It has been a year since I began writing these notes "Acting General Secretary's Report" and this one will be my last. As of April 2018, Rev. Akiyama Toru, chair of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries and pastor of Ageo Godo Church in Kanto District, will begin serving in the capacity of general secretary, so he will write "General Secretary's Report" for the next issue of KNL.
During the second week in Advent, on Dec. 11-12, 2017, Kyodan district moderators gathered in Atami (Shizuoka) at “Heartpia Atami,” under the auspices of the Committee on Evangelism Strategy. The 26 participants from 16 districts began the conference by asking each other about the condition of evangelism in their respective districts. With the exception of Okinawa District, which did not send a representative, the district moderators shared reports on the condition of evangelism in their districts and the various issues they are facing. While urban and rural areas face different issues, together they face the common issues of declining numbers and financial pressures. They all came to a common understanding that these issues are not ones that individual districts can handle on their own but that these need to be dealt with by the Kyodan as a whole.
Having received these reports, the second day of the conference centered on the response that is needed. Some moderators emphasized that there is no clear vision of who we are trying to reach, but we all were in agreement that it is not the Kyodan as a whole or the districts that are at the center of evangelistic efforts; it is the local churches. Thus, the increase of our evangelistic strength must come through local churches increasing their abilities and efforts. So, with the backing of the Kyodan and the districts, we hope to develop ways of encouraging and facilitating local church efforts to meet this need.
Looking ahead, the Kyodan Mission Planning Conference will be held at Fujimicho Church in Tokyo, March 5-6. The theme will be, “What does Evangelism in Japan Mean in the Context of the Basic Mission Plan?” The Kyodan established its “Basic Mission Plan,” as based on its “Basic Theory of Mission” back in 1963, and it has not been modified since then. During the 37th General Assembly Period (October 2010–September 2012), work began on a “Revised Basic Mission Plan,” but the Kyodan as a whole has still made no decision on this. While the focus of this conference will not be on that per se, I believe that this is an important opportunity for us to reconfirm our basic direction as we consider anew what Japanese evangelism means in today’s context.
The Kyodan has endured a long period of struggles, and while we have made certain gains in regards to our understanding of evangelism, we have also experienced loss in other areas. Reconsidering our “Mission Theory,” based on trust and the unity of a common confession of faith and the Kyodan Bylaws, is a critical need. It is my prayer that this will be a fruitful conference in fulfilling that end.
May the grace and blessings of Jesus Christ be upon all of you abundantly in this New Year! (Tr. TB)
—Acting General Secretary Dohke Norikazu
Executive Secretary of General Affairs