【December 2020 No.408】EMS Convenes First Virtual Biennial Assembly

The Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS), an international mission organization centered in Germany, held its biennial general meeting Nov. 12-14 via Zoom. In addition to representatives from each of the provinces in Germany as well as from Switzerland, South Africa, Ghana, Jordan, Israel, India, Indonesia, and Korea, there were denominational representatives from Japan, the Basel Mission (Switzerland), DOAM (Deutsche Ostasienmission), etc. for a total of about 70 participants. The Kyodan was represented by General Secretary Akiyama Toru, who participated from his home.

The conference began with the adoption of a Code of Conduct, particularly as it relates to sexual harassment, and two ombudspersons were selected to receive any related complaints. Establishing a process to deal with harassment issues is a concern at international conferences and is practiced by the World Council of Churches and other similar bodies. The Kyodan could use this as a basis for its own deliberations on how to handle such issues.

EMS conferences include not only business discussions but also a keynote speech, times of prayer, and Bible-based sharing, so I always learn something. The keynote address, entitled “For freedom Christ has set us free,” was given by Rev. Dr. Sathianathan Clarke, professor of Theology, Culture and Mission at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC., who hails from India. The Bible Sharing time, conducted in small groups, focused on Luke 4:18-19 and how each of us interpret that passage. Likewise, participants shared about their own situations, particularly in relation to the Corona Virus pandemic and how their churches are dealing with the consequences. It was my first experience of such a small group discussion within a large conference via Zoom.

The main theme of the conference was also the Corona Virus pandemic that has spread throughout the world and how the work of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity can be maintained and strengthened in this situation. Conducting the conference itself via zoom, as well as holding the EMS Mission Council meeting via video conferencing, was one step taken, so a motion was passed to revise the bylaws to allow for the decisions of this zoom conference to be considered official.

The financial report for the 2018-2019 period was given; and the proposed budget for 2021-2022, proposals for personnel placement, along with membership fees for each participant were also discussed. The EMS budget has been mostly borne by the German churches, and since each of the German provincial churches is dependent on the national church tax that is being impacted by the Corona Virus pandemic, it appears that there will be a significant decrease in income from 2020 onward. How to deal with this prospect in regards to personnel and operational expenses is of great concern, so structural reforms and a reordering of relationships with other mission organizations will be necessary. As the extent of income reduction cannot yet be predicted, it was decided to delegate authority for revamping the budget to the EMS Mission Council and its finance committee.

In addition to these motions, the conference discussed the 5-year Activity Plan for EMS entitled “Free for the Future,” and approved the applications of “guest membership” status from the Church of North India and the Evangelical Church of West Sulawesi in Indonesia.

As an evangelical mission organization covering Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and East Asia, EMS is facing numerous missional issues, including ecological sustainability in the face of climate change, the economic and social gaps being exacerbated by the Corona Virus pandemic, ethnic- and religious-motivated violence, the polarization of international relationships, and how to achieve economic and social fairness and stability. While facing all of these, the main focus must be on how to aid each other as we all engage in support ministries to those who are marginalized, those who are in poverty, and those whose basic human rights have been suppressed. The Kyodan has been a part of this effort from the foundation of the EMS in 1971, as we work under the motto of the organization, “We can do nothing on our own, as we are simply a part of the great ‘Missio Dei’ of God….We must continue to build up the networking and cooperation of those who are part of the EMS.” (Tr.TB)

by Akiyama Toru, general secretary



・今回は、会の始めに特にセクシャルハラスメント防止のためのCode of Conduct(行動規範)が制定され、それに基づいてこの会議のためにオンブス・パーソンが2名決められた。会議中のハラスメントの訴えの受付機関である。国際会議において懸念されるセクシャルハラスメントに関する規範であるが、これはWCCなどでも用いられているもので、教団としても、基本的な考えや施行方法について参考にしたい。

・EMSの会合では期間中ただビジネス・トークだけで終始すするのではなく、基調講演や祈り、Bible Sharing の時間が設けられており、いつも学ばされる。今回の基調講演はシャチアナタン・クラーク博士(ワシントンD.C.にあるウェスレー神学大学の宣教学教授・インド人)による講演「自由を得させるためにキリストはわたしたちを解放された」、また、小グループでのBible Sharingでは、ルカによる福音書4:18−19を読みそれぞれの受け取ったことを分かち合う時間、また参加者それぞれのおかれた状況、特にコロナ禍の状況を各国の教会がどのように受け止め、過ごしているかについての分かち合いの時が設けられた。Zoomを使って小グループの話し合いが出来ることを始めて経験。


