Christ Himself is Our Salvation:The 150th Anniversary of Protestant Mission in Japan by Mira Sonntag, missionary  Tomisaka Christian Center, Tokyo

The Kyodan’s decision about and tentative schedule for the celebration of a century and a half of Protestant mission in Japan has been announced in previous KNL issues. Summarizing from the celebration schedule leaflet and related articles in Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), Nos. 4668, 4673, and 4674), I would like to clarify the planned events and the motivation behind them.

Despite considerable criticism, the Kyodan Executive Council has reconfirmed the year 1859 as the official beginning of Protestant mission in Japan, as that was when seven U.S. missionaries affiliated with various denominations began to share the gospel, although Christianity was still banned. The first generation of these missionaries agreed that Japan needed a unified Christian witness that transcended Western denominational divisions. While in the past, Japanese church historians have claimed that the stronger personalities of the second generation of foreign missionaries confounded the ecumenical spirit of their predecessors, today Kyodan representatives express their deepest gratitude for the work of foreign missionaries and do penance for Japanese Christians’ inability to foster and develop the evangelical enterprise due to interdenominational conflicts and the lack of unity inside the Kyodan itself.

These very open words of confession may relate to the fact that the Kyodan did not realize the goal that was set at the 100th anniversary, namely to double the number of church members. Participation in the festivities at the time had been promising, but Kyodan membership has declined. (See “50 Years of Kyodan Data,” KNL No. 352). But the emphasis of the first Protestant missionaries’ ecumenical approach also expressed the strongly felt desire for unity. The latest issue of Shinpo (The Kyodan Times) reconfirms the early postwar conclusion that “the establishment of the Kyodan as one Prostestant body in 1941 (actually due to state measures related to political alignment) has to be understood as God’s miraculous fulfillment of the first missionaries’ prayers for unity”.

How is the Kyodan then seeking to reconcile itself to become one body in Christ? The first event of the year was an anniversary service week organized by the Tokyo Association of Believers, Jan. 5-11, with six consecutive (mostly evening) worship services at Ginza, Fujimicho, Koishikawa Hakusan, Asagaya, Takaido, and Tokyo Yamate churches. Over 500 people from 12 denominations attended the services, which were all used the same scripture passage: 1 Cor. 1:18. Also, the information leaflet about the interdenominational celebrations to be held at Yokohama Pacific Hotel, July 8-9, expresses the wish that “using the same logo, the same theme, and the same prayer” will foster solidarity among Christian churches, schools, and organizations. (More information is available
Interestingly, the celebrations in Yokohama are organized by the Kyodan and the National Christian Council in Japan, together with the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association and Nihon Revival Association, which in the past have been rather shunned for their dedicated approaches to the masses. The Yokohama schedule includes artistic worship with gospel, dance, and stage performances as part of a festival on the first day. Many guests from North America and Asia (none from Europe) are on the list, and video greetings from David Yonggi Cho, Rick Warren, and other mega-church ministers will be shown during the following anniversary service.

On the second day, there will be two large-scale symposiums with ten parallel workshops dedicated to a variety of topics as well as a special music program. Among the 24 guests for this day’s program, two women will make a presentation on the history of Christian education and social welfare organizations. The program will end with a ceremony of dispatching for service. By celebrating this milestone in the history of Christianity in Japan, the organizers hope to be able to appeal to Japanese society as a whole. If “unity” is a nationwide desire, there might be a chance, but so far we will have to wait and see.
Note: For the Yokohama celebrations, the fund raising goal has been set at USR500.000.

Kyodan's 17 Districts Convene Annual Assemblies

by Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary

Article 6 of the Kyodan’s Constitution states: “To carry out its function, i.e., the work of the church, the Kyodan will establish districts.” Actually, 17 districts have been established. Each year, from April to June, the various districts convene their assemblies and hold meetings. In some districts, a three-day meeting includes a study session. Districts that hold two-day meetings are the most prevalent, but some district assemblies meet for one day. Among the district assemblies this year, many will include the election of district officers.

In accordance with the Kyodan’s Constitution, the Kyodan moderator (or in his place, the vice-moderator, secretary, or general secretary) will attend each of the district assemblies. In Kyodan terminology, this “visiting Kyodan messenger” reports on the situation of the Kyodan and strives to garner support and understanding. This year, the officers of the Kyodan and the general secretary are sharing the responsibility and visiting the various district assemblies. Unfortunately, Okinawa District and Kyoto District have refused to allow anyone to visit, for various reasons. Also, because of the confusion and misunderstanding of intentions related to the visit, the Kyodan did not send anyone to attend the Nishi Chugoku District Assembly.

