Joseph Wesley Mathews was a man like every other man and yet he played a unique role in the life of this Order, in the life of the church and in the world.
Driven by the care for suffering mankind, Joe helped bring into being an ecumenical family religious order. Made up of men and women from across the globe, this order is a servanthood force in direct service to the globe; this order is a servanthood force in direct service to the profound mystery of life. Joe trained a disciplined corps of people who can actuate effective 20th century methods of profound human sociological care for the masses. Joe spent years developing ways to recover the ancient religious wisdom for 20th century man as he did his work on the New Religious Mode and the Other World. His constant attention to the symbolic dimension of life awoke the community to the power of rituals, especially to the power of the liturgy which became the spiritual foundation of the corporate body. Through the years, Joe constantly grounded his own experience in what it meant to be the religious. He emphasized the fact that standing as the religious is a perpetual task of being “structural revolutionaries.”
Joe considered himself before all else to be a servant to the historical church, He was committed to its renewal in order to bring about the recovery of service to the world by the church in mission. In the articulation of se “The Christ of History”, he gave to the 20th century a way for everyman to appropriate the Word, The development of a curriculum to be used in the training of awakened churchmen across the globe was intended to recover the rich heritage of the church and to re-engage the church in the world. With the Local Church model, Joe was convinced that the church at the local level had the methods and structural forms to call forth every local congregation into service for humanity. In more recent years, his concern was to see through the depths of profound humanness which binds mankind into one body to a new religious mode that transcends all present forms. He saw this as primal ecumenism in its broadest sense.
Joe became increasingly aware of the necessity to discern the deep trends of history which are shaping the future of the world. He helped direct the corporate power of the Institute staff toward enabling the resurgence of grassroots community. It was his conviction that local people would assume responsibility for their own future if given practical and effective methodologies. This was grounded in the model for total community reformulation which was first developed on the West Side of Chicago in 5th City. Once this was in being, Joe participated in the selection of 23 other human development project sites in 19 other countries to serve as demonstration signs of hope to the world. In the midst of this task. he elicited the interest and attention of both the private and public sectors across the world in addressing the disparities which exist between the 85% and the 15% of the world. Addressing this gap was what Joe saw as the moral issue of our time. Joe was committed to the awakenment of local people in communities across the globe, through structures.