Gilbert Baker: Missionary in China, Rector in Guilford, and Bishop in Hong Kong.
Ministry in Guilford is full of surprises: such as a call from a librarian at Yale, asking about the papers of the Rt. Rev. Gilbert Baker, who served as rector of Christ Church 1953-55, and as a Bishop of Hong Kong, 1966-81. She was trying to assist the research of the Rev. Philip Wickeri, a priest, theologian and historian for the Diocese of Hong Kong. Although I couldn't help him with documents from that era, I could introduce him to some people who remember Gilbert Baker fondly, and give him a tour of the place where Baker had served.
So, on Thursday, October 8, Philip and his wife Janice came to Guilford. In addition to getting a tour, they met Jane & Gene Bishop who shared photos from their wedding at which Baker had officiated. Cynthia Dwyer shared photos of the junior choir in which she had sung with the Baker children; and Cindy Smith recalled that she had been baptized by him. As part of a series of books on Anglicanism in China, Wickeri is working on a biography of Bishop Baker. His ministry in Hong Kong was beginning, when “+Gilbert” as he referred to him, was concluding his. He reported that Bishop Baker’s three children had been very generous with family letters. Those gathered for the ECW meeting asked about +Gilbert Baker's ministry before and after Guilford.
* +Gilbert served as a missionary in China for 20 years until all missionaries were expelled by the People’s Republic; he was fluent in Cantonese and had a grasp of Mandarin;
* he and his family had been in New York on a fellowship at Union Seminary for six months, immediately prior to their coming to Guilford;
* although Mrs. Baker was a native of Ohio, the family moved to England in 1955, where Gilbert served London parishes, and an early version of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), a gathering of bishops, clergy and laity from provinces of the Anglican Communion;
* after a period of service in England, Gilbert was called to ministry in the Diocese of Hong Kong, where he became very popular with Chinese Anglicans;
* in 1966, after the withdrawal of a candidate (who didn't know Chinese), Baker was elected Bishop of Hong Kong, becoming the first bishop elected by the diocese – his predecessors had been appointed by the Church of England;
* Jane Bishop recalls that on one of the Bakers' subsequent visits to Guilford, he said to her, "Now, I'm a Bishop, too!", and,
* although, during World War II, his predecessor ordained the Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi to the priesthood, the first so ordained in the entire Anglican Communion, it was Bishop Baker who ordained the second, third and fourth women to the priesthood in the early 1970's, predating such ordinations in the Episcopal Church, and he did so with the approval of the ACC.
* Bishop Baker retired in 1981, and died in 1986. Before the Wickeris left Guilford, I extracted a promise to let us know when his biography of Bishop Baker will be published. Philip is hoping for 2017. The photograph above is from the website of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Hong Kong Anglican Church. We have a photograph of him as a younger man, in the hallway outside the Guild Room.
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