On 14 November, Rev. Dr. Joe R. Hale took his place among the faithful in heaven. Dr. Hale served as general secretary of the World Methodist Council, leading the organization for 25 years and overseeing five World Methodist Conferences. Many have shared their memories of Dr. Hale which we share in this tribute online. Condolences to the family may be passed through to WMC office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or mailing to P.O. Box 518, Lake Junaluska, NC 28475.
Obituary of Rev. Dr. Joe R. Hale
Rev. Dr. Joe R. Hale, age 81, died on November 14 at Silver Bluff Village, near Canton, N.C., where he lived with his wife, Mary Richey Hale. A worship service celebrating his life will be held on Thursday, November 17th, 2:00 p.m., at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, N.C. Rev. Sanford L. Giles, Jr. and Bishop Ivan M. Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, will officiate.
Joe was a native of Camden, Arkansas, the son of the late Alfred Clay Hale and Bess Akin Hale. His father was a school teacher and a consultant for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When his father served one full year in Thailand, accompanied by Joe, the experience abroad made an indelible impact upon him, initiating his fascination with global Christianity.
Young Joe was good at academics; but, at age 9, he demonstrated interest and acumen for performing magic tricks, doing 30-40 intriguing shows per year in the Camden area. At age 13, Joe met a noted magician Harry Blackstone and even assisted him in a performance.
In high school Joe began a life-long love for playing musical instruments, beginning with trumpet performances. As an adult, he learned harp and played for personal entertainment. At the age of 16, Joe was inspired by the preaching of Billy Graham, whereby the faith of his childhood was deepened with evangelical fervor. Later in life, he and Graham became personal friends and were mutually supportive in their evangelical endeavors. Joe’s early passion for proclaiming the Gospel was born, and he started preaching in small Methodist churches and camp meetings in south Arkansas. Joe combined his intriguing gifts in magic with his enthusiasm for preaching as he took his magic show to thousands of fellow youth at the beach upon spring breaks during his student years at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Upon graduation from Asbury in 1957, Joe matriculated at Perkins School of Theology, the seminary at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Upon his graduation from seminary in 1960, Joe was recognized for his innate skills and intense passion for evangelism and was, consequently, appointed by his bishop to serve on the staff of the General Board of Evangelism, working under the guidance of the legendary Harry Denman.
Through the encouragement of his colleague and friend on the Board’s staff, Ed Beck (an All-American basketball player on the University of Kentucky’s National Championship team), Joe met Mary Richey of Paris, Texas. After a brief courtship, they were married in 1964. Mary was the Director of Christian Education at First Methodist Church in Odessa, Texas, and the two became partners in dynamic ministries of proclamation and teaching for the ensuing four decades.
In 1968, Joe was elevated to the position of Director of Ecumenical Evangelism for the Board of Evangelism, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. He led the planning for a World Conference on Evangelism in Jerusalem held in 1974, attended by over 2, 500 persons from around the world. Joe interacted with many Palestinian Christians, resulting in his life-long sensitivity to the plight of those that suffered injustices and oppression in their native land. Joe’s careful planning of this global conference did not go unnoticed. Thus, at the gathering of the World Methodist Council in 1976, meeting in Dublin, Ireland, Joe R. Hale was elevated to the position of General Secretary of the Council and held that position until his retirement in September of 2001. When the World Methodist Council gathered for its Conference in Brighton, England, journalist Ron Patterson wrote this tribute upon Joe’s retirement, “To most of those assembled, Joe Hale has personified the World Methodist Council. During my own 30 years of church journalism, I have not known a more committed, faithful, and generous spirit. Joe is someone who is always building platforms for others, with generosity and a genuine sense of humility.” Joe Hale’s warmth of personality and ability to bring a solidarity of purpose to 36 million members of the World Methodist Council with a constituency of over 70 million people with residents in 130 countries, uniting in one spirit these many cultures, was indeed remarkable! Joe seemed to embrace these many delegates as a brother or sister. He sought to know personally as many as possible within the Wesleyan family of churches.
Dr. Hale presided with distinction over five great conferences of the World Methodist Council, held in the following locations: Honolulu, Hawaii (1981); Singapore (1986); Nairobi, Kenya 1991); Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1996); and Brighton, England (2001).
