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Trailblazing Bishop Wilbur Choy dies at 103 (UM News)

by Heather Hahn
Jan. 7, 2022 | UM News

A half century ago, Bishop Wilbur Choy made national headlines with his election as The United Methodist Church’s first Asian American episcopal leader. 

Fellow United Methodists say the bishop did not just a blaze a trail for himself but also opened pathways for more ethnically and racially diverse leaders across the church. Friends also remember him for his great sense of humor.

The Western Jurisdictional Conference elected Choy — the son of Chinese immigrants — to the episcopacy in 1972. He went on to lead the Pacific Northwest Conference for eight years and the California-Nevada Conference for four before retiring in 1984. His episcopal colleagues chose him to serve as the Council of Bishops president in 1983-84. 

“He brought a powerful emphasis on strengthening the ethnic-minority local church to the Pacific Northwest, acknowledging the variety of people in our communities and the biblical imperative to welcome and include them all,” said Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine Stanovsky in a Council of Bishops statement. Her area includes the current Pacific Northwest Conference.

Bishop Grant Hagiya, who was ordained by Choy, got to know the elder bishop in a new way when Hagiya led the Greater Northwest Area. 

“Bishop Choy was always so humble yet affirming, and he served as a great role model of what a retired bishop in one’s area meant,” said Hagiya, who now leads the California-Pacific and Desert Southwest conferences. “I am thankful to God for giving Bishop Choy such a long and fruitful life.”

His life and ministry will be celebrated at 2 p.m. U.S. Pacific time March 12, at First United Methodist Church of Seattle. Masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are required. People can join the livestream at

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