Methodist missionary physician in China and Japan, and missionary bishop in Brazil and Africa
Lambuth was born in Shanghai, the son of the founding missionaries of Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) missions in China. Having decided to be a medical missionary, he obtained both the M.D. and ordination as elder in 1877. Also in 1877, he married Daisy Kelley, daughter of China missionaries and granddaughter of Mrs. M. L. Kelley, who organized the first Southern Methodist women to support foreign missions. From 1877 to 1885, with the exception of further medical study in the United States, he did medical work in China, including founding an opium treatment center in Shanghai, opening Soochow hospital, and beginning what became Rockefeller Hospital in Peking. In 1887, he and his parents founded the MECS mission in Japan. As superintendent of the Japanese mission, he turned from medical to educational and evangelistic work.
In 1891, the Lambuths returned to the United States and Walter became editor of the Methodist Review of Missions. From 1892 until 1910, he served as secretary of the board of missions. He led in ecumenical causes, including the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, the Ecumenical Missionary Conference of 1900, and the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference of 1910, including its Continuation Committee. Under his leadership, Southern Methodists began missions in Cuba and Korea. In 1910, he was elected bishop of the church in Brazil and Africa. With linguist John Wesley Gilbert, in 1911, Lambuth traveled 4,100 miles through the Belgian Congo and opened Methodist missions in central Africa. In 1919, he initiated missions to Russians and Koreans in Siberia and Manchuria. He died in Japan, as had his father before him; his ashes were buried next to his mother’s in Shanghai.
By Dana L. Robert
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved. It is taken, with permission, from the History of Missiology: http://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/l-m/lambuth-walter-russell-1854-1921/
Lambuth’s journals are held at the J. B. Cain Archives, Millsaps-Wilson Library, Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.
Lambuth, Walter Russell. Side Lights on the Orient. Nashville, TN; Dallas, TX: Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, Smith & Lamar, agents, 1908.
Winning the World for Christ: A Study in Dynamics. New York; Chicago. Fleming H. Revell company, 1915.
Medical Missions: The Twofold Task. New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1920.
Cunnyngham, W. G. E. and Walter Russell Lambuth. The Foreign Missionary and His Work. Nashville, TN: Pub. House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; Baker & Smith, agents, 1899.
De Bardeleben, Mary Christine, W. R. Lambuth and Belle Harris Bennett. Lambuth-Bennett Book of Remembrance. Nashville, TN; Dallas, TX [etc.]: Pub. House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1922.
Lambuth, Walter Russell. How to Increase the Efficiency of the Officers of Foreign Mission Boards. N.p: N.p., [after 1894]. [Columbia University Libraries, New York City, NY, USA]
Two Dollars to Send a Dollar. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, [after 1896]. [Columbia University Libraries, New York City, NY, USA]
On to Huchow! A City of 100,000 People and Methodism without a Church. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, n.d. [Columbia University Libraries, New York City, NY, USA]
Our Institutional Church, Porto Alegre. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, n.d. [Columbia University Libraries, New York City, NY, USA]
Rev. Charles Taylor, M.D., D.D., 1819-1897: Founder of the China Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, [19??].
Problems of the Hour. N.p.: Methodist Training School for Christian Workers, 1906.
The Call of Africa. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, [ca. 1913].
“Cuba an Open Door.” In Robert Thomas Hill and Walter Russell Lambuth, Cuba. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, [191-?]. [Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, KY, USA]
China Famine Conditions which I Have Just Seen. New York: American Committee for China Famine Fund, 1921. [Columbia University Libraries, New York City, NY, USA]
Methodist Episcopal South, College of Bishops. “Bishops’ Address, an Address Delivered by the College of Bishops to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, held in Oklahoma City, Okla., May 6-23, 1914.” N.p: N.p., 1914. [in the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA]
An obituary by Bishop James Atkins is in the Nashville Christian Advocate, November 18, 1921, pp. 1447-1448.
Calhoun, Eugene Clayton. Of Men Who Ventured Much and Far: The Congo Quest of Dr. Gilbert and Bishop Lambuth. Atlanta, GA: Institute Press, 1961.
Pinson, W. W. Walter Russell Lambuth: Prophet and Pioneer. Nashville, TN: Cokesbury Press, 1924.
Rawlings, E. H. Walter Russell Lambuth, M.D., D.D., F.R.G.S. Nashville, TN: Board of Missions, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1921. [in memoriam]
“Walter Russell Lambuth (1854-1921),” by Dana L. Robert. Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity. With portrait photo.