herbswanson.com
A Resource for the Study of the Thai church

Home Links Search Blog
Dictionary of Thai Christianity

This dictionary is intended for those who are unfamiliar with subjects contained in the various sections of this website. As such, it is not intended to be inclusive of Thai church history or any other subject. While the majority of entries have to do with the history of the church and missions in Thailand, especially historical northern Siam, there are also entries on other subjects. Please note that, as elsewhere on this website, Thai names are alphabetized by first name and that new entries are being added to this dictionary as time allows.

I began work on this dictionary in August 2003 and continue to add new entries to it, as time permits.

Blanford, Carl Edwin (1922-2012)

The Rev. Carl Blanford was born 17 June 1922 in Newport, Idaho, graduated from Whitworth College in 1943 and Princeton Theological Seminary in 1946. He married Muriel Ausink on 14 June 1946, and they were appointed as Presbyterian missionaries to China in January 1947. They sailed for China in January 1948 and served on Hainan Island. They transferred to the Presbyterian Thailand Mission in 1951. They served as missionaries in Hat Yai from 1951 to 1963. In 1963, Blanford temporarily served as the director of the Bangkok Institute of Theology and then remained in Bangkok as the head of the Institute of Theology. He also carried out pastoral duties at the Sapanluang Church, Bangkok, until 1977. Muriel died of cancer on 25 August 1965. She and Carl had four children, three sons and a daughter. While serving with the Sapanluang Church, Blanford help found and taught at the Thai Christian School. In 1968, he married Lily Chia, a Malaysian woman,a nd together they had two daughters. In 1977, they moved to Singapore where he served as senior pastor of the Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church where he served until 1982. In 1982, he became an associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Seattle, Washington and remained in that position until 1990. Carl Blanford died on 13 April 2012.

Link: In Memory of Rev. Carl Edwin Blanford

Boon Mark Gittisarn (1898-1987)

Boon Mark is one of the most important figures in 20th century Thai Protestant history. He was born in Rat Buri on 1 September 1898 and graduated from the Bangkok Christian College (BCC) in 1921. He converted to Christianity while at BCC. In 1923, he married Muan Suphaphun. After graduation, he became an American Presbyterian Mission evangelist in the Pitsanuloke Station. He graduated from McGilvary Theological Seminary in 1930, and in 1933 he became station evangelist for the Presbyterian Bangkok Station. The first General Assembly of the Church of Christ in Thailand (CCT), April 1934, elected him Assistant General Secretary, and in August 1934, he was installed as Pastor of Second Church, Bangkok. In 1938-1939, he was the translator for the controversial Chinese revivalist, Dr. John Sung and became Sung's most outspoken supporter. The CCT elected him General Secretary in 1938. During World War II Boon Mark traveled extensively encouraging CCT churches and helping them withstand pressure and oppression; after the War, however, Boon Mark left the CCT in 1948 and became associated with the founding and early development of Pentecostalism in Thailand. In 1957, he founded Thailand's first independent church, Bangkok Church, and he also founded the independent "Association of Free Churches" with himself as General Secretary. He played a central role in the evangelistic campaign of the American Pentecostal preacher, T. L. Osborn, in Bangkok in 1956. He subsequently associated himself with the United Pentecostal Church (UPC), an American group. Although the UPC in Thailand experienced significant growth at first, it declined rapidly when he withdrew from active leadership in the late 1960s. He then remarried and joined the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Boon Mark died 20 May 1987.

Link: "The Finnish Free Foreign Mission and the Origins of Pentecostalism in Thailand, 1946-1960" in HeRB 6.
Link: "Boon Mark Gittisarn & the CCCA"
Link: "Boon Mark Gittisarn & the CCT"

Bradley, Dan Beach (1804-1873)

Bradley was an American missionary doctor, printer, and evangelist who is the most important individual Protestant missionary to serve in Thailand. He was born on 18 July 1804, in western New York, and after an informal education he graduated from New York Medical College in 1833. He married Emelie Royce on 5 June 1834. The Bradleys arrived in Bangkok in July 1835 and served as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He played an important part in introducing Western medicines and medical practices into Siam, including the promotion of small pox inoculation and vaccination, and he also played a role in the introduction of printing as well. His press produced an important Christian literature including tracts, scriptures, hymnals, and theological works. He also edited both English and Thai-language newspapers including the Bangkok Calendar and the Bangkok Recorder.

