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Urbanus Bender at the 1913 General Conference, Takoma Park, Maryland.

Photo courtesy of Center for Adventist Research. 

Bender, Urbanus (1877–1959)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: April 12, 2022

Urbanus Bender was a minister, conference president, and educator in the United States, the West Indies, and Africa.

Early Years

Urbanus Bender was the fifth of 14 children born to Thomas Jefferson Bender and his wife Mary Jane (Rouser). He was born on May 25, 1877, at Dawson, southeast Nebraska. While he was still an infant his father, a farmer, moved the family to West Blue Township, Nebraska, near Fairmont. Urbanus studied at Union College, Nebraska, and joined the Seventh-day Adventist church when he was 18 years old. He married Nannie Rothwell at Fairmont on December 31, 1902.1

Conference President: Arkansas, West Indies Union, Montana

The earliest references to Urbanus engaged in ministerial work places him in the rural communities of Black Rock and Batesville in the northeast of Arkansas in 1901-1902 prior to his marriage.2 He continued in the Arkansas Conference and was ordained at Russellville during the August 1904 annual camp meeting. At the same gathering he was elected president of the Arkansas Conference.3 At the time there were only approximately 400 baptized members in the conference, 50 more being added during the following 12 months.4

Bender held the Arkansas presidency for a little more than three years and then was appointed to the presidency of the West Indian Union Conference with headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica, beginning January 1907.5 His region of responsibility spanned the entire Caribbean and extended to British Guiana, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. At the time there were 72 Seventh-day Adventist churches with a baptized membership of 3,110 scattered throughout the territory.6 His work required frequent excursions into the various countries to conduct local conference sessions, advise the ministerial team and survey possibilities for mission expansion. Reports of his travels appeared in the church papers, for example a visit to Cuba soon after his arrival in order to encourage the only Seventh-day Adventist minister on the island.7 A later trip was made to Panama where large quantities of books were being sold by canvassers to the thousands of men building the canal.8 Small islands such as Antigua and St. Thomas were not overlooked during his itineraries.9

In 1913 Bender returned from the Caribbean to accept the presidency of the Montana Conference. His wife, Nannie, was elected to leadership in the Sabbath School Department.10 It was a relatively small conference, numbering approximately 700 baptized members. After three years in Montana, Bender accepted another overseas appointment, this time in South Africa.11

Mission Work in Africa

During the First World War the Atlantic Ocean presented perilous times because of lurking submarines. To reach South Africa, Urbanus and Nannie departed from San Francisco in October 1916 on the SS. “Sierra,” sailing the long route across the Pacific and Indian Oceans via Australia in order to reach Cape Town safely.12 Bender served as superintendent of the newly-formed Rhodesia-Nyasaland Mission located in the northern portion of the South African Union Conference, with headquarters in Bulawayo.13 His decade in South Africa was characterized by a series of short-term appointments. After a year in Bulawayo, he served for a year as president of the Cape Conference.14 Urbanus and Nannie then taught at the South African Training School located at Ladysmith, Natal.15 In 1921 Urbanus became director of the Solusi Mission at Bulawayo,16 serving two years until he was again elected president of the Cape Conference.17 For the 1925-1926 academic year he returned to teaching Bible subjects at the training school which was at that time named Spion Kop College (later Helderberg College).18 The Benders returned to the United States on furlough in 1926.

Another Quarter Century as Educator and Pastor

Bender looked forward to returning to South Africa but eventually yielded to an urgent request from General Conference officials to teach Bible at Oakwood Junior College, Huntsville, Alabama.19 He remained in educational work through the remainder of the 1920s and throughout the 1930s. Following two years in Alabama he transferred to teach at Pisgah Industrial Institute, Candler, North Carolina, and then to Fletcher Academy, Fletcher, North Carolina.20 Finally, he transferred to the Michigan Conference to engage in pastoral ministry, first at Battle Creek and later at Coldwater and Holly.21 He retired in 1953 after 50 years of service.

