Former Council of Bishops President Bishop Choy dies at age 103

Council of Bishops file photo

Bishop Wilbur Wong Yan Choy served as president of the Council of Bishops from 1983 to 1984.

Press Release for Immediate Release
Tuesday, January 3, 2022
Updated January 4, 2022

The Council of Bishops is saddened to announce the death of Bishop Wilbur Wong Yan Choy, a retired Bishop of The United Methodist Church. He died December 28, 2021, in  Seattle, Washington State, at age 103.

Bishop Choy was elected to the episcopacy in 1972 by the Western Jurisdictional Conference.  As bishop, he served the Seattle Area for eight years and the San Francisco Area for four years. He was president of the Council of Bishops 1983-1984. He retired in 1984. He was the first Asian American elected as a UMC bishop in the United States.

Current COB President Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey described Bishop Choy as "a trailblazer, pioneer and a leader in diversifying The United Methodist Church."

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Area said the Church has lost a beloved gentle, visionary leader. 

"Bishop Choy loved the Church and served it with unparalleled grace and humor.  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,"  Bishop Stanovsky said, adding that, "Under his leadership, new lay and clergy leaders from many racial, ethnic, and cultural identities rose to leadership in the Conference and the general church.  Many served for a generation and more and established the values that continue to focus on becoming an anti-racist church and an engaged, beloved community."

"He was a person of great humility, matched by his unflinching vision of the whole, just and kind community God calls the church to become for the world."

Bishop Choy was born May 28, 1918,  in Stockton, California, and attended Stockton Junior College (A.A.), the College of the Pacific (B.A.), and the Pacific School of Religion on (M. Div.). He also held honorary doctorates from the Pacific School of Religion and the University of Puget Sound.

On September 26, 1940, Wilbur Choy married Grace Ying Hom, with whom he had four children. Grace Choy died on December 26, 1977.  

Wilbur Choy was ordained deacon in 1946 by Bishop James Baker. He was ordained elder by Bishop Donald Tippett and joined the California-Oriental Provisional Conference.

In 1954, he was appointed to serve St. Mark's Methodist Church, Stockton, in the California-Nevada Annual Conference and later he held pastorates in Woodland and Sacramento, California. In 1967 he was chaplain of the California Senate. From 1969 until his election to the episcopacy in 1972 by the Western Jurisdictional Conference, Wilbur Choy was District Superintendent of the Bay View District.

On December 29, 1982, Wilbur Choy married the Rev. Nancy (Yamasaki) Adachi-Osawa, a United Methodist clergywoman.

Other Survivors include his four children:  Randolph W. (Cheryl), Jonathan W. (Linda), Phyllis W. (the late LeRoy Siebert), and Donnell W. (LiangFeng Guo), Choy, and 22 grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren and step-children, Dennis and Tracie Yamasaki (Leo Dela Cruz) and three step-grandchildren.

Memorial service
Bishop Choy’s life and ministry will be celebrated and honored at 2 pm Pacific Time on March 12, at First United Methodist Church of Seattle, 180 Denny Way, Seattle, WA  98109.  Masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination required, or join the online livestream at FirstChurchSeattle.org/live. 

Memorial gifts can be made to any of the following:
  • First UMC of Seattle, PO Box 19596, Seattle, WA  98109.
  • Bayview Manor Foundation, 11 W Aloha Street, Seattle, WA   98119.
  • University of the Pacific, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA  95211.

Media Contact:

Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga

Director of Communications - Council of Bishops

Click to email

(202) 748-5172