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Japanese church gives $100,000 for United Methodist work

In a previous trip to Japan, the Rev. R. Randy Day, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, rings the bell of peace in Hiroshima. The bell was dedicated in 1964 in the hopes that "all nuclear arms and wars be gone and the nations live in true peace." A UMNS photo by Taka Ishii.

By Elliott Wright*
Aug. 3, 2007 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

The Hiroshima Nagarekawa Church has given $100,000 to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries for mission work in East Asia.

The gift, the proceeds from the sale of property, honors the late Rev. James William Lambuth, who organized the Nagarekawa church – now part of the United Church of Christ in Japan – in 1887 and also started three Japanese Christian schools, one in Hiroshima.

"We are humbled and thankful for the generosity of Nagarekawa Church in a way that recalls its Methodist heritage and also reminds us of the work of J.W. Lambuth," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, the board’s chief executive.

Lambuth, who was born in 1830 and died in 1892, was a member of a remarkable family that provided several generations of missionaries and other church leaders. The Lambuths were particularly linked to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Lambuth College in Jackson, Tenn., bears the family name.

Board officials said that the gift will be used to strengthen the denomination’s mission work in China, Japan, Mongolia and Siberia, although no specific projects have yet been identified. Mission work in China, Japan and Siberia has historical links to Lambuth family members.

The congregation in Hiroshima had several names over the years, taking its current name in 1927. The next year, Methodist-owned land was donated for the construction of a new building that included a sanctuary seating 500 people.

The Nagarekawa building was reduced to rubble when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. The pastor and the surviving members began holding services before Christmas of that year on the spot where the church had stood.

In 1946, representatives of The Methodist Church came to inspect the situation and, eventually, local and mission funds were collected to rebuild. The congregation began a kindergarten and an English school.

"Nagarekawa" is the name of a district in Hiroshima, which is a completely new city since 1945. The city today has 1.2 million people and is home to several automobile manufacturers including the Mazda Motor Company.

During World War II, the Japanese government forced mainline Protestant denominations to combine in the United Church (Kyodan), which continues today and is a mission partner of Global Ministries and The United Methodist Church.

James William Lambuth was himself a third generation minister and missionary. He served in China in the mid 1850s before moving to Japan, where he established the mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was instrumental in founding the Kwansei Gakiun (educational complex) in Nishinomiya, the Palmore Institute in Kobe, and the Hiroshima Girl’s School. He died in Japan and is buried in Kobe.

Lambuth’s son, the Rev. Walter Russell Lambuth, was both a pastor and a medical doctor. He also worked in China and Japan and in 1910 was elected top executive of the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was later a bishop with responsibility for the mission work in Japan, Korea, Mexico, Africa and Siberia.

*Wright is the information officer for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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