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United Methodist Scholars


As an undergraduate at Drew University in the early 1980s, I was surprised by the number of graduate students who came from other countries. Drew University is a small liberal arts college in Madison, New Jersey, and there were about 400 people in my graduating class. That's still the average size of a Drew undergraduate class today. I came from Pennsylvania, my roommate came from Germany, and a majority of people living in New Jersey had never heard of this private Methodist-related university. But people from countries outside the United States were familiar with Drew because of a tradition tied to early Methodist missionaries that spans multiple generations.

From the beginning of U.S. Methodist mission endeavors in the late 1800s, within and outside the United States, missionaries, deaconesses, and church leaders identified students with leadership potential and offered them scholarships for higher education to Methodist theological schools and related universities. Most Methodist universities in the U.S., North and South, took part. Students studied in the United States, connected with local Methodist churches in the area, and then returned home to take up leaderships posts. They received professional credentials as pastors, deaconesses, teachers, professors, doctors, nurses, hospital and university administrators, language teachers and translators—and some eventually became bishops.

Crusade Scholars class of the 1959. PHOTO: GCAH MEC COLLECTION, WORLD OUTLOOK.

Sending students to U.S. schools achieved two very important objectives: mission churches received back many well-qualified professionals from their own ranks who built their institutions from the inside out. American supporters got to see, hear, and host students from the mission churches their dollars supported. The students were living proof that progress was being made.

In 1944, the Methodist General Conference decided that, with much of Europe and Asia in ruins, more Christians could benefit from a structured scholarship program, World Communion Scholarships, Advance #982161. Between 1945 and 1948, 300 students received Crusade Scholarships and studied in the United States. Many were from Methodist connections in China, but there were others from Africa and Latin America, from Syria and New Zealand. Six scholars were from the Greek Orthodox Church. The Board of Missions administered the program. While preference was given to students coming from war-torn countries overseas, the very first Crusade Scholar was an American. Frances-Helen Foley spent three years with her missionary family in a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines. By all accounts, they nearly starved to death at the end, but Frances-Helen says they survived because unseen Filipinos tossed packages of food over the camp walls when the guards were otherwise occupied.

Funding channels and application processes have changed over the years, but the mission-related scholarship program continues today as the World Communion Scholars. Originally, funding came from the Crusade for Christ campaign designated by the 1944 General Conference. Today, the scholarships are funded by an offering taken every October for World Communion Sunday.

The World Communion Sunday offering funds graduate racial-ethnic World Communion Scholarships, with at least half of the annual amount reserved for ministries beyond the United States. Donations also provide for undergraduate U.S. Ethnic Scholarship and Ethnic In-Service Training programs.

Christie R. House, editor of New World Outlook magazine

The Advance is the accountable, designated-giving arm of The United Methodist Church. The Advance invites contributors to designate support for projects related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Individuals, local churches, organizations, districts and annual conferences may donate to The Advance. One hundred percent of every gift to The Advance goes to the project selected by the giver. Gifts to missionaries support the entire missionary community.

Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Fall 2018 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.

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