・このほか、EMSの向こう5年間の活動計画”Free for the Future”について、などの審議や、新規加入申し込みのあった北インド教会と、西スラウェシ福音教会(インドネシア・The Evangelical Church of West Sulawesi(GKSB))の加入を承認した。

EMSはヨーロッパ、アフリカ、中近東、東南アジア、東アジアをカバーする国際的な福音宣教団体として、現代世界から求められる宣教課題を、気候変動に対応するエコロジカルな持続性の確保、コロナ・パンデミックによって生じる経済的・社会的格差の広がり、民族、宗教間の紛争、国際関係の分極化に抗して経済的・社会的な公平性、安定性の確保、これらの課題に直面しながら、特に、権力を持たない傷つけられやすい人々、貧しい人々、周辺に押しやられている人々の権利を守るための援助活動を連帯しつつ取り組むことを主眼としており、日本基督教団も1971年EMS創立以来その一員に加えられている。「我々だけで何かが出来るのではない。大きな『神の宣教』(”Missio Dei”)の働きの一部を担うに過ぎない。・・・EMSは今与えられているネットワークと協力の働きを更に進展させ根付かせなければならない」とのモットーの下での働きである。

【December 2020 No.408】Recipients of United Church of Canada Donation Named

At the beginning of 2020, I was told by Global Mission Personnel Secretary Patti Talbot of the United Church of Canada that the church had disposed of a missionary property it owned in Japan and planned to donate funds to the Kyodan and other related bodies. Secretary Talbot intended to visit Japan in March to discuss the details, but her trip was canceled due to the corona virus. In June, Kyodan hosted a meeting via Zoom to share how, as much as possible, the various donated amounts could be used in ways of UCC’s intentions. We already understood these intentions to some degree since the United Church of Canada has historically maintained a supportive relationship, through prayer, of the Buraku Liberation Center and the Center for Minority Issues and Mission; but fortunately, through the meeting this time, the desires to be furthered by this donation became more clear.

Receiving advice from UCC missionary Robert Witmer, a plan was developed to designate use of the donated funds in four directions.

1. The Kyodan’s mission program. (1) Aid for the plan to create an Internet delivery studio adjoining the Kyodan Business Office, (2) Aid to continue the joint Canada Young Adult Camp, which could not be carried out this year due to the corona virus.

2. Humanitarian support and race activities. (1) Aid for the Ainu Peoples Resource Center’s child-learning center and the international interchange of indigenous peoples. (2) Aid for Okinawa Christian University’s program for sending a student overseas.

3. The East Asia peace-building program. (1) Aid for the Japan-Korea Joint Prayer Meeting, the Taiwan Ecumenical Forum, etc. (2) Aid for the project of sending and receiving students to other parts of Asia.

4. Rural evangelism. (1) Aid to the rural evangelism councils of the various Kyodan districts. (2) Aid for the Theological Seminary for Rural Mission.

Over a three-year period, the donated funds will amount to 76 million yen. (Tr. RT)

by Kato Makoto, executive secretary


ロバート・ウィットマー(Robert Witmer)宣教師のアドバイスをいただきつつ、4つの方向性を持つ献金使用プログラムが出来上がった。第一は教団の宣教プログラム支援である。事務局に隣接する形でインターネット配信用のスタジオを作る予定である。今年はコロナ禍で実行できなかったが、カナダ青年キャンプも継続の予定である。第二は人道支援と人権活動支援である。アイヌ民族情報センターには子供学習支援と原住民の国際交流を支援する。沖縄キリスト教学院大学の学生海外派遣のプログラムを支援します。第三は東アジアの平和構築プログラム支援です。日韓共同祈祷会や台湾エキュメニカルフォーラム等を支援し、アジアへの青年の派遣と受入れを企画し支援します。第四は農村宣教支援です。各教区が主催している農村伝道協議会や農村伝道神学校を支援します。3年間で献金総額は7,600万円になります。加藤 誠

【December 2020 No.408】Executive Council Reports Show Virus Pandemic’s Effects

The 9th Executive Council meeting of the 41st General Assembly Period (2019-2020) was held on Oct. 26, with the core leadership (moderator, vice-moderator and secretary) meeting together with the executive secretaries and a few of the council members at the Kyodan office, while most of the other members attended online.

