Monday, February 8, 2021

Recommended Reading: Biography of Bishop Ralph E. Dodge

Ralph E. Dodge was a Methodist missionary from the United States to Angola, Board of Missions executive for Africa, and bishop elected by the Africa Central Conference, serving from 1956-68. Dodge was a noted proponent of racial equality, African leadership in the church, and a gospel that combines personal salvation and the social gospel.

Dodge himself wrote several books, including an autobiography, and a number of short profiles about him can be easily found online. Samuel Dzobo, a Zimbabwean student at Asbury University, though, has written one of the first recent treatments of Dodge and his career. Dzobo's dissertation, entitled "Toward a New Church in a New Africa: A Biographical Study of Bishop Ralph Edward Dodge 1907-2008" is freely available on Asbury's website.

As the subtitle suggests, the dissertation is a biography that is structured around a straight-forward narrative of Dodge's life. Scholars might wish for a bit more analysis of Dodge's thought and practices as a missionary, mission executive, and bishop, but Dodge's commitments still come through strongly in the narrative, even without extensive commentary. The narrative approach also makes the profile approachable for a non-specialist, though there are editing errors and jumps in the narrative structure that may be distracting for some readers.

While not all readers of this blog might have the capacity to read a book-length study of Dodge, as the church looks for ways in the present to dismantle racism and create a church in which US Americans and Africans are equal partners, he is a figure worth re-considering, even a half century after his retirement.

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