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Collection 352 Records of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA)

Identifier: CN 352

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, form letters, financial and statistical reports, minutes, memos and promotional material related to IFMA administration and its service to its member missions.

The files on IFMA members and numerous other Christian agencies predominate.  Also includes series of maps of Latin American countries identifying nondenominational and denominational mission activity.  Numerous mission-related subjects are documented.  Persons prominently featured include Jack Frizen, Billy Graham, and John Percy.


  • Created: 1934-1983, n.d.

Biographical or Historical Information

Association of Evangelical & Fundamentalist nondenominational mission agencies; founded in 1917 by several nondenominational mission agencies which no longer felt compatible with the growing ecumenical movement.  On behalf of its members, IFMA coordinated annual conferences, provided a liasion in some governmental matters, offered endorsement on members' behalf to the Christian public, and assisted members to establish effective and responsible administrative practices.  IFMA served the general Christian public by disseminating missions information and helping local congregations establish their own mission programs.  IFMA declined an offer from the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association in 1946 to merge the two associations; they nevertheless worked cooperatively in scheduling concurrent annual conferences, developing joint committees, and providing training seminars.  Until 1950, IFMA headquarters were located in facilities provided by the missions of IFMA's elected officers; permanent headquarters were located in: New York City, 1950-1960; Ridgefield, New Jersey, 1960-1973; and Wheaton, Illinois, 1973-present.  IFMA's general secretaries included John Percy (1956-1963), Edwin L. Frizen (1963-1991).

Historical Background:

The Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) originated in a meeting of mission agency leaders in March 1917. The meeting occurred as the flowers of the Fundamentalist/ Modernist Controversy were ready to bloom, and theologically conservative mission agencies no longer felt compatible with or able to work within the growing ecumenical movement. The meeting was called by Paul Graef, a Christian businessman and board member of the South Africa General Mission; also participating in the meeting were representatives of Africa Inland Mission, Central American Mission, and China Inland Mission. The mission representatives met to discuss how they could encourage greater missions awareness among American conservative Christians, provide fellowship among fundamentalist agencies, and facilitate inter-mission cooperation among themselves. In a followup meeting in September 1917, mission leaders met to consider establishing an informal organization of interdenominational foreign mission societies. Representatives of China Inland Mission, Inland South America Missionary Union, South Africa General Mission, Sudan Interior Mission and Woman's Union Missionary Society participated in the meeting where articles of agreement were drafted and provisionally adopted for ratification by individual missions. The ratification process proceeded during the following year, and annual meetings commenced from 1918 onward.

At its founding, the Association's purpose was to gather mission executives for an annual conference featuring an agenda of business, reports, prayer, preaching, and fellowship. As an association, the IFMA had no administrative authority over its members, but was instead to provide: a forum for exploration of issues; a means for similar organizations to meet together for encouragement, fellowship and cooperation; and an endorsement on members' behalf to the fundamentalist public as agencies worthy of support. The other aspect of the Association's service to the Christian public was in being an information center on missionary societies and activities around the world, and helping congregations establish their own missionary programs. As the Association developed, it also helped member missions establish effective and responsible administrative practices and provided a liaison in certain governmental matters.

IFMA's administrators were drawn from the leadership of its members. The president, other officers and board members rotated on a regular basis. In 1921 the membership created the position of Executive Secretary and authorized the establishment of a headquarters office to serve as a network center for the Association's members. Only in 1956 did IFMA appoint its first fulltime General Secretary (John O. Percy). Faced with Percy's resignation, IFMA appointed Edwin Leonard "Jack" Frizen as its Executive Secretary. Frizen continued to hold the post, later renamed Executive Director, in 1988. Overlapping this time period was Cora Goble's service as secretary from 1951 until 1973. For a more detailed list of IFMA's officers and administrators, please refer to the Biographical Sketches and Addendum A in this guide.

