James Armstrong 1924 – 2018
(Arthur) James Armstrong, born September 17th, 1924, departed this life on July 17th, 2018. James was a Bishop of the United Methodist Church Elected in 1968, he became the youngest Methodist bishop in the United States at the age of 43. As President of the National Council of Churches he was called “the most influential religious leader in America” by the U.S. News and World Report in 1982. Later in his career, he served as Senior Minister at First Congregational Church at Winter Park.
He was the son and grandson of Methodist ministers. Earning academic degrees from Florida Southern College (AB) and the Candler School of Theology, Emory University (MDiv), he did graduate work at Boston University and the University of Chicago. He was awarded honorary degrees by Emory University, Florida Southern College, DePauw, Illinois Wesleyan, Evansville and Dakota Wesleyan universities, and Westmar College.
Prior to his election to the Episcopacy, Armstrong gained wide recognition as the innovative Pastor of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana; at the time the largest Methodist church in the state. In the early 1960s, the Indianapolis News named him one of the ten most influential “Movers and Shakers” in the city. He chaired the denomination’s Board of Church and Society and its Commission on Religion and Race.
The author of a dozen books and a contributor to many more, he also wrote widely for Christian journals and periodicals.
Active in human rights and global peace and justice movements, he was also a political activist. He organized and chaired Religious Leaders for McGovern, a group of more than 200 religious leaders, during the presidential campaign of 1972. When he left South Dakota in 1980, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, the largest newspaper in the state, headlined, “South Dakota’s social conscience prepares to move on.”
Armstrong met with Kim Dae-jung in his home in Seoul, South Korea, when Kim was under house arrest. Kim painted a calligraphy for him which thereafter hung in his office (later Kim would serve as President of South Korea and receive the Nobel Peace Prize).
Following his retirement from the ministry in 1999, Armstrong taught at the Florida Center for Theological Studies. In his 90s, he continued teaching at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In 2010 students selected him to receive the Walter E. Barden Distinguished Teaching Award. Each year Dakota Wesleyan University gives a “Bishop Armstrong Peace and Justice Award” to an outstanding student who has made significant contributions to peace and justice. DWU also maintains an Armstrong Native American Scholarship fund.
Jim is survived by his loving wife, Sheri, his children, Jim Armstrong, Terri Armstrong, Becky Putens, John Armstrong, Leslye Hope, Allison Jacob, Eve Stoughton, Christopher Owen, Suzanne Bevan, and Heather Sabounji, as well as his many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great great-grandchildren.
Bishop Armstrong’s funeral service is to be held at 10am on August 18th, 2018 at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park.
Baldwin Brothers Funeral & Cremation Society of Winter Park is in charge of arrangements.