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End of a war, start of new ministries

By Diana Swift on July, 27 2015


Once wholly Japanese, the Vancouver Anglican congregation of Holy Cross is now a mixed parish.
Photo: Michiko Tatchell


On Sunday Sept. 13, the day before Holy Cross Day, Vancouver’s Holy Cross Anglican Church will celebrate two anniversaries—one famous, the other obscure.

First, the Japanese-Canadian parish, led by its rector, the Rev. Daebin Moses Im, will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific in 1945. “We commemorate the end of the war every year,” said Fr. Im, born in Japan of Korean descent. This year the parish will have a 5 p.m. service, followed by a potluck supper.

But this year, with diocese of New Westminster Bishop Melissa Skelton attending, the church will also salute the 100th anniversary of a little-known Anglican institution: the Provincial Board of the Mission to the Orientals (PBMO). This was a Chinese and Japanese ministry canonically formed by the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia in 1915. It set up mission houses in Victoria, Vancouver and Prince Rupert.

According to Greg Tatchell, a Holy Cross parishioner and historian of Vancouver Japanese-Anglican relations, by 1941—the year of the Pearl Harbor bombing that ushered in an era of persecution for Japanese-Canadians—the PBMO had 12 mission workers and two clergy serving Japanese residents, and six workers and three clergy serving Chinese residents. Tatchell wrote his 2009 master of divinity thesis, “Relinquished,” at the Vancouver School of Theology on the diocese’s sale of Japanese- Anglican churches it held in trust. Tatchell also co-chairs, with former Holy Cross rector Fr. John Shozawa, the Japanese-Canadian Vancouver Consultative Council (JC-VCC). This is a community advocacy group set up to research the question, “What happened to our Japanese Anglican churches in 1945 and 1949?”

The PBMO worked in consultation with various dioceses in carrying out its work, but in 1965, its functions were transferred to the dioceses. The PBMO was dissolved in 1967.

So why celebrate an agency disbanded almost 50 years ago? 

“The second anniversary connects historically to the first,” said Tatchell. During the war in the Pacific, the B.C. Japanese-Canadians deported to internment camps in the interior included some 1,500 Anglicans. In Christian solidarity, the 14 PBMO missionaries to the Japanese community chose to join the exiles.

And over the decades, the PBMO provided an ongoing focal point for Asian-Canadian ministry in a culture of anti-Asian racism, said Tatchell. The provincial missioners understood the unique needs of the community since they had served as missionaries in Japan and could advocate in an informed way on Asians’ behalf.

And just as the PBMO was founded as a focal point for the concerns of Asian-Canadians, 100 years later they are converging on a new focal point: the Anglican CanAsian Ministry (ACAM). Strongly encouraged by Bishop Skelton, ACAM has also been strongly supported by The Episcopal Church’s equivalent organization, the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries (EAM) http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/asiamerica-ministries, established in 1973. And in March 2013, the Council of General Synod, acknowledging the injustices suffered by Japanese Canadians, passed a resolution to study the EAM model for the Anglican Church of Canada.

“I can’t begin to describe what it means to this community to lose something and then get it back so many years later,” said Tatchell.

This fall, Tatchell and other representatives from Holy Cross, the diocese and the JC-VCC will attend an international EAM convocation in Seoul, Korea, Sept. 30 to Oct. 5, and a week later will participate in a convocation in Tokyo focusing on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific.

And something else needs to be done: “We’ve never had a service of reconciliation, but in the new year, we hope to have one after renovations are finished at Christ Church Cathedral,” Tatchell said.

—With files from Greg Tatchell

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By Diana Swift| July, 27 2015

About the Author

Diana Swift

Diana Swift

Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor. 

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