The protocol within the various district assemblies differs to some extent, but in general, the visiting Kyodan messenger’s reading of the “greetings from the Kyodan moderator” is followed by a time for questions. Kyodan Moderator Yamakita Nobuhisa’s greetings this year begins with an introduction that mentions the existing depressed condition of the Kyodan and proposes that the beginning of the 150th celebration of evangelism in Japan be utilized as a good opportunity for propagation of the gospel.

In his greetings, the moderator covers the following topics: proper administration of the sacraments, the position and details regarding preaching points, disaster relief related to the Niigata Prefecture/Chuetsu Earthquake and the Noto Penninsula Earthquake, Kyodan financial affairs, ministerial pension fund, world mission, domestic and foreign cooperation, and the Unification Association issue. Each subject is explained briefly but clearly. In conclusion, he urges the Kyodan district assemblies that are wrestling with Kyodan, district, and local church issues to have hope as they pray with and for each other, moving ahead to reveal God’s glory.

A number of district assemblies have already been held. In addition to the designated “visiting Kyodan messenger,” executive secretaries have also been sent to several of the assemblies. Following are the recorded impressions of two executive secretaries; one visited the Hokkai District Assembly and the other the Osaka District Assembly.

The executive secretary who visited Hokkai District related that much time was spent in lively discussion of district mission policy related to the 2009 activity plan. The assembly first separated into four subgroups; then engaged in enthusiastic debate. His impression was that with the approval of the plan at the plenary session, Hokkai District’s 2009 activities have begun.

The executive secretary present at the Osaka District Assembly made the following observation. Osaka District had one proposal that is unique to that district and involves unpaid funds due to the Kyodan–a matter that has been pending between the district and the Kyodan for many years and relates to payments in arrears to the Joint Liability Fund. The assembly approved payment to the Kyodan in the amount of 14 million yen (about US$140,000).

The Kyodan’s financial crisis originated with the dispute that arose at the time of the World Exhibition [in 1970, regarding the proposed participation in the Christian Pavilion at the Exhibition]. The executive secretary who attended the Osaka District Assembly noted in his impressions that he was especially grateful that through the prayers and efforts of the district’s executive committee the proposal to make the payment was presented, and assembly’s decision resolved the issue. (Trs. JM & RT)

The General Secretary's Diary On the Current State of Youth Evangelism in the Kyodan

The evangelistic efforts of churches in Japan seem to have come to a
standstill, and youth evangelism is no exception. Even so, some people,
albeit voluntarily, are still ardently engaged in youth evangelism–and
with some success. Today I would like to share one such example.

About ten years ago in the fall of 1998, a youth evangelism activity
began entitled, “A Gathering for Youth Who Will Undertake Japanese
Evangelism in the 21st Century.” It began with the desire to plant a
sense of the joy of evangelism in young people’s hearts and to raise up
from among them evangelists and pastors who would participate in
spreading the gospel and shaping Japanese churches in the future.

The originators of this gathering were a few pastors in the Tokyo area
whose churches were quite enthusiastic about youth evangelism, and some
professors from Tokyo Union Theological Seminary. Initially they formed
a preparatory committee whose members included two pastors, two
professors, young people from the originating churches, and
seminarians–in total, about 15 or 16 people. The first thing they did
was to make an appeal to the youth in Kyodan churches in the Tokyo area.
They made posters and sent out about 300 informational packets to churches.

The main speaker at the gathering was a professor from Tokyo Union
Theological Seminary who, based on scripture, made an appeal about the
importance of a spirit of evangelism. A young pastor in ministry about
ten years testified about the joy of evangelism and devotion to God.
During group meetings and elsewhere the young people who gathered were
involved in discussions, and the over 200 participants seemed
encouraged. From this first gathering about ten young people devoted
their lives to service, entered Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, and
began their journeys as evangelists. And every year since then there
have been others who have done the same.

This gathering has been held every year on a Saturday in late September
under the same banner: “A Gathering for Youth Who Will Undertake
Japanese Evangelism in the 21st Century.” Preparations have already
begun for the eleventh annual meeting in the fall of 2009. The
cumulative effect of these regular youth evangelism gatherings has been
one important way in which the Kyodan has responded to its God-given
task to do evangelism in Japan.

