World Convention is currently building a global reference for the countries and territories where we know there are Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples of Christ Congregations. Of the 193 United Nations States, the Stone-Campbell Movement exists in 174. This listing includes other nations and territories, numbering 194 countries where there is at least one representation of our churches.
Rather than waiting for comprehensive, complete information we are putting up the details we have available. If you can correct or add to this information, please contact the World Convention Office with details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Japan is an archipelago of islands that lies off the east coast of Asia, separated from the Koreas, China and the Russian Federation by the Sea of Japan. The population of 127,300,000 in an area of 378,000 sq km (146,000 sq miles) makes Japan a densely populated country. Japan was first populated by migrants from mainland Asia as early as the fifth century A.D. with control of the islands being held by a number of competing clans. Chinese civilization was introduced and an effort made at centralizing the government in the eighth century but the clan system prevailed. The emperor became a symbolic figure as rivaling feudal lords or shoguns held control from the twelfth until the nineteenth century.
Western influence first entered Japan for a brief period beginning in 1542 when missionaries from Macao brought clocks, carpets, guns and Christianity. The reaction of the ruling shoguns, the Tokgawas, was to close the door to the outside world. From 1639 until 1853 Japanese citizens were not allowed to travel abroad and contact with the outside world was limited to a single Dutch settlement located at Nagasaki. This self-imposed isolation ended when United States Navy under the leadership of Commodore Matthew Perry took a fleet of warships into Yokohama Harbor and demanded that the ports be opened to western trade. Soon the weakened shogun structure collapsed and imperial rule under the Meiji was restored. Today Japan is a constitutional monarchy under Emperor Akihito with two legislative bodies, the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives.
Japan enjoys perhaps the strongest economy in Asia, if not the world. The per capita gross domestic product of Japan is nearly $40,000 (US). Industry, technology and education are highly prized. Agriculture is still a strong element of the economy, particularly on the northern island of Hokkaido. Services account for almost 70% of the nation’s economy.
The people of Japan, who are more than 99% ethnic Japanese, are predominately Shinto and Buddhist with the majority of the people professing both. Christianity was introduced by the Jesuits in the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries both Catholics and Protestants have sought to establish a foothold in the Land of the Rising Sun. Despite these efforts less than one percent of Japanese espouse any form of Christianity.
The history of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Japan reaches back more than 120 years and encompasses many of the varied facets of the Movement. At the 1881 Convention of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society (FCMS) of American Disciples it was recommended that the sphere of mission influence be broadened to include Japan and plans were laid to recruit a suitable missionary to open that field. Two years later Mr. and Mrs. George T. Smith, then of Warren, Ohio were appointed to the task. Soon the number of missionaries to Japan was increased to four with the appointment of Captain and Mrs. Charles Elias Garst, also of Ohio. They left San Francisco on the 27th of September 1883 and arrived in Yokohama on October 19th. The first order of business after settling in was to master the Japanese language and culture. After a few months in Yokohama the work was moved to Akita, 400 miles north of Yokohama. Services were soon established including preaching, the Lord’s Supper and Sunday school. A women’s Bible class was offered on Thursday afternoon and a class for men was held in the evening. Copies of the Gospels and tracts were distributed and trips to outlying areas were made and out-stations established. The first convert to Christianity, Matsumura San, was baptized on July 30, 1884. The work in those initial years was slow as the missionaries had so much to overcome. Tragedy soon struck the Disciple mission with the death of Josephine Smith on March 23, 1885. A few days later the Smiths’ infant child also died. Mrs. Smith’s death was the first death of a missionary of the FCMS.
