Executive Council Votes to Admonish Pastor, Abolish Mission Commission

The Executive Council of the 35th Kyodan General Assembly period met for the

5th time, July 14-15, in the Kyodan conference room. The main issues

addressed at the previous meeting, namely the “recommendation for a minister

to resign” and his “admonition,” were carried forward to this meeting, and

the debate was vigorous indeed. Before the vote was taken, four council

members walked out in protest, deepening the division further. Likewise,

there was strong debate concerning the proposal now being drafted for

presentation to the upcoming Kyodan General Assembly this fall to change the

Kyodan structure radically through a revision of its bylaws. With only three

months to go until the assembly, it is uncertain what will happen.

The following two articles taken from Shinpo (The Kyodan Times) summarize

these two points.?

I. Resolution to “Pursue the Admonition” Passes: Debate is Hot Concerning

the Legal Basis and Appropriateness of the Procedures

As the second day of deliberations came to an end, the “Petition to Carry

Out Admonitions Against Kitamura Jiro”was passed. This means that the matter

will be taken up by the Commission on the Ministry, which will determine

what actions will be taken against him.

Based on the decisions of the third meeting of the Executive Council in

October 2007, Kyodan Moderator Yamakita Nobuhisa sent a formal letter to

Pastor Kitamura stating that if he did not immediately cease from offering

communion to unbaptized persons, he would be asked to resign as a minister

of the Kyodan. Since Kitamura did not respond to this letter of admonition,

a new resolution was passed at the next meeting in February, to the effect

that if he continued this practice without the consensus of the Kyodan as a

whole, the Executive Council would be forced to follow through with its

admonition. He was asked to respond by June 20, 2008.

As Kitamura did not abide by this request, a formal admonition was passed on

the basis that his continued offering of communion to unbaptized persons was

in violation of the first and second articles of the Kyodan Constitution and

brought disorder to the church. During the debate swirling around this

issue, council member Umezaki Koji expressed his dissent, stating that the

Executive Council could not itself be the plaintive in this dispute, and

following Moderator Yamakita’s response, Umezaki walked out, stating, “I

cannot be a part of this illegitimate discussion, as you have not spelled

out the legal basis for this in the bylaws.” Council member Matsubara Shigeo

likewise walked out after expressing his opposition to the proceedings.

Council member Mukai Mareo expressed his opposition by posing this question:

“You say that offering communion to unbaptized persons is not permissible,

but where is this stated in the Kyodan Constitution and Bylaws? The Kyodan

is based on local church autonomy, and there are also examples of churches

in other countries where this is practiced.” Ushiroku Toshiya claimed that

the procedure under consideration was outside the stipulations of the Kyodan

Constitution and Bylaws, and expressed doubts that the motion should have

even been introduced. Likewise, since such an indictment and admonition

require a two-thirds majority of council members to pass, he urged caution.

Others also expressed their opposition, including Saito Jin’ichi, who

likewise left the room, followed by others who walked out as the roll was

called.?

Those who supported the admonition were led by Moderator Yamakita, who

stressed that the regulations for church membership in the Kyodan

Constitution and Bylaws clearly included baptism as a prerequisite, and so

the very concept of unbaptized persons receiving communion was

inconsequential. Likewise, since unbaptized persons cannot participate in a

local church’s annual assembly, they would be left in limbo. Council member

Sasaki Michio chastised those who walked out, saying, “This debate requires

us to all be on the same playing field. I want these illegitimate actions to

stop.” He further stated that since it is the role of the Commission on

Ministry to carry out an admonition and it is the Kyodan General Assembly

that handles matters pertaining to the administration of communion, it is

only natural for the moderator to bring to attention any practices in this

regard that causes discord.

In response to one lay member’s remark that this “is not a matter of life

and death or one that involves human rights,” another lay member countered

that the matter is of? “supreme importance to the laity, since it relates

directly to our walk of faith.” The exit of the several council members

caused the session to be extended for 15 minutes. When the final vote was

tallied, 16 of the 19 remaining council members had voted in favor of the

measure.?

II. Elimination of the Commission on Mission Proposed

On the second day of the meeting, after revision of church regulations

related the Board of Publications was dealt with, the following issues were

also discussed:?

1.? Revision of the Regulations on the Research Institute on the Mission of

the Church,?

2.? Dissolution of the Commission on Mission and Revision of related Bylaws,

3.? Revision of the Regulations Concerning Ministerial Qualifications,

4.? Application Process for Recognition as a Minister Under Special

Appointment, etc., and

5.? Cooperative Mission Covenants with the Presbyterian Church USA and the

Reformed Church of America.

As the proposals on revision of the regulations of the Research Institute on

the Mission of the Church and the dissolution of the Commission on Mission

and revision of related bylaws overlapped, they were discussed

simultaneously. Moderator Yamakita presented both proposals on the basis of

the report of the Special Committee on Church Structure. The proposed

revision of church regulations on the Research Institute on the Mission of

the Church is intended to clarify both the original purpose for establishing

the institute and its present role. The moderator explained that part 1 of

Article 41 of the Bylaws and Articles 3 and 8 of the regulations on the

Research Institute on the Mission of the Church have not been adhered to

since the time of the Kyodan’s internal struggles. Thus, clarifying the role

of the Research Institute will result in the clarification of the

overlapping activities under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Mission,

which supports a proposal to eliminate the research institute.

Other reasons cited for the proposal include the fact that while the

research institute rethinks such things as basic mission strategies and

basic social action policies, it is the committees under the Commission on

Mission that actually do the work, so the committees under the Commission on

Mission could not do overall basic strategy planning. Therefore, the

proposal is to abolish the Commission on Mission and have its committees on

evangelism, education, and society become separate commissions. Various

bylaw changes will be necessary. There were 17 votes in favor of adopting

the changes in the regulations on the research institute. Likewise, the same

number approved presenting to the General Assembly this fall the proposed

changes in the bylaws that would abolish the Commission on Mission.

The regulations on the Research Institute on the Mission of the Church can

be revised by the Executive Council, but abolishment of the Commission on

Mission involves changes in the bylaws, which requires the consensus of the

Kyodan General Assembly. Council members opposed to the proposal stated that

bylaw changes should be dealt with first, before revision of regulations on

the research institute. On the other hand, the following quotes were

representative of those in support of the proposal: “The research institute

has not operated according to the purposes of its inception.”? “Because

evangelism was placed under the Commission on Mission, evangelism has

stagnated.”? “This is representative of the face of the Kyodan to come.”

Other proposals that were approved included sending aid to churches that

suffered typhoon damage, resolutions relating to the celebration of the

150th anniversary of Protestant Christianity in Japan, and revision of

Article 4 of the ministerial qualifications. (Tr. TB)

Katsuyama Ken’ichiro

?Executive Secretary

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