Joe will especially be remembered for his courageous advocacy for the powerless and dispossessed. When he received the World Methodist Peace Award, the citation stated, “You have shown courage as you led Methodist people in seeking to end the apartheid system in South Africa, and in empowering the Methodist Movement to seek reconciliation amidst disunity in Fiji. You have been consistent, forthright, and passionate in giving a voice to the hope of peace and equality of Palestinians in the Middle East. Through your voice and vision others see ‘more clearly’ the need for justice to ensure a lasting peace in the land which is called Holy.” Previous recipients had included Anwar Sadat of Egypt; Elias Chacour of Israel/Palestine; Kofi Annan, General Secretary of the United Nations; and Nelson Mandela, President of a liberated South Africa.
As General Secretary of the Council, Joe worked ardently in preserving the distinguished heritage of the Methodist movement. The World Methodist Museum at Lake Junaluska received and preserved priceless treasures during his tenure. When Dr. Hale learned about the deplorable state of “the Mother Church of Methodism” in London, he launched a global campaign to “Save Wesley’s Chapel.” This historic building had already been condemned and closed with plans for demolishment. Joe, consequently, led the global effort to raise one million dollars donated from Wesleyan denomination to be matched by equal funds from British Methodists. When Joe attended the re-opening of the Chapel in 1978, he was joined by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Ten years later Dr. Hale played a key role in planning the commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of John Wesley’s heart-warming experience at Aldersgate. This significant occasion of worship at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London was attended by the royal family and televised in many portions of the world.
In 1982, Dr. Hale attended a distinguished gathering of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, including ecclesiastical leaders of Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Anglicans and other global bodies. At that gathering of General Secretaries, Joe Hale was elected Chair and served in that capacity for the next five years.
Joe R. Hale is the recipient of three honorary academic degrees: Doctor of Humane Letters from Florida Southern University (1994), Doctor of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary (1978), and his alma mata, Asbury College (2005). In 2002 Perkins School of Theology gave tribute to their favorite son by presenting Joe with the Distinguished Service Alumnus Award. The Foundation for Evangelism named Joe the Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church for 2001.
Joe is survived by his wife Mary of Silver Bluff Village and their son, Jeffrey, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, living in Raleigh, N.C.
He will be remembered by thousands around the world for his embodiment of the Christian spirit. A man of genuine humility, he constantly affirmed others and sought no recognition for himself. He was an unselfish servant to others whose life constantly pointed to the primacy of Christ. His greatest happiness was always to be in the presence of his beloved Mary who held his hand in good times and bad and was at his side when he breathed his final breath.
Rev. Charles Whittle, Executive Director of the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists, succinctly spoke for Joe’s most intimate friends from around the globe when he said, “Where ever his appointment, Dr. Hale has always been first and foremost an evangelist—a bearer of the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Memorial gifts may be designated for the World Methodist Museum, P.O. Box 518, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745, or First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 838 Waynesville, NC 28786.
From WMC Past President Dr. Frances M. Alguire, The United Methodist Church USA
I was at the 1976 World Methodist Conference held in Dublin, Ireland, when Dr. Joe Hale was elected general secretary. It was an honor to serve with him until his retirement in 2001. During his 25 year term he was a very active general secretary, sharing the message of Jesus Christ, through word and action, through out North America and Globally. Many new member churches joined the World Methodist Council at this time.
Dr. Joe Hale, was an active participant in many global Ecumenical events… [and] was always thoughtful of others, welcoming strangers and taking time to listen to their needs.
I was privileged to present the World Methodist Peace Award to Dr. Hale, one of God’s special promoters of PEACE.
May the soul of Dr. Joe Hale, be at rest in God’s eternal home. Amen
From Bishop Emeritus Denis C. Dutton, Methodist Church in Malaysia
Dr. Joe Hale was to my mind one of the special people who gave much to the cause of the Global concerns of Methodists. A gentleman’s gentleman, Joe was always concerned for the people in the Movement…. I thank God for his life and ministry.
From WMC Vice-President Gillian Kingston, Methodist Church in Ireland
I am deeply saddened to note … the passing of the Revd Dr Joe Hale. He was a wonderful man with whom to work and to converse; a man of peace in a less‐than‐peaceful world. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. I think I first met Joe at the World Methodist Council Executive, as it was then, in Brussels, Belgium, in the early 1980’s and then, of course, came to know him well over my twenty years on the Methodist/Roman Catholic International Commission. Joe was a wonderful ambassador for the Methodist and Wesleyan family to the wider Christian church.
