Editor's note: Updated with funeral arrangements
Eunice Jones Mathews, “wife, mother, author and noble soul,” died Feb. 27 at 101.
She was the wife of the late United Methodist Bishop James K. Mathews and the only daughter of E. Stanley and Mabel Lossing Jones, renowned Methodist missionaries, but she had her own identity and she left her own mark on The United Methodist Church.
"I do not have to be identified as the daughter of (evangelist) E. Stanley Jones, nor do I have to be identified as the wife of my husband (Bishop James K. Mathews) … but I do have permission to be myself, and this is in the freedom of Jesus Christ," she said in 2004 when the denomination paid tribute to her for her 90th birthday.
Dr. Anne T. Mathews-Younces, her daughter, cited a plaque at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Washington when asked what she would say about her mother.
“Eunice Jones Mathews, wife, mother, author and noble soul whose life was ceaselessly bent toward the love of God and the care of others,” the plaque reads.
Thomas Kemper, top executive of the denomination’s mission agency, said she was “one of the pivotal figures in the shaping of contemporary United Methodist mission theology and practice.”
James Salley, a top executive with United Methodist Africa University in Zimbabwe said the Mathews were among the first champions of the campaign to establish a university in Mutare, Zimbabwe in 1992. Africa University has one of the denomination’s seven apportioned funds.
“They made the first planned giving gift to Africa University,” Salley said.
He recalled the Mathews coming to his office in Nashville, Tennessee, on his first day on the job. Bishop Mathews handed Salley a 15-point plan for success.
“Eunice chuckled,” he said. “ ̒Take your time, I think you will do well and you will get used to us,’ she said.”
Salley, who is in his 24th year with the university, said he took her advice and is on step 14 of the plan.
“She was wonderful, a joy and a delight to be with and she was so insightful about everything,” Salley added. “She lived a grand life — she was a daughter of the universe.”
Growing up in India
Eunice Jones was born on April 29, 1914, to the Methodist’s “premier missionary couple of the 20th century.” She grew up in Lucknow, India, where her parents started self-sustaining Methodist communities.
After attending Wellesley Girls School in Naini Tal, India, and American University in Washington, she began a career in humanitarian work and missionary service. She assisted her father as he traveled the world.
During the 2004 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, she was honored at a banquet sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Mrs. Mathews counts among her distinctions an independently researched and written book, “Drug Abuse: Summons to Community Action,” a second book co-written with her father, “The Divine Yes,” and a professorship established in her and her husband’s name at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington.
She married James K. Mathews on June 1, 1940. He died Sept. 8, 2010, at the age of 97. They had three children, Dr. Anne T. Mathews-Younes, Janice Stromsen (deceased) and J. Stanley Mathews and six grandchildren.
“Eunice and James Matthews’ great contribution was their emphasis 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 encouraged social and health services,” Kemper said.
A memorial service will be held at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, Washington, March 19, at 2 p.m. Bishop Marcus Matthews, episcopal leader for the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and retired Bishop Susan Morrison will be preaching.
Memorial donations may be made to the E. Stanley Jones Foundation, 10804 Fox Hunt Lane, Potomac, MD 280854.
Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]