Bradley was ordained in 1838, but the ABCFM removed him and his colleague, Rev. Jesse Caswell, from the mission in 1848 because they held certain unacceptable theological views. His wife, Emelie, died on 8 August 1845, and on a subsequent trip to the United States Bradley married Sarah Blachly on 3 November 1848. He returned to Siam to found a mission under the American Missionary Association. Bradley remained a deeply admired figure in Bangkok in later years and continued to have an influence in mission work. His vision for mission stations in Phet Buri and Chiang Mai were both fulfilled in the 1860s by his daughter, Sophia Bradley McGilvary, and her husband, the Rev. Daniel McGilvary. He died on 13 June 1873 in Bangkok.

Link: "Thailand's Pioneer Missionary, Dan Bradley"
Bradley, Sarah Blachly (1817-1893)

Sarah Bradley is largely known as Dr. Dan Beach Bradley's second wife. She was born on 17 December 1817, in Weathersfield Township, Ohio, into a well-educated and devout Presbyterian family. She attended the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (Oberlin College, today) from 1841 to 1845, and was one of the first women in the United States to earn a B.A. degree. She then migrated with her family to Dane, Wisconsin in the summer of 1846. She taught school in Dane for a period of time, after which she married Bradley on 3 November 1848 and returned with him to Bangkok. In addition to rearing two stepchildren, she raised five children of her own. In 1851, she and two other missionary women were invited by King Mongkut (Rama IV) to teach English to palace women, which work continued for about three years. It is supposed to have been the first "zenna work" conducted by Protestant missionaries anywhere in the world. After Bradley's death in 1873, she remained in Bangkok, where she continued to run his press and conducted missionary work. She was highly respected, particularly by the royal family. She died on 16 August 1893 in Bangkok.

Link: "Sophia Bradley McGilvary and Sarah Blachly Bradley: Notes Towards a Family Biography"
Buell, William P. (1815 – n.d.) and Seignoria Branch (née Vaughn)

The Buells were the first Presbyterian missionary couple to serve in Siam. William Buell was born 18 June 1815 near Marietta, Ohio, but he later considered himself a resident of Virginia. He graduated from Union Seminary, Virginia and was ordained a minister by the Presbytery of East Hanover. Seignoria Buell was from Petersburg, Virginia. They were married 6 February 1840, sailed for Siam in March of that year, and arrived in Bangkok in August 1840. They served there until late 1843 or early 1844, when ill health forced them to return to the United States, where they arrived in December 1844. They then resigned from missionary work.

Campbell, Howard (1866-1957)

Campbell was a Presbyterian missionary in northern Siam. He was born in Moniteau, Pennsylvania, 12 October 1866 and graduated from Grove City College in 1891. He graduated from Western Theological Seminary in 1894. In June 1894, he married Sarah Elizabeth Carlon (1864-1920). The Campbells arrived in Bangkok in November 1894 spent their entire missionary career in Chiang Mai. Campbell served as pastor of First Church, Chiang Mai, for most of that career. Sarah died in February 1920, and in May 1920, Campbell married Mary Carnahan Shellman (née Guy) (1883-1962), the widow of Dr. Carl Shellman. Campbell died 14 October 1957.

Campbell, Mary Margaretta (1858-1881)

Mary Campbell and Edna S. Cole were the first single women to serve as members of the Laos Mission and together founded the Chiang Mai Girls' School (Dara Academy) in 1879. Campbell was born on 20 March 1858. Her father was a Presbyterian minister serving in Lexington, Indiana, when she died in 1881. She and Cole were classmates at the Western Female Seminary, graduating in 1878. They came to Siam together, arrived in Chiang Mai in April 1879, and immediately undertook their educational work, which had great success. Campbell drowned in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya on 8 February 1881, and her death had a profound effect on the mission and on her many friends in the United States.

Catholic Church History in Thailand

The first Catholic missionaries to serve in Siam were the Dominicans Friar Jéronimo da Cruz and Sabastio da Canto. They arrived in Ayudhya in 1567, where they were warmly received but da Cruz and two other missionaries were killed by the Burmese in 1569. Franciscan missionaries first arrived in 1582, and the first Jesuit reach Siam in 1607. By 1662, there was a Christian community of roughly 2,000 people in Ayudhya, served by 1 Spanish and 10 Portuguese priests.

In August 1662, the Catholic Missions ÉtrangEeres de Paris (MEP) sent three missionaries to Ayudhya, including Pierre Lambert de la Motte, who was an apostolic vicar as well; and in 1664, a second apostolic vicar, François Pallu, also was sent to Ayudhya along with a group of companions. Also, in 1664, the French missionaries in Ayudhya held a synod in which it was agreed, among other things, to open a seminary. In 1669, a papal bull, Speculatores, was issued giving the apostolic vicars full authority over all Catholics in Ayudhya, which they had not had before. That same year the mission opened its first hospital, and in the ensuing years the work of the mission prospered so that by 1674 there were roughly 600 Thai Catholics. There were many more Catholics of other nationalities in the Kingdom of Ayudhya, including Vietnamese, Portuguese, and Japanese Christians. In 1688, however, the apparently pro-Catholic King Narai of Ayudhya was deposed and the new king, Phra Phetracha, engaged in a severe oppression of Christianity. From that point onwards, the church suffered under several periods of repression and Catholic missionaries were closely regulated in their work.

