Pinson, William Washington (1854-1930)

MECS Mission Board Leader

W. W. Pinson, from Travis Park UMC,










Pinson was born in Cheathan County, Tennessee, in 1854. He joined the Tennessee Conference in 1878. After serving pastorates in Tennessee with great success, he transferred to the Texas Conference to serve pastorates in Gonzales and Austin. Just before the turn of the century, he went to the largest church in the West Texas Conference, Travis Park in San Antonia. In this role, he was a founder of the Methodist Mission Home in San Antonio.

Successful ministers often changed conferences, and Pinson was clearly a man of promise. The bishops appointed him to a church in Columbus, Georgia, and then moved him to Louisville, Kentucky. In 1906, the General Conference elected him to be Walter Lambuth’s associate in leadership of the Board of Missions. Four years later, when Lambuth became a bishop, Pinson moved up to overall leadership of the board. He served the post in its various manifestations through 1926. In 1916, he envisioned a massive centennial observance in honor of the founding of the first Methodist missionary society in New York City in 1819. From this initiative came the great Centenary Campaign in the Northern and Southern churches.

After 1926, Pinson served as editor of missionary literature for the Sunday School Board for a quadrennium. He died in 1930. He was the author of several books on missions and missionaries, including a biography of Walter R. Lambuth.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 306.

Hayes, Julianna Gordon (1813-1895)

First President Of The WFMS Of The MECS

Julianna Gordon was born in 1813 in Northumberland County, Virginia. She married the Reverend Thomas C. Hayes, a member of the Baltimore Conference, in 1843. She became active in the Baltimore women’s missionary groups and was president of one of them, the Trinity Bible Mission, when the group issued a call in 1872 for the formation of a general women’s missions society. In 1878, the General Conference approved the creation of what would be the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society, and the bishops named Julianna Hayes to be the first president.

In this role, she traveled extensively and was present at the organizing meetings of women’s missionary bodies in the St. Louis, Western Virginia, Northwest Texas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, North Arkansas, and North Georgia conferences. As a widow, the aging Mrs. Hayes held the leadership position for many years, providing stronger leadership for the society, which continued to elect her as its president. She was an outstanding speaker. In Florida, a distinguished gentleman was asked to introduce her. He demurred, saying women should keep silent in public. After hearing her address, he changed his mind and became a strong supporter. She was deeply mourned across the church when she died in 1895.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 263.

Rankin, Lochie (1851-1929)

First Single Woman Missionary Of MECS

Lochie Rankin was the first unmarried woman to be sent abroad as a missionary by the MECS. She was also the first missionary supported by the Woman’s Foreign Mission Society of the church. She was born in Milan, Tennessee, in 1851. Upon reaching young womanhood, she volunteered herself for service as a teacher in Native American mission schools in Oklahoma. While teaching at New Hope Female School, she heard that a new Methodist woman’s group was seeking a volunteer to go to China to aid Mary Lambuth in her work.

Rankin volunteered and was sent to China in 1878. After an apprenticeship with Mrs. Lambuth, she opened a school for girls in Nanziang. Joined by her sister Dora (the second woman sent), they worked together for six years until Dora died. The bereft Lochie stayed at her post and later opened a boys’ school in Huchow. After nearly fifty years of missions work in China, she retired in 1926. She was given lodging at Scarritt College in Nashville and lived there as a mentor and role model to a succeeding generation of missionaries until she died in 1929. Rankin was an icon, a heroine, a symbol to thousands of Southern Methodists, women and men alike. She stood at the pinnacle of Southern admiration alongside the Baptist missionary Lottie Moon.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 229.


Helm, Lucinda (1839-1897) and Mary (1845-1913)

Leaders Of Southern Methodist Women’s Mission Organizations

Lucinda Helm

Lucinda Helm was born in 1839, the daughter of John Larue Helm, a railroad president and governor of Kentucky. John Helm established the family seat near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where his daughters lived out their lives. A brother, Ben Hardin Helm, was killed in the Civil War as a Confederate brigadier general. When the General Conference of 1886 set up a woman’s division of the Board of Church Extension, Lucinda Helm became its head. She had written its constitution. She agitated for the creation of a Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society (WPHMS), and when the General Conference of 1890 authorized that, she was its first general secretary.

She began publication of Our Homes, the official newspaper of the WPHMS. She mentored Belle Bennett, who became president of WPHMS in 1896. She died in office in 1897.

Mary Helm, several years younger than her sister Lucinda, was an equally active churchwoman. She was corresponding secretary for the Louisville Conference Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society. For a time Lucinda and Mary were, respectively, the secretary of the Home Mission Society and assistant secretary of the Foreign Mission Society. Mary Helm succeeded her sister as editor of Our Homes, holding the post until 1910, when she resigned in protest over the merger of the women’s work in to the General Board of Missions. Both women are buried at the family home in Elizabethtown.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 213.

