Church and mission leaders gathered in New York at the Christian Herald office, operated by The Bowery Mission, to establish the National Federation of Gospel Missions (NFGM). The organization was designed to bring accountability to the rapidly growing ministry genre because some start-ups had questionable doctrine and practices that led to accusations of swindling the poor. The Salvation Army was included in the original federation.
The International Union of Gospel Missions (IUGM) was organized on September 17, 1913, in New York City, under the leadership of Mr. Sidney Whittemore. (He also served as the president of the National Federation of Gospel Mission in the previous years.) Thirty charter member mission superintendents petitioned the state of New York for a certificate of incorporation on October 9, 1913, and Secretary of State Mitchell May, approved the certificate.
One of the earliest efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of rescue ministry through the IUGM (later AGRM) was the appointment of Field Secretary Peter Quartel of Dayton, Ohio. Quartel’s efforts bore fruit, but for various reasons, he had to discontinue his services. I. L. Eldridge, J. Arthur Schlicter, E. R. MacKinney, and Harry H. Hadley all collaborated to carry out those responsibilities. In 1948, Reverend Chauncey Berman became the full-time field secretary for one year. In the mid-1950s, the executive committee (now known as the board since 1983) was empowered to select an executive secretary to work on behalf of rescue missions and promote IUGM both nationally internationally. The executive secretary would work directly under the executive secretary’s committee, in full cooperation with the executive committee.
Reverend Ernest Tippett, former treasurer of IUGM, became its first executive secretary in 1957 and served five years, maintaining the international office in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Winona Lake, Indiana. Upon his resignation in 1962, Reverend Clifton E. Gregory, a former IUGM president, served on an interim basis while continuing to direct the City Mission in Cleveland, Ohio.
Reverend James B. Moellendick became executive secretary in the mid-1960s. He established, on a temporary basis, offices in Parkersburg, West Virginia. In 1966, James directed the move of the IUGM headquarters to Kansas City, Missouri, where City Union Mission provided office space. After five years of faithful service and great progress, James resigned.
With 15 years of experience in rescue mission ministries, Reverend Emile Leger became executive secretary in May 1970. Under his leadership, the IUGM purchased and moved into a permanent headquarters building in June 1971. Focused on gaining dignity and stature for organization, and unifying the members to substantially support IUGM, Emile resigned on August 1, 1974.
At the 1974 convention in Los Angeles, the delegates appointed Reverend William L. Wooley as executive secretary following terms as superintendent of The Anchorage Mission (Albany, Georgia), president of the IUGM Southeastern District, and secretary-treasurer of IUGM.
At the 1984 convention in Huntsville, Alabama, Lloyd Olson of Campus Crusade for Christ received a commission to conduct a study of the rescue mission movement and make recommendations for the future of rescue ministry and IUGM. Titled New Perspective, the report outlined a number of historic changes including the restructuring of the office of executive secretary (known as executive director since 1986), and creating a new track concept, membership system, constitution and bylaws. The new concepts were adopted in Seattle in 1985 and the constitution and bylaw changes in the following year in Houston. These changes resulted in an organization better able to serve local ministries, and more committed to expansion, education, training, and public awareness. The eight new tracks included Urban Children & Youth Ministry, Development, Christian Addiction Rehabilitation Association, Employment and Education, Women and Family Ministry, Association of Christian Thrift Stores, Chaplains, and Volunteers. During William’s 15 years of outstanding service, the IUGM office staff increased from three to seven and relocated from the basement of William’s home to an office complex, bringing the concepts in Lloyd Olson’s study into reality.
On August 1, 1989, Reverend Stephen E. Burger, Executive Director of the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle, Washington, succeeded Reverend William Wooley, who was named executive director emeritus. A year later, IUGM purchased a new headquarters building with 4,000 square feet of office space in North Kansas City and moved in on April 1, 1991.
On May 31, 2000, the delegates at the 87th Annual Convention changed the name from the International Union of Gospel Missions to the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM). During Steve Burger’s tenure, he emphasized mission expansion and services to build up the frontline mission worker, and developed a bold new program, Rescue College (now City Vision University), which began as an intern-training program and had become a fully accredited as a degree-conferring institution by 2006. AGRM also provided oversight to Alcoholics Victorious. Steve served as Executive Director of the IUGM/AGRM through June 30, 2007.
The AGRM board hired John Ashmen as the new executive director of the association on July 1, 2007. John had previously served for 15 years as Vice President and COO at Christian Camp and Conference Association in Colorado Springs.
John introduced numerous changes to the association, including dramatically increasing the number of member benefits, “polishing” publications, enhancing the Annual Conference and Exposition, revising education tracks, and opening up numerous collaboration opportunities with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. John also introduced the concept of “radical hospitality” and helped member organizations embrace the idea of life transformation as their overall purpose. John also oversaw the rebranding of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions to Citygate Network to expand their reach to ministries serving the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted in organizations other than missions. Under his leadership, membership increased by nearly one-third.
In 2009, John moved the AGRM headquarters to Colorado Springs, Colorado, home to more than 125 national and international Christian ministries. The association rented office space downtown and then in the northern part of the city from 2010 to 2018. In February 2018, Citygate Network purchased an office building on the west side at 2153 Chuckwagon Road and the staff moved late that summer.