Having been born in the environment which produced the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy, it was no surprise that the issues of separation and cooperation were constant points of reference is IFMA discussions. While the interaction focused on various specific issues, the Association addressed this general topic in its deliberations on the identifying qualifications for membership, association with and/or merger into the EFMA, evaluating the doctrinal positions of members and applicants, a proposed relationship between the EFMA, IFMA and the International Council of Christian Churches (ICCC), the value of organizational independence, and IFMA's relationship with the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA).

In particular, the emergence of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) in 1945 promoted discussion of cooperation among evangelical mission agencies. The EFMA was in many ways an IFMA counterpart, servicing evangelical denominational missions. IFMA decided in 1946 not to accept an EFMA decision to merge with it. While similar in most doctrinal areas and evangelical commitment, IFMA's reservations were over the areas of maintaining its distinctiveness and the Pentecostalism which was included in the EFMA. Despite the decision not to accept the EFMA invitation, both associations developed an increasingly more cooperative working relationship, beginning in the 1960's. For example, the EFMA and IFMA merged several of their committees and began holding their annual meetings concurrently in the same location in order to facilitate discussion on topics and projects of mutual interest. While the question of cooperation vs. separation did not disappear from the IFMA thinking, its focus was directed toward achieving the work of evangelism rather than maintaining proper separation.

From its founding in 1917, the IFMA saw growth in its membership in each subsequent decade. Having been organized by seven missions, the Association saw its greatest period of membership growth in the 1940's and 50's, when it added ten new missions (1940's) and twentyone more (1950's). The membership grew to consist of thirtyeight members in 1983, with eight associate members. Eight missions which had formerly been full IFMA members had by that time merged into other IFMA missions.

Membership: IFMA developed standards which members were required to adhere to. These standards were primarily focused on doctrinal convictions, but also included agreement about missionary principles, practices, and fundraising. In 1941, the Association expanded the requirements for membership to include that they send out a minimum of ten missionaries. The function of the standards was to avoid the theological liberalism which the Association was shunning and provide a unified base from which to confer and cooperate. Other grounds for rejection for membership were denominational affiliation, failure to conform to financial and administrative standards, lack of a functioning North American council, too few missionaries, not being a sending agency, or lack of involvement in cross-cultural work.

Headquarters location: In 1921 the IFMA membership authorized the establishment of a headquarters office. At the beginning of 1950, however, the office continued to be housed within facilities provided by the missions of the Association's elected officers and operated by a parttime Executive Secretary. In 1950 the office was located in Africa Inland Mission's headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. Later that year it opened its own office in Manhattan. IFMA purchased its first office building in New York City in 1956. In 1960 the IFMA relocated its headquarters in Ridgefield, NJ. Thirteen years later (1973) it moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Wheaton, IL, in part to facilitate proximity with other evangelical agencies. After temporarily renting a facility while waiting for the completion of its permanent headquarters, it moved into its permanent Wheaton facility in 1976.

Annual meetings: The Association held its annual business meetings, usually in October, to enable it to elect its officers, vote on resolutions, and address topics of concern, such as qualifications of missionaries, quality of missionaries, deputation, IFMA's assistance to a pastor, IFMA as channel for students and volunteers, or training students for mission service.

Literature: Throughout its history, IFMA published or provided access to literature which broadened awareness of missions, including pamphlets, books and newsletters. In 1930 the Association produced the booklet, Faith Missions. In the 1940's IFMA utilized Good News Publishing Company and Harrington Press to print its pamphlets. The Association initiated the IFMA Prayer Bulletin (1950) and later the bimonthly IFMA News. Other pieces IFMA provided were IFMA Opportunities on personnel needs; IFMA Update: Government & Business with its information on tax and government matters, business and financial management; and IFMA Notes which consisted of miscellaneous information. Between 1959 and 1962, IFMA also published its Missions Annual, which contained articles and a compilation of statistics on members' activity worldwide. In terms of books, IFMA was involved in the publication of two books: Faith Mighty Faith on the history of "faith missions," written by J. Herbert Kane and published by IFMA in 1956; Kane later revised Robert Hall Glover's The Progress of World-Wide Missions in 1960.


