The Rev. Dr. Walter & Mrs. Louise Hannum
“Walter used to like to say, ‘You can count the seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the apples in a seed,’ Louise Hannum smiled. “I look around me here at the New Wineskins for Global Mission 2013 conference and see not just an apple tree, but an orchard. I remember how small, how little everything was at the beginning. It’s a bit overwhelming. How I wish Walter were here to see it too.”
-- Louise Hannum would pass away peacefully in her sleep on February 18, 2016 at the age of 97 before the next New Wineskins Conference in April 2016; Walter had died at age 87 on October 1, 2012.
Beginning in 1953, Walter Hannum served as an Episcopal missionary priest in Alaska for 20 years, training the first-ever Indians and Eskimos for the Episcopal priesthood. He met Louise there and they married in 1964. In 1973, they moved to Pasadena, California, to attend Fuller Theological Seminary’s School for World Mission. Their teacher and mentor, Dr. Ralph Winter, urged them to start a mission society in the Episcopal Church, and Episcopal Church Missionary Community (ECMC) was born on December 27, 1974. ECMC officially changed its name to New Wineskins Missionary Network in 2005.
ECMC was the first voluntary Anglican/Episcopal mission society in North America. Over the 20 years that the Hannum’s led ECMC, they spearheaded numerous projects including establishment of the South American Missionary Society (SAMS), Canon 9 ordinations, Yavatmal College for Leadership Training in India, the Indian Graduate School for Missiology, Global Teams, and the U.S. Center for World Mission. The Hannums also served as adjunct professors of World Mission and Evangelism and helped launch the Stanway Institute at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. What a legacy!
Walter and Louise Hannum opened the eyes of thousands of Episcopalians to see the central role of mission in the Bible, the Anglican Prayer Book and church history. Walter and Louise expanded the lexicon of the Episcopal Church to include unreached people groups, the 10-40 Window, the Great Commission, and just about any noun that can be modified with “cross-cultural.” Anglicans in missions around the world thank God for Walter and Louise Hannum, and there will be people from tribes, tongues, languages, and nations gathered around the throne who are the fruit of their life and ministry.
They helped us see the foreign students in our midst, highlighted the importance of thorough training for missionaries, mobilized thousands in mission-minded prayers and service, and modeled what it is to be life-long learners. Louise’s most famous comment as she trained missionaries in cross-cultural adjustment and cross-cultural communication was, “Be a learner, be a learner, be a learner!” What we learned most from their example is what our God can do with two ordinary people extraordinarily committed to the cause of Christ to reach the nations for His glory!
Our Director Emeritus:
Sharon Stockdale Steinmiller
Sharon Steinmiller joined the Hannums on the ECMC staff in Pasadena, CA, in 1987 as Assistant to the Director. Sharon taught English to businessmen and university faculty in China from 1981 to 1985, where she and her teammates were the first Christians most of their students had ever met. Over the next 25 years, she helped train and provide pastoral care for more than 200 American and Canadian Christian teachers in China, all while working for ECMC. Before going to China, she taught English to refugees in California and worked as an international student specialist with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
By 1990, Sharon was like a daughter to the Hannums, so when she learned they were moving ECMC to Ambridge, PA, to establish a missions department at Trinity School for Ministry, she made the decision to uproot her life and relocate with them.
In 1994, the staff conceived the idea of hosting a missions conference to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the ECMC ministry. Walter gave the first gathering at Ridgecrest Conference Center its name: New Wineskins for Global Mission, but Sharon’s past experience with InterVarsity’s URBANA conferences, which gather thousands of university students to hear about mission every three years during Christmas break, gave her the perfect background for coordinating the New Wineskins conferences going forward.
Sharon took over the leadership of ECMC as Director after the New Wineskins 1994 conference. There have now been eight New Wineskins for Global Mission conferences (’94, ’97, ’00, ’03, ’07, ’10, ’13 and ’16). The 2016 conference hosted over 1,000 participants from over 50 nations and is now the biggest of its kind in the Anglican world.
The conference includes worship, prayer, plenary speakers, missionary testimonies, 60 workshops, and 50 mission exhibitors, but what makes New Wineskins special is the networking among participants who include archbishops, bishops, clergy, missionaries, parish mission committees, mission agencies, and individuals who want to live more fully as missional Christians. Many people trace their missionary call to a New Wineskins experience!
Sharon waved the banner for missions on staff for 30 years, 22 years as Director. She educated through the ReachOut newsletter, trained in small and large churches through Mission Awareness Seminars, cared for missionaries in the field through personal contact and prayer, and mobilized thousands to pray for unreached people groups and the persecuted church. In 2003, she helped establish the Anglican Global Mission Partners (AGMP), a network of 33 mission agencies, churches and seminaries.
Sharon galvanized a new generation of Anglican missional leadership when she spoke at the Place to Stand conference in Plano, TX when she asked: Is the Great Commission really our first priority? She retired in 2016 to spend more time with her husband, Robert, who since 2004 has patiently shared her with the world. Her humble service, faithful perseverance and missional heart made an eternal impact on countless lives.