Planting seeds – Exhibit depicts Drew’s role in spreading Methodism to Korea

In 1885, Henry Appenzeller, a recent graduate of Drew Theological Seminary, arrived in Korea with his wife, Ella, and began work as the first Methodist Episcopal Church missionary to the country. Methodism is a strong presence in Korea today, and Drew’s ties to the country remain strong too.

The Drew University Library recently installed an exhibit titled “Land of the Morning Calm: Drew Theological Seminary and Early Methodist Missions to Korea.” It was curated by the Rev. Christopher J. Anderson, Methodist librarian at Drew, with help from Masato Okinaka, Corey Flick and KwangYu Lee.


Dr. Anderson answered questions by email from managing editor Sam Hodges.

Why is the exhibit called “Land of the Morning Calm”?

Henry Appenzeller used the phrase “Land of the Morning Calm” in one of his letters to administrators with the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Why was it Drew, as opposed to another Methodist stronghold, that made this missionary connection with Korea?

Henry Appenzeller was a graduate of Drew Theological Seminary (1885). Several other Drew graduates followed Appenzeller to Korea over the next 20 years. When one examines the early conference journals of Korea (1886-1910) the pages are filled with the names of Drew graduates serving as district leaders, teachers and ministers.

How active were Methodists in foreign missions when Henry and Ella Appenzeller arrived in Korea? Was their arrival part of a flourishing movement?

The Methodist Episcopal Church had already established mission stations in Liberia, South America, China and Japan (to name a few). The Korea mission was an extension of the work in Japan. Appenzeller originally wanted to serve as a missionary in Japan but there were no openings at the time. The Missionary Society of the M.E. Church had been considering Korea and decided to appoint Appenzeller as the first missionary. Mary Scranton, who sailed with the Appenzellers in 1885, was the first woman missionary to Korea and began the work of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society in Korea. So, both the Missionary Society and the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society initiated work in Korea the same year. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, would establish a missionary presence in Korea by the late 1890s.

Henry Appenzeller, a Drew graduate, was the first Methodist Episcopal Church missionary to Korea, arriving in 1885. EXHIBIT IMAGES COURTESY DREW LIBRARY AND THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES AND HISTORY, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

How did missionaries to Korea make use of stereopticon machines?

Missionaries to Korea would have used stereopticon machines to project songs and picture stories from glass lantern slides. Hymn slides would often include the text of the song and an accompanying hand-tinted image. Other hymn slides would have the text and tune together. Slides would also portray stories from the Bible, Jesus feeding the 5,000 or scenes of the crucifixion. When missionaries returned to the United States on furlough to rest and raise funds they would speak at Methodist churches and use the machines and slides to show images from Korea to U.S. churchgoers. These images would include landscapes, buildings, and the people of Korea. Through visual representation (photographs, lantern slides, etc.), Methodist missionaries were very influential in shaping the way Americans perceived and visualized the people of Korea.

The Appenzellers spoke of great difficulties in their early days. Can you give a sense of the world they stepped into?

The Appenzellers arrived in Korea in April 1885 amidst political turmoil. Due to a recent coup d’etat affecting the government all foreigners were requested to leave the country. The Appenzellers, concerned over personal safety, left for Japan and would return back to Korea a few months later. During that first summer of 1885 Henry reached out to his former Drew professor, sharing his frustration with the delay in starting mission work. The original manuscript letter is on display in the exhibit.

This advertisement for a Methodist missionary magazine shows graduates from Ewha University, which grew from a school started by Methodist missionary Mary Scranton. EXHIBIT IMAGES COURTESY DREW LIBRARY AND THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES AND HISTORY, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

Henry Appenzeller got a lot done in his time in Korea. How would you summarize his legacy?

Henry Appenzeller’s legacy hinges upon the work of other early Methodist missionaries, educators and medical practitioners. These include Drew Theological Seminary graduates working for the Missionary Society as well as the work of women missionaries appointed to Korea by the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. While Appenzeller was instrumental in the start of educational institutions, an active printing press and assorted church projects, his understudied colleagues who have received less attention by historians brought his work to fruition. His tragic death on the way to a Bible translation meeting, and the way the accident was reported, made Appenzeller into a martyr. The debate continues as to exactly what happened in those final minutes aboard the ship in June of 1902.

When did students from Korea begin to come to Drew?

I believe the first Drew student from Korea was Henry Dodge Appenzeller, Henry and Ella Appenzeller’s son. He received his Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree from Drew in 1915. His handwritten graduating essay is on display in the exhibit. The earliest Koreans to attend Drew include Chungil Yhan Roe (B.D. 1920) and Ushoon Kim (B.D. 1921).

What percentage of Drew Theological School’s current student population is Korean?

According to a recent article in Drew Magazine, about one in five, or about 20 percent, of the theological school student population is from Korea.

How extensive is Methodism in South Korea, and did it grow principally, or entirely, from the seeds planted by these early missionaries from Drew?

The Korean Methodist Church is the largest Methodist denomination in Korea. According to the most recent statistics on the denomination’s website the church has slightly over 1.5 million adherents. I’m not certain of the exact path to growth but Drew graduates were the first and second generation of missionaries to plant the seeds of Christianity (specifically Methodism) in Korea.

Ella Appenzeller made this sketch of the Methodist missionary compound in Korea in its early days. EXHIBIT IMAGES COURTESY DREW LIBRARY AND THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES AND HISTORY, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

You found materials for this exhibit in Drew’s archives and from the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. But you also got material from Chung Dong First Methodist Church in Korea. What came from there and was it a challenge to get permission to borrow it and arrange for safe transport?

Chungdong First Methodist Church produced a five-minute film of silent footage from approximately 1900-1930. The film highlights the Appenzeller and Noble families. The film was sent to the First United Methodist Church in Lancaster, Pa. First UMC provided Drew with a copy of the film. So, we received the DVD from Chungdong via Lancaster.

The exhibit is free and on display through Jan. 31, 2013 at the United Methodist Archives and History Center on the Drew campus in Madison, N.J. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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