As IFMA was an association of active organizations, it accomplished much of its work through the committee structure which became a prominent characteristic of IFMA during the 1940's. The minimal dues required for membership provided a further impetus the development of the committee structure: committee members rather than a fulltime staff had to accomplish the work of the Association. The following list alphabetically outlines the committees which have functioned within IFMA (noting dates of origin when known).

Africa Committee (1950): formed around issues of evangelical relationships on the continent, particularly those between the recently formed World Evangelical Fellowship and Carl McIntyre's International Council of Christian Churches. Like its Latin American counterpart, the Africa Committee also merged into a joint IFMA/EFMA Committee.

Amalgamation Committee (1965): formed to explore the possibilities, interests and problems surrounding organizational mergers by IFMA members. This committee was renamed the Cooperation and Comity Committee in 1967.

Business Administration Committee (1961): established to encourage the standardization of business and accounting practices, and offer guidance in relation to government matters.

Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas (CAMEO).

Conference Committee.

ECLA (Committee on Latin America) (1949): offered official representation, and acted as a clearing house for investigation, information and mutual consultation by IFMA members. The Committee was later merged into a joint IFMA/EFMA Committee on Latin America.

Educational Committee (1943).

Committee on Europe.

Committee on Evangelism and Church Development.

Islamic Committee.

Literature and Publicity Committee.

Missionary Journal Committee: joint with EFMA, from which Evangelical Missions Quarterly developed.

Personnel and Student Committee (1965): sought to deal with recruitment and student relations matters.

Policy Committee.

Program Committee: planned the annual meeting.

Public Relations Committee (1949).

Radio Committee (1943).

Relief Committee (needs later addressed by referring member missions to World Relief Commission).

Revision Committee (1943): revised the IFMA Constitution and ByLaws.

Summer Institute of Missions Committee.

Conferences: IFMA coordinated a variety of conferences, both to address needs of its membership and the general Christian public. Among these were Bible and missionary conferences, which were targeted more at the laity; these were first held in 1924 and continued through the 1940's. These were replaced with meetings more for the member agencies themselves. A series of conferences was began in 1957, addressing various issues of administration. Subsequent meetings were held in 1967, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1977, and 1979. Subjects addressed in these meetings included: office management, salaries, pertinent legislation, tax matters, financial systems and planning, and computer applications. Out of these conferences grew two manuals to further assist members in their organizational administration: Mission Administration Manual, and Accounting and Financial Reporting Guide for Missionary Organizations. In 1960 the Association held the Congress on World Missions (Chicago), aiming to influence pastors and leaders of Christian educational institutions. Followup plans from the Congress included a conference to be held in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964, although those plans did not materialize. However, plans for the IFMA/ EFMA Congress on the Church's Worldwide Mission were carried in 1966. Another series of workshops were held between 1968 and 1970 to foster understanding of the merger process and appropriate merger procedures. IFMA sponsored other meetings, but these were done jointly with EFMA, and are therefore covered in the following section.

Cooperation with EFMA: Although their distinctives prevented a merger, similarities in goals, theology, and mission principles and practice, led to increased cooperation between the IFMA and EFMA, principally in joint committees and jointly sponsored conferences.

In 1959 the two associations undertook their first committee merger by joining their committees on Latin America to form the Evangelical Committee on Latin America (ECLA); they followed with their Africa committees in 1962. The following year (1963) the two Associations jointly established the Missionary Journal Committee, which evolved into the Evangelical Missions Information Service, the publisher of Evangelical Missions Quarterly. The Higher Education Committee joined with its EFMA counter part to form the Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas (CAMEO). Other joint IFMA/EFMA committees were: the Committee on Bible Society Concerns, Evangelical Asia Committee, Personnel Committee, and the Mission Review Task Force.