Matters improved with the establishment of the Chakri Dynasty in 1782, and in 1785 King Phra Phutthayotfa (Rama I) invited Catholic missionaries to return to Siam. Catholicism began to grow, slowly, with about 2,500 Catholics in Siam in 1802 and roughly 3,000 by 1811. In 1838 Msr. Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix was consecrated as bishop for Siam, and in 1841 the Vatican established the Mission of Oriental Siam, including Siam and Laos with Pallegoix as its apostolic vicar. By 1875, the Siam Mission had roughly 10,000 Christians, 20 European missionaries, and 8 Thai priests. From this point onwards, the mission's work continued to grow rapidly. In 1885, it established its first modern Western-style school in Bangkok, Assumption College. St. Louis Hospital was founded in 1898. After 1910, Catholic work began to spread quite rapidly into new areas of the country, particularly in northern Siam.

Catholicism in Thailand expanded in a number of other ways, including the establishment of many new dioceses, and the entry of numerous religious orders. In 1965, the Vatican established two archbishoprics in Thailand, Bangkok and Thare-Nongaseng, and in 1983 Archbishop Joseph Kiamsun Nittayo was consecrated by Pope John Paul II as Thailand's first cardinal. By 2000, there were roughly 300,000 Catholics in Thailand. (this entry is based largely on A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, s.v. "Thailand, Roman Catholic Church")

Link: "Siam." The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Chiang Mai Mission Press

The Chiang Mai Mission Press was established in early 1892 by the Laos Mission, after several abort efforts dating from the 1860s to introduce a printing press into northern Siam. Dr. S. C. Peoples of the Lampang Station successfully acquired the fonts for the press in 1890, and when the press began in 1892 the Rev. D. G. Collins became the press manager. He remained in that position until his death in 1917, when his wife Ada Collins assumed management of the press until her own death in 1923. Beginning in small, cramped quarters, the press grew under the Collins' able management, and it remained the largest and most commercially viable press in the North. The press had to be closed temporarily in 1926 for the lack of a manager, and although opened again in later years it declined in importance. In 1936, the Presbyterian Mission finally took action to rent the press to a local Chiang Mai Christian.

The press was the first and for much of its history the only press printing in the northern Thai script and language. It produced large volumes of Scripture portions, textbooks, and tracts and did substantial job work for local government agencies and businesses.

Link : The section, "Printing and Literature Distribution" in Chapter VI of my dissertation, "Prelude to Irony."

Church of Christ in Thailand (C.C.T.)

The Church of Christ in Thailand was founded in 1934 as the "Church in Siam" with the express intent of forming a single ecumenical denomination to include all Protestant churches in Thailand. Other than a small number of American Baptist and British Churches of Christ congregations, all of the original member churches were originally Presbyterian congregations. The C.C.T. originally had seven districts, six geographical and one ethnic Chinese. Except for a brief period during World War II, Presbyterian missionary influence remained predominant in the C.C.T. until the late 1970s. Since 1990, the denomination has experience a major demographic shift. Tribal churches, mostly Baptist in origin, now account for about one-half of its total number of roughly 100,000 communicant members. The C.C.T. is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia and is generally recognized to be a "mainline," ecumenical denomination. Its church government is a relatively centralized mixture of Presbyterian, Disciples, and Baptist polities.

Cole, Edna S. (1855-1950)

Cole was an American Presbyterian missionary educator who played an important role in the development of women's education in Siam. She was born in Illinois on 1 January 1855 and graduated from Western Female Seminary in Oxford, Ohio, in 1878. She served principal of the Chiang Mai Girls' School in the Laos Mission's Chiang Mai Station from 1878 until 1883. Working initially with her close friend, Mary Margaretta Campbell, she developed this school from the small girl's literacy class started by Sophia McGilvary. It was the first permanent Western-style school in northern Siam.

In 1885, Cole became principal of the Bangkok Girls' School under the Presbyterian Siam Mission, and she turned it into the leading girls' school in the nation. This school was officially called the Harriet House School and popularly referred to as the Wang Lang School because of its location. The school prospered under her long, capable leadership and became an important source of women teachers for government schools, as well as for mission school in both the Laos and Siam Missions. At the end of her career, she initiated the Cole initiated the removal of the school to its present location in 1921, where it is now called the Wattana Wittaya Academy. After a long period of illness, she officially retired in 1923 and died on 23 Nov 1950 in the United States.