Soon the work was expanded to Tokyo and other parts of the country. In Tokyo work was largely centered among the student class, the rising intellectuals of Japan. Sunday schools and charity schools for destitute children were begun. A magazine printed partially in English and partially in Japanese was produced, called The Bible Way. Among the new missionary recruits that began to enter Japan was H.H. Guy who did a great deal of work in translation including producing a Japanese edition of T.W. Phillips’ The Church of Christ by a Layman. The Russo-Japanese War provided the missionaries with another avenue for evangelism. The missionaries provided the returning wounded soldiers with a comfort bag containing, among other things, a Bible. In about 1903 H.H. Guy led the way in founding Drake Bible College in the Takinogoawa suburb of Tokyo for the training of men for the ministry. To this was later added the equivalent to an American high school. In 1905 The Margaret K. Long School for Girls was opened in the Tsukiji suburb of Tokyo, the gift of American lumber baron Robert A. Long. Later Drake Bible College was moved to property adjacent to the Long School. In all of these educational institutions the missionaries were greatly assisted by many competent Japanese, many of whom had been educated in the United States. For nearly 100 years the school for boys, known as Seigakuin Boys School, and the Margaret K. Long School, later known as Joshi-Sei-Gakuin, has been providing education for the young people of Japan.
In about the year 1888 Captain and Mrs. Garst relocated to Tsurugaoka, the capital of the Province of Yamagata, which was known as a Buddhist stronghold. Though initially meeting with strong resistance because they were foreigners the Garsts soon established a home and built a chapel. The work was aided significantly by an Edison Mimeograph that allowed them to produce printed studies of the Gospels to distribute to anyone who showed an interest. Children were gathered into Sunday Schools and Bible classes were offered for women. The Garsts also did a very significant work among the poor with the Captain advocating government tax reform to aid the poor.
As the years progressed other fields were opened and more missionaries were sent to these new mission stations. In 1897 Mr. and Mrs. M.B. Madden went to Sendai, north of Tokyo. A missionary home was built and at least four chapels constructed. Mr. Madden preached far and wide in bringing the Gospel to the people of Japan. Prior to their work in Sendai the Maddens had been in Fukushima and this work was later picked up by Thomas and Stella Young who had great success in building the Sunday school movement among Japanese children. Osaka, then being the second largest city in Japan, was also opened to the work of the FCMS. A kindergarten was begun here, which proved very successful. From the time the work was opened in Japan until the merger of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society into the United Christian Missionary Society in 1919 more than sixty missionaries served in Japan, many of whom would continue their service with the UCMS. The United Christian Missionary Society continued to operate mission stations in Japan throughout the 1920s and 1930s with success despite emerging difficulties around the world, including growing discord among the Christian Churches, worldwide economic depression and gathering clouds of war. These factors combined to have serious consequences for global mission work of the Christian Churches.
In the Japan of the 1930s the growing spirit of nationalism raised problems of conscience for many Christians, particularly when attendance at Shinto shrines as a civil manifestation of loyalty was urged by the authorities. By the outbreak of war the foreign missionaries were either interned or repatriated; in only a few instances, some missionaries were allowed very limited freedom. By 1941, amidst government pressure, some thirty Protestant denominations united to form the Hihon Kirisuto Kyodan, or United Church of Christ in Japan. Many among the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Japan joined the Kyodan out of necessity. During the war many local congregations suffered loss due to death and dissemination. Many church buildings were destroyed and land was lost.
Following the close of the Second World War the Disciples of Christ and the United Christian Missionary Society went back to Japan and began to rebuild upon foundations built before the war. Some churches were rebuilt. The work of the schools was aided and a new emphasis placed upon education for the Japanese in efforts to rebuild the nation. New work was also begun. An important Japanese evangelist during the occupation period and beyond was Dr. Toyohiko Kagawa who wrote in the Spring of 1948 that there was a window of opportunity open like never before to bring Christianity to the Japanese. At the time Kagawa was preaching to audiences of 5,000 per day and “winning 50 to 100 souls a day.” He reported the conversion of 130,000 in the course of twenty months. Many of the pre-war congregations had joined the Kyodan, therefore much effort was put forth in supporting the union. Today the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) enjoys a historic partnership with the Kyodan, as well as providing both personnel and financial support. More than twenty Global Ministries personnel have been working in Japan in recent years. In 1984 there were an estimated sixteen former Christian Church congregations that were part of the Kyodan.
