First Vietnamese Mennonite pastor dies

Quang Xuan Tran. Photo by J. Fred Kauffman taken Easter Sunday 2014
Release date: 
Thursday, 9 October 2014

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – Quang Xuan Tran, the first Vietnamese Mennonite pastor, died in Philadelphia on 20 September at the age of 84.

Quang came to the United States in March 1975 to attend the annual missions meeting of Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM). As South Vietnam was overrun by military forces from the north in the following weeks, he remained in the United States where his family joined him.

The family initially settled in Ephrata where Quang established a Vietnamese church. For a few years he worked alongside Donald Sensenig of Mennonite Central Committee in assisting congregations to sponsor refugee families. In 1982 the family moved to Philadelphia where Quang became founding pastor of the Vietnamese Mennonite congregation. He retired in 2005.

Quang (Trần Xuân Quang) was born in Da Nang where his father was pastor in the Evangelical Church of Vietnam. Quang graduated from Da Nang Bible School of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1955.

When EMM missionaries first went to Vietnam in 1957, they developed close relationships with the Evangelical Church in Vietnam, assisting in the formation of a new congregation in Saigon. Here they learned to know Quang, and in 1958 were invited to attend his wedding to the daughter of the local pastor. Quang and his wife visited the missionaries in their home.

EMM established a student center in Saigon in 1960, and the Gia Dinh community social service center in the northern outskirts of Saigon in 1964. After a Mennonite congregation began forming here, Quang was invited in 1965 to assist in teaching and preaching. On March 16, 1969, he was ordained pastor of the congregation, the first Vietnamese Mennonite pastor. The church developed well under his leadership. In 1971 Quang represented Vietnam at the Asia Mennonite Conference in India.

When the MCC merged its program with Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief in 1966 to form Vietnam Christian Service, VNCS director Atlee Beechy invited Quang to coordinate the material aid program assisting refugees.

When after the 1968 Tet Offensive voices called for MCC to withdraw from Vietnam because of the savage destructive American fighting, MCC administrator Paul Longacre said that MCC had to listen closely to the voices of Vietnamese Christian leaders. He quoted Quang: “This is no time for the church to pull back in Vietnam. This is the time for her to move out with the good news. My fellow Vietnamese have spent their lives gathering things and now see them go up in smoke. They have sought security only to find death coming to them everywhere. What else but the Christian faith can bring to man a sense of reality?”

Later Quang became director of the Gia Dinh community centre which operated an elementary school, classes for learning trades, and a clinic. Nguyen Quang Trung, the president of today’s Vietnam Mennonite Church, served as a pastoral assistant to Quang for several years.

Quang and his wife, Tam Thi Nguyen, have four married children and five grandchildren. The funeral service was held 26 September at the Vietnamese Mennonite Church in Philadelphia with the participation of former missionary colleagues. Burial was at a Friends’ cemetery in Upper Darby.

From an article by Luke S. Martin


Geographic representation: 
Asia and Pacific