The "German East Asia Mission" in Japan — Past and Present

by Mira Sonntag, ecumenical co-worker of EMS
Tomisaka Christian Center (Tokyo)
KNL Editorial Committee member
For the final issue of this year, which was marked by the 150th anniversary of Protestant mission in Japan, I have been asked to summarize the contributions of German missionaries, who are hardly known today due to the overwhelming influence of North American Protestantism. Although there have been a number of German missionary societies, I will focus on the first German missionary society to send staff to Japan, the General Evangelical Protestant Missionary Society (AEPMV, later OAM, now DOAM as a member of EMS and BMW) for two simple reasons. First, this is the only German missionary society affiliated with the Kyodan through a partnership contract; and second, my own service in Japan is based on this partnership relation.
As a matter of fact, the Germans were latecomers to the evangelization field of Japan, arriving as the 30th missionary society with a delay of 26 years after the first North American missionaries. Also, they started without any experience (AEPMV was founded just one year earlier in the German city Weimar) and suffered a constant shortage of staff. Missionaries would hardly stay in Japan longer than five years (often as lone warriors), which was good for a fast feedback to the homeland community but raised many problems in Japan itself.
German mission to Japan meant German-speaking mission of mostly male, ordained pastors from Switzerland, Germany, and Alsace-Lorraine, financed by supporters from a number of European countries and even North America. As an internationally-minded body, AEPMV (and later OAM) sought to free itself from historically grown denominational boundaries and return to the original gospel of Christ’s times (“the heavenly seed” that gives birth to a new “tree” in every new location). Thus, it resembled in its ecumenism the first North American missionaries, only that it arrived in a time when this ecumenism had long been lost. However, the ecumenism of AEPMV was founded on the new approach of liberal theology (“new theology”). Learning from the methodology of the Moravian Church, Winfried Spinner, the first AEPMV missionary to Japan, started to gather German residents into a “mission church” (German Cross Church Tokyo), which should then foster evangelization among the Japanese and support Japanese churches where they were founded. Fortunately, he was soon joined by Otto Schmiedel. The first Japanese church (now Kyodan Kami-Tomisaka Church) was also founded in 1887. As of 1934, the organization was supporting ten churches in eastern and western Japan, with a total of 63 Japanese service employees. The emphasis lay on urban areas, with a new focus on the Korean minority in Japan from 1929. While concentrating their service on the German-speaking communities, the German and Swiss pastors would give advice but try not to interfere with decisions of their Japanese colleagues.
Such progress was possible mainly because the AEPMV had actively dealt with its staff shortage through the establishment of a theological seminary in Tomisaka in 1887. This seminary was, actually, the most important transmitting station of liberal theology to the Japanese churches at the time. And it was through the influence of liberal theology that Japanese Christianity could survive the anti-Christian propaganda of the 1890s, following the Uchimura incident of l?se-majesty. By the end of the 19th century, liberal theology was further strengthened by North American Unitarians and subsequently led to Japan’s first major theological debate: the Uemura-Ebina-Debate about the divinity of Christ. The theological seminary in Tomisaka continued until 1908. But even after it closed, AEPMV missionaries continued to teach at theological seminaries, e.g. of Aoyama Gakuin University.
As the above shows, AEPMV combined community building with theological training on a high academic level that had to be based on a proper understanding of the traditional religious and philosophic landscape of Japan. As a result of this approach, missionaries also contributed to the growing discipline of religious studies in Germany. Besides, liberal theology was the strongest proponent of public welfare activities. AEPMV engaged in child care, tuberculosis treatment, and student housing.
With the outbreak of World War I, however, the internationality of AEPMV (OAM) was increasingly difficult to maintain. After Hitler came into power, the German communities abroad mostly followed the nationalist movement. These developments were hard to tolerate for the Swiss members of the mission society as well as for Germans like Egon Hessel, who had joined the anti-Hitler emergency union of pastors (Pfarrernotbund). The events of World War II finally led to a break-up of OAM into a German (DOAM) and Swiss (SOAM) mission society. In order to reduce relational difficulties as much as possible, both agreed to regional distribution of responsibilities: DOAM would continue work in East Japan (Tokyo); SOAM would focus on Western Japan (Kyoto). But the end of the war also led to the founding of Christian East Asia Mission Foundation (CEAM), which united the physical heritage of DOAM and SOAM in Japan into one legal body under Japanese law during the whole postwar period.
The postwar period also brought about a reform movement in the understanding of mission and its relation to church structures. In Germany, mission societies that had traditionally existed outside of church structures voluntarily reintegrated into the churches, forming new regional mission boards. Due to the division of Germany into East and West, DOAM became a member of the Association of Churches and Mission in South Western Germany (EMS) and Berlin Mission Board (BMW) in 1972. Abroad, the application of the principles of New Delhi (1961) concerning “partnership in obedience” ushered in a new age of cooperation in mission. “Missionaries” were first re-framed into “fraternal workers,” later into “ecumenical co-workers,” and an appointment by the Kyodan became the precondition for dispatch. Although DOAM still held considerable responsibility and means of influence through its right to assign half of the board members of CEAM foundation, it always tried to listen carefully to the wishes and visions of its partners in Japan. Together they founded Tomisaka Christian Center in Tokyo (TCC) for interdisciplinary research on urgent issues in social ethics. In 2009 an existing housing facility was re-launched as an ecumenical dormitory (Uphill International House of Studies). Currently, the supporting body of CEAM is investigating new ways for welfare activities to complement the already existing mission work in Tomisaka.
Finally, on October 19, 2009, the Swiss and German parent organizations (SOAM and DOAM) agreed on CEAM’s wish to apply for state approval as a public welfare organization and on the necessary changes to its constitution. The new constitution brings two new forms of freedom to CEAM: freedom from possible outside intrusion, and freedom to engage in pari passu international cooperation. Interestingly, while DOAM and SOAM are dispensing their legal rights to child organizations in Japan, EMS is now preparing to extend the rights of its African and Asian partner churches in order to reorganize itself into a truly ecumenical (international) body of common witness. These developments make me very optimistic about the possibility of a truly post-colonial future of church cooperation between Japan and Germany.

