The Protestant Missions — October 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Protestants in Japan


Protestants in Japan
Divie Bethune McCartee
Presbyterian minister Divie Bethune McCartee was the first Protestant Christian missionary to visit Japan, in 1861–1862. His gospel tract translated into Japanese was the first Protestant literature in Japan. In 1865 McCartee moved back to Ningbo, China, but others have followed in his footsteps.

There was a burst of growth of Christianity in the late 1800s when Japan re-opened its doors to the West. However, this was followed by renewed suspicion and rejection of Christian teaching. Protestant church growth slowed dramatically in the early 20th century under the influence of the military government during the Shōwa period.

The post-World War II years have seen increasing activity by evangelicals, initially with American influence, and some growth occurred between 1945 and 1960.

The Japanese Bible Society was established in 1937 with the help of National Bible Society of Scotland (NBSS, now called the Scottish Bible Society), the American Bible Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society.[14]

By some estimates, there are 3,000 Protestant churches in Tokyo and 7,700 Protestant churches in Japan.

In 1862 McCartee was appointed vice-consul to Japan. As such he was the first Protestant missionary to work there. His tract translated into Japanese was the first Protestant literature in Japan.

The McCartees returned to Ningpo in 1865 to resume their missionary work. In 1872, they were transferred to the Shanghai mission but resigned shortly thereafter so that Dr. McCartee could join the Shanghai consular staff as interpreter and assessor to the Mixed Court.

In 1872, when the coolies of the Peruvian ship ‘’Maria Luz’’ were freed by the Japanese government upon his suggestion, a commission was appointed from Beijing to proceed to Tokyo to bring home the freed men, and McCartee was nominated secretary and interpreter, receiving for his services a gold medal and complimentary letters. While on this Chinese government assignment to Japan, McCartee remained in Tokyo as professor of law and science at the Imperial University (now Tokyo University), curator of the botanical gardens, and later secretary to the Chinese Legation there until 1877.

In 1879 he advised Ulysses S. Grant, the former U.S. president, mediating on the Ryukyu Islands, although both China and Japan rejected his compromise.

McCartee returned to the United States in 1880, and in 1882 visited Hawaii on business connected with Chinese immigration. In 1885, Dr. McCartee was appointed consul to the Japanese legation in Washington, DC. Two years later the McCartees were reappointed by the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions to the Japan Mission, where they served until Dr. McCartee’s retirement in 1899. That year he returned to the U.S.A. as an invalid and died in San Francisco the following year.

Divie McCartee devoted nearly forty years of his life to work among the Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese Government gave him a gold medal in recognition of his services in connection with the suppression of the Macau coolie traffic, and later he received the title of Consul General for services in the Chinese legation. From the Japanese Government he received the decoration of the Fifth Order of the Rising Sun. He left a wife and four brothers-Peter, Robert, George, and Charles McCartee. His remains were buried at Newburgh (city), New York.

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