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)

Reclaiming the Rights of the Ainu People*

by Miura Tadao, Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center Director
Pastor, Rumoi Miyazono Church, Hokkai District

In recent years there has been a lot of action all over the world around
the issue of indigenous peoples’ rights. On Sept. 13, 2007, the United
Nations General Assembly approved the “United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.” In June 2008, the Japanese Diet passed a
resolution recognizing the Ainu people as indigenous people of Japan.
However, a detailed look at these documents reveals that there are still
many issues to be considered. The Japanese government voted in favor of
the UN Declaration. However, before actually voting, each country gave a
speech indicating its position with regard to the Declaration, and
Japan’s speech made clear that although it would vote in favor of the
Declaration, there was to be no consideration of any kind of autonomy
for indigenous people and that any land claims would have to be dealt
with in accordance with existing Japanese law.

After that, nothing happened in Japan until just before the G8 Summit
held in Hokkaido in July 2008, when members of the Japanese Diet
suddenly took action. On March 26 a multi-party “Diet Members’ Group to
Consider the Rights of Ainu People” was formed and encouraged Japan, as
host country of the Summit, to issue a statement recognizing the Ainu
people as indigenous people of Japan, as a sign to the world that Japan
is a mature, developed, industrial democracy since this was in Japan’s
national interest. On June 6, the resolution to establish the rights of
the Ainu people was passed in both the Upper House and Lower House at
lightning speed.

After passing the resolution, the Cabinet on July 1 approved the
establishment of a panel of experts to consider a new policy regarding
the Ainu people. The purpose of this panel was to allow a high level of
government to receive the opinion of experts so that a new overall
policy in relation to the Ainu people could be developed. Areas to be
considered by the panel included an investigation of the living
conditions of Ainu people and their experience of discrimination, an
evaluation of past policies regarding the Ainu people, and a
consideration of the policies of other countries towards indigenous
peoples in the light of the UN Declaration. The final goal was the
development of a new and appropriate policy concerning the Ainu people,
with specific suggestions for implementing it.

A fundamental problem with the panel of experts was that only one Ainu
person was included as a member and the time limit of one year was far
too short for the panel to do its work. So far the panel has met four
times and is beginning a discussion of concrete issues. The issues are
numerous. And yet, in response to questions about the June resolution in
the Japanese Diet, the Japanese government has indicated repeatedly that
because there is no clear definition of “indigenous people” in the
resolution that recognized the Ainu people as “indigenous people,” it is
not clear whether the Ainu would fit the category of “indigenous people”
as laid out in the UN Declaration. Such cowardly behavior is not helpful.
However, this kind of attitude illustrates the important role that the
panel of experts has to play. These experts must evaluate carefully
government policies of the past and offer new directions by making clear
the painful history and the discrimination that the Ainu people have
suffered under past policies and see that their position as indigenous
people is set down clearly in the law. A multi-racial group called
“Chi-kara-nisatta” (Building Tomorrow Together) was formed in 2008 and,
rather than watching idly as the panel does its work, this group is
studying the UN Declaration in order to make recommendations to the
panel. The Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center is pleased to be able to work
with this group and will join it when concrete suggestions are presented
to the panel of experts in the near future.

Hokkai District, reflecting on its own past history of walking on the
side of the invader and oppressor, established the Ainu Issues Committee
in 1985, at the time of the Nibutani land claim court case, in an
attempt to join with the Ainu people in their struggle to reclaim their
rights. To be even more active in this work on a daily basis and to
enable church people to see the reclamation of Ainu rights and the end
of discrimination as valid mission concerns, the district established
the Ainu Peoples’ Resource Center. It has worked slowly but surely to
deepen the relationship between the church and the Ainu people. However,
with the exception of Hyogo District and committed individuals, the
situation is that the Kyodan as a whole does not seem to perceive these
issues as mission concerns. I think a big part of our job is to find a
way for the entire Kyodan to recognize and to share the importance of
this work. (Tr. RW)

*The Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, have their own unique culture
and language and have historically occupied the southern portion of the
Sakhalin Islands, Kurile Islands, all of Hokkaido, and the Tohoku
(northeast) region of Honshu Island (Japan’s main island).

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