From Dr. Maxi Dunnam, The United Methodist Church USA
Among all the leaders I have known Joe Hale was most like Jesus in being “full of grace and truth!” In his leadership of the WMC he was always pastorally attentive, witness to by his never flagging care for Christians in the Holy Land and around the world. Intimately connected to his pastoral attention was his prophetic intention. This was demonstrated by his establishment of The World Methodist Peace Award. I am praying that his “tribe” will increase.
From past Endowment Fund Chair Dr. Bill Quick, The United Methodist Church USA
Joe Hale was recognized for his leadership of the 80 million member Methodist family for a quarter century, 1976 – 2001. Under his guiding hand the global witness of John Wesley, founder of the Wesleyan movement in 18th century England, was extended on every continent…. Global Methodism grew faster during the 25 years of his leadership than it had at any time during the 20th century.
Dr. Hale cultivated a strong Catholic – Methodist relationship with the Vatican and was one of Protestantism’s most successful ecumenical spokespersons. He was dedicated to the Christian Faith and the Methodist family and adept in dealing with the media when the denomination sought a spokesperson on social and religious issues. His quiet demeanor and sincerity were the hallmarks of the man. He was loved and respected by the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leadership.
I have lost a dear friend and he will be missed.
From WMC Past Chairperson His Eminence Dr. Sunday Mbang, CON, Prelate Emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria
It is today, 16th November, 2016, that the home-call of one of World Methodist Council greatest son and worker holic servant of God Dr. joe Hale was received by me through my email. The news of his demise is not only sad but tragic, as he has now left Marry, his amiable loving and dear wife to the unfriendly world alone. But no matter how we may feel and how depress our feelings may lead us, the indisputable fact remains that God had given him to us and He in His divine judgement and mercy has taken him away to be with Him in
Heaven. Our response will always be, May Glory and Honour be to His Holy Name.
My first encounter with this fine honest and loving gentleman was at the World Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1981. My contact with him increased dramatically leading him in 1985 to Honour my invitation to my induction as the Spiritual Head, Administrative Leader and Patriarch of Methodist Church Nigeria. And in year 2000, he was at our Annual Conference, where for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a seating President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was the Special Guest of Honour at our Church Annual Conference.
I know Dr. Hale to be an extremely hardworking secretary, leaving nothing as common or unimportant. His friendly disposition to all and Sundry, irrespective of class, sex, race and religion was not only imaginable intoxicating but unparalleled. What World Methodist Council is today, greater credit must go to Joe. I saw and recognized him always, as the breath and heart of World Methodist Council. I doubt whether anyone created in the image and likeness of a God would have been able to separate , this unusual Christian son and leader from his love, concern , wish , desire and care for the World Methodist Council.
I know without any oita of doubt in my mind, that The World Methodist Council, all Christians, irrespective of persuasion and Methodist , The world over in particular, have lost a true, humble , honest, diligent, hardworking and knowledgeable Christian Giant. May his honest and gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
I and my family express our sincere and heartfelt consolation to his widow Marry and his Son Jeffery at this trying times. I am extremely confident that God whom they had served these many years will not abandon them now.
May the covenant love and peace of God which surpass all human understanding comfort you and also be a pleasant help in this tragic times.
From WMC Past President John Barrett, The Methodist Church in Britain
I first met Joe Hale in 1981 when I was elected to the World Methodist Council, I was immediately made aware of the high regard and enormous affection in which Joe was held throughout the world Methodist family. In subsequent years I came to understand why that was.
It is difficult to imagine anyone with a greater ability to remember names and faces than Joe. Each member of the Council was warmly greeted when he met them, and enquiries would be made about their family. He had that special ability to make each person feel they were special, and that at that moment nothing else mattered. Mary was often with him, and she shared his personal interest in each of us. He knew the leaders of each Church well, and they knew he was aware of the issues they faced in their home situation. And it was this sense of belonging together that was my first impression of the Council, and it flowed from Joe and from Mary.
He was a humble man and a very gracious man. I seldom heard him raise his voice or get angry. He listened, and he prayed and he gently, but firmly, persuaded. He knew what worked for the Council, and devoted all his time and energy to making it happen.
But he could also show great passion. We saw it in his preaching, in his testimony to the love of his Lord. We saw it also in his concern about developments in the Middle East, in which he took a particular interest.
When Mary had her stroke, he devoted himself to caring for her first. In some ways, it is a surprise that he should be called home first, but those of us who have met Joe recently have been aware of the deterioration in his health, and we rejoice for him that the old body has now been replaced by a new and spiritual one. Sally and I thank God for Joe Hale. May he rest in peace.
