodist Mission Print, 1941.

_____. Verdict Theology in Missionary Theory. South Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 1973.

McGavran, Donald A, and Alan R. Tippett. God, Man and Church Growth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973.


Dundon, Colin George. Raicakacaka: “Walking the Road” from Colonial to Post-Colonial Mission : the Life, Work and Thought of the Reverend Dr Alan Richard Tippett, Methodist Missionary in Fiji, Anthropologist and Missiologist, 1911-1988. Thesis (PhD). Australian Defence Force Academy, School of History, 2000.