Mathews, Eunice Jones (1914-2016)

Mathews, Eunice Jones (1914-2016)

“Bent toward the Love of God and Care of Others”

Eunice Jones and James K. Mathews

She was many things across the decades of her 101-year life span. The plaque in her honor in the Metropolitan United Methodist Church, Washington, DC, reads:

Eunice Jones Mathews, wife, mother, author and noble soul whose life was ceaselessly bent toward the love of God and the care of others.

She was the daughter of famed evangelist/missionary E. Stanley Jones and the wife of missionary/bishop James K. Mathews, but she reminded the United Methodist General Conference of 2004—which marked her 90th birthday—that she did not need to be identified with her father or husband because in the freedom of Jesus Christ she had the freedom to be herself.

Eunice Jones Mathews may or may not have ever been a commissioned missionary, but she was a mission force in 20th century United Methodism. As noted by Thomas Kemper on her death in early 2016, Mrs. Mathews was a pivotal figure in the shaping of contemporary United Methodist mission theology and practice. Her great contributions in writing and speaking, along with collaboration with her husband, was “on understanding the context of mission when proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This included showing respect for indigenous cultures and indigenous church leaders. And they [the Mathews] encouraged social and health services.”

Eunice Jones was born on April 29, 1914, in Sitapur, British India, and grew up in Lucknow. Her mother taught her English to supplement her native Hindustani, and her mother served on the governing board of Asia’s first Christian institution of higher learning for women—now known as Isabella Thoburn College. Eunice attended Wellesley Girls School in Naini Tal, India, and American University in Washington, D.C., before starting her own career in humanitarian work and missionary service. She married a young American missionary, James K. Mathews in 1940 and the couple would have three children and six grandchildren.

She accompanied her husband on missionary trips both before and after they relocated to the United States and he was elected to the episcopacy in 1960. She made more than 60 trips to India and dozens of visits to other parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Her written works included The Divine Yes, a book about overcoming personal tragedies, written in collaboration with her father; Selections from E. Stanley Jones: Christ and Human Need, edited with her husband, and Drug Abuse: Summons to Community Action, of which she was sole author.

Eunice Mathews told interviewer Tracy McNeal in 2004:

She and her husband fashioned their marriage as an equal partnership; Bishop Mathews wrote in his autobiography, A Global Odyssey, that “these very memoirs should be titled, “We Did It Together.”

Together, Bishop and Mrs. Mathews have advocated for peace and good will, moving among personages such as President George and Barbara Bush; President Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton; Pope Paul VI; Mahatma Gandhi; Indira Gandhi; and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

King once told Mrs. Mathews of his deep appreciation for her father–who was a personal friend and biographer of Mahatma Gandhi–because it was reading Jones’ biography that prompted King to adopt a doctrine of nonviolence in the civil rights movement.

Narrative by Elliott Wright from material adapted from the files of United Methodist News Service, Global Ministries and the Washington Post, notably:

Delegates honor Eunice Mathews’ life, legacy by Tracy McNeal, April 29, 2004, United Methodist News Service

Eunice Jones Mathews dies at age 101 by Kathy L. Gilbert, March 1, 2016, UMNS

Global Ministries Remembers Eunice Jones Mathews, February 29, 2016

EUNICE JONES MATHEWS: April 29, 1914 – February 27, 2016, The Washington Post, March 13, 201