The General Secretary's Diary:"One Sunny Afternoon"

The other day, seven students from the Catholic Theological Academy were brought to my office by a professor, who is a priest. The visit was organized in order for the students to learn more about other Christian churches, especially the structure of the Kyodan, the major Protestant denomination, and to learn about the evangelistic work of the Kyodan. With somewhat nervous expressions on their faces, the seminarians diligently asked many questions about issues within the Kyodan as well as about the organization of the Kyodan. Perhaps they were quite aware that in a few months they would graduate and move from wearing seminarians’ hats to receiving ordination and becoming priests. So I explained the Kyodan’s organization concisely, as follows.
The Kyodan nurtures ministers to serve the church, which involves two important aspects. One aspect is training in the seminary established by the Kyodan or in another approved seminary. The other aspect is certification by the Commission on Ministerial Qualifications, which is made up of ministers who are elected as commission members at the General Assembly. In accordance with the Kyodan’s constitutional bylaws, the commission approves as ministerial candidates persons who have successfully passed the ministerial qualification examination that is based on the Kyodan’s Confession of Faith. Following approval, the candidates are commissioned and ordained by one of the 17 district assemblies, and the qualified ministers are received by local churches.
The seminarians nodded as they listened. Perhaps they understood one organizational part of the Kyodan. It was a short time, but also a tranquil one. However, later I was surprised to learn that three of the students were foreigners from three different countries (Vietnam, the Philippines, Korea). The seminary professor said, “The number of men sensing a calling to become priests has declined drastically.” I could not hear his words as if they were only someone else’s business. Presently, I am very concerned about the decreasing number of people being called into the ministry in the Kyodan. (Tr. WJ)
–Naito Tomeyuki
Kyodan General Secretary

The General Secretary's Diary

he General Secretary’s Diary
The 43rd meeting of the Kyodan Commission on Cooperative Mission and the
Korean Christian Church in Japan was held June 8-9 at the Itoyanagi
Hotel in Isawa, Yamanashi Prefecture. Discussion centered on the fact
that this year is the KCCJ’s 100th anniversary of mission.. The theme
was “The Two Churches’ Mission Issues and Cooperation in Mission.” In
addition to the three administrative officers namely, the moderator,
vice-moderator, and secretary of both churches and the chair of the
Commission on Mission, the general administrative secretary and mission
administrative secretaries of both churches, presentations were made by
the chairs of the Committee on Social Concerns and the Committee on
Education of the Korean Christian Church in Japan and the chair of the
Kyodan’s Special Committee on Solidarity with Citizens of the Republic
of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Living in Japan,
making a total of 14 persons in attendance.

