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

【December 2022 No.411】Kyodan General Assembly Elects New Officers(2)


The 42nd Kyodan General Assembly was held at Hotel Metropolitan Tokyo Ikebukuro from Sept. 27 to 29, 2022. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the assembly was postponed for two years in succession, so it had been four years since the last assembly. The theme this year was “Acts of Love Stemming from Worship — Promoting Japanese Evangelism in the Midst of Trials.”

The most important issue on the agenda was the election of new church officers: moderator, vice-moderator, and secretary (now being referred to as the “presidium”), and the other members of the Kyodan Executive Council. The result is that Rev. Ishibashi Hideo, moderator for six general assembly periods (14 years), has passed the baton to Rev. Kumoshikari Toshimi (Akita Sakura Church). Rev. Fujimori Yuki (Fujimicho Church) has succeeded Rev. Kuze Sorachi (Sapporo Hokubu Church) as vice-moderator, and Rev. Kuroda Wakao (Kochi Church) has succeeded Rev. Kumoshikari Toshimi as secretary, thus completing the Kyodan's administrative board. Also selected were the 27 (14 clergy and 13 lay) members of the executive council.

Discussions have continued over the last few years on possible changes in the Kyodan structure based on such factors as membership statistics, strategies of evangelism, and finance projections. To allow local churches to focus more on evangelism, specific proposals for revision of the bylaws  addressed such matters as the number of delegates to general assembly and its organizational structure. While several related agenda items were taken up, none involved actual bylaw revisions. Reports were made on previous revisions and an action taken simply to “confirm the purposes and issues related to structural reform,” namely “evangelism promotion through reducing the financial burden of local churches and strengthening the unity of the Kyodan as a whole,” thus reflecting its present difficult situation. The issue of structural reform will continue into this new general assembly period.

Due to the two-year postponement, reports on the assembly budget and the various agencies (Board of Publications, Board of Pensions, and Buraku Liberation Center) as well as the Evangelism Fund budget, etc., all had to cover four years and then be approved. This took much more time than usual. Of particular interest was the Board of Publications' budget, due to the financial crisis it has faced in recent years; but for both the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years, it has been able to operate in the black. It was reported that the steering committee and project manager appointed by the Kyodan have been able to improve operational management and establish a way forward for the future.

Also addressed was a Board of Pensions” issue relating to retired pastors in interim pastoral positions who then are unable to receive their pension payments. Thus, revisions were sought and passed to change the Kyodan bylaws, the regulations of the Board of Pensions, and the discontinuance of the Gratuity Fund rule so that such retirees can receive at least part if not all of their pensions.

The average age of church members continues to rise, and raising up the next generation has been a problematic hurdle. So the continued decline of the Kyodan as a whole seems unavoidable despite the development of new outreach avenues and efforts by local churches to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic through internet broadcasting of services, etc.

Another great disappointment was the issue of Okinawa District declining to send delegates to the assembly, a practice that began some 20 years ago. So, the subtitle of the assembly theme, “Promoting Japanese Evangelism in the Midst of Trials,” is something we are living through. This general assembly was thus one in which the theme, “Acts of Love Stemming from Worship,” is the essence of the task before the Church, the body of Christ, as we strive to become one body with Christ as the head. (Tr. TB)

                          —Akiyama Toru, general secretary








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