日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

【December 2021 No.409】With Gratitude to the United Church of Canada and the Kyodan


With Gratitude to the United Church of Canada and the Kyodan

 by Rob Witmer, principal Theological Seminary for Rural Mission

In March of 2021, the Theological Seminary for Rural Mission received support from the United Church of Canada through the Kyodan. This support did not come directly from Canada but from funding that the United Church of Canada holds in the Interboard Shadan in Japan. The Shadan manages assets on behalf of four North American denominations. The support from the United Church of Canada comes primarily from the sale of property and housing that was used by the United Church missionaries living and working in Japan in past years. I have been on the board of directors of the Shadan for many years and agree strongly with the United Church that any funding held by the Shadan should be used to support partners in Japan. Many partners have been receiving support for many years and now some of that support is being directed through the Kyodan. The Kyodan is receiving funding for rural mission but also to provide support for other concerns that both churches see as important.

The United Church has a strong historical connection with the Rural Seminary. The Seminary was established in 1948 as The National Christian Service and Training Centre and the United Church provided all the necessary funding to purchase the land where the Centre was to be built in Hinodai. United Church missionary Alfred Stone, who first came to Japan in 1926, was the one who sought United Church assistance and who became the first principal of the Centre, which later moved to Tsurukawa and became The Theological Seminary for Rural Mission. Stone travelled throughout Japan to promote and share his vision of rural mission and, after leaving the Seminary in 1954, chose to work in Hokkaido. However, as is well known, he died in September of that same year on the Toya Maru ferry that was to take him to Honshu but got caught in a typhoon. Other United Church missionaries worked at the rural Seminary over the years as well, but in 2018, the year of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Seminary, I became the principal at the age of 70! It was a surprise, but Keiko and I had worked in rural ministry in Hokkaido for 43 years, and I have been able to both share and learn many things through my work at the Seminary.

Connections with the United Church were not only financial assistance and missionaries who worked at the Seminary. The United Church carried out a Mutuality in Mission Program and welcomed mission personnel from other countries to work in Canada and received missionaries from the Kyodan. Kamuro Junichi and his partner Yasuko worked in eastern Canada from 1978 to 1980, and Hoshino Masaoki and his partner Miyuki worked in central Canada from 1985 to 1988. Kamuro Junichi and Hoshino Masaoki both graduated from the rural Seminary, and both still have a strong connection. It is a precious gift to know that this kind of sharing has taken place.

Since I became principal, we have also had visitors from the United Church of Canada. In 2018, our friends Bill and Karen Butt spent time at the Seminary and shared about rural mission in Mozambique, where they had worked as overseas personnel of the United Church for ten years, but also shared about rural mission in Canada.

In 2019 Julie Graham and Jennifer Janzen Ball, a lesbian couple who were also our friends, shared about Affirming Ministry in the United Church, in which Julie has been deeply involved, and the program for Lay Ministry in the United Church, for which Jennifer had responsibility.

The rich sharing that took place through this kind of connection led me to try and put together a plan not only to receive guests from Canada but to take both students and staff to Canada, where there could be a new environment of sharing. In 2020, we put together a plan to visit Emmanuel College in Toronto, the Seminary that both Alfred Stone and I had graduated from, and the Sandy Saulteaux Spiritual Centre, the indigenous peoples’ Seminary in Manitoba. Both Seminaries in Canada were enthusiastic about this kind of exchange, and we were preparing to carry it out in September when the coronavirus came along and plans had to be cancelled. We worked on the same program for 2021, but we are still having to live with what is usually called Covid-19 in English. We have not lost the vision for this kind of exchange, and we continue to hope that we may use the funding we are receiving from the Kyodan to provide support for it. If necessary or appropriate, the funding could be used not only for this kind of connection with Canada but with other places in the world also. May the Kyodan, the Seminary, and the United Church walk together to both share with and learn from one another.


 鶴川学院農村伝道神学校長 ロブ・ウィトマー

 2021年3月、農村伝道神学校は日本キリスト教団を通じてカナダ合同教会より資金援助を受けました。これは直接カナダ合同教会からではなく、カナダ合同教会が一般社団法人IBS社団(旧 在日本インターボード宣教師社団)に管理委託している基金から受けたものです。IBS社団は、4つの北米の教派の資産を管理しています。今回のカナダ合同教会からの援助資金は主に過去に日本で働いていた宣教師の住居や土地の売却によるものです。私は長年IBSの理事をしておりますので、IBSの基金は連携宣教団体のために使われるべきだという点でカナダ合同教会と意見が一致しております。カナダ合同教会はそれらの団体を長年支援しておりますが、資金の一部は日本キリスト教団を通して分配されています。日本キリスト教団へは農村伝道を目的とした資金を援助しておりますが、また同時にそれらの資金は教団と合同教会が重要だと考える他の用途にも使われています。

 合同教会は歴史的に農村伝道神学校と深いつながりがあります。農村伝道神学校は1948年に日本キリスト教訓練センターとして設立され、合同教会は日野台の土地の取得に必要な費用をすべて提供しました。合同教会に支援を求めたのは合同教会より1926年来日した宣教師アルフレッド・ストーンで、訓練センターの初代校長となりました。後に鶴川に移転し、農村伝道神学校となりました。ストーンは日本中を回り、農村伝道の必要性を訴えました。1954年に農村伝道神学校を去った後、北海道へ赴きましたが、よく知られているように、その年の9月本州へ向かう途上、乗船していた洞爺丸が台風で沈没し亡くなりました。その後、何人かの合同教会の宣教師が農村伝道神学校で働きましたが、創立70周年の2018年に、私が校長となりました。70歳でした! 大変驚きましたが、ケイコと私は43年間、北海道で農村宣教をしていましたので、農村伝道神学校では経験を生かし、多くを学びながら働いております。





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