The Concise History of the Diocese of Hong Kong Island

The Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Church) has developed its ministry in Hong Kong since the 19th century by establishing churches, schools, social services and health care centers to serve the people. The development of the Sheng Kung Hui in Hong Kong can be briefly divided into several phases:

(1) Diocese of Victoria (1849)

In 1843 The Reverend Vincent Stanton was appointed as Colonial Chaplain to look after Anglican expatriates and begin his ministry in Hong Kong. Well before the time Stanton arrived, he had already planned to erect a church and build a school here, and hence started raising funds for what would become St. John's Cathedral (founded in 1849) and St. Paul's College (established 1851) in the territory.

In 1849, the Diocese of Victoria was created by Royal Letters Patent, and The Rt Reverend George Smith was appointed the first Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Smith had a strong commitment in developing the Chinese Church, and he spent much of his time on visitations in the Diocese that included all of China and Japan, the largest geographical area of an Anglican diocese ever in history. In 1863 Bishop Smith ordained Lo Sam-yuen, the first Chinese deacon in Hong Kong, and began to build up the Chinese congregations under his jurisdiction. The first Chinese Anglican Church, St. Stephen’s Church, was founded in 1865. The first priest-in-charge was The Revd Kwong Yat-Shau.

(2) The (Chinese) Diocese of South China (1913)

Besides Hong Kong, the ministry of Sheng Kung Hui also actively developed in many places in mainland China. Dioceses and Mission Dioceses were established under the influence of British, American and later the Canadian missionaries in China. For the sake of unity, the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (The Holy Catholic Church of China) was founded in 1912. This was the first major Christian Church in China, and was recognized as an independent province of the Anglican Communion at the Seventh Lambeth Conference in 1930.

Under the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, the (Chinese) Diocese of South China was established and held its first Synod in 1913. It’s jurisdiction overlapped with the Diocese of Victoria, which was confined to the colony of Hong Kong. Thus the Chinese Anglican churches in Hong Kong once belonged to both the (Chinese) Diocese of South China and the Diocese of Victoria. During that period, Bishop Lander (1906-1920) and Bishop Duppuy (1920-1932), who were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, built up a diocesan infrastructure and close relations with the CHSKH. The appointment of Bishop R. O. Hall (1932-1966) was for the first time duly confirmed by the House of Bishops of the CHSKH.

(3) The Diocese of Hong Kong and Macau (1951)

In 1951, at the request of Bishop Hall, the Standing Committee of the CHSKH, acting on behalf of the Synod, petitioned the House of Bishops to create a new "Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao" to become a detached and independent diocese in the territories of Hong Kong and Macao. Under the oversight of Bishop Hall, this new Diocese co-existed with the Diocese of Victoria and became one. In response to the massive refugees pouring in from the mainland to Hong Kong in the 50s, the Diocese launched new programs of outreach, education, social service and mission. New churches, schools and welfare settlements were built robustly during that period. Bishop Hall retired in 1966.

Bishop Gilbert Baker, who had worked many years in China, became the first elected bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao in 1966. He legally ordained the first women priests in the Anglican Communion, brought together the English and Chinese churches into a single Synod and approved the Statement on the Mutual Recognition of Baptism with Hong Kong Roman Catholics.

In 1981, Bishop Kwong Kong-kit Peter became first Chinese elected bishop of Hong Kong and Macao. He guided the church with a steady hand and a clear vision over the next twenty-six years. Bishop Kwong was practice-oriented, good at bringing people together for mission. He reorganized church policies, structure and finances. Bishop Kwong actively supported the work of Anglican Communion and built close relations with the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee and the China Christian Council on the mainland. His great achievement was the establishment of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui as a province.

(4) The Inauguration of the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

Since the separation from the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui in 1951, the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao had not been under the metropolitical jurisdiction of any province. Thus, in line with the regulations as set out by the Anglican Communion for a province to be the basic unit of a regional church, and for the purpose of the development of ministry and mission, the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao resolved in 1991 to establish itself as a province, consisting of three dioceses and one missionary area, namely the Diocese of Hong Kong Island, the Diocese of Eastern Kowloon, the Diocese of Western Kowloon and the Missionary Area of Macau.

On 17 April 1998, the Provisional Provincial Synod elected Bishop Peter Kwong as the first Archbishop and Primate of the Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui. According to regulations as set out in the Constitution of the Province, the First Diocesan Synod of Hong Kong Island was convened on 22 September of the same year. Hence the Diocese of Hong Kong Island was formally established and the Right Revd Peter Kwong became the first diocesan bishop. The Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui was inaugurated on 25 October, 1998 and Archbishop Peter Kwong was installed as Primate of the Province. He retired on 1 January 2007.

(5) From the Inauguration of the Province to the present

Since its establishment as a province, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui actively preaches the Good News and witnesses to God’s loving care in action through education and social services, supports the work of the Anglican Communion worldwide, and builds close relations with the regional churches on the mainland and in East Asia.

The Revd Paul Kwong was elected as the Bishop Designate on 30 December 2005 at the Diocesan Synod of Hong Kong Island. The Consecration of Paul Kwong as the Second Bishop of Hong Kong Island was held on 25 March 2006, and his Enthronement as Diocesan Bishop was held on 15 January 2007.

On 3 February 2007, Bishop Paul Kwong was elected as the Second Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui at the General Synod. The Installation Service was held on 26 September 2007.

Having a solid foundation laid down by the first Archbishop and Primate of the Province, Archbishop Paul Kwong led the province to a new chapter under his guiding wisdom and practical vision. He strengthened the governance of the province, linked up resources among the dioceses and mission areas to enhance cooperation in an integrated threefold model of church-school-social services. In his term, Archbishop Paul Kwong successfully moved the resolutions of “Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Education Policy Paper”, “Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Social Services Policy Paper” and “Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Church Policy Paper” in three consecutive meetings of the General Synod, and then commissioned the respective Steering Committees to implement their policies.

Bishop Andrew Chan of the Diocese of Western Kowloon was elected as the Third Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui by the Electoral College of at the Special Meeting of General Synod on 18 October 2020. Archbishop Paul Kwong retired on 1 January 2021. The Installation Service for Archbishop Andrew Chan as the new Primate was held on 3 January 2021.

(6) Current Diocesan Bishop of Hong Kong Island

The Very Revd Matthias Clement Tze-wo Der was elected as Bishop Co-adjutor in the Special Meeting of the Synod of the Diocese of Hong Kong Island on 21 November 2019. He was consecrated to the Holy Order of Bishop on 3 October 2020.

Bishop Matthias Der was born in Hong Kong, and he lived, studied, and served in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the US, and Canada. He was ordained to the diaconate in 1990 and to the priesthood in 1991 in the Diocese of Toronto. He was made an Honorary Canon of St James’ Cathedral, Toronto in 2007. In 2012 he was appointed Dean of St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. Bishop Matthias was enthroned as the Third Diocesan Bishop of Hong Kong Island on 2 January 2021, upholding the apostolic succession to nurture the whole flock of the Church, and to lead the Diocese in its continuous development.