From WMC Finance & Budget Committee Chair, Bishop John F. White, African Methodist Episcopal Church Council of Bishops President
“And the king said to his servants, ‘Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?'” Samuel 3:38 (NRSV)
The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church mourn the loss of the Reverend Doctor Joseph Rice Hale. He will be remembered as a giant of the global Methodist family and one who worked tirelessly to advance the cause of the global Methodist/Wesleyan movement.
To us, he was a friend and we appreciated his sensitivity to the historical struggles that have affected the constituency of African Methodism. Many of us were privileged to have served on the Executive Committee and Presidium under a quarter-century of his leadership.
The world was richer for Dr. Hale’s witness and is poorer for his loss. To Mary and Jeffrey, know that the global constituency of the African Methodist Episcopal Church joins with you in your grief. Yet we hold steadfast hope in the promises of God and know that Dr. Hale now stands among those in the church triumphant.
From WMC Past General Secretary Dr. George Freeman (2001-2011), The United Methodist Church USA
Joe Hale was an energetic and tireless servant of Jesus Christ. He served the Methodist/Wesleyan family around the world with enthusiasm and high energy, enabling the World Methodist Council to expand as God enabled the Methodist/Wesleyan movement to have a convincing and convicting presence in more than one hundred and thirty countries.
Joe was an evangelist and early in his career he performed stage magic in beach ministry, communicating the truth of the Gospel by way of illusions which begged the question “how did he do that?” enabling conversations about God’s love for a fallen world and the truth of John 3:16. He was on the staff of the Evangelism section of the Board of Discipleship at a time when the Church placed a high emphasis on Evangelism and gave it the Church’s highest priority. He was recognized as one of Methodism’s great evangelical leaders. The Foundation for Evangelism honored him as the Distinguished Evangelist in the United Methodist Church in 2001. Joe was also a musician, and his instrument of choice was the harp.
Had Joe been active as a highly recognized leader in the Church of today, he no doubt would be a champion at understanding and harnessing the power of social media. In the last quinquinium before he retired, the fax machine was the most rapid form of communication, and Joe was the campion in perfecting its use to accomplish the Council’s busy agenda!
Joe was a gracious host who made everyone feel welcome, whether he greeted them in his Office as General Secretary of the World Methodist Council, at the World Methodist Museum, of at the home that he and Mary built as a place of warmth and hospitality. When Joe retired in 2001 the Lake Junaluska Community honored both Joe and Mary by making them the Grand Marshalls of the Annual Fourth of July parade, one of Haywood County’s premier events.
As General Secretary Joe participated in the annual meeting of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, serving several terms as their President. An avid photographer, Joe was never without his camera, and his office walls and those of his home were filled with photographic reminders of audiences with different Popes, politicians, Kings and Queens, and ordinations and consecrations of pastors, Bishops and Church leaders around the world.
One of his favorite words was “stellar.” Although he used the term sparingly, to be regarded by Joe as haven given a “stellar” performance, sermon or presentation was a supreme compliment long remembered by its recipient(s).
Joe was humble, not desirous of praise of compliments, and when these were spoken and offered, he directed them to other Council staff members or to leaders in the World Methodist Council.
The World Methodist and Wesleyan family has long been blessed by his leadership. He is remembered for his dedication to Christ and His Church.
From Rev. Dr. Eddie Fox and Mrs. Mary Nell Fox
We are deeply moved by [Joe Hale’s] passing and we are filled with gratefulness for his faithful and dynamic witness and leadership in the World Methodist family around the whole world. We shared together deeply. He was the strongest advocate for Evangelism through the Methodist movement in the 20th century. Always Joe was leading and standing with us in the vision and forming of World Methodist Evangelism. We are standing stronger today because Joe and Mary led so faithfully for many years.
From Brian Beck
I have many good memories of Joe, whom I met often, both in connection with the Oxford Institute of Methodist Studies and in my capacity as Secretary of the British Conference from 1984 to 1998. My last meeting, I think, is when I and my wife Margaret visited Joe and Mary in their home in Waynesville in 1999. They were most hospitable and I value the memory.
Joe was a fine Christian man, courteous, generous-minded, efficient and a good friend. World Methodism and its member churches owe a great debt to him. He will be greatly missed. My prayers and love go out to Mary and their family.