A New Vision for Missions: William Cameron Townsend, The Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the Culture of Early Evangelical Faith Missions, 1917-1945 / Edition 2

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“Cam” Townsend is rightly known as the visionary founder of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the Wycliffe Bible Translators. This joint effort is now the largest Protestant mission organization in the world, a mission which has dramatically changed the culture of what used to be known as faith missions.
Townsend revolutionized Protestant missions by emphasizing that missionaries needed to learn the language of the people to whom they were sent and to live among them in order to understand their communities. His system stressed training the missionaries in public health, basic education, and agricultural skills. The demonstrated success of missionaries who followed Townsend’s plan led to SIL/WBT influence in the larger societies in which the organization was present. Townsend was non-dogmatic in seeking allies to pursue his objectives, including local political movements and power structures, academics, and other religious faiths, increasing the influence of his group to the point that SIL/WBT became a major factor in the national affairs of the countries in which they were active, particularly in Latin America.
The very success of Townsend’s methods led to trouble with his base in the United States. As conservative and evangelical financial backers and prospective missionaries saw the organization and Townsend working amicably with Roman Catholics, leftist political groups, and atheist and agnostic academics, the SIL/WBT ran into trouble at home.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This book is well-written and makes an original and significant contribution to the field of writing on Townsend and SIL. A New Vision for Missions is based on sound research and scholarship. The Christian public, both evangelical and mainstream, will want to read this book.”
—Ralph R. Covell, Senior Professor of World Christianity, Denver Seminary
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817315931
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 10/12/2008
  • Series: Religion & American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

William Svelmoe is Associate Professor of American History, St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

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Table of Contents

1 In Which Townsend Drops Out of College and Decides to Be a Missionary for a Year, 1896-1917 1

2 In Which Townsend Shares His Faith, Battles Roman Catholics, and Learns about Indians, 1917-1918 21

3 In Which the Reader Learns a Great Deal about Evangelicals and Faith Missions, While Townsend Takes a Wife, Builds a Cornstalk House, and Meets Some Important People, 1919-1921 54

4 In Which the Central American Mission Finds Trouble, Trouble Everywhere and Dr. Becker Makes a Brief but Memorable Appearance, 1922-1924 112

5 In Which Council Members Sail to Guatemala to Save the Mission, Mrs. Townsend Makes Some Practical Suggestions, and R. D. Smith Has Some Surprise Visitors, 1925-1928 165

6 In Which Townsend Makes Everyone Nervous with Another Wild Idea and R. D. Smith Has a Nightmare, 1929-1932 210

7 In Which Townsend Mixes Science with Faith, Writes an Audacious Letter, and Recruits a Few Geniuses along with More Than a Few Girls, 1933-1945 237

8 In Which Townsend Goes Pioneering, Makes Some Strange Bedfellows, and Starts an Odd New Mission, 1935-1945 269

Epilogue: In Which Townsend Decides Catholics Are Okay After All and the Reader Gets a Glimpse of the Future 308

Notes 321

Bibliography 355

Index 363

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