From the Worldwide Faith News archives

David M. Stowe, former UCC missions executive, dies

Date 11 Jan 2000 11:24:55

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Jan. 11, 2000
Office of Communication
United Church of Christ
William C. Winslow, press contact
(212) 870-2137
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For immediate release
Jan. 11, 2000

The Rev. David M. Stowe, former United Church of Christ world missions
executive, dies

     CLEVELAND -- The Rev. David M. Stowe, executive vice president
emeritus of the United Church Board for World Ministries, the overseas
mission arm of the United Church of Christ, died Monday, Jan. 10, in
Englewood, N.J., at the age of 80.  He was a resident of Tenafly, N.J.  The
cause of death was prostate cancer.
     A tall, distinguished man who liked jazz and sailing in his leisure
time, David Stowe inherited the mantle of the United States
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=92 oldest foreign
missionary society, founded by Congregationalists in Massachusetts in 1=
But while he respected its history and traditions, as its executive vic=
president from 1971 to 1985, he shook it up with a flurry of innovative=

changes that forever changed the way mainline American Protestant missi=
operated.  With practical experience in the field -- he served as a
missionary in North China until forced out in 1950 after the Communists=

took over -- he came to realize that overseas churches founded by
missionaries were not satellites of U.S.-based missions boards. U.S. an=
international churches are partners, he insisted, and under his leaders=
it became United Church Board policy that no missionary would serve
overseas without being invited by the indigenous church and that the tw=
bodies were equals.
     Stowe further thought that the missions enterprise was a two-way
street.  Soon, a
trickle of overseas Christians came to the United States to share with =
citizens the Gospel from a different cultural perspective.  Those two
innovations are now standard operating procedures in mainline missions
boards in the United States.
     Stowe also became involved in the struggle against apartheid in So=
Africa.  The weapon of choice was a campaign to get U.S. companies doin=
business in South Africa to withdraw.  The United Church Board for Worl=
Ministries had worked in South Africa since the 1890s and felt a specia=
responsibility, but had little experience with multinational corporatio=
Stowe hired one of the country=92s first executives to work with top
management of major corporations to persuade them to be good corporate
citizens.  The entr=E9e was through the Boards=92s corporate stock owne=
Thus was born the corporate social responsibility movement, which today=
embraced by many faith groups, universities, hospitals and other non-pr=
     Other innovations by Stowe include his early support of the World
Association of Christian Communication, which links religion media peop=
in more than 100 countries.
     Stowe=92s =93visionary leadership will be remembered as a creative=
enduring link to the passion and commitment of the United Church Board,=
said the Rev. John H. Thomas, president of the United Church of Christ.=

     =93He was a front line thinker,=94 added the Rev. Dr. Avery D. Pos=
retired UCC president, whose time in office overlapped with Stowe=92s. =
was very much part of his value.=94
     =93Dr. Stowe saw the Board=92s legacy not as something in which to=
smug pride, but rather as a standard to be met and surpassed,=94 said D=
Bishop, current executive vice president of the United Church Board for=

World Ministries.
     David M. Stowe was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1919 and gradu=
with highest honors from the University of California at Los Angeles in=

1940.  He earned his B.D. degree in 1943 and his Doctor of Theology deg=
in 1953 from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., which awar=
him an honorary doctorate in 1966.
     Ordained in 1943, Stowe served as campus minister at First
Congregational Church, a United Church congregation in Berkeley, before=

going with his wife to North China in 1945 as missionaries of the Ameri=
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, now part of the World Boar=
     Despite the Communist seizure of power in 1949, the Stowes remaine=
d in
China as long as possible, working with Chinese students, laity and pas=
as the church there faced a new society.  In 1949, Stowe joined the fac=
of Yenching University in Peking as a lecturer in Western philosophy.  =
also taught in its School of Religion.
     The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 forced the Stowes and their=
children to return to the United States.  After completing his doctoral=

studies at Pacific School of Religion, Stowe went to Carleton College i=
Northfield, Minn., where he was chaplain and chair of the department of=

     In 1956, he was called to the national headquarters of the America=
Board in Boston to serve as its educational secretary.  With the format=
of the United Church of Christ in 1957, he became general secretary for=

interpretation and personnel of the new United Church Board for World
     In 1962, on a year=92s special assignment, Stowe went to Beirut,
Lebanon, to teach in the Near East School of Theology.  He also visited=

missions and participated in conferences in Asia, Africa and the Middle=

     He returned to the United States in 1963 to take on
interdenominational responsibilities with the National Council of Churc=
serving first as executive secretary of the Division of Foreign Mission=
and, after 1965, as associate general secretary of the Council.  In 197=
he was elected to the top position in the United Church=92s World Board=
     After his retirement in 1985, Stowe served the World Board as
archivist for its almost two centuries of historical papers relating to=

foreign missions.  He was adjunct professor at Andover Newton Theologic=
School in Newton Centre, Mass.  He acted as secretary-treasurer of the
Eastern Division of the American Missiology Society and was an officer =
the World Commission on Religion and Peace.  With his wife, Virginia St=
he led a number of UCC tours of China.
     Stowe is survived by his wife of 56 years, the former Virginia War=
Survivors also include four children:  Nancy Inui of Weston, Mass.,
Elizabeth Hambrick-Stowe of Lancaster, Pa., Priscilla Hoffman-Stowe of
Arlington, Va., and David W. Stowe of East Lansing, Mich.; eight
grandchildren; and a brother, Eugene Stowe of California.  Children
Elizabeth and David also served as UCC missionary associates in Japan.
     In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to One Great Hou=
r of
Sharing, c/o United Church Board for World Ministries, 475 Riverside Dr=
New York, NY 10115.
     Arrangements for a memorial service, which will be held in Cresski=
Congregational Church in New Jersey, are pending.
     The United Church of Christ, with national offices in Cleveland, h=
more than 1.4 million members and some 6,000 local churches in the Unit=
States and Puerto Rico.  It was formed by the 1957 union of the
Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Chur=

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