Daughter of WWII Concentration Camp Detainee Becomes First Asian American Female Episcopal Bishop

Daughter of WWII Concentration Camp Detainee Becomes First Asian American Female Episcopal Bishop

June 30, 2021
A 61-year-old woman, whose family suffered during World War II due to their Japanese ancestry, became the first Asian American woman consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church earlier this year. 
Historic ordination: Rt. Rev. Diana Akiyama, ordained as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon on Jan. 30 in Portland, was elected out of four candidates during an online convention, according to Oregon Live.
Subscribe to
NextShark's Newsletter

A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.

Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.

Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.

  • A graduate of the University of Oregon, Akiyama once considered pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology but was eventually drawn to the priesthood.
  • She graduated from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, Calif. In 1989, she became the first Japanese American woman in the Episcopal church to be ordained to the priesthood.
  • Akiyama previously served as the vicar at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Kapaau, Hawaii, and dean of Waiolaihui’ia School for Formation.
  • The new bishop acknowledged that her consecration came at a critical time, saying she intends to seek unity through “hearty and heartfelt conversations where we listen to each other.”
A bitter past: Akiyama grew up fully aware of what her father and grandparents went through after they were imprisoned in a concentration camp in Idaho following an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942.
  • Roughly 110,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and forced into concentration camps.
  • During their incarceration, the family’s home and orchard in Hood River, Ore., were reportedly looted by neighbors.
  • Akiyama’s family were only able to start rebuilding their lives upon their release from the prison camp.
  • As a child, Akiyama would experience racial prejudice in elementary school from boys who yelled racist language at her and friends who did not invite her to birthday parties, reported Nichi Bei.
  • Akiyama’s past gave her a unique perspective on approaching her role as bishop: become a “place and voice” for the marginalized.
      Ryan General

      Ryan General is a Senior Reporter for NextShark




      Many people might not know this, but NextShark is a small media startup that runs on no outside funding or loans, and with no paywalls or subscription fees, we rely on help from our community and readers like you.

      Everything you see today is built by Asians, for Asians to help amplify our voices globally and support each other. However, we still face many difficulties in our industry because of our commitment to accessible and informational Asian news coverage.

      We hope you consider making a contribution to NextShark so we can continue to provide you quality journalism that informs, educates, and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for supporting NextShark and our community.

      © 2023 NextShark, Inc. All rights reserved.