Jointly sponsored meetings took the forms of seminars, workshops, conferences and congresses. The first of these was a 1963 study conference at Winona Lake, Indiana. The following are other meetings which the two associations sponsored together: the Congress on the Church's Worldwide Mission (1966, Wheaton); a 2nd study conference (1968, Winona Lake); GL'71, "Missions in Tension" (1971, Green Lake, WI, sponsored by the IFMA/EFMA Evangelical Missions Information Service); study conferences which included the Association of Evangelical Professors of Missions (1973, 1976 and 1978, all in Overland Park, KS); and a medical consultation to address issues for mission administrators and medical personnel (1977, Farmington, MI).

A series of workshops for personnel staff began with IFMA meetings between 1967 and 1970. In 1971 the EFMA committee on personnel merged with that of the IFMA, and together they continued these annual workshops. The meetings focused on personnel issues ranging from recruitment, candidate orientation, staff evaluation, continuing education, a missionary's first term, personnel record keeping, etc.

The two associations cooperated in several other ventures. In 1955, the Summer Institute of Missions developed from an EFMA initiative which later gained the cooperation of IFMA and the Educational Commission of the NAE. Held at Wheaton College during the summer term, the purpose of the institute was to educate students, missionaries and missions executives through courses on missions. The program was continuing in 1988.

Another achievement was their joint establishment of the Africa Evangelical Office in Nairobi in 1962. By 1965, the leadership had set a goal to appoint an African leader of the office at its 1966 meeting. In addition to achieving that goal, the conference participants united to form the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM).

Thirdly, the Mission Review Task Force, begun in 1979, sought to provide the members of the associations with a tool for self evaluation.

For an extended treatment of IFMA's history, please see Edwin Frizen's dissertation, An Historical Study of the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association in Relation to Evangelical Unity and Cooperation, 1981.

In 2007, IFMA was renamed CrossGlobal Link, and in 2011 merged with The Mission Exchange (formerly EFMA).

Biographical Sketches:

The following were some of IFMA's administrative leadership during the period covered by the documents in this collection. The correspondence of these individuals may predominate for the years of their duties. The organizational names in parentheses indicate the missions they represent. Also see Addendum A for a chronological list of administrators.

Bowen, Arthur J.: President, 1943; Vice President, 1945 (South Africa General Mission)

Cook, J. Hubert: Secretary, 1956 (Evangelical Union of South America)

Davis, Ralph T.: President, 19441946, 1957 (Africa Inland Mission)

Dowkontt, George H.: Secretary/Treasurer, 19261943 (American European Fellowship, Bolivian Indian Mission)

Fenton, Horace L.: Vice President, 1956 (Latin America Mission)

Frizen, Edwin Leonard "Jack": Executive Secretary, 19631988+ (Far Eastern Gospel Crusade)

Glover, Robert Hall: Vice President, 1945 (China Inland Mission)

Goble, Cora: office secretary, 19511973

Griffin, Herbert M.: President, 1956; Vice President, 1947, 1949 (China Inland Mission)

Holm, August B.: Vice President, 1943; Secretary/Treasurer, 1946; Secretary, 19481949

McCullough, Joseph S.: Vice President, 1946; Secretary/Treasurer, 1944 (Bolivian Indian Mission)

Mortenson, Vernon: President, 1963 (The Evangelical Alliance Mission, TEAM)

Nixon, Harmon S.: Secretary/Treasurer, 1947

Percy, J.O. "Jack": Vice President, 1949, Secretary/Treasurer, 1950-1952; Secretary, 19531954; Administrative Vice President, 19541956; General Secretary, 19571963; (Sudan Interior Mission)

Playfair, Guy W.: Vice President, 1946 (Sudan Interior Mission)

Pudney, E.J.: President, 1949; Vice President, 1947 (Unevangelized Fields Mission)

Torrey, Frank C.: President, 1947 (Soldiers & Gospel Mission of South America)


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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US