The pan-Methodist family in the world, particularly its sisters and brothers in the field of evangelism, has lost one of its icons—the Rev. Dr. George Ewing Morris. On November 21, 2021, Dr. Morris passed away in Canton, Georgia, at 86, leaving behind a set of inspiring stories of constructive influence and a history of making a difference in the Wesleyan movement.
The former Arthur J. Moore Professor of Evangelism served Candler School of Theology for 16 years after exercising fruitful pastoral leadership in growing local churches. He was sharp-minded, articulate, loyal, frank, committed to theological integrity and the Church and Gospel in context. During his time at Candler, he developed and taught several courses in mission and evangelism. Before and after his retirement, he was honored with national and international awards for distinguished service in evangelism.
Anywhere I go, here in the U.S. or abroad, I often meet former students, pastors, evangelists, and leaders influenced by Dr. Morris through his friendship, lectures, and publications, as well as through what they describe as unforgettable advising conversations, warm pastoral counseling, and transforming discipleship. That’s how he collected countless lifetime friends and colleagues worldwide, who admired him as a leader, pastor, evangelist, preacher, teacher, husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
On a more personal level, I look back to when I first came to do my postdoc at Candler and remember a man in his late sixties covering the absence of an evangelism professor, driving a long way twice a week with such a passion for the discipline, an unmistakable love for the Church, and distinguishing compassion for people, students in particular. I first met him in the mid-‘90s during an evangelism seminar sponsored by the World Methodist Evangelism Institute (WMEI) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Still, I had never imagined such a blessing of being with him again a decade later as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant to his evangelism classes.
George Morris was one of the “dreamers” and makers of WMEI, a cooperative missional ministry of World Evangelism (WME), World Methodist Council, and Candler School of Theology, which draws people worldwide to study evangelism in depth. The original idea of an Institute was born in 1979 after Dr. Morris, then an active faculty member at Candler, the Rev. Sir Alan Walker, World Director of Evangelism, and Dr. Joe Hale, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, held a pilot seminar at Emory University. Given the students’ response, Dr. Hale suggested that the experience be repeated and broadened to include students from other seminaries in the U.S. and other parts of the world. They then began to seek to develop an Institute for World Evangelization which would “enable leadership from East to West, South to North, Orient to Occident to be trained and motivated in world evangelism—for Methodism to be a [strong evangelistic] movement in the world.”
Along with Alan Walker and H. Eddie Fox, Dr. Morris was vital in planning and bringing the Institute to Emory University’s campus permanently, offering opportunities for study and research in the nature and practice of contextual evangelism. Right from the creation of WMEI in July 1981, Dr. Morris became its founding director, determined to “multiply witness,” to equip leadership for indigenous evangelism, and to help churches in the world understand their task and develop their actions.
Dr. Morris believed that WMEI could improve the teaching and practice of evangelism worldwide and that it should become a project for the post-1981 phase of world mission. He was the first to imagine the creation of extended WMEI Centers in different parts of the world and affirmed the need to tailor teaching to the experience of theology students and help them develop responsible proclamation by word, deed, and signs of the mighty work of salvation in Jesus Christ.
His teaching about evangelism pointed out the practice, not through coercion, fear, or glib commercialism, but rather by humble witness, patience, and a firm reliance on the power of God’s Spirit to transform the sharing of our faith into a personal whole life commitment. He viewed the intent of faith sharing as changing lives and new relationships that demonstrate the love, peace, justice, and consciousness of the Kingdom of God.
He was the one who established the first partnerships between WMEI and churches around the world and fostered the involvement of a multiracial and multinational faculty, sponsoring seminars and bringing world evangelism leaders, lay and clergy, faculty, and students together at Candler and numerous places abroad, as well as sending faculty to different countries to share insights and learn from the experience of others.
Dr. Morris wrote and co-wrote several books, including The Mystery and Meaning of Christian Conversion (1981), Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So! (1999), and Faith Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation (2003).
He is survived by his beloved wife Barbara Jean Murphy and their four children: Tonya Morris Arnesen (David), David Wesley (Kathy), George Ewing, Jr. (Amy) and Seren Morris; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; a sister (Patricia Grayson) and a large extended family.
Click here to read the news of Dr. Morris’ passing in The United Methodist Insight.
Click here to read his obituary published by Darby Funeral Home.