East China Mission (1909–1917)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: April 20, 2022

The East China Mission 华東区会, originally titled the Eastern Mission Field, functioned under three different entities: The China Union Mission (1909-1913),1 the Asiatic Division (1914-1915),2 and the North China Union Mission (1916-1917).3 Throughout its existence the headquarters was located in Shanghai. Its territory originally covered the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Zhegiang. Shandong province was added in November 1912.4

When the East China Mission was formed in 1909 with Dr. Harry Miller as superintendent, the first statistical report noted there were two organized churches in the territory. The combined baptized membership was only 25 nationals and 21 expatriate missionaries. The population of the three provinces was estimated to be more than 49,000,000. Twelve months later the annual report added two new companies of believers and the membership was listed as 57.5 The headquarters church was referred to as the Honan Road Chapel.6 Another chapel was opened in the Western Haining Road district. Both venues were utilized as halls for evangelistic crusades which were attended by capacity crowds.7 Bothilde Miller conducted regular meetings and baptismal classes for the Chinese women.8

Evangelism followed traditional American lines, converts being required to relinquish jewelry, including the wedding ring.9 Discontinuing worship at house shrines was a major hurdle for many Chinese, and discarding the use of opium was another important change for some individuals. Saturday observance also brought radical transitions, especially for business and professional people. Examples were a Mr. Chow, a chemist, and a Mr. Lo, a teacher with another denomination who had a family to support.10

Initially the expatriate missionaries were preoccupied with advancing their cause in Shanghai and its close proximities. National colporteurs and licensed national preachers were functioning in the provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui, but in 1913 some expatriates moved from Shanghai into Jiangsu to administer the work there more closely. Francis Stafford became director in Jiangsu province and Orrin Hall was stationed at Nanjing.11 In September 1914 a church of 13 charter members was organized at Nanjing.12

For several years prior to 1913 mission endeavors in Anhui province were led by convert C. D. Han, who continued in evangelism without much expatriate assistance, but won many converts.13 Political unrest had hindered advances with the scattering of believers and the looting of chapels, but a recovery was soon made. By 1914 worship places were open again and two elementary schools were functioning, one for boys and another for girls.14

Francis Stafford visited Shandong province in the summer of 1913, canvassing in Chefoo (later Yantai).15 In 1914 two colporteurs from Anhui Province entered and followed up on his pioneer work.16 The political unrest overtook them and one was imprisoned by government soldiers. The other man, Liu Di Seng, was shot dead at the inn where he was lodging. Later mission activities were centered at coastal Chefoo (later Yantai) and further inland at the provincial capital Tsinanfu (later Jinan). In July 1916 a church of 12 members was organized at Chefoo.17

Mission endeavors in the Zhegiang province were first undertaken in 1916 at Wenzhou on the mouth of the Oujiang River. Two companies of believers were formed there, one of them formerly being an independent Christian group who changed their allegiance from Sunday-keeping to the observance of Saturday.18

Statistics from the 1916 report of the East China Union Mission note that the baptized membership had risen to 328. These converts were scattered among six organized churches and 15 smaller companies.19

A major reorganization of mission work in China took place in 1917. Acting on recommendations made at the 1915 General Conference Fall Council held in Loma Linda, California, the country was divided into the South China Union Conference and the North China Union Conference. The East China Union Mission was dissolved and its territory was incorporated with other provinces to form the North China Union Conference.20

Directors of the East China Mission

Harry W. Miller (1909-1910), Arthur C. Selmon (1911-1913), Orrin A. Hall (1913-1916), Harry J. Doolittle (1916-1917).

Sources

“Brother F.E. Stafford hands in the following…” Asiatic Division News, October 1, 1912.

Hall, Orrin A. and Harry J. Doolittle. “Anhwei Province.” Asiatic Division Mission News, November 1914.

Hall, Orrin A. “East China.” Asiatic Division News, December 1, 1913.

Hall, Orrin A. “Report of East China Union (sic) Mission.” Asiatic Division Outlook, April-June 1917.

Hall, Orrin A. “Report of the East China Mission.” Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915.

Hall, Orrin A. “The East China Mission.” Asiatic Division Mission News, January 1, 1915.

“Joint Meeting of the Asiatic Division and China Union Mission Committees,” Asiatic Division News, December 1, 1912.

Lee, C. M. “Shanghai Notes.” Asiatic Division News, July 1, 1913.

Lillie, Charles P. “The Triumph and Trials of Shandung Province.” Asiatic Division Mission News, October 1, 1916.

Rogers, Harvey E. “Statistical Report of Seventh-day Adventist Conferences and Missions, 1910, 1911.” General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, Silver Spring, Maryland. https://www.documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/Forms/AllFolders.aspx.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1909-1918.

Stafford, Francis E. “The Work in Shanghai.” Asiatic Division News, July 1, 1912.

Stafford, Francis E. “The Work in Shanghai.” Asiatic Division News, January 1, 1913.

Stafford, Francis E. “The Work in Shanghai.” Asiatic Division News, February 1, 1913.

“Summary of Proceedings.” Asiatic Division Outlook, April-June 1917.

Notes

  1. E.g., “East China Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1911), 132.

  2. E.g., “Asiatic Division,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1915), 128-129.

  3. E.g., “North China Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1916), 146-147.

  4. “Joint Meeting of the Asiatic Division and China Union Mission Committees,” Asiatic Division News, December 1, 1912, 2.

  5. Harvey E. Rogers, “Statistical Report of Seventh-day Adventist Conferences and Missions, 1910, 1911,” General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, Silver Spring, Maryland. https://www.documents.adventistarchives.org/Statistics/Forms/AllFolders.aspx.

  6. Francis E. Stafford, “The Work in Shanghai,” Asiatic Division News, July 1, 1912, 6.

  7. Francis E. Stafford, “The Work in Shanghai,” Asiatic Division News, February 1, 1913, 8.

  8. “Brother F. E. Stafford hands in the following…” Asiatic Division News, October 1, 1912, 9.

  9. Francis E. Stafford, “The Work in Shanghai,” Asiatic Division News, January 1, 1913, 4.

  10. C. M. Lee, “Shanghai Notes,” Asiatic Division News, July 1, 1913, 7-8.

  11. “East China Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1913), 141.

  12. Orrin A. Hall and Harry J. Doolittle, “Anhwei Province,” Asiatic Division Mission News, November 1, 1914, 2.

  13. Orrin A. Hall, “East China,” Asiatic Division News, December 1, 1913, 5-6.

  14. Orrin A. Hall, “Report of the East China Mission,” Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915, 21-23.

  15. Orrin A. Hall, “Report of East China Union Mission,” Asiatic Division Outlook, April-June 1917, 29-31.

  16. Orrin A. Hall, “The East China Mission,” Asiatic Division Mission News, January 1, 1915, 4-5.

  17. Charles P. Lillie, “The Triumphs and Trials of Shandung Province,” Asiatic Division Mission News, October 1, 1916, 5.

  18. Orrin A. Hall, “Report of East China Union Mission,” Asiatic Division Outlook, April-June 1917, 29-31.

  19. Ibid.

  20. “Summary of Proceedings,” Asiatic Division Outlook, April-June 1917, 45-55.

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Hook, Milton. "East China Mission (1909–1917)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 20, 2022. Accessed May 24, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHPT.

Hook, Milton. "East China Mission (1909–1917)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 20, 2022. Date of access May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHPT.

Hook, Milton (2022, April 20). East China Mission (1909–1917). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 24, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BHPT.