Alumnus was a pioneer in Methodist Church diversity
University of the Pacific alumnus and former regent Bishop Wilbur Choy ’46, a trailblazing leader in diversity in The United Methodist Church, died on Dec. 28. He was 103.
The Stockton native served in the ministry in his hometown, the Bay Area and the Seattle region.
Choy earned an associate’s degree from Stockton Junior College in 1944, a bachelor’s degree from University of the Pacific in 1946 and a bachelor of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in 1949. He also has honorary doctorates from the Pacific School of Religion and University of Puget Sound.
“He was a great guy and did so much for the church being inclusive of all people,” said the Rev. Dave Bennett, who was pastor of Stockton’s Central United Methodist Church from 2003-2013. Choy was Bennett’s bishop previously when he was pastor for a Mendocino County church.
“Bishop Choy was one of the early advocates of what we called cross-cultural appointments, where people’s gifts and talents were matched with congregations where those traits were best applicable,” Bennett said.
After his graduation from Pacific, Choy led the congregation of Stockton’s Chinese Methodist Church including a merger with St. Mark’s Methodist Church, which had white and Black members.
One of his notable accomplishments happened 50 years ago. In 1972, the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected Choy as The United Methodist Church’s first Asian-American Methodist leader.
Choy led the Pacific Northwest Conference for eight years and the California-Nevada Conference for four years before retiring in 1984.
Pacific was established by pioneering Methodist ministers, and remains the only Methodist-affiliated university in California
Choy continued to have ties to his alma mater and the city of Stockton. He served as a regent from 1981-84 and was included in author Sylvia Sun Minnick’s historical book “The Chinese Community of Stockton.”
Choy married Grace Ying Hom in 1940 and they had four children. Grace Choy died in 1977. In 1982, Choy married Nancy (Yamasaki) Adachi-Osawa, a United Methodist pastor.
His life and ministry will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on March 12 at First United Methodist Church of Seattle. The livestream can be joined at FirstChurchSeattle.org/live.
Memorial gifts can be made to:
University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA 95211.
First United Methodist Church of Seattle, P.O. Box 19596, Seattle, WA 98109.
Bayview Manor Foundation, 11 W Aloha Street, Seattle, WA 98119.