The 17th Kyodan Mission Planning Conference was held at Fujimicho Church, March 7-8, 2016, under the sponsorship of the Committee on Evangelism. The theme of the conference was “How will the Kyodan Promote Evangelism?” In addition to representatives of each committee of the Kyodan, the 83 participants included representatives from the districts and related schools as well as the top four Kyodan officers. After the opening worship, led by Kyodan Moderator Ishibashi Hideo, there were presentations by four participants, a panel discussion, a lecture followed by small-group discussion, and then a concluding discussion by the entire assemblage.
The first presenter, Pastor Kita Kiyoshi of Matsuzawa Church, stated: “Evangelism was once thought of as an evil that infringed on personal thought and belief, but today, by giving God his sovereign place and through service, the individual and the church can both fulfill the mission of evangelism.” Next, Pastor Shibata Moyuru of Hakodate Chitose Church expressed “resistance to the mixing of talk about evangelism with the issue of church membership and church attendance. There is a tendency to see things in a unitary way when we use the word evangelism, but does that not leave out regional issues? Now the starting point needs to be the acknowledgment of our differences.”
Tokyo Christian University Professor Yamaguchi Yoichi spoke about the need to define more clearly the revision of the church’s Basic Theory of Mission from an evangelical Protestant perspective, saying: “The fundamental point is the importance of promoting cooperation in evangelism between the Kyodan and other denominations. However, the appreciation of historical context since World War II has been weak. In particular, the right to resist (in regard to religious observance in the political realm) needs to be clarified.*
The final speaker, Kyodan missionary Nag Woon-hae spoke about “the need to engage in domestic evangelism also from the perspective of world mission and to have a sound faith based on the Holy Spirit and a holistic understanding. I recommend a major prayer assembly where the Kyodan as a whole can repent of the current situation.”
Among the opinions expressed from the floor during the panel discussion was the following by the Reverend Gushiken Atsushi from Okinawa, who said: “The anger surrounding the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa can only be addressed through prayer, and this anger makes the Okinawa problem hard to see.”
On the second day of the conference, Tsukuba University Professor Emeritus Ohama Tetsuya delivered the main address entitled “What is Japanese Christianity? A Historical Perspective.” Ohama suggested that history be interpreted from the point of view of Jesus’ identification with “the least of these.” He argued that we should recall and interpret history from this perspective. Early Japanese Protestant leaders accepted Christianity during the “expel the barbarians” period. Anti-foreigner, jingoistic tendencies were strong, and these early leaders were probably loyal servants of the nation. (This is a kind of analogy of early Japanese Protestant leaders.) It is necessary to review the history of the emperor system to find out what it is, for example. In the pronouncements of the church nowadays, how often do they ask about our faithful existence as Christians? Ohama spoke of the need for the church to identify with and speak on behalf of church members living and struggling in the world, while at the same time being understanding of the faith of others. (Tr. DB)
—Kato Makoto, executive secretary
*“Religious observance in the political realm” in this context refers to the attendance of public figures, in their official capacities, at Shinto religious ceremonies, which Japanese Christians and others have protested is contrary to Japan’s Constitution.