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Eli Stanley Jones (1884–1973) was a 20th-century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian. He is remembered chiefly for his interreligious lectures to the educated classes in India, thousands of which were held across the Indian subcontinent during the first decades of the 20th century. According to his and other contemporary reports, his friendship for the cause of Indian self-determination allowed him to become a friend of leaders of the up-and-coming Indian National Congress party. He spent much time with Mohandas K. Gandhi, and the Nehru family. Gandhi challenged Jones and, through Jones' writing, the thousands of Western missionaries working there during the last decades of the British Raj, to include greater respect for the mindset and strengths of the Indian character in their work.
This effort to contextualize Christianity for India was the subject of his seminal work, The Christ of the Indian Road (ISBN 0-687-06377-9), which sold more than 1 million copies worldwide after its publication in 1925.
He is also the founder of the Christian Ashram movement. He is sometimes considered the "Billy Graham of India". If William Carey was considered the "Father of Modern Mission" on the 18th century, Eli Stanley Jones was the same on the 20th century in his own way.
Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland January 3, 1884. He was educated in Baltimore schools and studied law at City College before graduating from Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky in 1906. He was on the faculty of Asbury College when he was called to missionary service in India in 1907 under the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He traveled to India and began working with the lowest castes, including Dalits. He became a close friend of many leaders in the Indian Independence movement, and became known for his interfaith work. He said, “Peace is a by-product of conditions out of which peace naturally comes. If reconciliation is God’s chief business, it is ours—between man and God, between man and himself, and between man and man.”
In 1925, while home on furlough, he wrote a report of his years of service—what he had taught and what he had learned in India. It was published in a book titled "The Christ of the Indian Road" and became a best seller. It sold over a million copies. Other books followed and certain books or single chapters became required reading in various theological seminaries or in degree courses at government colleges in parts of the world.
His work became interdenominational and world-wide. He helped to re-establish the Indian “Ashram” (or forest retreat) as a means of drawing men and women together for days at a time to study in depth their own spiritual natures and quest, and what the different faiths offered individuals. In 1930, along with a British missionary and Indian pastor and using the sound Christian missionary principle of indigenization. (God’s reconciliation to mankind through Jesus on the cross. He made Him visible as the Universal Son of Man who had come for all people. This opening up of nations to receiving Christ within their own framework marked a new approach in missions called "indigenization") Dr. Jones reconstituted the “Ashram” with Christian disciplines. This institution became known as the ”Christian Ashram.”
In the months prior to December 7, 1941, he was a constant confident of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Japanese leaders trying to avert war. Stranded in the United States during World War II with his family in India (because the only overseas travel allowed was for the military), he transplanted the Christian Ashram in the United States and Canada, where it has become a strong spiritual growth ministry. During this time, Dr. Stanley Jones spent six months in North America, conducting city-wide evangelistic missions, Christian Ashrams, and other spiritual life missions and the other six months overseas. He preached and held Christian Ashrams in almost every country of the world.
He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation work in Asia, Africa, and between Japan and the United States.
In 1947 in the United States, he launched the Crusade for a Federal Union of Churches. He conducted mass meetings from coast to coast and spoke in almost five hundred cities, towns and churches. He advocated a system through which denominations could unite as they were, each preserving its own distinctive emphasis and heritage, but accepting one another and working together in a kind of federal union patterned after the United States' system of federal union.
In 1950 Dr. Stanley Jones provided funds for India’s first Christian psychiatric center and clinic, the now noted Nur Manzil Psychiatric Center and Medical Unit at Lucknow. The staff includes specialists from India, Asia, Africa, Europe, and America who had given up lucrative practices to serve in this Christian institution which serves thousands of patients.
In 1959 Dr. Stanley Jones was named “Missionary Extraordinary” by the Methodist missionary publication World Outlook.
In 1963, Dr. E. Stanley Jones received the Gandhi Peace Award. Dr. Jones had become a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, and after Gandhi's assassination wrote a biography on his life. It is noted that later in time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Jones' daughter, Eunice Jones Mathews, that it was this biography that inspired him to "non-violence" in the Civil Rights Movement.
In December 1971, at the age of 88, while leading the Oklahoma Christian Ashram, Dr. Stanley Jones suffered a stroke that seriously impaired him physically but not mentally and spiritually. He was severely impaired in his speech, but dictated onto a tape recorder his last book, "The Divine Yes", and in June 1972 gave moving messages from his wheel chair at the First Christian Ashram World Congress in Jerusalem.
He died January 25, 1973 in India.
A unique feature of some of his books (e.g., Abundant Living, ©1942) is that while they could be read from beginning to end as normal, they were presented in the format of a page-a-day daily reading featuring a Bible reference, a page of his writing, and a concluding sentence or phrase for meditation.
He explains this structure in his introduction to "Victorious Living" (1936):
These are the British publishers' titles; American titles may be different.
In 2009 Lucknow Publishing published Living Upon The Way, a 15 hour audio series of selected sermons. The sermons are also available to listen to for free at The Foundation for Evangelism website in MP3 format.
In March and July 2010 Summerside Press published Victorious Living and Abundant Living in a new "ESJ Devotional Series" edited and expanded by Dean Merrill.