The early years: Houses of Fellowship

What we now call OMSC began in 1922 as the Houses of Fellowship. Founders Marguerite and Ida Doane (daughters of hymnwriter William Howard Doane) sought to provide a place for foreign missionaries on furlough to recover their health, and to have their spirits lifted through fellowship, before returning to their mission fields abroad.

They established a complex of missionary furlough apartments in Ventnor-by-the-Sea, Absecon Island, New Jersey, and housed nearly 3,400 adult missionaries in their first 25 years (in addition to another four thousand children, pastors, and other visitors). These early visitors represented 106 mission agencies and denominational boards, 97 fields, and 443 overseas stations. 

Marguerite Doane

Marguerite Doane

William Howard Doane

William Howard Doane

Ida Doane

Ida Doane

Equipping Missionaries for the Journey

The corporation that operated the Houses of Fellowship changed its name in 1967 to the Overseas Ministries Study Center (OMSC). The name change coincided with the introduction of a series of classes for the continuing education of resident missionaries in matters biblical, theological, and cross-cultural. These courses, open to the general public, were and are led by some of the most respected scholars and practitioners in the world of missions. 

“The lecturers you have here and the content of the courses are far superior to anything we had in Bible School.”
— Missionary in OMSC's first study program, 1967

Advancing Mission Research: The IBMR

When Dr. Gerald H. Anderson was appointed as executive director in 1976, one of his first initiatives was to expand OMSC's outreach with the publication of a full-blown academic journal. Building on the legacy of the Occasional Bulletin from the Missionary Research Library, the International Bulletin of Mission Research continues to serve mission scholars and practitioners around the world, representing a broad range of denominations and research interests. It has appeared quarterly since January 1977.

1987: OMSC moves to New Haven

As study became a more central component of community life at OMSC, the corporation decided to move from Ventnor to a more cosmopolitan venue that could offer academic opportunities, resources for mission research, and social and cultural enrichment. After visits to four potential sites, the trustees voted in 1985 to relocate to New Haven, Connecticut. We are now located just a block from Yale Divinity School, whose  Day Missions Library is regarded by many as the premier mission research library in the world.

“Whatever may or may not have been the sins of our missionary predecessors, ... the commission to disciple all the nations stands at the center of the church’s mandate, and a church that forgets this, or marginalizes it, forfeits the right to the titles ‘catholic’ and ‘apostolic.’ ”
— Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, inaugural address, New Haven, Oct. 5, 1987

Present Day

OMSC continues to adapt and serve the needs of missionaries, church leaders, and scholars in the 21st century. See News & Events for more on what's happening now at OMSC.

For a more detailed history, see Renewal for Mission by Robert T. Coote (PDF).


Past OMSC Directors

R. Pierce Beaver, 1973–1976 Photo courtesy of Mennonite Archives of Ontario

R. Pierce Beaver,
1973–1976
Photo courtesy of Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Gerald H. Anderson, 1976–2000

Gerald H. Anderson,
1976–2000

Jonathan J. Bonk, 2000–2013

Jonathan J. Bonk,
2000–2013

J. Nelson Jennings, 2013–2015

J. Nelson Jennings,
2013–2015