Born in Crumpsall, Manchester in 1861, Edmund Hamer Broadbent was the eldest of eight children in a religious family. His grandfather, James Brooke, was a Methodist local preacher who hoped Broadbent would one day qualify as a minister or missionary. Brooke would later express his sorrow at the family’s departure from the Methodist tradition.
Broadbent’s work in business took him to Berlin in his early twenties and he quickly began learning German. Returning to England, he married his childhood sweetheart Dora Holiday in June 1890, settling in Birmingham. Hosting many preachers, teachers and evangelists at their home, the influence of one visitor in particular, Alexander Grant of Malay, was formative in setting Broadbent on the road to mission work. Describing the early practices of the first believers- their custom of founding churches and leaving them develop themselves, returning later to offer encouragement- Meley asked Broadbent, “And why not you?”
After his partner bought him out of his business in 1896, Edmund and Dora Broadbent moved to Stuttgart in Germany, where Edmund met with Adolphus F. Eoll and helped establish a new fellowship based on the New Testament. After returning home for the birth of their first child in 1896, the next year they returned to Berlin where Broadbent made further journeys into Wurtenburg and French Switzerland to preach and evangelise.
Broadbent’s mission work assumed its own momentum, and he would receive invitations on his journeys to visit groups of believers, and to assist to form new groups. In the spring of 1898 Dora Broadbent returned back to England with her daughter, while Edmund moved on through Austria and the Balkans, noting the great need for spiritual work in Romania, a country where he would perform a great deal of work.
His journals document a life of mission work from 1898 to 1939, spreading the Christian message in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and South America. His travels to an area would follow a similar pattern. He would meet a local guide, establish a base and immerse himself entirely in local life: sharing their food and accommodation while aiding local worship, before venturing into neighbouring districts teaching the Word of God. Fluent in French and German, with a knowledge of Russian and other languages, Broadbent had a gift for communicating with people which transcended both religion and nationality.
Working in this manner, occasionally with no means other than his unshakeable Christian faith, G. H. Lang estimates that Broadbent was responsible for the existence of hundreds and hundreds of churches. Not that he founded them all, but that his teachings, support and example helped sustain them, or plant the seeds for their development. Broadbent's book The Pilgrim Church, first published in 1931, explored the history of the smaller Christian churches following the New Testament model, outside the more established organisations.
Broadbent and his wife celebrated their Golden wedding anniversary in 1940 and, despite being in his eighties, he continued to preach and teach across the British Isles until just before his death on the 28th June, 1945.