At the same time that the Foreign Christian Missionary Society (and later the United Christian Missionary Society) directed the work of missionaries in Japan there were a number of independent missionaries who established missions in Japan without the aid of a Society or sending organization. In 1890 Loduska Wirick went to Japan as an independent missionary financially supported by individuals and congregations (though much of her funding was channeled through the FCMS). She built the first chapel in Tokyo and worked cooperatively with the Society missionaries in Tokyo. Carrying out a wide range of educational and relief work she was perhaps most remembered for her work among soldiers during the Russo-Japanese War where she earned the title “Angel of the Hospital.” Because of her work with soldiers she was revered by many in Japan, Manchuria and Korea. Her ministry was recognized by the City and the Imperial Government; a member of the Japanese Parliament was among the speakers at her 1914 funeral.
Other efforts at independent mission work were begun by Wilson Kendrick Azbill who formerly served in Jamaica with the Christian Woman’s Board of Missions and on staff of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society. It was Azbill’s belief that at the time less than ten percent of Christian Churches were actively engaged in supporting mission work through the missionary societies and he therefore sought alternative means by which to engage congregations in mission support. Early in 1892 Azbill had raised sufficient support and interest to take a band of six people to Japan to establish a mission station. There are conflicting reports on just who the six were but the list appears to include Mr. and Mrs. J.M. McCaleb, Mr. and Mrs. L.L. Lindsey, Miss Lucia Scott and Miss Carmie Hostetter. The mission was soon joined Eugene Snodgrass from the FCMS mission. In the fall of 1892 Azbill returned to the United States to promote his plan. Unfortunately, his methods did not meet with the wide acceptance he had hoped and he faced many difficulties in the next couple of years in raising support. He did return to Japan in 1895, this time taking Miss Alice Miller as a volunteer for the Japanese field. But in the meantime the McCalebs, disagreeing with some of Azbill’s methods, had withdrawn from the mission and set off on their own. Eugene Snodgrass also soon left the mission and returned to the United States and to a position with the Gospel Advocate in Nashville. These two defections from Azbill’s direct-support plan would eventually come to carry great significance in mission work among the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement for McCaleb and Snodgrass would come to be seen as a part of the emerging a cappella tradition that by 1906 became a separate body known as the Churches of Christ.
Mac Lynn’s book Churches of Christ around the World traces the mission work of the American a cappella Churches of Christ in Japan back to Wirick, Azbill, McCaleb and others. These were soon followed by other missionaries including the Jones family, Calla Harrison, William Bishop, F.A. Wagner, C.C. Klingman, C. G. Vincent, Sarah Andrews, Hettie Lee Ewing, E.A. Rhodes, Barney D. Morehead and others. Morehead started a small preacher-training school, King’s Bible School, in the Ibaraki Prefecture, which operated until the Second World War. After returning to the United States he vigorously recruited new missionaries for the field. At the close of the First World War a cappella Churches of Christ numbered 21 small congregations. That number increased to 34 by 1934 with reports of 2,000 baptisms. With the advent of the Second World War nearly all of the missionaries were expelled from Japan, including J.M. and Della McCaleb who had arrived in Japan nearly fifty years before. (It is said that the McCaleb’s home in the Toshima Ward of Tokyo has been preserved as a cultural monument). One exception was said to be Sarah Andrews who because of illness was permitted to remain in Japan under house arrest and at great personal sacrifice.
In the decades following the war a new wave of a cappella missionaries began to enter Japan. Among the first was Harry Robert Fox, Sr. who was sent in 1945 by the U.S. Government to interview survivors of the atom bomb. He soon discovered that the Japanese Government had confiscated most church properties and only a few Christians still met together in house churches. The following year O. D. Bixler went to Japan; both Bixler and Fox were responsible for recruiting a number of missionaries, particularly from Harding College. Among this new generation of workers in the last half of the twentieth century was Harry Robert Fox, Jr., Logan Fox, George Gurganus, Charles Boyd, Darrell McMillian, Dan Koger, Lee Bull, Joe Betts (who served for over thirty years, Herman Fox, Lillie Cypert, Carl Etter, Dwight Albright, Graham McKay and perhaps and more than a dozen others. Education was a major tool used in this period and in 1948 Shion Gakuen School was formed. E.W. McMillian played a role in the early development of Ibaraki Christian College (later University) which has since passed out of the direct control of the Churches of Christ.
