Channing Moore Williams

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Channing Moore Williams
Channing Moore Williams.jpg
Channing Moore Williams
Born (1829-07-18)July 18, 1829
Richmond, Virginia
Died December 2, 1910(1910-12-02) (aged 81)
Richmond, Virginia
Venerated in Anglicanism
Feast December 2

Channing Moore Williams (17 July 1829 – 2 December 1910) was an Episcopal Church missionary, later bishop, in China and Japan.

Williams was a leading figure in the establishment of the Anglican Church in Japan. His saint's day in the Anglican calendar is 2 December.

Early Life and education[edit]

Channing Williams was born in Richmond, Virginia, the fifth child of lawyer and delegate John Green Williams and Mary Anne Crignan. His father served on the vestry of Monumental Church and led its Sunday school. Channing's first and middle names reflected Virginia's second bishop, Richard Channing Moore, who also served as Monumental Church's rector due to the Episcopal Church's financial straits in Virginia after the Revolutionary War. John Williams died when Channing was three years old, so the devout Mary Williams raised her four sons and two daughters rather than marry again.

When Channing turned 18, he went to Henderson, Kentucky, to work in his cousin Alex B. Barrett's general store, as well as save money for future studies. There, he was confirmed by Benjamin Bosworth Smith, Kentucky's first bishop, on 7 April 1849, and also studied Greek at night under the guidance of the rector of St. Paul's Church.[1] Then, like his older brother John (1823-1870, long-time rector of St. Peter's Church in Rome, Georgia), Channing attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He graduated with a master of arts degree in 1852, then attended the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

At VTS, Williams read The Spirit of Missions and other journals. Reports of VTS graduates who served as overseas missionaries, including Augustus Lyde, Henry Lockwood and Francis Hanson, inspired him. He also learned of Bishop William Boone, who had finally persuaded the Foreign Mission Board to sponsor his work in China, and had been elected Bishop for China by the General Convention in 1844 (after the 1842 treaty opened Shanghai to foreign missionaries), then sailed to his diocese with three recent VTS graduates and arrived in June 1845, and accepted another two recent graduates in 1851.[2]

Early missionary life[edit]

Bishop William Meade ordained Williams as a deacon at St. Paul's Church Alexandria on 1 July 1855, along with John Liggins and other graduating classmates. Williams served briefly at that church, but he and Liggins also traveled to New York for interviews with the Foreign Missions Board. By November, the aspiring missionaries sailed toward Shanghai, China to join Bishop Boone. They reached their destination almost eight months later, on 28 June 1856, having sailed around South America, and with stops at Rio de Janeiro and Sydney, Australia.[3]

At Shanghai, the new missionaries first needed to learn the local Wu dialect, as well as Mandarin and the literary Wen-Li language. They soon learned that of the about twenty missionaries who had traveled to Shanghai to work under Bishop Boone since 1845, only about half remained, since many experienced health problems, as well as the strains of cultural adjustment and physical dangers. Soon, they were able to substitute for the British chaplain who assisted foreign sailors, and by December Williams could read prayers in Chinese well enough to substitute for the bishop. Bishop Boone ordained both Williams and Liggins to the priesthood on 11 January 1857.[4]

Missionary work in Japan[edit]

In 1859, together with the Rev. John Liggins, Williams was appointed by the Mission Board of the American Episcopal Church to begin missionary work in Japan. Williams arrived in Nagasaki on June 26, 1859.

Due to government restrictions on the teaching of Christianity and a significant language barrier, the religious duties of Liggins and Williams were initially limited to serving as ministers to the American and British residents of the Nagasaki foreign settlement. The first recorded baptism by Williams of a Japanese convert, a Kumamoto samurai named Shōmura Sukeuemon, was not until February1866.[5]

Williams, consecrated Episcopal Bishop of China and Japan in 1866, moved first to reside in Osaka in 1869, then subsequently relocated to Tsukiji, Tokyo, in December 1873.[6][7]

In February 1874 Williams founded a private school in Tokyo, St. Paul's School, which ultimately became Rikkyo University.[8]

In 1887, in partnership with Bishop Edward Bickersteth, Williams worked to unite the various national Anglican missionary efforts into the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, (i.e. the "Holy Catholic Church"), the Anglican church in Japan. Williams stepped down two years later to make way for a younger generation of missionaries. Bishop John McKim was chosen as his successor in 1893. Williams then moved to Kyoto and evangelized in the Kansai area.

Death and legacy[edit]

Williams returned to America in failing health in 1908, two years before his death in Richmond in 1910. He is buried with his family at Hollywood Cemetery.


  1. ^ Beverley D. Tucker, Chaning Moore Williams: Apostle to Japan, 1829-1910 (bound manuscript dated 2000) pp. 1-4 - 1-5
  2. ^ Tucker pp. 1-7 - 1-15
  3. ^ Tucker, p. 1-15
  4. ^ Tucker pp. 2-1 to 2-5
  5. ^ Ion, A. Hamish (1993). The Cross and the Rising Sun (2 ed.). Waterloo, Ontario, Canada: Wilifrid Laurier University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-88920-218-4. 
  6. ^ Arnold, Alfreda (1905). Church Work in Japan. Harvard College Library: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. 
  7. ^ Arnold, Church Work in Japan, p.8.
  8. ^ Rikkyo University Prospectus 2010, p. 5

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