by Sasaki Michio, Kyodan vice-moderator, pastor of Shizuoka Church
At the 39th biennial Kyodan General Assembly in 2014, I was elected vice-moderator. Upon taking this responsibility, I have been asked to express my hopes and aspirations in this article. As I said at the assembly after I was elected: “For someone like me to be elected to this position brings a sense of apprehension, but I accept this responsibility as God’s will and will exercise my duties faithfully. I am well aware of my responsibility to support the moderator, and I will make every effort to do so.”
Having served as vice-moderator for the 36th Kyodan General Assembly period (2008-10), this will be my second term. Four years have passed since my first term, and the situation within the Kyodan has changed. The reality is that I am starting my work as vice-moderator with some sense of perplexity, but I hope to fulfill my responsibilities with the help of Moderator Ishibashi Hideo and other Kyodan officials and staff.
When I was elected to this position four years ago, I was asked to share my hopes and aspirations at that time, too. However, rather than sharing my hopes and aspirations, I wrote the following: “The immediate need of the Kyodan is to determine where it can find unity amidst the deepening confusion and problems within the Kyodan. Unity in our faith, confirming our ordination system, and fruitful service and witness are paths that will lead to the solution of these problems. During this term, finding unity in our faith is the key task facing the Kyodan.”
The theme for our 2014 General Assembly was “Building an Evangelistic Kyodan–Promoting Evangelism Based in a Unified Faith.” Moderator Ishibashi has continued his efforts to promote a “Kyodan that is on fire for evangelism,” and we must now move to the next stage, accompanied by an even deeper commitment and united faith. Of course, this entails unity in our understanding of the sacraments and ordination system as well.
At the opening worship of our Kyodan Assembly, Rev. Kishita Nobuyo, referring to words from Isaiah 40, reminded us that in “Building an Evangelistic Kyodan,” we need a faith that puts its “hope in the Lord.” On that first Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church, the news of salvation through God’s great gift of Jesus Christ was preached. Indeed, the power to preach the Gospel and continue the “birthing” of the Church starts with putting our hope in God’s Holy Spirit.
Four years ago I wrote the following. “On one side, the Kyodan is facing the difficult reality of an aging membership and a decline in the number of younger people in our congregations. Every church is facing difficulties as it engages in evangelism and the development of the local church. If this current trend continues, statistics make it clear what the situation will be like in ten years. As we move into the future, there is no solution other than to continue in prayer and evangelistic outreach.”
“At that time, the content of our faith as the Church will no doubt have great meaning and prove to be the power we need. During this term, I hope to gain an awareness of where the members of our churches are in their faith journeys.”
When the Kyodan as a denomination and each individual church affirm a united faith, find joy in their faith, and join together in prayer, we will find unity and growth in our mission. The powerful work of the Holy Spirit will be with us. My belief in this is as strong now as it was four years ago.
Beginning this biennium, we will administer our “Evangelism Fund.” We are also continuing the various relief efforts related to the East Japan Disaster. As our churches recognize the mission the Lord has given the Kyodan, we will join related schools and social agencies and continue to respond to what the Lord is entrusting us to do. Although I lack power as an individual, I will “hope in the Lord.” (Tr. JS)
—From Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No. 4813
第３９回教団総会に 掲げられた主題は「伝道する教団の建設」－信仰の一致に基づく伝 道の推進－です。石橋議長が進めて来られた「伝道に燃える教団」
四年前の紙面にこの ように記していました。“教団は一方で高齢化や いわゆる若年層の減少という厳しい現実の波に洗われています。