There were others ventures in higher education that lasted for short periods of time. At present the Japan School of Evangelism in Tachikawa is helping train the next generation of leaders. The Churches of Christ have supported two campgrounds and three benevolent institutions, including Nazare-en Home for the Aged and Nakuda Children’s home. Masaichi Kikuchi, who was baptized in 1931, has spent more than forty years caring for the aged, handicapped and TB patients.
During the time of occupation (1945-1952) the Churches of Christ reported over 5,000 baptisms or almost 1,000 baptisms per year. This high number was due in part to disillusionment with the Emperor Hirohito and the traditional faiths and therefore many turned to Christianity. But as Japan’s economy rapidly improved membership declined. In a recent Christian Chronicle article on Japan Akira Hirose, an elder of the Mito Church, said that “the problem of Japan was that the changes were so big…that we (they) failed to adjust ourselves properly” (March 2004). At the beginning of 2004 there were about 60 Churches of Christ in Japan, concentrated in the Ibaraki Prefecture, excluding U.S. military churches. Attendance ranges from four to 120 with the average being about twenty. Total population of Churches of Christ in Japan is estimated at about 1,050.
Among the missionaries that went to Japan in 1892 as a part of W.K. Azbill’s independent approach were Lucia Scott and Carme Hostetter. Together these women labored in the center of Tokyo to begin what would come to be known as the Yotsuya Mission. When Lucia Scott was obliged to return to America her place was taken up by Alice Miller who came to Japan with Azbill on his second trip in 1895. For more than a decade the women operated a successful school. However, without additional help they were unable to follow-up on many of the evangelistic opportunities that arose through their school. In 1903 Alice Miller asked W.D. Cunningham to take charge of the Yotsuya Mission. Cunningham and his wife, Emily, had prepared to go to Japan with the Foreign Christian Missionary Society but were later repeatedly denied that opportunity because Cunningham had suffered a case if infantile paralysis. Because of the rejection of the Society the Cunninghams decided to act in faith and go out on their own. They arrived in Japan in the early fall of 1901.He quickly found a job teaching English to provide funds for their living expenses. They had made the commitment to use the funds send by their supporters in the United States only for the work of the mission. Packed among their luggage and household goods Cunningham had brought along a printing press. This one object perhaps contributed more to the success of the Cunningham’s mission than any other. In November of 1901 Cunningham printed the first issue of his paper Tokyo Christian. Soon it became a powerful tool to spread the news of the work in Japan and to make people in the United States aware of the financial needs of the mission work. When Cunningham was given charge of Yotsuya Mission the Tokyo Christian became the official organ of the mission and in the process the plea for independent missions was strengthened. By the time of their first furlough in 1908 the Cunningham Mission, as it came to be known, boasted 150 baptisms and the employment of three Japanese evangelists.
After returning to Japan in 1909 the Cunninghams continued the work of building up the mission. Churches were built and outstations established. The Cunninghams were soon joined by additional missionaries John Chase (later of Korea), Vivian Lemmon, Grace Farnham, Ruth Schoonover and others. By 1926 annual receipts for the mission were $75,000. While on furlough in the United States in 1936 W.D. Cunningham died suddenly. Emily Cunningham returned to Tokyo in 1937 with Mr. and Mrs. Own Still as new recruits for the mission. During the Second World War the mission had to be abandoned. Emily Cunningham returned to the United States, probably aboard the Swedish prisoner of war exchange ship Gripsholm.
Following the close of the Second World War Emily Cunningham returned to Japan to restart the missionary work she had begun in 1901. Owen and Shirley Still also returned and a number of new recruits joined them on the field, including Sam and Emily Saunders, Harold and Lois Sims, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Patton and Stanley and Mabel Buttray. At the close of the war only one of the eight church buildings that had been associated with this mission before the war remained standing. It was reconstructed and enlarged. Other buildings were soon constructed, along with missionary homes, and a two story Tokyo Bible Seminary building (closed in 1958). On Christmas Day 1953 Emily Cunningham passed away at her Tokyo home. The missionaries continued the work of the Yotsuya Mission, working cooperatively, but remaining independent of one another in terms of financial support, forwarding agents, etc. The missionaries developed the policy of granting as much independence to the Japanese as soon as possible, turning over all deeds, titles, buildings etc. as the Japanese could manage them and encouraging all the Japanese evangelists to become self-sufficient of mission dollars for their support. In the fall of 1997 following the retirement of Harold and Lois Sims the Yotsuya Mission was closed and after 95 years the Tokyo Christian ceased publication.
