Leading missiological scholar and educator served at Fuller for 30 years
Arthur F. Glasser, dean emeritus and professor of missiology in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, passed away on Tuesday, December 8, in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Glasser was 95.
“Arthur Glasser had a powerful impact as a leading scholar and educator in the academic study of mission,” said Richard J. Mouw, president of Fuller. “His teaching and writings shaped half a century of missiological thinking, and richly influenced the work of thousands of missionaries and church leaders worldwide.”
“For more than three decades, Arthur Glasser touched the lives of many, many students with his exceptional scholarship on the theology of mission,” said Sherwood Lingenfelter, Fuller provost and also a former dean of the School of Intercultural Studies.
Glasser, who was instrumental in introducing the term “missiology” to the evangelical community, contributed significantly to the study of mission both academically and practically. He drew deeply on his own firsthand missionary experience, having served as a missionary with Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly China Inland Mission) in Western China at the end of World War II, and then as home secretary for OMF for 12 years. Glasser’s hallmark explanation of mission as a continuation of God’s work, as detailed throughout the Old and New Testaments, often led students to rethink their framework of missional engagement and to apply the entirety of Scripture to their work on the mission field.
Glasser joined the Fuller Seminary faculty in 1970, and served as dean of the School of Intercultural Studies (then School of World Mission) from 1971 to 1980. Under Glasser’s direction, Fuller began offering the first version of distance learning—the “In Service Mission Research Program”—which enabled active missionaries to complete some coursework via audiocassette while continuing their work in the field. Also during Glasser’s tenure a PhD program in Missiology was launched, as well as the master’s-level Cross-Cultural Studies program. The latter was initiated to prepare less experienced, pre-field mission students for a range of cross-cultural situations, adding to Fuller’s existing curriculum for experienced missionaries.
Additionally as dean, Glasser brought in faculty who were specialists in language acquisition, anthropology, contextualization, Asian studies, and Islamic studies, significantly expanding the value of the School of World Mission’s degree programs. He retired in 1999, at which time he was Senior Professor of Theology, Mission, and East Asian Studies.
Glasser wrote many articles and books, including Contemporary Theologies of Mission (with Donald McGavran, 1983) and, most notably, his magnum opus Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God's Mission in the Bible (2003). A comprehensive study of mission, Announcing the Kingdom represents a lifetime of Glasser’s teachings, scriptural reflection and mission experience, portraying mission as the center of God’s plan and the grand unifying theme of human history.
A founding member of the American Society of Missiology (ASM) in 1972, Glasser later served as its president. From 1976 to 1982 he was editor of Missiology: An International Review, the official journal of ASM.
Glasser encouraged a spirit of ecumenism among Christians, and worked toward increased understanding between the Christian and Jewish communities. He challenged the evangelical community in several ways, including addressing social concerns and matters of biblical interpretation. Committed to pursuing biblical approaches, Glasser saw the Kingdom of God as the dominant theme that links the Testaments and provides a foundation upon which a comprehensive biblical theology of mission can be built.
Glasser is survived by his three children, Sam, Ann, and Carol Glasser. His wife, Alice, died in 2006.