The presentations of the two members of the Korean Christian Church
naturally dealt with the problems of Korean people in Japan; and those
concerns, particularly the protection of human rights, were the primary
focus of the conference. These are issues of mission and important
issues that must be dealt with cooperatively. Historically speaking,
most of the Korean people now living Japan are second- and
third-generation descendants of people who were forcibly brought to
Japan as a policy of the Japanese government after the “annezation,”
which was in fact an invasion of Korea. Also, a considerable number have
come of their own volition in recent years, primarily for the purpose of
mission. The situation of Korean people in Japan is severe, and the
church not only must work to stop their fingerprinting but also must
seek basic solutions to support their existence and human rights and
enable them to live freely.

Few of us Japanese know well the history of North Korea and South Korea,
which are our neighboring countries. The history of China is taught to
some extent in junior and senior high school, but the history of the two
Koreas has hardly been taught at all. The misunderstanding that results
from this ignorance causes ethnic and cross-national conflict and can be
seen as the cause of the friction in our relationships. In light of
this, we strongly feel that the churches of both countries, which share
the same Christian faith, specifically the Korean Christian Church in
Japan and the Kyodan, must deal with this problem as an important issue
for cooperative mission and seek breakthroughs.

Below are three points discussed and agreed upon at this meeting of the
Commission on Cooperative Mission.
1) A 2009 Peace Message will be issued in the names of the moderators of
both churches.
2) The Korean Christian Church in Japan will erect a five-story Mission
Centennial Hall near the Nishi Waseda Center, with an   estimated cost
of 270 million yen. The Kyodan will cooperate in raising funds.
3) A joint historical study committee will be established. The committee
will gather material concerning relationships of
contact between the two churches to study that history. Based on that, a
history will be compiled. The committee will consist
of six persons, three from each church. (Tr. WE)
–Naito Tomeyuki
Kyodan General Secretary

Growing Sweet Potatoes in the Neighboring Vacant Lot "God Gave the Growth"

Growing Sweet Potatoes in the Neighboring Vacant Lot
“God Gave the Growth”
There is a 15-square meter vacant lot on the south side of our church.
Completely covered with almost impenetrable weeds, it posed the danger
of sooner or later becoming a trash dump. To help the children become
better acquainted with the adults, our church school joins the adult
worship services on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. On these
occasions there is usually a potluck lunch, except for the Thanksgiving
lunch, which we cook together at the church. So last year, for the
Thanksgiving lunch, we decided to plant some sweet potato seedlings in
the vacant lot.

On the last Sunday in May, we planted the seedlings. Of course, in
preparation, adult members had cut the weeds, tilled the land, and built
ridges in the field. Five months later, on Nov.16, a week before
Thanksgiving Sunday worship service, the sweet potatoes were ready to be
harvested. Unfortunately, it was raining that day, and there were fewer
children than usual. However, the result was as shown in the photo. The
children planted, the pastor watered. Otherwise, they were mostly left
unattended. It was truly an experience of “God gave the growth”. (Tr. RK)
– Tanaka Takahiro, pastor
Momoyama Church, Chubu District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

Former Worship Sanctuary becomes an Art Museum
Meditation Space with Famous Biblical Pictures

Using the opportunity when the worship sanctuary was moved down to the
first floor, the former second-floor worship sanctuary was converted
into a museum of art. The museum features biblical pictures by the late
Nishizaka Osamu and some contemporary prints by the late Watanabe Sadao.
As the above two artists are comparatively well known, the display
surprises some of the visitors.

As can be seen in the photos, there is a restful ambience between the
former sanctuary and these works by Christian artists. One visitor said,
“Here one can spend a nice quiet time with a cup of coffee.” The museum
is not advertised, so it is not widely known, but it serves as a
meditation space for this small village church. There is no admission
fee. (Tr. RK)

– Hoshino Masaoki, pastor
Matsuzaki Church, Tokai District
From Shinto no Tomo(Believers’ Friend)

The Journey of Mary Eddy Kidder, Pioneer in Women's Education in Modern Japan

by Tabei Yoshiro, principal
Ferris Jogakuin Junior and Senior High School
Ferris Jogakuin, Japan’s first school for women, was started by Mary
Eddy Kidder. Kidder was the first missionary woman to Japan, arriving
from the U.S. in September 1870.The school got its start when Kidder
began to teach in one of the infirmary rooms of the Presbyterian medical
missionary, Dr. James Hepburn. (The infirmary was located at Foreign
Settlement # 39 Yamashita-cho in Yokohama.) Kidder’s students were
pupils of Hepburn’s wife, some of whom were young women. Japan was in
the third year of the Meiji Era, and although modernization had begun,
Christianity was still prohibited. At a time when it was hardly
imaginable for a woman to be educated, Kidder offered women an education
based on Christian principles.