Kicking Bird (1863-1935)

Kiowa Preacher

The Kiowa preacher known as Kicking Bird was born in 1863 in western Oklahoma, son of Horn-On, a chieftan and priest. He was trained to succeed his father in those roles. He served as a scout for the U.S. Army, 1892-1895, mustering out with the rank of sergeant. Returning to his tribe, he resumed Kiowa ways of living. He soon became the leader of a Kiowa faction that cherished the traditional pattern of life, one that relationships with whites could not help but erode.

Then, he related, the time came when ‘we were in league with the Comanches … and camped here near Mount Scott [Oklahoma]. Mr. Methvin, a Methodist missionary, came along and began preaching in the camp. That made me very angry, so I gathered a crowd to go to the meeting and drive that white man away, or maybe kill him. I did not want Indians to have the white man’s religion. When we got there he was preaching, and Mr. Martinez was telling us what he said. I called out to Mr. Martinez, a much loved man of our nation: ‘Tell that white man to shut his mouth and get away from here mighty quick. The white man’s ways don’t suit us Indians.’

“Mr. Martinez told him what I said and then he talked to Mr. Martinez, who told us that he said: ‘Tell them I do not ask them to take the white man’s way, for that is no good. Nor do I ask them to take the Indian’s way, for that is not good either, but I am asking them to take the way of Jesus Christ.’ I was deeply interested, for that was what I had wanted to hear all my life. I got so interested in the Jesus way that I could hardly wait for Mr. Methvin to finish. Then I went forward and kneeled down and prayed to Jesus Christ. That night I got these stumbling feet of mine in the Jesus road.”

Kicking Bird became a local preacher and interpreter. He led the founding of several churches in central and western Oklahoma before his death in 1935.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 188.

McFerrin, John Berry (1807-1887)

Leader Of Southern Methodist Missions

John B. McFerrin, aside from bishops the most significant figure of the MECS in the nineteenth century, was born in 1807 near Nashville. Licensed to preach at age eighteen, he received appointment to be missionary to the Cherokees from 1826-1828. After pastoring several churches, he was named presiding elder in 1836. The General Conference of 1840 elected McFerrin editor of the Christian Advocate. His was a powerful voice in print, pulpit, and platform during the crisis of the separation of Northern and Southern Methodism. He was an incomparable debater in any forum. In 1858, the MECS elected him book agent.

A refugee from Nashville after the city fell to Union forces during the Civil War, McFerrin became missionary to the Army of Tennessee 1863-1865 When the war ended, he put the Methodist Publishing House back together before being chosen general secretary for the Domestic Board of Missions for 1866-1870. When the two missionary agencies were combined under one secretary in 1870, that man was McFerrin. Only a crisis in the Publishing House caused him to leave the missions job to resume his career as book agent in 1878. He held that post until his death in 1887. His second wife was a cousin to David McGavock, the husband of the first secretary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society.

In his career, he baptized hundreds into the MECS, including John Ross, principle chief of the Cherokee nation, and James K. Polk, eleventh U.S. president.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 94.

Zunic, Peter and Heidi

Translators Of Methodism Into Croatian

When Peter and Heidi Zunic followed God’s call to preach the gospel in Croatia, provide people with counseling and so play a part in building the kingdom of God, they could not possibly have envisaged that they would also be working on the production of Christian literature. But they very quickly recognized that there was a tremendous need for books: “In 1995 there were a few Christian books and brochures only, but no materials to help people read the Bible on a daily basis, like the Brethren [Moravian] churches’ ‘Watchwords.’ There were also virtually no tracts with brief messages and definitely not any specific Methodist literature.”

Overcoming this deficit became an important part of Peter and Heidi Zunic’s ministry. And if on average they spent six to ten hours a week on producing Christian literature, they were not doing it to see their own name on as many book covers as possible, but to lead people to Jesus Christ. They did not select books for translation in a random fashion: “The ‘Watchwords’ book was created out of a need to share with other people what daily Bible reading and closeness to the Lord means for us. The evangelistic tracts were created to reach people, who do not enjoy reading or who have little time to do so. Brief messages tend to stick in people’s memories and stir them to think. And the individual sections of John Wesley’s book on the Sermon on the Mount were initially translated for a Bible study series and were then compiled in book form.”

But Peter Zunic did not just translate literature, but also Christian songs. Partly out of a sense of homesickness for the hymns was a deep message, which he got to know in Germany. And also because he believed that it is important for others to learn these texts, too – and that meant having them in Croatian. And that opened up a completely new field.

The literature ministry was directed towards people, whom they may only meet for a brief time in the pedestrian zone in Split. Or people, whom they do not know or have not even seen, because they live in a different part of the country or even abroad. This means sowing seed into unknown territory. How did they cope with this in the long term? This work would have been inconceivable for Peter and Heidi Zunic without a deep trust in God: “It is our hope and our belief that the Word of God will not return void. We are trying to saw it like good seed and we pray for every book, which we send out, that the recipient would be blessed by God’s Word and would be drawn to God.”

