MC hosts author of book on 19th-century missionaries to Japan

MC hosts author of book on 19th-century missionaries to Japan

Oct. 12, 2016

When the Rev. Thomas Theron “T.T.” Alexander and wife Emma Brown Alexander arrived in Japan in November 1877 for Christian mission work, the country had just recently emerged from two and a half centuries of self-imposed seclusion. Only nine years earlier, professing the Christian faith was punishable by death.

But from 1877 until his death in 1902, T.T. Alexander, Maryville College’s first graduate to serve as an overseas missionary, founded churches throughout central and southern Japan, taught young theologians at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo and wrote several books and numerous articles on theology.

The role missionaries played in Japan’s transformation “from a country ruled by shoguns, hereditary lords and samurai to Asia’s first constitutional democracy and industrial powerhouse” is the topic of a new book by Joanna Reed Shelton, the Alexanders’ great-granddaughter.

Shelton will read from her 306-page work, A Christian in the Land of the Gods: Journey of Faith in Japan (Cascade Books 2016), and discuss the research behind it during a public lecture scheduled for 7 p.m., Mon., Oct. 17, in the Samuel Tyndale Wilson Center for Campus Ministry.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Shelton’s book, which has been nominated for Christianity Today’s 2017 Book Award for History/Biography, will be available for sale at the event.

"We are honored to be able to connect our students with scholars and writers who help enlarge our view of the world," said the Rev. Dr. Anne D. McKee, campus minister. "Ms. Shelton’s visit is especially fortuitous, as it helps us understand a piece of the College’s past in connection with an important piece of world history. I think this will prove both enlightening and inspirational, as we help our own students imagine how they might work to build relationships across lines of difference and work for justice and peace in every area of life."

Shelton, a graduate of Duke University and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is an economist who served as Deputy Secretary General of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and held senior positions in the U.S. executive branch and Congress. She is an expert on U.S.-Japan relations.

While visiting Maryville College, Shelton will speak to students enrolled in HIS349: East Asian History, 1800-Present.

Since moving to Montana in 1999, Shelton has taught economic policy at the University of Montana and served as Senior Fellow and Interim Director of UM’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center. She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Written by Karen Beaty Eldridge '94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,146.