Posted on July 1, 2024 Rev. Dr. Frederick S. Downs IM India Alumnus Called Home

Rev. Dr. Frederick S. Downs IM India Alumnus Called Home

Reverend Dr. Frederick (Fred) S. Downs, an alumnus of International Ministries (IM), passed away on May 19, 2024, 2024, in North Carolina, at the age of 92.

Fred was born on February 15, 1932, in Tura, Assam, India, He was brought up on the mission field of Assam. His parents, Dr. E.S. Downs and Gladys Hall Downs, were medical missionaries in Assam. Fred’s father was also a mechanic, builder, plumber, hiker and father. His mother was a nurse, but in the early years she was primarily the teacher of all four of the Downs children.

When Fred was nine years old the Downs family returned to the U.S. and due to the Second War breaking out the family did not return to India for better than four years. Fred entered public schools for the first time in fifth grade.  This was a difficult time. Fred’s father returned to India leaving him as the only “man” in the house with his mother and three sisters.  A year later his mother also returned to India leaving all four children in a home for that purpose. The next year Fred’s younger sister and he were able to return to India while his two older sisters remained at home for college studies.

When Fred and his sister returned to India their mother no longer taught them. Both of them were sent to mission boarding school of excellent standard about fourteen hundred miles from home. Fred wrote about his time there: “I have always been grateful for that experience for, though my record there in matters of scholarship and conduct was far from satisfactory, it was there that I was first able to see myself clearly in relation to my fellows – my abilities and my inabilities.”

Fred completed three years of high school at Woodstock but did not finish his last year there because his parents’ furlough was due. He finished high school and then went on to college at Wooster, Ohio but the first year and a half was difficult. He then made the decision to study for the ministry, with the idea of taking that to the mission field which has been home to him – India.

During Fred’s junior year at Wooster, he met Mary Evans. They had a great deal in common, with the most important being a mutual understanding of the life work that Fred had chosen. Fred and Mary were married on August 28, 1954, just before he entered seminary at Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

While in seminary he decided he would go into higher education – particularly on the seminary level. It was his conviction that raising the standards of education for the national leadership is the best and surest way of serving the church of Christ on the foreign field. Fred was ordained in May of 1957 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, NY. He went on to study for a doctorate in Historical Theology at St. Andrews University in Scotland.

Fred and Mary were appointed and commissioned in November of 1959 as American Baptist missionaries to India. They were assigned to work with the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India, where Fred taught at Eastern Theological College and Mary helped in the office. In 1970 they moved to Bangalore, in South India, where Fred taught in the Department of the History of Christianity at the United Theological College. In addition to teaching, Fred wrote numerous articles and books, specialized in the History of Christianity in North East India. He also served as Secretary of the South Asia Baptist Missionary Fellowship. Fred served as Dean of Doctoral and Non-Degree Research as well as Vice-President of the Church History Association of India.

Fred and Mary retired on October 1,1997 after 28 years of service in India with International Ministries.

Fred lived a full and adventurous life, always game to meet and overcome challenges. He had a deep commitment and service to the people of North East India, as well as his extensive contribution to theological education at the Eastern Theological College, in Jorhat (Assam, India), and at the United Theological College in Bangalore (Karnataka, India). He made important contributions as a church historian, by helping incorporate the history of Christianity in North East India into standard Indian Church History.  He was an early proponent of introducing and supporting doctoral level research among North East Indian students to study the history of Christianity in their region.

Fred is survived by his wife of almost 70 years Mary, his three children Susan, Rick, and Milton, two grandchildren, Arjun and Julia, and his sister Jane.  He is predeceased by his sisters Joyce and Carol.

A memorial service will be held on July 26, 2024, at 1pm at Binkley Baptist Church (1712 Willow Drive) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  For Fred’s friends and family around the world the service will be live streamed and available to watch online:  Dr Frederick S. Downs Memorial (YouTube).   RSVP appreciated at Frederick Downs Memorial RSVP (online form)

Fred’s family invites you to read: The obituary of Fred Downs (mostly in his own words).

In lieu of flowers, donations in remembrance of Fred may be made to International Ministries General Fund (choose: “dedicate my donation in memory of someone.”)   If you are overseas or have questions, please contact