Episcopal Mission to Japan

When the first two Episcopal missionaries to Japan, the Reverends John Liggins and Channing Moore Williams, set foot on Japanese soil in 1859, they found themselves in a land uninvitingly xenophobic and anti-Christian. Struggling in the face of governmental edicts forbidding its citizens to practice Christianity, the Church grew slowly. In 1887, when the Church of England and the Episcopal Church united their mission to form the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Episcopal Church in Japan), the Episcopal Mission claimed but three native deacons and less than 500 communicants. Despite persecution, earthquakes, wars, and innumerable hardships, the Episcopal Church in Japan endured.

The history of the Anglican presence in Japan, from the early missionary period to contemporary times, is continuously documented within the records of the Board of Mission's Foreign Department and its successor bodies, the National Council's Overseas Department and Office of World Mission. Noteworthy among these records are the 30 cubic feet of personnel files containing correspondence and reports from missionaries in the field covering the period 1859-1953. Included are the files of such luminaries as bishops Channing Moore Williams, John McKim of Tokyo, Henry St. George Tucker of Kyoto, Charles Reifsnider of Tokyo, and Dr. Rudolf Bolling Teusler of St. Luke's Hospital.

The Japan Mission forged an especially strong presence in the areas of education and health care, founding such institutions as St. Luke's Medical Center, St. Paul's University, St. Barnabas Hospital, St. Margaret's School, and St. Agnes School. St. Luke's figures prominently throughout the Archives' holdings on the Japan Mission. Post-war blueprints and architectural drawings of St. Luke's and other institutions are found alongside records of the treasurer of the National Council, which include three cubic feet of minutes, reports, correspondence, and printed material pertaining to St. Luke's Hospital over the period 1914-1966. Heavily represented here is the American Council for St. Luke's International Medical Center, an organization formed in 1932 to foster interest in and secure funds for the Center. Also found in the Treasurer's records are several draft biographies of the Center's most influential director, Dr. Rudolf Bolling Teusler.

Another valuable source of primary information regarding the pre-war Japan Mission is the Archives' collection of National Church publications. This includes pamphlets, booklets, handbooks, and reports of missionary bishops found within the annual reports of the Board of Missions and the National Council. These same reports, together with highly descriptive correspondence and photographs from missionaries in the field are reprinted in the national Church's monthly publication, The Spirit of Missions.

Complementing the missionary records are eight cubic feet of photographic prints and negatives taken by the National Council's Promotions and Publicity departments between 1880 and 1962. From the St. Barnabas Mission for Lepers to the Osaka Widely Loving Orphan Society, this varied collection offers a detailed, visual account of the individuals, congregations, and institutions of the Japan Mission. Numerous images of scenery, society, and culture provide a colorful and valuable backdrop for the Japanese context of the Mission.

With Japan's expulsion of western missionaries upon the outbreak of the Second World War, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai began operating under indigenous leadership. Post-war contacts between the Episcopal Church and the Nippon Sei Ko Kai took place through a newly created office in Tokyo known as the National Council Liaison. The records of the Reverend Kenneth Heim, the liaison from 1953-1973, comprise some 15 cubic feet of partially processed records. The most recent addition to the Archives' holdings is the Rev. Beverly Tucker's Letters From Japan, 1953-1992. Tucker's letters are unpublished circulars that Tucker distributed while serving as a missionary in Japan.

Last update April 3, 2003
URL http://www.episcopalarchives.org/japan_mission.html