Leading in Missions: Ed Smither reflects on term as EMS president

Dr. Ed Smither, dean of the CIU College of Intercultural Studies
July 31, 2020

By Bob Holmes

The dean of the CIU School of Intercultural Studies calls his three-year term as president of the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) “a great experience.”

Dr. Ed Smither, who has been an EMS member since 2008, concludes his presidential term this year after EMS has its annual national conference Oct. 9-10 virtually over Zoom because of COVID-19 concerns. The EMS has over 400 full and associate members throughout the United States and Canada.

The organization’s website says “EMS exists to advance the cause of world evangelization” which involves “study and evaluation of mission concepts and strategies from a biblical perspective with a view to commending sound mission theory and practice to churches, mission agencies, and schools of missionary training around the world.”

In other words, Smither says the organization works on strengthening the connection between the academy, the church and mission organizations.   

“Academics can get siloed in the academy, and mission leaders can get siloed in mission organizations,” Smither said. “We want the practitioners to think more about missions and we want the thinkers to practice missions more.”

Smither says 2020 has been a year that missiologists have had to think creatively about missions because of Covid-19, using technology to spread the gospel. He even notes CIU Intercultural Studies interns have created online options for outreach, while a CIU alumna, who serves as a children’s director at a South Carolina church, has created an online Vacation Bible School TV show that “looks like a (network) morning show for kids.”  

As for EMS having a virtual national conference this year, Smither says there will be four plenary speakers and 106 break-out presentations over Zoom in nine parallel rooms with presenters from The United States, Scotland, The Philippines, South Africa and other nations. All will be able to take questions from attendees.

Smither says there are advantages to the virtual conference because the admission fee will be lower and there are no travel expenses for the attendees.  

“We’ll probably have our largest conference because of this,” Smither said.

Smither also notes that EMS has CIU DNA in its roots. CIU’s third president, Robertson McQuilkin, was among its founders in 1990.

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