Peter and Heidi Zunic did not really show a deep longing in their own hearts of at least being able to glimpse behind the veil of the hearts of those people who read the Christian literature they produced. Naturally, positive feedback would have encouraged them in their task: “Of course, we are thrilled when we get some feedback and can see that something has grown.” But for them the most important thing is to ensure that seed falls on good soil, grows and bears fruit one hundredfold — and not discover this and “enter it into their own account.” Deep trust is better than false pride in the long run…

Taken with modifications from With the Five of your First Love and the Deep, Still Waters of Faith that has Stood the Test: 50th Anniversary of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe of The United Methodist Church. (Zurich: The United Methodist Church, 2005).

Editor’s note: United Methodist work in Croatia has been put on hiatus since the end of the Zunics’ ministry.

Kelley Family

Missionaries And Mission Supporters

David Kelley was born in Tennessee to a prominent Methodist family in 1833. A precocious lad, he was graduated from college at eighteen, entered the Methodist ministry at nineteen, and received a medical degree at twenty. His mother, Margaret Lavinia Kelley, founded the first women’s missionary support group in her minister-husband’s circuit in central Tennessee. Its purpose was to undergird the work of Mary Lambuth in China. Several years after the Civil War disrupted and ended this effort, the widowed Lavinia Kelley rose up again to create a woman’s group in Nashville. The work of this group led directly to the organization of the denomination-wide Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society.

China drew young David Kelley’s attention, and he offered himself as a medical-evangelist missionary in 1853. His father and mother were present at the Tennessee Annual Conference session where he was ordained deacon and elder in view of his impending service abroad. Kelley returned to the United States in 1856. He continued to serve churches in the Tennessee Conference until the Civil War, when he joined a cavalry regiment and eventually became its colonel. Surviving the conflict, Kelley re-entered the ministry, pastoring large churches and service as presiding elder. For most of the postwar period, he was an active and very influential member of the Board of Missions, holding the jobs of assistant secretary and of treasurer. He was even the acting general secretary briefly in 1882. Often a member of the Tennessee Conference delegation to General Conference, he regularly served on the General Conference Committee on Missions. Kelley died in 1909 at the home of his daughter.

That daughter, Daisy, was a missionary in her own right. In 1877, she married Walter R. Lambuth and served with her husband as missionary to China and Japan. This marriage connected the two most distinguished families of the Southern Methodist mission movement.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 79.

Capers, William (1790-1855)

Founder Of Plantation Missions

Capers was born in South Carolina in 1790, the son of a well-to-do rice plantation owner. Given a fine classical education in his youth, he became a Methodist preacher at the age of eighteen and accepted a charge in the South Carolina Conference. After several years of pastoral service, Capers was appointed missionary to the Creeks in eastern Alabama and western Georgia, an area then within the bounds of the South Carolina Conference. He served seven years as the Native American mission superintendent.

Following his mission service, Capers filled appointments back in South Carolina as pastor, presiding elder, and editor. Between 1827 and 1840, he became the leading spokesman for developing missions among the plantation slaves, overcoming occasional opposition on the part of whites. He was credited with opening the first plantation mission in 1829. He gave powerful support to the movement ever after. An 1840, the General Conference elected Capers to be one of three missionary secretaries, giving him responsibility for the annual conferences in the South.

Capers led the fight on behalf of Bishop James O. Andrew at the 1844 General Conference and was the author of the basic plan for the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church when it became apparent that no other acceptable solution was available. He was in the chair to convene the Louisville Conference of 1845 which gave birth to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. After Bishops Joshua Soule and Andrew took over presidency of the meeting, Capers chaired the missions committee which laid the foundation of the missionary activity of the new church. When the Methodist Episcopal Church, South met for its first General Conference at Petersburg, Virginia, the following year, it elected two bishops to supplement Bishops Soule and Andrew. The first man chosen was Capers. Capers served as bishop until his death in 1855, never losing his love for missionary work among the slaves.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 43.

Sehon, Edmund W. (1808-1876)

Leader Of Southern Methodist Missions

Edmund Sehon was a member of the Ohio Annual Conference at the time of the dissolution of the bonds between Northern and Southern Methodism in 1844 and probably intended to remain in that connection. But the manner of the Ohio Conference’s dealing with Bishop Joshua Soule in 1845 (it would not let him preside because it feared he would go with the South if the church split) seemed to Sehon the height of discourtesy and fanaticism, so he withdrew and moved south himself. He joined the Tennessee Conference briefly, and it elected him one of their delegates to the 1846 General Conference, an unprecedented honor. He soon transferred to the Louisville Conference.

In 1850 ,the General Conference elected him to be the missionary secretary, a post he held through thick and thin until 1866. He supervised the move of the Missionary Society from Louisville to Nashville, held the society in existence though a prisoner and a refugee during the Civil War, and tried to restore it once the war was over. When the General Conference of 1866 divided the missions activity of the church in half, it elected Sehon to lead the new Foreign Missions Board. He resigned the position under criticism in 1868 but retained his good reputation to the end of his days. Sehon continued to serve missions as a board member until his death in 1876.

Taken from Robert W. Sledge, “Five Dollars and Myself”: The History of Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1845-1939. (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 41.