In the era following the First World War other independent missionaries also began to go to Japan. Mr. and Mrs. M.B. Madden returned to Japan in 1919 as independent missionaries settling in the Tenmabashi district of Osaka. It was their vision to establish a Bible College and eventually invited Harold and Leone Cole to come to Japan for that purpose. Osaka Bible Seminary began in April of 1937. The first years were met with hardship and with the coming of the war the school was closed until 1947. At that time it was reopened under the leadership of Harold Cole. Cole also spent a great deal of energy preaching and planting a dozen churches. In 1950 Martin Clark became President and the school under went re-organization. Several other missionary families taught in Japan at Osaka Bible Seminary including George and Ethel Beckman, Paul Neilsen, Ray Mings, Bob West, Carolyn Barricklowm Mark Maxey, June Kinnet Hill, Don Burney, Vivian Lemmon and Paul Clark. In addition, Brother Moto Nomura of the Japanese a cappella Churches of Christ also taught at OBS. In 2001 Akinori Nakano became President of Osaka Bible Seminary symbolizing the passing of the baton from missionary leadership to national leadership of the Seminary. Most faculty positions are also now held by Japanese.
In 2001 there were an estimated 80-90 Christian Churches and Churches of Christ in Japan, however several have less than ten members each. Most of these congregations have a Japanese minister, few of whom are full-time. There are also at least three camping centers operating in Japan. There continues to be a large contingency of independent missionaries working in Japan, some serving on short-term project while others are long-term workers. At present there are approximately 35 Christian Churches and Churches of Christ missionary households in Japan. Many of these missionaries work cooperatively and share a warm fraternal relationship. A current list of these missionaries and their activities can be found online at www.sayyestojapan.org, a website managed by Lynn Lusby Pratt.
International Churches of Christ have six congregations in Japan.
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has partnerships with Doshisha University, Asian Rural Institute, Emmaus Center, Kobe College, Korean Christian Church in Japan, Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, National Christian Council in Japan (NCCJ), Tohoku Gakuin University, and the United Church of Christ in Japan.
The American missionary activity in Japan is a good example of the common heritage shared by the heirs of the Stone-Campbell Movement. While the three present day branches of the American Movement are each represented in some form in Japan they have become largely indigenous through the assumption of the work by many Japanese preachers and workers. In each of the three branches their history is traced to the work of the early pioneers of the Gospel in Japan.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised December 9, 2013 by Gary Holloway
For further historical reference:
The History of the Foreign Christian Missionary Society, Archibald McLean, Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1919.
The First Fifty Years, A Brief History of the Direct-Support Missionary Movement, David Filbeck, College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, MO, 1980.
Historical sketch on the Stone-Campbell Movement in Japan by Lynn Lusby Pratt at
For a history of Okinawa see:
Disciples on the Rim of Asia, a Study Book, Produced by the United Christian Missionary Society, Christian Board of Publication, St. Louis, MO, 1962.
The personal paper collections of several missionaries to Japan, including Mr. and Mrs. M.B. Madden and Miss Itoko Maeda are located at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee. Web site: http://www.discipleshistory.org
The Tokyo Christian was printed for 95 years, perhaps the longest run of any of the independent mission papers. Back issues can be found at the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and many college and seminary libraries.
The United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan)
Room 31 Japan Christian Center
2-3-18, Nishi-Waseda, 2-chome
Shinjuju-ku, Tokyo 169, Japan
Christian Churches and Churches of Christ
Web site: http://www.sayyestojapan.org
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) see:
The United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan)
Room 31 Japan Christian Center
2-3-18 Nishi-Waseda, 2-chome
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169, Japan
For information about the Seigakuin Schools (formerly the Margaret K. Long School for Girls) see Global Ministries below.
Japan School of Evangelism (a cappella Churches of Christ) contact:
Maison Fuji #206, Sunagawa-cho 5-42-3, Tachikawa, Japan 190-0031
Osake Bible Seminary
2-11 Nakamiya 4 chome
Asahi-ku, Osaka 535-003 Japan
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206