Groves, Charles Pelham B.A., D.D. (1887-1973)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

CHARLES PELHAM GROVES, B.A., D.D.: born on 25th May, 1887 at Cambellsport, Wisconsin, U.S.A., where his father was a minister of the Wisconsin Methodist Conference. In 1897 the family settled in England and Charles’ youth was spent in Reading, but during this period his father was often away from home, serving as superintendent of the Countess of Huntingdon’s mission in Sierre Leone from 1899 to 1918. Charles received his earlier education at Kendrick School and University College, Reading; later at Manchester University and Livingstone College, Lindon. He graduated B.A. of London in 1906 and B.D. of Manchester in 1910. 

Having served his apprenticeship as Local Preacher in the Reading Circuit, he was appointed, while still a Probationer Minister of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, to be Principal of the Oron Training Institute for Teacher-Evangelists in Eastern Nigeria (1911-1923). He was ordained in 1913 and married Mary Winifred Haigh, his life’s companion, in 1920. 

He served the home church at Quinton, in the Birmingham Primitive Methodist Circuit from 1924-1926 and was Secretary to the Young People’s Missionary Department of the Church from 1925-1930. His long association with the Selly Oak Colleges (which he believed to be an underrated factor in the growth of the modern ecumenical movement) began with his appointment as tutor at Kingsmead in 1926. He was Professor of Missions at Selly Oak from 1945 to 1954. Shortly after Methodist Union he was Fernley Hartley Lecturer (1934) and from 1937 to 1939 he was visiting Professor in the Africa Department, Kennedy School of Missions, Hartford Seminary Foundation, Hartford, Conn., U.S.A. 

His chief publications were: The Planting of Christianity in Africa, Vols. I-IV, 1949-58; Jesus Christ and Primitive Need 1934, and Articles on Protestant Missions in Africa in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (3rd edition); also in Le Monde Religieuse. His immense scholarship in this field earned him the title of the “Eusebius of Africa” and was recognised by Glasgow University in 1955 by the award of his doctorate. 

Charles Groves was one of the outstanding missionary teachers of his day. There can be few areas of missionary outreach, where during the last fifty years, there have not been men and women deeply indebted to this learned, humble and warm-hearted man. Friend of many of the great leaders of the world church in this century and teacher of many hundreds of its servants in all parts of the globe, he will be remembered as one of the great unsung scholar saints of Methodism. His mind and spirit active almost to the end, he died in Bournemouth on 25th March, 1973 in the eighty-sixth year of his age and the sixty-third of his ministry.


Charles was born on 25 May 1887 in Wisconsin, USA.

He married Mary Winifred Haigh (1882-1970) of Barnsley in 1920. Birth records identify one child.

  • Eileen M (b1921)

Charles died on 25 March 1973 at Bournemouth, Dorset.


  • Hartley
  • 1910 London Mission SE
  • 1911 Calabar, WA
  • 1924 Quinton
  • 1926 Birmingham Kingsmead
  • 1937 per USA
  • 1939 Birmingham Kingsmead
  • 1952 Birmingham (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1922/38

Methodist Minutes 1973/143

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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