605 Dr. & Mrs. John Coventry Smith

Dr. John Coventry Smith was born June 10, 1903 to Rev. William Scott Smith and Eva Wick Smith in Stamford, Ontario, Canada, where his father was pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Stamford at the time. While a boy, his family was visited by Dr. William Coventry, a missionary in Egypt and a long-time friend of his father and for whom he had been named. Dr. Smith soon decided that he also wanted to be a missionary.

Dr. Smith graduated from Elyria High School in Elyria, Ohio, and Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio, where he met his future wife, Floy Bauder. After Dr. Smith graduated from Pittsburgh-Zenia Seminary (now Pittsburgh Seminary), they were married in 1928 and began their ministry at two small churches outside Bever, PA – Four Mile United Presbyterian Church and Fairview Reformed Presbyterian Church. Because the United Presbyterian Church did not have funds to send missionaries at that time, they were advised to apply to the Foreign Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church USA and were appointed to go to Japan in 1929.

They were missionaries in Japan for 13 years, influencing the change in the structure of mission from working under a foreign mission agency in a country to serving under the national church of that country. World War II interrupted their missionary service. At the recommendation of the U.S. State Department, Mrs. Smith brought their two children, John, Jr. and Louise, to the U.S. in January of 1941. Dr. Smith stayed in Japan to continue his work and was interned in Yokohama as a civilian prisoner after WW II began. He returned to the U.S. in August of 1942 through an exchange of civilian prisoners organized by the Swedish government.

During the War Dr. Smith served two churches in Pittsburgh, PA – as assistant minister of Third Presbyterian Church and later as pastor of Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian Church. In 1948 he was called to be Secretary for Japan, Korea, Thailand and the Philippines for the Presbyterian Church USA Board of Foreign Missions. Floy became active in the local church and Presbytery Women's Missionary Associations. They both rejoiced at the union of the Presbyterian Church USA with the United Presbyterian Church in 1958, and the subsequent formation of the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations (COMAR) that united the mission work of the two denominations. This new Commission sought to change the focus from a “foreign mission agency” to becoming a link between churches in other countries and churches in the U.S. All churches were missionary communities engaged in sharing the gospel and needed to join together to share the gospel among people who had not heard it.

In 1959 Dr. Smith was elected General Secretary of COMAR, a position he held until his retirement in 1971. During those years he became deeply involved in the world wide mission of the Christian Church through his participation in the International Missionary Council and as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. He was elected a president of the World Council (1968-1975) and was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church USA in 1968.

Both Dr. and Mrs. Smith were committed to the formation and development of Japan International Christian University (JICU). Dr. Smith was a charter member of and served as Vice-President of the JICU Foundation which raised a large portion of the necessary funds to launch the University, and Floy was a member of the JICUF Women's Planning Committee.

After retirement Dr. Smith wrote an account (partly autobiographical) of the development of the missionary and ecumenical movement during his lifetime, entitled From Colonialism to World Community: The Church's Pilgrimage in which the Foundatio's raising of funds for JICU is described.
  • John Coventry Smith, Jr.
  • Laurence Woodruff
  • Louise S. Woodruff
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