Kidder was born in Wardsboro, Vermont in 1834 and as a teenager dreamed
of going abroad as a missionary. She realized her dream at the age of
35. By the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Protestant missionaries were
coming to Japan in rapid succession, one of whom was the Reverend Dr.
S.R. Brown of the Dutch Reformed Church in America, later to become the
Reformed Church in America (RCA). In speeches in the U.S., Brown
emphasized the need to educate women in order to modernize Japan.
Recognizing her faith and strong call to foreign missions, Brown
encouraged his Foreign Board of Missions to accept Kidder, then teaching
in a private school, as an educational missionary to Japan.

Soon after Kidder began her classes, girls heard about them and began to
gather in the small room where she was teaching. Among those students,
girls eager to study had to struggle continually to persuade their
parents, who saw no need for them to study. As the number of students
increased, Kidder was able to find an ally in the vice-governor of
Kanagawa Prefecture, Ooe Taku. He gave her permission to move her
classes to the prefectural residence. Meanwhile, with financial aid
coming from the U.S. church, school buildings and a dormitory were built
on the present school location at 178 Yamanote (in Yokohama). On June 1,
1875, an impressive dedication of the new school building was held, and
the following year the formal name of the school became Isaac Ferris

The school name “Ferris” is in recognition of Isaac Ferris and his son
John. Both father and son served as head of the RCA’s foreign missions’
program, and under their leadership many Japanese exchange students and
delegations were received in the U.S., while at the same time many
missionaries, including Kidder, were sent abroad. Since that time,
Ferris Jogakuin has been supported by the women’s board of RCA’s Global

The educational ideals of the school, based on the Christian faith, were
to develop responsible family members, train persons to be the educators
of the future, and insure the acquisition of the knowledge and culture
required to meet these ideals. Since then, many who became leaders in
the development of women’s education in Japan have been nurtured at
Ferris. In particular, many of the women presently involved in higher
education for women at the university level have a Ferris background. In
fulfillment of the educational ideals that Kidder pioneered, graduates
of Ferris Jogakuin have continued to be on the front line of women’s
education in Japan.

In 1873 Kidder married Presbyterian missionary Rothesay Miller. Fully
understanding the importance of his wife’s work, Miller became a
missionary of the RCA following the marriage. Soon the reputation of
Ferris Jogakuin spread, and young women from across Japan were coming to
the school. Some came from as far away as Nagasaki, wanting an education
to prepare them to be pastors’ wives. Others came at the encouragement
of progressive parents or guardians.

In 1881 Kidder, whose devoted efforts gave birth to Ferris Jogakuin and
built its early foundation, turned over the administration of the school
to its second principal, Eugene S. Booth. Leaving her role as educator,
she then served in the field of evangelism with her husband. Their
service from 1888 to 1902 in the cold of Morioka in Iwate Prefecture is
well-known. While she and her husband were involved in evangelism across
Japan, Kidder was also publishing articles for children and families in
a small monthly magazine called Yorokobi no Otozure (visit of joy). In
particular, she worked to enhance the position of women and children in
Japanese society.

Kidder’s 41-year journey in Japan was not just as the founder of Ferris
Jogakuin. It was the rich journey of a woman missionary lived to its
fullest. This year the city of Yokohama celebrated the 150th anniversary
of the opening of its port. It is also the 150th anniversary of
Protestant evangelism in Japan. Next year, Ferris Jogakuin will
celebrate the 140th anniversary of its founding, which will also be the
140th anniversary of women’s education in Japan. We at Ferris Jogakuin
take pride in remembering that the foundation for women’s education in
Japan today is due to the strong faith of a young Christian missionary
woman and her strong commitment to women’s education. (Tr. JS)

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