Graber, Joseph Daniel (1900-1978)

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J. D. Graber.
Scan courtesy Mennonite Church USA Archives-Goshen HM 4-267

Joseph Daniel "J. D." Graber was born 18 October 1900 at Noble, Iowa, to Daniel and Fanny Conrad Graber. He was educated at Hesston College and Goshen College. He received a BD degree from Princeton Theological Seminary (1943). He married Minnie Swartzendruber (28 June 1925). They were appointed by the Mennonite Board of Missions (Mennonite Church to serve in India (1925-1942). Graber served as general missionary, pastor, bishop, mission secretary, high school principal, and in other positions. He returned to the United States for furlough at the beginning of World War II and served as Mennonite Central Committee relief commissioner in China, 1943-1944. While in China, he was elected as first full-time general secretary of the Mennonite Board of Missions, a position he held until retirement in 1967.

An effective public speaker, Graber exerted wide influence in the Mennonite Church (MC) in support of missions. He came into leadership at the beginning of a period of rapid growth both at home and overseas. He is credited with the slogan "Every church a mission outpost," which caught the imagination of many congregations across North America, resulting in a dispersion of motivated young people, primarily lay people. Alert to the issues being debated in mission circles, he exerted strong influence on the mission philosophy and policies applied overseas. Keenly conscious of the implications of the movement for political independence sweeping across the non-Western world, he advocated the dismantling of colonial mission structures and adoption of an approach attuned to current sociopolitical realities (indigenization). Graber was the most prolific Mennonite writer on missions prior to 1967. Graber's Conrad Grebel Lectures for 1959 (published as The Church Apostolic, 1960) present the essentials of his philosophy of missions. He was a part-time instructor in missions at Goshen Biblical Seminary, 1955-1963. He died at Goshen, Indiana on 25 January 1978.


Warkentin, A. and Melvin Gingerich, compilers. Who's Who Among the Mennonites. North Newton, KS: Bethel College, 1943: 90;

Reschly Steven D. and Barbara Nelson, comps., Bibliography of J. D. Graber's Printed Writings. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Board of Missions, 1980.

Being God's Missionary Community: Essays in Honor of J. D. and Minnie Graber. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Board of Missions, 1975.

Author(s) Wilbert R Shenk
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Shenk, Wilbert R. "Graber, Joseph Daniel (1900-1978)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 2 Feb 2023.,_Joseph_Daniel_(1900-1978)&oldid=122507.

APA style

Shenk, Wilbert R. (1987). Graber, Joseph Daniel (1900-1978). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 February 2023, from,_Joseph_Daniel_(1900-1978)&oldid=122507.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 351-352. All rights reserved.

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