Dean, William (18075-1895)

Dean pursued a long and productive missionary career in Siam and in China, and was one of the most capable pastors and evangelists to serve the Baptist Mission in Siam. He was born June 21, 1807, in Eaton, New York in 1807 to Joshua and Mary Dean. He graduated from the Hamilton Academy and Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution (Colgate University) and was ordained in 1834. That same year he and his first wife, Matilda Conan Dean, were appointed by the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions to work in Bangkok, Siam, where Dean began work with Chinese immigrants. They arrived in 1835. Unlike many missionaries of that era, Dean worked closely and collegially with the converts he gained, and as a result he was an effective evangelist and pastor. Matilda died in 1835. Dean became ill in 1842 and had to leave Siam for Macao. While in Macao, he met Theodosia Ann Barker, a British missionary, and they were married. She died in 1843 just a few months after their return to Bangkok in 1843. Dean then returned to the United States. He returned to Bangkok in 1862 to again take up Chinese work, and he found that much of what he had accomplished previously had been lost. He was again able to build up the work, founding churches and expanding the number of converts. His third wife, Maria Brown Dean, died in 1882, and Dean retired and returned to the United States in 1884. He lived out his last years in San Diego, California, where he died in 1895. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York.

Link: "Dean, William." Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions.
Link: "Dean, William. D.D.." The Baptist Encyclopedia (1881).
Link: "Dr. William Dean." Findagrave.com.

Dodd, William Clifton (1857-1919)

Born in Marion, Iowa in 1857, Dodd graduated from Parsons College in 1883 and McCormick Theological Seminary in 1886. He arrived in Chiang Mai to work under the Laos Mission in 1886 and remained a member of the Chiagt Mai Station until 1891. He married Isabella Eakin in 1889. Dodd founded the mission's training school for evangelists in 1889, and in 1891 the Dodds established the Lamphun Station near Chiang Mai. In 1897, they helped found the Chiang Rai Station where they stayed until 1902. In 1904 they founded the Kengtung Station, in Burma, which was the first Laos Mission station outside of Thailand. When that station was closed in 1907, the Dodds returned to Chiang Rai.

Dodd belonged to the "expansionist party" of the Laos Mission, which advocated expasion of the mission's work to reach all of the "Tai" people of Siam, Burma, and China. In pursuit of that goal, Dodd took several exploratory trips into eastern Burma and southern China and collected large amounts of data dedicated to advocating mission expansion. His long trip through southern China to Canton in 1910 generated considerable interest in Tai missions and eventually led to the Dodds' founding of the Laos Mission's Chiangrung (Kiulungkiang) Station in Yunnan, China, in 1917. Dodd died there on 18 Oct 1919. He was one of the first ethnologists of the Tai race and accumulated an impressive array of data on the extent, numbers, and culture of the Tai. He is especially known for his book The Thai Race: The Elder Brother of the Chinese, published posthumously in 1923 by his wife from his letters, papers, and reports.

Edict of Toleration

Issued on 8 October 1878, the "Edict of Toleration" was issued in response to an appeal to the King by Presbyterian missionaries of the Laos Mission, northern Siam for permission to allow Christians to marry without having to pay the traditional "spirit fee," which was taken to be legal confirmation of the marriage by the officials of the semi-independent tributary states in the North. The missionaries refused to allow converts to pay the fee with the consequence that local officials used these fees to limit Christian conversion and expansion. The immediate cause of the edict was the demand that a young Christian couple pay the spirit fee in order to be married. The King referred the petition back to his viceroy in Chiang Mai who issued the edict on his own authority, although with implicit approval from the King. The edict was addressed to three of the northern states, Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Lampang. It affirmed the right of people to convert to Christianity, the right of Christians to observe the Sabbath, and the right of American citizens (the missionaries) to hire as servants anyone they wanted.

Although something of a historical icon among northern Thai Christians, the edict had only limited consequences at the time. It did give greater freedom for people to convert in some places, but in others persecution of and pressure on Christians continued as before. The edict also had political consequences, as it marked a step in Bangkok's gradual expansion of power over the Northern principalities.

Link: A translation of the Edict of Toleration is located in the Appendices of my dissertation, "Prelude to Irony."