This gathering has generally been confined to the Tokyo area, but it is
my fervent hope that a number of similar meetings will be held in other
metropolitan areas throughout Japan. I have heard there are already
other such devotional camps and youth gatherings taking place elsewhere,
and it is my heartfelt desire that they will continue to flourish all
the more.(Tr. TVB)

–Naito Tomeyuki
Kyodan General Secretary
), with the
meaning of independent evanglism by Japanese people, to distinguish it
from the earlier cases.

II. What kind of events and activities will we hold as a Kyodan?
(1) A “Worship Service Commemorating the Establishment of the Kyodan”
will be held on June 24, 2009.
(2) Commemorative events will be held on Nov. 22 and 23, 2009. These
will include worship services at
each Kyodan church on Sunday, Nov. 22. On Monday, Nov. 23, a national
holiday, an anniversary
ceremony will be held in the morning, with large assemblies for lay
people, women’s groups, etc., to be
held both before and after the service.

(3) Two books will be published to help clarify the modern significance
of 150 years of evangelism in Japan.
(a) An overview of the past 150 years
(b) The journey of the last 50 years (the period from the 100th to the
150th anniversary)

As we continue to develop these plans (with further consideration of
matters like cooperation with other denominations, etc.) and as we begin
to put them into action, we continue to pray that they will bear much
fruit. (Tr.TV)

─Naito Tomeyuki
Kyodan General Secretary

Nagasaki Furumachi Church School Commended for Recycling Efforts

This marks the 15th year that Nagasaki Furumachi Church has been
recycling old paper as an activity of its church school, having begun in
July 1993. It is recognized as a continuing activity contributing to the
recycling of natural resources by the Nagasaki City Environment
Protection Bureau. The bureau has honored the church school with a
financial grant, all of which is donated to UNICEF through a local
broadcasting station. Old paper is accepted every day, not only from the
church members but also other local residents. Once every two months,
the old news papers, magazines, etc, that have been stored in the
church’s garage, are handed over to dealers in old paper. (Tr. RK)

–Fukui Hirofumi, pastor,
Nagasaki Furumachi Church, and
Ishimura Naoyoshi, church school director
Nagasaki Furumachi Church, Kyushu District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

Through God's Leading: Over 70 Exhibitions of Post-World War II Pictures

n January 1992 I visited a small church near Nashville, Tennessee with
a ten-member tour group as an activity of the Zenrinkan Christian Center
(now Ou Christian Center) where I was working at that time. There I met
Joe O’Donnell, who had come to Japan soon after the war as a cameraman
with the army, and I saw the pictures he had taken of Hiroshima and

These were all pictures no one in Japan had yet seen. They were some of
the pictures he had taken with his personal camera, aside from his
official job of photographing the destruction of cities in Japan.
Members of our group could not hold back their tears when they saw the
picture entitled “Young Man at a Crematory (Preparing to lay his little
brother on a funeral pyre).” O’Donnell had decided to display these
pictures two years before we met him. He continued displaying them until
he was called to heaven on Aug. 9, 2007, believing that this was his
mission from God. He readily agreed to our request to display them in
Japan, and we have been able to hold more than 70 exhibitions to date. I
presently the custodian for O’Donnell’s pictures and am hoping many
churches will exhibit them.

I sensed a deeper purpose at work in my opportunity to meet Joe
O’Donnell. Our tour to America was arranged by Richard and Martha
Lammers, former missionaries who had worked at our center until 1990.
Martha was part of a group that churches in America recruited to help
with the reconstruction of Japan, and her first assignment was to
Hiroshima Jogakuin (girls’ school). She says that there she felt
firsthand the horror of the atomic bomb. Martha has spoken out ever
since on the horror of atomic weapons and has translated into English
the story of the primary school girl, Sadako, who died from leukemia
caused by the atomic bomb, and sent the story, along with folded paper
cranes, to America. Many people in our center cooperated in collecting
folded paper cranes to send. Some churches our tour group visited had
taken part in the folded paper crane campaign. It was in this context
that we met Joe O’Donnell. I cannot think that this meeting was mere
chance: that this was a response from God to Martha and those in our
group who had helped with the folded paper cranes.

I am constantly reminded that God is at work and that I have been able
to participate in that work. (Tr. WE)

–Yamazaki Makoto,member
Shimonohashi Church, Ou District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

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