Naito Tomeyuki, previous general secretary of the Kyodan and retired minister of the Kyodan, as interviewed by Omura Naoko, chair of The Believers’ Friend editoriarl committe and a member of Mita Church in Tokyo, seeking his advice on the subject of conducting pastoral interviews
Naito: Originally, the Kyodan was formed out of over 30 denominations with various traditions. Even in regard to ministerial staffing, policies varied in the original denominations: the Methodists and others had an appointment system; the Presbyterian and the Congregational denominations had an invitation system. For example, in the Methodists’ appointment system, personnel matters were handled in accordance with the appointments of the bishop. Pastors and laity could not make decisions by themselves. Through unification, the churches with such a background switched over to the invitation system. Today, even after a span of 70 years since the establishment of the Kyodan, it cannot be said that the invitation system issue has been fully instituted. In Japanese, the characters for the word “invitation” in this sense are those used especially when an envoy sent by a king is received with the greatest courtesy. As I understand the use of these characters, Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of the church, sends the pastor as the envoy of the Gospel, who is received by the church with the greatest courtesy. This is different from the general employment concerns of companies. I would like to see both parties confirm well what the invitation system is and afterwards, with humility and prayer and discretion, do the right thing. If there is a firm understanding, many of the problems will be solved.
Interviewer: The pastor may have a sense of mission and go to the next post, but the church members may not share that understanding. At times, they may also feel as though they have been abandoned.
Naito: The pastor is always subject to being transferred. Thus, while the pastor is in a specific church, he or she must communicate that “your Lord is Christ, so when the time comes, the pastor must leave.” The church’s journey cannot be completed in the lifetime of the pastor. There are persons who run long distances and persons who run short distances, which is good. There is no possibility that one pastor has been given all the gifts. I think I would like lay people to keep this in mind. They need to avoid faultfinding through comparison to a previous minister.
Interviewer: Searching for a new pastor places a heavy burden on the members of a church. It would seem to be a good thing for them to have help from the district and subdistrict.
Naito: The Kyodan Bylaws, Article 113, states: “Speak to the district personnel affairs division.” Someone in the district is to be the contact person for personnel, who can give advice, but there are districts where this office is not functioning or is not even set up. There is also the Commission on the Ministry at the Kyodan level that includes a service provision for “matters related to personnel exchange.” It would be good if these provisions were functioning, but in reality that is not the case. In districts where there is strong cooperation, these needs will be addressed. But where that does not exist, consulting with a seminary, depending on relationships within churches tied to the original denomination, or just seeking the advice of a minister with a large number of connections may be the only source of real help. In addition to problems related to the system, there is something else that is very important. This is that the constituency issuing the invitation is the local church. The Kyodan Bylaws, Article 106, stipulates: “The local church will be the one to give the invitation to the minister responsible for that church,” so the one issuing the invitation is the local church. I will offer three points to help clarify this matter. 1) What has the church treasured in its formation heritage, and on what kind of traditions is it based? 2) What kind of situation is it in today? 3) What kind of church is envisioned for the future? I am hoping that the church members will discuss these three points and come to a common understanding.
Interviewer: So, while the pastoral candidate will present his or her own resume, the church, from its side, must also indicate its basic aims in concrete terms as well.
Naito: It is important to decide carefully the details of the invitation. 1) When will the pastor arrive? 2) What are the duties? In a situation where there is a kindergarten or an institution, are there duties there? 3) Where will the pastor live? 4) What is the salary? For example, are utilities included, etc.; these details must be reviewed and decided. 5) How long is the term of service? In the case of an invitation, stipulating the term of service is not that common, and so determining if it will or will not be stipulated is important. In addition, there are the issues of the sacraments and church government, etc. No matter how careful the church is, a mismatch may arise. I think that if the church is thrown into confusion, the pastor must take responsibility and resign, saying: “My work as pastor and my evangelism was not sufficient.” However, if it is a matter central to the Gospel, that’s a different matter. Nevertheless, in many of the actual cases that have arisen, various misunderstandings on even small matters, together with a lack of consideration, is the root of the problem. The cause is often related to the pastor’s adaptability. What I am seriously thinking is that the pastor’s prayer life is insufficient. That may seem very harsh, but the number of pastors who make others aware of their humility, prudence, and spirituality is decreasing. To begin with, I think that both pastors and laity must be nourished by the Holy Spirit, as it all starts from there!
Interviewer: At the pastor’s installation ceremony, the pastor and the church members make a promise before God. Focusing on prayer and returning to that starting point is important. Lastly, please give us some advice for churches without pastors and churches with part-time pastors.
Naito: Do not give up hope. That, and give one another support. I hope the care of the small churches in central towns in rural areas will be kept in mind. I hope that the large churches might always be mindful of the small churches to which they have given birth. (Tr. RT)
—From Shinto no Tomo (Believer’s Friend), February 2015 issue
Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko
内藤留幸 牧 師へのインタビュー記事
聞き手 大 村直子 信徒の友誌 編集委員長、東京・三田教会員
インタビュアー 牧師は使命を感じて次の任地に行くのでしょうが、 信徒にとっては寂しいことです。時に、
インタビュアー 新しい牧師を探すのは、信徒だけでは荷が重いこ とです。教区、地区のサポートがあればいいと思うのですが。
インタビュアー 牧師からは履歴書が提出されますが、教会側からも 見える形で教会の基本方針が示されなければならないのですね。
インタビュアー 牧師就任式で神さまの前に牧師も信徒も誓約しまし た。折りに触れてその原点に立ち返ることが大切ですね。最後に、