Irwin, Robert (1859-1943)

Irwin was a Presbyterian missionary who served with the Laos Mission. He was born on 5 September 1859 in Garafraxa, Ontario and graduated from Pardee College, Missouri in 1887. He graduated from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1890 and was ordained by Platte Presbytery in June 1890. He arrived in Bangkok in September of that same year. He married Dr. Mary Alameda Bowman (1864-1954) in July 1898. His ministry with the Laos Mission was marked by controversy because of his faith in the northern Thai churches to lead themselves. In 1894-1895, he played a key role in an attempt to place pastors in most churches, an attempt that led to misunderstanding and reluctance on the part of the Laos Mission to engage in such an experiment again. While stationed at Nan from 1895 to 1900, he developed a plan for new church development that would encourage churches to take responsibility quickly for themselves; that plan came to an end with the mission transferred the new Christian groups involved to the care of other stations. In 1903 to 1905, Irwin prepared the Phrae Church to run its own life without missionary supervision, which it then did until 1912, when the Laos Mission reopened the Phrae Station. The Irwins resigned from missionary work in February 1906, but they returned to Bangkok in 1911 where Irwin was manager of the American Bible Society agency until 1932. He died in December 1943.

Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand (E.F.T.)

The E.F.T. is an umbrella organization of evangelical Protestant churches that originated out of as informal body of missionaries, meeting under the name of the "Evangelical Fellowship" sometime before 1956. In 1969, the fellowship created a more formal structure and changed its name to the E.F.T. The Thai government, in September 1969, recognized it as one of the five legal Christian religious bodies that have permission to accept missionaries. In practice, the E.F.T. functions as a "congress" of missions, independent churches, and groups of churches. The Thailand Christian Directory for 2003 lists 37 missions and groups of churches as members of the E.F.T.

House, Samuel Reynolds (1817-1899)

House was a pioneer and leading member of the Siam Mission of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He was born in Waterford, New York on 16 October 1817. He graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York, with a bachelor's degree in 1837 and a master's in 1840. He received the M.D. degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City in 1845. He was appointed to the Siam Mission in April 1845 along with the Rev. Stephen Mattoon and his wife to reopen the mission, although they did not finally arrive in Bangkok until March 1847. Although appointed as a physician, by 1852 he had abandoned medical work to undertake full time evangelism and, later, to engage in educational work as well. During his first furlough, 1855-1856, he married Harriet M. Pettit on 27 November 1855 and was ordained as a minister in January 1856. The Houses resigned left Siam in 1886 because Harriet's health was poor, and they resigned from the mission in 1887. She died in 1893, and Dr. House died on 13 August 1899.

The most famous incident in House's life took place in 1868 on a trip to Chiang Mai. House was gored by an elephant, leaving him with a massive wound in his stomach. Although in shock, he had the presence of mind to sew himself up and send for help to Chiang Mai. Recovery required some six weeks, during which time he participated in the founding of the first church in northern Siam, the "First Presbyterian Church of Chiang Mai."

Kawilorot, Chao (1800-1870)

Chao Kawilorot Suriyawong was the sixth Prince (chao luang) of Chiang Mai after Chiang Mai was freed from Burmese rule and Chao Kawila, his father, became the Prince of Chiang Mai in 1781. Chao Kawilorot ruled from 1856 to 1870. Before his accession, he was the chao muang kaeo of Chiang Mai, one of the chief administrators of the state, from 1827 to 1856. Chao Kawilorot is often called the "last king of Chiang Mai," meaning that he was the last chao luang to exercise virtually full, independent rule over Chiang Mai. He was a strong, at time ruthless ruler who was widely respected and feared by the people of Chiang Mai. He played a key role in the early history of the Laos Mission, first by giving permission for the mission to be established and, second, for his attempt to suppress it by the execution of Noi Sunya and Nan Chai, two of the first seven Christian converts.

Link : The section, "Martyrs' Blood" in Chapter 5 of my dissertation, "Prelude to Irony."

Laos Mission

The Laos Mission (also, North Laos Mission, North Siam Mission) was founded by the Rev. Daniel and Sophia McGilvary in April 1867 as a mission of the Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. The original vision for the mission, however, came from Dr. Dan Beach Bradley, who himself once proposed starting a mission in the North. The Laos Mission included, at one time or another, six stations in northern Siam: Chiang Mai (founded 1867); Lampang (founded in 1885 and originally known as the Lakawn Station); Lamphun (founded 1891 and made a sub-station of Chiang Mai in 1897); Phrae (1893): Nan (1895); and Chiang Rai (1896). In addition, the mission founded a station in 1903 to work with the "Tai" peoples of eastern Burma in Kengtung, which was closed in 1907; and if founded another station, the Chiang Rung Station, in Yunnan Province, southern China in 1917.

