Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda Interview III
Narrator: Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda
Interviewer: Alice Ito
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: October 20, 2000
Densho ID: denshovh-itsuguo-03-0001

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AI: Today is October 20, 2000. We're here with Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda. I'm Alice Ito for the Densho Project, and Dana Hoshide is the videographer. Thanks for coming again to speak with us. And I wanted to go back again in time and ask you about some of your involvement with the larger-scale church-related work that you had done, especially with -- in the early '60s, as I understand, you got involved with the Church Council of Greater Seattle.

TI: Yeah.

AI: And if you could tell a little bit about that time, especially some of the work that you did there that had to do with more inclusiveness of people of color?

TI: Yes. We had a feeling that churches and their leadership, local leadership, had a major role in the way in which the local church would function. So the Church Council of Greater Seattle Church Racial Audit was formed, and we decided to interview all the top bishop administrator from all of the Protestant churches. And we had a person of color and a Caucasian teamed together to do the interview. And the thing that really blew my mind in a way was that practically all the bishops were naive about racial issues and how best that the church should function. And it seems contradictory in a sense, that you'd think the church would be there. And I had the good fortune of being on a national level, the United Methodist Church (which) started for the first time a Commission on Race and Religion. And we met twice a year in different parts of the United States, primarily where there were racial conflicts like Birmingham, Alabama, and so on. And we had some outstanding African American leadership who were active in the south be part of this effort of the church to be more responsive. At least from a structural standpoint, the United Methodist Church agreed to have a proportionate representation of male, female, clergy, and lay on all structure of the national (church). (This) has worked quite well. But at the local church level, it just wasn't working.

Being of Japanese ancestry, I was concerned about getting bishop-level representation. So when we found out that the jurisdictional conference -- at which time they elect the bishops -- would be held in Seattle, I volunteered that I would help set up the system how to get a bishop elected. We ended up having a quota system based on the population size of the local congregation to get so many voting points and that sort of thing. After our committee met and had our recommendations, we sought out nominations from all of the West Coast churches, where the majority were located, and we found Reverend Lloyd Wake, who happened to be a minister at Glide Memorial in San Francisco. He was formerly a member of Methodist Church in various Japanese Methodist churches. And other hand, he was in this Glide Memorial, which dealt with poor, predominantly minority gays and lesbians. And here was a minister that was that open to all people. And as a committee, we agreed he would be an outstanding (Bishop).

Well, when he was recommended to the delegate, Seattle, other conservative Christians couldn't buy it because he dealt with homosexuals -- gays and lesbians. And we really were naive, but we really felt he was the most Christ-like because he was so inclusive. And since the majority of the delegates didn't believe that, we re-caucused and thought of Reverend Dr. (Wilbur) Choy, who was the district superintendent in Oakland area. And the majority of us were Japanese Americans. And we felt he was the best qualified even though he was Chinese American, (and the majority of churches were Japanese). And still, the voting delegates -- didn't sway their votes. He wasn't a theologian. Of course, no Asian was ever given the opportunity to teach at a theological seminary. And he was not in a national-level involvement. Well, they didn't (elect on national committee, and commissions of Asians) who were Methodists.

The Pacific Northwest Conference delegates said they would back any Asian American, brought before the jurisdictional conference, and we said we would welcome if bishop -- Reverend Choy was elected. [Narr. note: Justice Dolliver of the State Supreme Court was the leader of the Pacific Northwest Conference.] Well, so we told these other regions that, the (Pacific Northwest Conference would welcome Bishop Choy as our Bishop). "Don't worry about it. They're so scared, I think." But how could he minister to the Caucasians' needs? I tried to convince that the majority of the churches in the Oakland area where he was a district superintendent were white. But that didn't convince them. And when the vote came up, and the -- we were so angered that they rejected our nominee, that we sang in this large University Methodist temple sanctuary, and sang the round "Amen, Amen, Amen" over and over again, must have been twenty minutes or more, tears were running down my eye. I mean, I was so hurt from this experience.

And then the following morning, the presiding bishop said, "Now, we'll try voting again." And the district superintendent from Los Angeles area, (and having a big delegation), withdrew his nomination. Of course, there was a big response, positive acclamation of the minister's decision. And then the white theologian from (a Methodist seminary), also withdrew. And that left Bishop Reverend Dr. Choy. He was elected. A tremendous response of (appreciation to) these two gentleman (who) made Reverend Dr. Choy, became the first Asian American bishop in the whole United States who was Asian.

And I stood up, and I said, "Wait." The district superintendent from San Diego who was African American, was the first -- on the very first day he stood up and said, "I want to withdraw my nomination so that an Asian American can become bishop." I want that as part of the (official) record, too. Irony is that (years) later he became a bishop, African American. His value across ethnic lines really demonstrated what he felt was important to do.

I had the good fortune of being involved this way pretty much because I enjoyed having a good time in church (work), not because I was being a nice Christian at all. Nothing to do with that. I felt we made a real breakthrough, and he became one of the top bishops in this area, the way he managed, how he included people in the decision-making process. Since then, we had Bishop Sano, who was elected bishop later, and then maybe others to follow.

AI: So this time period that you were just speaking about really goes back to the '60s, in that the Church Racial Audit that you mentioned earlier was in 1969, and then this Western Jurisdictional Conference in Seattle, where Reverend Dr. Choy was elected bishop. That was in 1972. So really, then, quite a bit of activity was happening around this time of the late '60s and the early '70s.

TI: Really exciting, yeah.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2000 Densho. All Rights Reserved.