John McKendree Springer

John McKendree Springer

(1873 – 1963)

John McKendree Springer, a pioneering missionary and bishop with the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), was instrumental in developing Methodism in Africa. He graduated from Northwestern University (1895 and 1899) and received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Garrett Biblical Institute (1901).

From 1901 to 1906, he was a missionary in Africa serving as superintendent of the Old Umtali Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).  Beginning 1907, he and his wife, fellow missionary Helen Emily Springer, journeyed across Africa scouting out sites for new missions. Between 1910 and 1915, the Springers were stationed in the Belgium Congo (DRC) and Western Rhodesia (Zambia).

In 1921, Rev. Springer was transferred back to Zimbabwe to serve as superintendent at Mutambara Mission.  Another transfer occurred in 1924 when Springer joined the Congo Mission Conference a second time and was appointed superintendent.

In 1936 Springer was elected Missionary Bishop for Africa (including Zimbabwe) and began travels throughout the continent.  He retired in 1944 and returned to the United States in 1950.  Following the death of his wife in 1949, Bishop Springer wrote “I Love the Trail; A Sketch of the Life of Helen Emily Springer.”

He died in December 1963 and is buried at the Methodist mission station in Mulungwishi, DRC.



  • Mark Loomis
  • James Gavin