The mission founded its first church, Chiang Mai Church, now known simply as First Church, Chiang Mai, in 1868. After a brief period of evangelistic success, the mission underwent a time of persecution in 1869, during which two converts were martyred. The mission did not fully recover until the late 1870s. In 1880, it founded three congregations including the Mae Dok Daeng Church, known today as the Suwanduangrit Church, Ban Dok Daeng. By the 1890s, the mission increasingly emphasized medical and educational institutional work, founding boarding schools, hospitals, and dispensaries in each of the stations. The churches, meanwhile, numbered 37 by 1920, the last year of the mission, and communicate membership numbered 6,649 that same year. In 1885, the mission sponsored the founding of the Presbytery of North Laos, officially under the Synod of New York, to give oversight to the churches. The presbytery continued in existence until 1934, when it was incorporated into the Church of Christ in Thailand. Beginning in the 1890s, the majority of the mission's members campaigned for mission expansion into the Shan States of Burma, which brought it into a protracted, time-consuming territorial dispute with the American Baptists in Burma. For a brief period from 1911 to 1914, the mission's church grew rapidly in the wake of malaria and small pox epidemics in various parts of northern Siam.

Beginning as early as 1910, discussions began concerning closer cooperation and an eventual merger with the Presbyterian Siam Mission, located in central and southern Siam. Improved transportation rendered it unnecessary to have two separate missions, and in 1920, the Board voted to merge the missions, then known as the North Siam and South Siam Missions; the process was not completed until 1921, when the Laos Mission ceased to exist.

Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Thailand

Although a Mormon missionary resided in Bangkok for some four months in 1854, the work of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) did not begin in Thailand until 1961 when two American couples unofficially formed its first group in Bangkok. That group was given official recognition in 1962 and grew steadily during the influx of American military and civilian personnel during the Vietnam War. In 1966, the LDS baptized its first Thai convert in Thailand, Nangnoi Thitapoora, and in that same year it organized the Thailand District of the Southern Far East Mission. The Bangkok group was also reorganized as the Bangkok Branch, the first branch in Thailand; the branch purchased the first SDA property in Thailand in 1967. In February 1968, the first group of full-time Mormon missionaries arrived in Bangkok, and by the end of the year they had initiated a program for translating and publishing SDA literature. The team soon began to win a number of converts, most important among them was Srilaksana Gottsche, known as "Sister Sri," in 1968. She played a key role in the translation of numerous SDA publications, esp. the Book of Mormon, which was published in Thai in 1976. The SDA opened Thailand's first chapel, the Asoke Chapel, in 1974.

Meanwhile, in June 1972, an SDA missionary was photographed sitting on the neck of a Buddha image in Sukhothai by another missionary. The photograph came into the hands of the Thai press, and a national scandal occurred, which proved to be a disaster for the SDA in Thailand. The two missionaries were jailed and then deported, and all hope for the SDA becoming officially registered with the government was lost.

The SDA organized its Thailand Mission (renamed Thailand Bangkok Mission) in 1973, and during the 1970s, the SDA took various steps to improve its images, and in 1980 it initiated work in the refugee camps in the Northeast, which were then rapidly growing in numbers. Theological work began in the late 1970s. In 1988, Anan Eldridge became the first Thai President of the Thailand mission, and during the lated 1980s and the 1990s the SDA began experienced increased growth so that by 1995 it numbered over 6,000 members. In that same year, the SDA formed the Bangkok Stake, the first stake in Thailand, with Thipparat Kitsaward as its first president and Pornchai Juntratip as its first patriarch.

Source: Britsch, R. Lanier. From the East: The History of the Latter-Day Saints in Asia, 1851-1996. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1998, pages 14-33 and 374-407.

McGilvary, Daniel (1828-1911)

Daniel McGilvary was an American Presbyterian missionary who played an important role in the expansion of Protestantism into northern Thailand. He was born 16 May 1828, in North Carolina, USA and, after a largely informal education, taught school until he entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1853. He graduated from Princeton in 1856 and returned to NC to pastor two rural churches. He was ordained in 1857. He arrived in Thailand in 1858 as a member of the Bangkok Station, Siam Mission, PCUSA, and married Sophia Royce Bradley in 1860. In 1861, the McGilvarys participated in the opening of the Phet Buri Station, the first Protestant missionary station outside of Bangkok. In 1867, the McGilvary family moved to Chiang Mai, the chief city of Thailand's northern dependencies, and founded a new Presbyterian mission, the Laos Mission.

