Ninian, missionary to southwest Scotland, 5th or 6th century. Associated with Whithorn, he is believed to have been a bishop in Galloway active among the Southern Picts before Columba. Bede describes him as a Briton who trained in Rome and built a stone church at Candida Casa (‘White House’, Whithorn) dedicated to St Martin of Tours. His tomb became a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages, but accounts of his life are unreliable.

Nobili, Robert de, Jesuit missionary, oriental scholar, born Rome, September, 1577, died Mylapore, Madras, India 16 January 1656. He joined the Jesuits in 1597 and went to India in 1605. From 1606 he was based at Madurai, Mysore. He mastered Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit, familiarized himself with the Hindu Vedas and adopted a sannyasi (holy man) lifestyle to indicate that becoming a Christian did not mean becoming Portuguese. His cultural accommodation methods were attacked as syncretistic in the Malabar Rites controversy but gained papal approval from Gregory XV in the apostolic constitution Romanae Sedis Antistes, 31 January 1623. His writings in Tamil and Sanskrit included poems, catechisms, and philosophical and theological expositions of Christian faith.


Odoric of Pordenone, Franciscan missionary to Asia, born Villanova, near Pordenone, Italy, c.1286, died Udine, Italy, 14 January 1331. Sometime between 1314 and 1318 he left for Asia, stopping at Trabzon, Erzurum, Tabriz, Shiraz, and at Ormuz where he embarked for Thana, India. He sailed round the coast of India and visited Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Vietnam enroute to Canton and Khanbalik (Beijing). After three years he returned to Italy overland and in 1330 dictated the story of his travels, including an account of the work of his Franciscan confrere John of Montecorvino in Beijing. He intended to return to China, but died before he could gain papal authority in Avignon. His travels were plagiarized in English by Sir John Mandeville.


Oman, John Wood, Presbyterian theologian, born Stenness, Orkney, 23 July 1860, died Cambridge, England, 17 May 1939. He was privately tutored in Orkeny, attended Edinburgh University (1877-1882) and the United Presbyterian Theological Hall (1882-1885), spending summer semesters at Erlangen (1883) and Heidelberg (1885). He was minister at Clayport Street Presbyterian Church of England, Alnwick, Northumberland (1889-1907), and from 1907 professor of theology and from 1922 principal of Westminster College, Cambridge. He retired in 1935. He translated and introduced Schleiermacher’s Speeches on Religion (1893). His writing combined a passion for truth with pastoral awareness and included Vision and Authority (1902), Grace and Personality (1917) and The Natural and the Supernatural (1931).
ODCC, SDCHT, S. Bevans, John Oman and his doctrine of God, Cambridge, 1992.


Paton, William, mission strategist and ecumenical leader, born London, 13 November 1886, died Kendal, England, 21 August 1943. He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford and Westminster College, Cambridge. Following a conversion experience in 1905, he rebuilt the Cambridge SCM and became men’s candidates’ secretary of the Student Volunteer Missionary Union. He was ordained as a Presbyterian, sent to India (1916-1919) and published Jesus Christ and the World’s Religions (1916). He returned to India (1922-1926) as first secretary of the National Christian Council of India and then succeeded Oldham as secretary of the IMC and editor of the International Review of Mission (1927-1943). He organized the IMC meetings at Jerusalem (1928) and Tambaram (1938) and in 1942 was involved in establishing the British Council of Churches. He died unexpectedly and his breadth of vision lost at a critical time.


Payne, Ernest Alexander Baptist historian, administrator and ecumenical leader, born London, 19 February 1902, died London 14 January 1980. He studied in London, Oxford and Marburg and was ordained in 1928. Family circumstances prevented him going as a missionary to India and in 1932 he became young people’s secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society. He taught at Regent’s Park College (1940-1951), was general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland (1951-1967), chair of the British Council of Churches (1962-1971) a member of the central committee of the WCC (1954-1975) and president (1968-1975). His publications include The Free Church Tradition in the life of England (1944, 1951), Baptist Thought and Practice (1952), and a facsimile edition of William Carey, An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens (1961).


Ranson, Charles Wesley General secretary of IMC, born Ballyclare, Ireland, 15 June 1903, died Lakeville, Connecticut, 13 January 1988. He studied at Edgehill Theological College, Queens University, Belfast and Oriel College, Oxford, before being ordained (1929) and sent as a Methodist missionary to India. He was secretary of the National Christian Council of India, Burma and Ceylon (1943-1945) and published The Christian Minister in India (1945). He became research secretary of the IMC (1946) and then general secretary. He was founding director of the Theological Education Fund (1958-1963) and president of the Irish Methodist Conference (1961-1962). He taught at Drew University (1962-1968) and at Hartford Seminary (1968-1972) and then pastored the Congregational Church, Salisbury, Connecticut until he retired in 1975. His autobiography, A Missionary Pilgrimage, was published in 1988.


Reichelt, Karl Ludvig Pioneer of missionary understanding of Buddhism, born Barbu, Arendal, Norway 1 September 1877, died Hong Kong, 13 March 1952. He trained for the Norwegian Missionary Society in Stavanger and reached China in October 1903. He developed an interest in mission towards Buddhist monks and in 1920 formed what became the Christian Mission to Buddhists in Nanking. It was relocated to Tao Fong Shan, Hong Kong in 1931. He combined a pietist background with theological liberalism, and saw the Johannine logos as the key to understanding Chinese spirituality. He was a critic of Kraemer at the 1938 IMC conference. Most of his writings were in Norwegian and Chinese, but include Religion in a Chinese Garment (1951). He was under house arrest during World War II, returned to Norway and in 1951 came back to Tao Fong Shan where he is buried.


BDCM:  Gerald H. Anderson, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1998.

DAC: John Chew, David Wu and Scott Sunquist, eds., Dictionary of Asian Christianity, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans (forthcoming).

DCA, Dictionary of Christianity in America.

DEB: Donald M. Lewis, ed. The Blackwell Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1730-1860. Oxford: Blackwell, 1995.

DEM:  Nicholas Lossky, et al, eds. Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans / Geneva: WCC, 1991.

DSCHT: Nigel M. de S. Cameron, ed. Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993.

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1999.

IBMR: International Bulletin of Missionary Research

ML: Gerald H. Anderson, et al, eds. Mission Legacies.  Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement, Maryknoll: Orbis, 1994.

ODCC: F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford, 1997..