Ralph Edward Dodge was a Methodist missionary and bishop in Africa. Dodge was born in Terril, Iowa, and educated at Taylor University, Indiana (B.A.), Boston University (M.A.), and Hartford Seminary Foundation (S.T.M., Ph.D.). Ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he served as a missionary in Angola (1936-1950), as executive secretary for Africa, Board of Missions of the Methodist Church (1950-1956), and as a bishop for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe, 1956-1968); he was reelected bishop for life. Churches under Dodge’s leadership moved from being compliant partners with colonial white rule to becoming advocates of radical social change. António Agostinho Neto, Dodge’s secretary in Angola, whom he enabled to study medicine in Portugal on a Methodist Crusade scholarship, later became founder and president of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) and of the People’s Republic of Angola. Dodge’s friend Eduardo Mondlane became first president of Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO). Among the more than 100 Zimbabweans sponsored by Dodge and the Methodist Church for overseas study was Abel Tendekai Muzorewa, his successor as bishop, who became prime minister of Rhodesia.
With passionate commitment to African majority rule in both state and church, Dodge was expelled from Rhodesia in 1964 by the lan Smith regime, but he was supported as president by the Southern Rhodesia Christian Conference and by his church. From exile in Zambia he authored The Unpopular Missionary (1964) and The Pagan Church (1968). Dodge retired in the United States in 1968.
Norman E. Thomas
Ralph E. Dodge, The Revolutionary Bishop Who Saw God at Work in Africa (1986; his autobiography). Who’s Who in the Methodist Church (1966) and The Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) contain short biographies. Dickson A. Mungazi, The Honoured Crusade: Ralph Dodge’s Theology of Liberation and Initiative for Social Change in Zimbabwe (1991) assesses Dodge as a social reformer. Dodge’s personal papers are in the Syracuse Univ. library.
Additional sources on Dodge, Ralph:
- Dzobo, Samuel, Toward A New Church in a New Africa: A Biographical Study of Bishop Ralph Edward Dodge 1907 – 2008 (Asbury Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky: 2017). https://place.asburyseminary.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2152&context=ecommonsatsdissertations (Accessed 23 August 2023).
- Tanton, Tim. “Bishop Ralph Dodge, who led church in Zimbabwe, dead at 101” in The People of the United Methodist Church, 11 August 2008. https://archives.gcah.org/bitstream/handle/10516/3704/article26.aspx.htm?sequence=2 (Accessed 23 August 2023).
- Scott, David W. “Bishop Dodge Championed Racial Equality,” United Methodist Insight, 11 February 2021. https://um-insight.net/in-the-church/umc-global-nature/bishop-dodge-championed-racial-equality/ (Accessed 23 August 2023).
- Dodge, Ralph E. The Unpopular Missionary. Westwood, N.J.: F.H. Revell, 1964.
- Dodge, Ralph E. Methodist Missions in Africa. New York, N.Y.: Division of Education and Cultivation, Board of Missions and Church Extension, the Methodist Church, 1950.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.