The McGilvarys worked alone for one year and were chiefly responsible for the conversion of six men by early 1869. A persecution of these Christians in September 1869 led to the execution of two, the scattering of the others, and the threatened closure of the Laos Mission. McGilvary's perseverance prevented the lapse of Protestant work in northern Thailand. From 1870 until roughly 1890 McGilvary was the unofficial leader of the Laos Mission and took the leading hand in expanding its work including establishing several rural Christian communities which became important Christian centers. In 1878 he played a leading role in obtaining the so-called "Proclamation of Religious Toleration" from the Thai central government, which gave certain civil rights to northern Thai converts. McGilvary took a number of exploratory tours, beginning in the 1870s, going as far as the Shan States in Burma and Yunnan Province in southern China in the 1890s. Those tours inspired the Laos Mission with the vision of a greater mission to the Tai peoples of China and French Indochina, which vision dominated mission work until the 1920s. He is credited with introducing Western medicine into northern Siam. McGilvary supported theological training for northern Thai evangelists and pastors, and he played an important role in promoting mission boarding school education, particularly for women. He took a leading role in promoting central Thai literacy among the northern Thai. McGilvary continued active evangelistic work, including visiting established Christian groups, up until his death on 22 August 1911, in Chiang Mai. Throughout his life, his colleagues and the general public held McGilvary in great esteem, and businesses and government offices in Chiang Mai were officially closed in mourning on the day of his death.

McGilvary, Evander (1864-1953)

Evander McGilvary was a Presbyterian missionary with the Laos Mission and the son of Daniel and Sophia McGilvary. He was born 19 July 1864 in Bangkok, received a B.A. degree from Davidson College, North Carolina in 1884, gained an M.A. from Princeton University in 1888, and graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1891. He married Elizabeth Ann Patton in June 1891 and left for Siam that same year. He was appointed to the Chiang Mai Station; his main task was to translate the New Testament in northern Thai. In 1893, however, the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly gave a verdict in the famous Briggs Heresy Case that declared as heretical views that Evander himself held. He felt constrained to resign from missionary work and studied philosophy at the University of California, where he graduated in 1897 and was appointed as an assistant professor. He then taught at Cornell (1899-1905) and the University of Wisconsin (1905-1924). McGilvary enjoyed a distinguished career in philosophy, and served as president of the American Philosophical Association in 1912-1913. He published numerous lectures, and his 1939 Carsus lectures were published posthumously in 1956 as Toward Perspective Realism. He died in September 1953.

Link: Jan Blodgett, "Davidson’s First Student from Asia." Original available on line at Davidson University Archives (here).
Link: Khrischak Muang Nua, Chapter 5, "The Case of Evander McGilvary."

McGilvary, Sophia Bradley (1839-1923)

Sophia McGilvary was the first woman missionary to serve in the Laos Mission and played a key early role in the introduction of women's education into northern Siam. She was the daughter of Dr. Dan Beach and Emelie Royce Bradley and was born in Bangkok on 8 October 1839. Her mother died in August 1845, and in 1847 her father took her and her two siblings to Oberlin, Ohio, where she went to school for a period. Her father, while in the United States, married Sarah Blachly in November 1848, and the family returned to Bangkok, where Sophia was home schooled by Sarah Bradley, one of the first women in the United States to receive a B.A. degree.

In 1860, Sophia married the Rev. Daniel McGilvary, a Presbyterian missionary; and in 1861, they joined the S. G. McFarlands in founding a mission station in Phet Buri. In April 1867, the McGilvary family founded the Laos Mission when they moved to Chiang Mai. Sophia conducted women's literacy classes, assisted in the translation of the Gospel of Matthew, and in about 1875 started a small class for Christian girls that was the seed for the founding of the Chiang Mai Girls' School in 1879. The McGilvarys had five children, three of whom became members of the Laos Mission.

Nan Inta (1804-1882)

Nan Inta was the first baptized Christian convert in northern Thailand, baptized by the Rev. Daniel McGilvary of the Presbyterian Laos Mission. He taught northern Thai to the missionaries, wrote Christian tracts, and worked as an evangelistic assistant to the missionaries. He was the first ordained northern Thai elder. Nan Inta was born in 1804 in the Sarapee District of present-day Chiang Mai Province, studied for the Buddhist monkhood, and served as the abbot of a temple. He married Chunpeng.

When the McGilvarys, the first foreign missionaries to northern Thailand, arrived in 1867, Nan Inta began to visit them frequently and gained a knowledge of Christianity from them. He resisted conversion, however, until McGilvary correctly predicted a solar eclipse for 17 August 1868, which prediction convinced Nan Inta that traditional Buddhist cosmology was incorrect. He was baptized on 3 January 1869. In September 1869, Nan Inta fled from the persecution of Christians, which took place in Chiang Mai that month. In 1871, he resumed an active Christian life, and in 1873, the Siam Presbytery took him under care for preparation for ordained ministry. On 1 May 1875, First Church, Chiang Mai ordained him an elder, and the following year his wife and children converted to Christianity. In 1878 Nan Inta's daughter, Kham Tip, wanted to marry a young man training for the ministry, but influential relatives insisted the ceremony follow northern Thai animistic traditions. The Laos Mission appealed to the King of Thailand for redress, and the king's viceroy in Chiang Mai issued what was later called the "Edict of Religious Toleration" on 8 October 1878.

