Everett Cattell: Quaker and Mission Theologian

Series contents | Intro | Part Two |

This is a part of a series I will be doing on Cattell and his contributions to the Friends Church and missiology.

Everett Cattell is an important figure when it comes to missiology within the Friends Church. He and his wife Catherine De Vol were sent to India in 1936 where they spent 21 years working together as missionaries. There he had the opportunity to work alongside a number of different missions organizations and even got to know Leslie Newbigin and Donald McGavran, two of missiology’s most influential people of the last 50 years.  In 1957, he and Catherine returned to the US where he was made the superintendent of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Damascus) for three years. In 1960, he became the president of Malone College in Canton, Ohio and worked there for 12 years (Abbott, 2006:41-42).Cattell was a leading figure in the holiness movement within the Evangelical Friends Church and helped to create openness among a variety of Friends branches. Through his interactions with a number of different missions organizations while in India he became good at working ecumenically among those within his own tradition. Quaker scholar David Johns writes,

“Cattell’s influence in the Society of Friends has been unparalleled with respect to the conceptualization of the nature of Christian missions and in establishing a model of sorts of an evangelical ecumenicism. A notable strength of Cattell is that he provides enough clarity and conviction to address those who are hazy and unconvinced; yet, he also provides enough ambiguity to humble the most self-assured” (Johns, 1992:5).

Cattell was not only good at ecumenicism but also worked hard as a renewal leader within the Friends Church. At the age of 16 he gave a lecture at yearly meeting on “How Can Ohio Yearly Meeting Take A Forward Step” (Johns, 6). In the late 1960’s he helped organize a conference in St. Louis, which took place in 1970 and was focused on the theme “The Future of Friends” (a theme I am particularly interested in). There he gave one of three keynote addresses; his was titled “A New Approach for Friends” (Also see his essay “The Future of Friends” in Quaker Religious Thought 1966 Vol. VIII No. 2 p.10-14).

His book Christian Mission (1981) is one of only two books in the Quaker tradition covering the general study of mission theology I am aware of. The other is by Elton Trueblood and is called, The Validity of Christian Mission. Cattell’s is the more articulate and seasoned of the two. The book sets out to give a general theology of mission using Scripture, current missiological texts and his own experience as a missionary in India as the basis for his understanding.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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