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Reuben Archer Torrey
R. A. Torrey, Moody Bible Institute's second president, graduated from Yale in 1878. The following year he married Clara Smith (see photo at right) and in 1882 attended the universities of Leipzig and Erlangen Germany and studied under the renowned German scholars Franz Delitzsch and Theodor Zahn. Upon returning to the States, he declined an offer from a well-to-do Brooklyn church in favor of a pioneer home missions project of the Congregationalists in what was then the frontier town of Minneapolis. There he founded and built a church that began with only eleven members and lived in impoverished conditions. Their most frequent prayer request was for firewood.
Later he became Superintendent of the City Missionary Society (Congregationalist). Torrey soon started another church, then another. They both grew rapidly. The church held events in public places where many attended. He taught a Sunday school class based on the union lessons in a public place, and hundreds attended. In his zeal for evangelism, he attended the International Association of Christian Workers in Chicago, and was elected president. In these years he saw dramatic answers to prayer and he saw remarkable fruit in leading people to Christ.
When D. L. Moody first heard of Torrey, he exclaimed "you make my mouth water for him." He soon called him to head his new school then called the Bible Institute of the Chicago Evangelistic Society.2 Torrey accepted the challenge, and became the school's first superintendent. One of his first acts in this was position was to dedicate the Institute's first building. From 1894-1906 he also served as pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church. During his years at Moody,Torrey also conducted several worldwide evangelistic campaigns in 1902-3 and 1903-6 with Charles Alexander as his song leader and Robert Harkness at the piano.The second tour included a five-month mission in London.
After many fruitful years, Torrey left Moody Bible Institute in 1908 and the same year founded the Montrose Bible Conference in Montrose, Pennsylvania with the first conference being held that year. Many well-known Christian leaders frequently gathered at the 3,000 seat "tabernacle" at Montrose for a wide variety of conferences that were often held there. Torrey kept a residence there and spoke regularly. He remained the guiding hand of this conference for the rest of his life.
Dr. Torrey was active in the Prophetic Conference of 1914 called by Moody Bible Institute in the face of the growing liberalism of the day. He wrote series of twelve booklets, The Fundamentals, which resulted from the conference and serves as a pillar of fundamentalist positions to this day.
In 1912 Dr. Torrey accepted the call to be dean of the newly formed Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). During that time, he also served as pastor of the newly formed Church of the Open Door. This church, as well as the school, grew rapidly under Torrey's leadership. After twelve years at BIOLA, Torrey was again restless to be devoted full time to evangelism. He resigned his positions to hold evangelistic meetings and to speak at conferences throughout the United States. He was taken up to glory in October 1928. His body is buried on the Montrose Conference grounds.
The Moody Bible Institute honored Dr. Torrey in 1955 when the Institute named the new auditorium after him and his predecessor. The Torrey-Gray Auditorium is still the major auditorium of the Institute, where students gather daily for chapel and where conferences are hosted.
Torrey's Life Timeline
1856, January 28
Born Hoboken, New Jersey. A child of Reuben and Elizabeth (Swift) Torrey.
Graduated from Yale, B.A., 1878 B.D.
1878 - 89
Home missionary/pastor & Superintendent of City Missions in Minneapolis
Elected Chairman of the International Association of Christian Workers. Married Clara Swift of Garrettsville, Ohio.
Children eventually born to them: Edith, Blanch, Reuben, Elizabeth, and Margaret.
Studied at Leipzig and Erlangen Germany.
1889 - 908
Superintendent of Moody Bible Institute.
1894 - 906
Pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church (later to be known as the Moody Memorial Church).
1902 - 3
Held worldwide evangelistic missions in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and India.
1903 - 5
Second worldwide evangelistic mission revisiting many of the previous cities, including five months in London.
1906 - 11
Conducted evangelistic campaigns in Toronto, Philadelphia, Ottawa, Nashville, Omaha, Cleveland, Buffalo, Montreal, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and other cities.
Awarded Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Wheaton College (Illinois).
Founded the Montrose Bible Conference in northeastern Pennsylvania.
1912 - 24
Dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
1915 - 24
Pastor of the Church of the Open Door.
1924 - 8
Engaged in Bible conferences and evangelistic meetings through out the United States.
1928, October 26
Died in Asheville, North Carolina at the age of 72.
Dr. Torrey wrote more than seventy-five books, and hundreds of articles. The Martin book, below, has a good list of his writings. Below are some of the major writings of Torrey.
Cogdill, James Paul Jr. "A Major Stream of American Mass Evangelism: The Ministries of R. A. Torrey, J. W. Chapman and W. E. Bierderwolf." Ph. D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1990.
Davis, George. Torrey and Alexander: The Story of a Worldwide Revival. A Record and Study of the Evangelists R. A. Torrey and Charles M. Alexander. New York: Revell, 1905.
Harkness, Robert. Reuben Archer Torrey: The Man His Message. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1929.
MacLean, J. Kennedy. Torrey And Alexander, The Story of Their Lives. London, S. W. Partridge & Co, [1905?].
____. Triumphant Evangelism: The Three Years Mission of Dr. Torrey and Mr. Alexander in Great Britain and Ireland. London: Marshall Brothers, N.d.
Martin, Roger. R. A. Torrey: Apostle of Certainty. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976.
Sanden, Oscar. "Reuben Archer Torrey: A Biographical Memoir, 1952." Unpublished Material, Historical Collection, Henry C. Crowell Library, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago.
Staggers, Kermit. "Reuben A. Torrey: American Fundamentalist, 1856-1928." Ph.D. diss., Claremont Graduate School, 1986.
Toone, Mark. "Evangelicalism in Transition: A Comparative Analysis of the Work and Theology of D.L. Moody and His Protégés, Henry Drummond and R. A. Torrey." Ph. D. diss., University of St. Andrews, 1988.
London's Great Revival of 1905: The Torrey-Alexander Mission. N. p.: . An illustrated guide book put out by the Daily Mirror. Specifically for the Albert Hall meetings on February-March, 1905.
Outlook Illustrated Mission Memento of the Torrey-Alexander Mission. N. p.: August-September, 1902. This is an account of the New Zealand revival.
Showers of Blessing (Liverpool). 12, 19, 26 November, 1904. This is a newspaper that was published specifically to report the Torrey-Alexander Mission in Liverpool, November 1904. This issue was edited by J. Kennedy MacLean who authored several of the books referenced above.
"Special Number-The Torrey-Alexander Meetings." Indian Witness 32, no. 46, 47 (13, 20 November 1902). Published by the Methodist Publishing House, Calcutta.
Torrey-Alexander Souvenir. A Complete Record of Their Work in Australia. Special Souvenir Number of the "Southern Cross." N. p.: 10 September 1902. This souvenir edition of the Southern Cross is filled with almost startling photos of enormous crowds and interest in the Torrey-Alexander Mission some of which are shown in this brief biography.