The Protestant Church Commission for Japanese Service was set-up in response to Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-American
citizens and aliens evacuated from the U.S. West Coast and relocated to centers in the interior. The Commission acted as
a conduit of information among the camp churches, various denominational headquarters, and the wider American culture. Toward
the end of the War, the Commission's main activity was to aid returning evacuees, clergy in resuming their interrupted ministries,
and lay people with their lives. Gordon K. Chapman, a Presbyterian minister with extensive Japanese missionary experience,
was the Executive Director from start to finish.
The organization was set up in response to Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-American citizens and aliens evacuated
from the U.S. West Coast and relocated to centers in the interior. It was first named the Western Area Protestant Church
Commission for Wartime Japanese Service. The majority of the members were Protestant ministers who had served as missionaries
in Japan for considerable amounts of time, several from about 1900 on.
The Commission was headquartered in Berkeley, California for the first few months during 1941-42. It then moved to San Francisco.
As the government evacuation orders were being enforced, Japanese and Japanese-American ministers, working with their congregations
in the assembly centers (transit camps), appealed to their Caucasian colleagues for assistance. The Commission was formed
for the purpose of assisting the Japanese and Japanese-American ministers with their pastoral duties in the relocation centers
(commonly know as camps).
The U.S. War Relocation Authority authorized church activities, but would give no monetary or material assistance. As the
internees were relocated from the assembly centers to the camps, various Protestant churches and denominations came together
to lend assistance. These activities included:
1) staffing stationary camp churches, 2) designing and building churches, 3) setting up preaching missions to the camp churches,
4) assisting returning missionaries from Japan to seek employment in the camp churches, or with the WRA as teachers or social
workers, 5) setting up denominational conferences for ministers in the camps, and 6) other activities such as funding drives,
and providing Bibles and other religious tracts.
As the War continued, the Commission acted as a conduit of information among the camp churches, various denominational headquarters,
and the wider American culture. Toward the end of the War, the Commission's main activity was to aid returning evacuees,
clergy in resuming their interrupted ministries, lay people their lives. Discussions centered on whether or not it was better
for returnees to be integrated as members of the local congregations or form separate ethnic congregations as they had been
prior to the War. During the spring and summer of 1945 as the camps were being emptied, the Commission recruited divinity
students as volunteers to minister to the dwindling numbers of internees. The Commission ceased operation in late 1945.
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