On 4 July 1880, the Laos Mission founded the Bethlehem Church in Sarapee District. Nan Inta's family and another family formed the core of this church with Nan Inta serving as the leader and first elder. In May 1882, he moved to the area of the Mae Dok Daeng Church, where he died on 27 August 1882.

Mormons. See Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Thailand

North Laos Mission. See Laos Mission.


Roman Catholicism. See Catholic Church History in Thailand.


Seely, Francis M. (1917-2004)

SEELY, REV. FRANCIS McLAIN 87, was born 13 February 1917, Aurora, Illinois. He was the son of Edmund Hills and Elisabeth (Merrill) Seely. He graduated from Maryville College (B.A., 1942), Tennessee, and McCormick Theological Seminary (B.D., 1946), Chicago, Illinois. He married Ruth West on 5 June 1940. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1946, and the Seelys moved to Thailand in 1947 where they served as missionaries of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. During his missionary career, Seely served in Chiang Mai, Lampang, and Pitsanuloke. Although he served in a variety of capacities, he made a special contribution in biblical translation, working on the team that produced the widely accepted standard version of the Thai Bible. Later in his ministry, he became deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and started the Foundation for Inter-Religious Dialogue and served as director for the Dharma Logos Project sponsored by that Foundation. He retired in 1978 and the Seelys returned to the United States because of Ruth's failing health. She died on 27 January 1978. Seely married Jean (Maguire) Thompson on 27 January 1979. They lived in North Carolina, and she died on 7 July 2004. Ruth and Francis Seely had eight children, six daughters and two sons. He died on 12 September 2004 and is buried in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Source: Obituary, Knoxville News Sentinel, at Seely Genealogical Society.
Sung, John (1901-1944)

Sung was a Chinese evangelist and revivalist who studied in the United States, including a period at Union Theological Seminary, New York City. He returned to China in 1927 and was married Yu Chin Hua in 1928. A Methodist, he eventually became an itinerating evangelist, and in 1931, he joined the Bethel Worldwide Evangelistic Band led by Andrew Gih. He edited the Bethel magazine, Guide to Holiness. The Bethel band was disbanded in 1933, and Sung again became an independent evangelist. Between 1935 and 1939, Sung conducted numerous crusades in Taiwan and Southeast Asia. In 1940, Sung began to suffer from cancer and tuberculosis, and he died on 18 August 1944.

Sung conducted his first revival in Siam in Bangkok in 1938, and in early 1939 he returned for a more extended series of revivals at the personal invitation of the Rev. Boon Mark Kittisarn in spite of the objections of other church leaders. Visiting nearly all of the Christian centers in northern, central, and southern Siam, Sung's revivals sparked an intense period of church renewal and aggressive evangelistic activity among the churches of the Church of Christ in Thailand. Pentecostals see Sung as laying the groundwork for the post-World War II emergence of Thai Pentecostalism. The Sung revivals also generated serious controversy and division, and supporters and detractors of Sung differ as to whether his revivals strengthened or weakened the churches as they entered a period of persecution before and during the War. Sung, in any event, had a strong impact on a generation of Thai church leaders, and his revivals stand as one of the key events in 20th century Thai Protestant church history.

Wells, Margaretta B. (1902-1999)

Margaretta Burr Wells (Mrs. Kenneth E.), was born May 15, 1902, in Bottineau, N.D., and was the daughter of Scottish immigrants. Her father, A. G. Burr, became chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court. She graduated from Jamestown College, N.D., and earned a master's degree at the University of Michigan.

She was married in 1926 to the Rev. Kenneth E. Wells, Ph.D., a college classmate, who died in 1981. In 1927, they went as missionaries to Thailand, where they served for 40 years. She taught English in Chiang Mai at The Prince Royal's College, and in Bangkok at Wattana Academy. She founded and taught at the Chiang Mai International School, was a writer and editor of The Siam Outlook mission magazine and was the first manager of the Bangkok Christian Bookstore. She was fluent in both Thai and northern Thai and saw brief service for her language skills with the federal government in Washington, D.C.

Her six published books are A Guide to Bangkok, A Guide to Chiang Mai, "Thai Fairy Tales, Good Manners Abroad, Florence Nightingale and Siam Story. Her articles appeared in numerous American magazine, including the National Geographic, and she was invited to present lectures before the Southeast Asia Society of Washington, D.C. She served as the only foreigner on the National Cancer Society Board in Thailand and was president of the American Women's Club in Bangkok. In May 1987, there was an exhibition of her fine arts collection at the 1846 Courthouse Museum, Portsmouth, as "Arts From the Golden Triangle."

Source: Copied and edited from "Margaretta B. Wells" obituary from the Daily Press, 2 January 2000.