In retirement the Benders made their home at rural Coalmont, Tennessee. At times Bender ministered as a chaplain in suburban Nashville at the Cumberland Heights Clinic, an enterprise for the rehabilitation of alcoholics and other drug dependants. He passed away at Greeneville, Tennessee, on June 1, 1959. Nannie and a son and daughter were left to mourn.22 Urbanus was interred in the Altamont Cemetery north of Coalmont and when Nannie passed away on July 1, 1965, she was laid to rest alongside him.23

Sources

Bender, U[rbanus]. “Antigua and St. Thomas.” ARH, August 15, 1912.

Bender, Urbanus. “Arkansas.” ARH, November 5, 1901.

Bender, U[rbanus]. “A Trip Through Cuba.” ARH, October 10, 1907.

Bender, Urbanus. “Martha Johnson.” ARH, September 23, 1902.

Evans, I. H. “Arkansas Camp Meeting.” ARH, September 8, 1904.

Evans, I. H. “The Colon Meeting.” ARH, February 20, 1908.

Griggs, Frederick. “The Montana Camp Meeting.” ARH, July 13, 1916.

“Notice of the sailing of Elder U. Bender . . . .” ARH, January 17, 1907.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

“This week, by the steamship, ‘Sierra,’ from San Francisco . . . .” ARH, October 19, 1916.

U. Bender Appointee File. Secretariat Appointee Files, RG 21, File 00045230. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Archives, Silver Spring, MD (GCA).

“Urbanus Bender.” FamilySearch. Accessed December 13, 2021. https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LKWB-D1S.

“Urbanus Bender.” Find A Grave. Memorial 33833080, February 14, 2009. Accessed December 14, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33833080/urbanus-bender.

“Urbanus Bender obituary.” ARH, August 27, 1959.

Waller, E.C. “A Report From Pisgah, North Carolina.” ARH, May 4, 1933.

Wilkinson, B. G. “The Arkansas Camp Meeting. ARH, September 5, 1905.

Notes

  1. “Urbanus Bender,” FamilySearch, accessed December 13, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/LKWB-D1S; “Urbanus Bender obituary,” ARH, August 27, 1959, 25.

  2. Urbanus Bender, “Arkansas,” ARH, November 5, 1901; Urbanus Bender, “Martha Johnson,” ARH, September 23, 1902, 23.

  3. I. H. Evans, “Arkansas Camp Meeting,” ARH, September 8, 1904, 16.

  4. B. G. Wilkinson, “The Arkansas Camp Meeting,” ARH, September 7, 1905, 18.

  5. “Notice of the sailing of Elder U. Bender . . . ,” ARH, January 17, 1907, 24.

  6. “West Indian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1908, 125-126.

  7. U[rbanus] Bender, “A Trip Through Cuba,” ARH, October 10, 1907, 13-14.

  8. I. H. Evans, “The Colon Meeting,” ARH, February 20, 1908, 18.

  9. U[rbanus] Bender, “Antigua and St. Thomas,” ARH, August 15, 1912, 13

  10. “Montana Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1915, 59.

  11. Frederick Griggs, “The Montana Camp Meeting,” ARH, July 13, 1916, 16.

  12. “This week, by the steamship ‘Sierra,’ from San Francisco . . . ,” ARH, October 19, 1916, 24.

  13. “Rhodesia-Nyasaland Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1917, 168-169.

  14. “Cape Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1918, 174-175.

  15. “South African Training School,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1920, 325.

  16. “Solusi Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1922, 141.

  17. “Cape Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1924, 164.

  18. “Spion Kop College,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1926, 249-250.

  19. C.K. Meyers to U. Bender, July 25, 1927, U. Bender Appointee File, File No. 0004523, Secretariat Appointee Files, RH 21, WH Box 2022, GCA.

  20. “Urbanus Bender obituary.”

  21. “Ministerial Directory,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook for 1941, 385; for 1944, 321; for 1948, 355.

  22. “Urbanus Bender obituary.” ARH, August 27, 1959, 25.

  23. “Urbanus Bender,” Find A Grave, Memorial 33833080, February 14, 2009, accessed December 14, 2021, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33833080/urbanus-bender.

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Hook, Milton. "Bender, Urbanus (1877–1959)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Accessed June 17, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=48YO.

Hook, Milton. "Bender, Urbanus (1877–1959)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 12, 2022. Date of access June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=48YO.

Hook, Milton (2022, April 12). Bender, Urbanus (1877–1959). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=48YO.