Methodist Churches in China
the early days of the Chinese Missions, Euro-American missionaries
relied on Chinese local lay
preachers to offer Chinese language support to the ministry. But
a self-sustaining Chinese American ministry meant finding
trained Chinese-speaking pastors. Meanwhile,
pastors in the United
the Methodist itinerant tradition by circulating between the
established Chinese churches in California and the Pacific Northwest.
There were also pastoral and
financial needs for churches in China. Annual
Conference journals from the Methodist Churches in China offer accounts
of pastors being sent back and forth between the China and the United
States. The Oakland mission joined with other missions to create
the Chinese Native Missionary Society in 1923 to raise funds and
recruit men to organize churches back in China. Four churches were
established as a result: in Canton City, Honam, Toysan, and
Heungshan (now Chungshan).
1930s approached, the Chinese churches in the United States faced a
new problem. The next generation of Chinese were born in the
United States or were well assimulated, and a need arose for
English-speaking pastors who could minister to the Chinese.
hope for the Chinese Methodist churches, and more specifically the
Oakland church, came in the presence of Edwar Lee. Edwar Lee
became the first American-born Chinese
Methodist pastor. As a native-English speaker, he could readily
connect with the next generation of Chinese Americans. Under the
mentorship of Chan Lok Shang, Edwar Lee would eventually take over as
senior pastor for the Oakland church.
unique quality of Edwar Lee was his vision of unity for Chinese
churches inside and outside of the Methodist church. Influenced
by early experiences at the Lake
Chinese Christian Youth Conference - a national retreat for Chinese
Christian youth - Edwar Lee would become an advocate for Chinese
Methodist churches working together within the denomination as well as
a bridge for Chinese pastors and congregations across denominational
lines. He would eventually become Superintendent of the
California Oriental Provisional Conference.
vision encouraged the
Methodist churches to strive to be incorporated as equals in the
mainline Methodist denomination
as well as developing interdenominational connections with other
|The 1930s were a marked by successful
outreach to the youth. In 1934, the Oakland church had an
exciting youth Sunday School basketball team, keeping the church on its
toes in inter-church league play [NEWS-1934A/B/C/D/E].
The arrival of Edwar Lee and his close
friend Lum David Lee further emphasized outreach to the American-born
Chinese. In 1939, the Oakland church established its Epworth
League for youth. Bertha (Chan) Tong was its first President [JPCAOM-1939].
As the 1930's progressed, Japan flexed its
muscles and inserted itself on
the Asian mainland. China and Chinese-Americans would become
embroiled in two sequential wars. The Second Sino-Japanese War
from 1937 to 1941 would find China fending off the invasion of
Japan. From 1941 to 1945, the war would be escalated to a World
local Chinese churches in the United States, the Oakland church
supported their brethren by promoting the purchase of Chinese war bonds.
The war years were challenging for the
Oakland church. Many
members of the church left to serve their country in the war, including
its Assistant Pastor Lim P. Lee [JPCAOM-1943].
Further challenging the church was the fact that Edwar Lee had been
selected to be Superintendent of the newly formed California Oriental
Mission in 1939. This assignment was a great honor, but it also
meant that he would often be on leave for official duties throughout
the year [JPCAOM-1944].
The congregation struggled and its size remained small, but it was
resilient. With soldiers returning at the end of the war in 1945,
the congregation slowly began making progress again [JPCAOM-1945].
After eight years of war, China was
devastated and its people suffered
from starvation, dislocation, and the death of 10-20 million military
personnel and civillians. The Oakland church and others in
Chinatown organized drives to collect clothes, food, materials and
monetary contributions to aid in the relief and recovery effort in
China. [See article NEWS-1946]
Soong May-Ling, the daughter of a
Methodist missionary and graduate of
Wellesley College, required Chiang Kai Shek to be baptised by a
Methodist minister before they would be married. She became the first Chinese
national and second
woman to address a joint session of the U.S. House and Senate in
1943. Whether a
of faith or strategic move, this connection with Methodists who were as
significant influence in United States' political spheres likely
encouraged the United States to provide vital support to China during
World War II.