In his report, General Secretary Akiyama Toru reported that due to the Corona Virus pandemic, it was decided not to publish the 2021 Kyodan Yearbook and that the various reports concerning the 41st General Assembly Period would cover a two-year period, with the extended year being handled as an appendix. The Kyodan office will not be hiring any new personnel, and due to the financial situation, the bonuses provided for the executive secretaries were reduced. Likewise, he reported that a studio concept is being considered with which to produce YouTube and other such productions for youth evangelism.

In the report on the Committee for Reviewing the System of Clergy Development, chairperson Sugahara Tsutomu presented a three-page document entitled “A Discourse on Clergy in the Kyodan,” which explains the debate about the status of clergy. In response to various questions, Sugahara stated that this document “isn’t something that deals with all of the issues surrounding the status of clergy but is for the purpose of coming to an agreement on the most important parts related to it in the Confession of Faith and the Church Constitution.”

Agenda items related to finances included a second revision of the 2020 fiscal year budget, as well as the 2021 budget. Uda Makoto, chairperson of the Commission on Finance, reported that most of the meetings were conducted online and that cuts to the summer bonuses of the general secretary and executive secretaries, along with the 10% reduction in assessments from the districts had been actualized. Since the districts were unable to utilize the money in the evangelism fund for 2020 for that purpose, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the remainder of those funds are expected to be returned.

The discussion that took up the most time during the Executive Council meeting concerned the Kyodan Board of Publications. Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi reported that in order to improve the operations and finances of the Board of Publications, a “Board of Publications Operations Improvement Team” was established and an outside consultant by the name of Kato Masasumi, who is an expert in the field, has been added to that team. The approximately 1.3-million-yen expense for the consultant will be paid from the Executive Council budget. (Tr. TB)  —Kato Makoto, executive secretary


加藤 誠




【December 2020 No.408】Christmas Greetings from Paraguay

“Feliz Navidad.” Brothers and sisters in the Lord, I bring you midsummer Christmas greetings from Paraguay! Paraguay is in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are exactly the opposite of Japan so Christmas is in the height of summer, and Easter is in the Fall. We made the advent wreath while sweating in the heat of summer last November. I keenly sense that the seasons of the Bible are those of the Northern Hemisphere.

The year 2020 was one of ordeals. The believers from the Colonia Yguazu and Colonia Fram immigrant areas came together for Christmas worship in 2019, welcoming 2020 with joy. From January through February, I returned to Japan temporarily, holding first-year work-report meetings in churches here and there, with many people hearing about the mission work in Paraguay. I returned, enveloped in great joy, and reported on the work in Japan to the people in Pirapo Church, and we had just reopened worship services when all meetings, including missionary work, were prohibited from the middle of March to control the spread of the corona virus.

As a general rule, people were not permitted to go out, and I heard that anyone doing so unnecessarily and non-essentially would be given a large fine, so I went out for nothing other than food shopping. Online live services were out of question as there were some who didn’t have smartphones. I could not take anything to the believers or go to meet them, and we were completely unable to engage in church activities. I was confined only to the church, and two weeks after worship services were suspended, I began to confirm the current condition to believers on Saturday by phone and via the SNS (Social Networking Service) and also announce the weekly Bible passage. I have continued to communicate this way every week to the believers living far away from Pilas even after worship services reconvened.

From the middle of June, regulations for going out were revised; mission work involving under 50 persons became possible; and worship services reconvened. That was the one-year anniversary of the church building’s dedication, and we sensed God’s deep compassion. During the worship service, the windows and doors were left open and we used fans, but at times during the winter months of July and August, we were cold. The restrictions about elderly people going out still continues, and to prevent infection within families, those who have an elderly in the family couldn’t come to church neither. On the first Lord’s Day in November, the few who had been unable to attend services came to their first worship service in a year and were able to share Communion together.

It is said that the increase in the rate of infection has slowed down somewhat, but the situation does not allow for predictions. From Oct. 20, the International Airport was reopened, and regular airlines have begun to fly; but returning to Japan is a concern because many infected people may be in the area where passengers change planes.

The corona virus infection still continues, and during the summer there is also a rise in the danger of Dengue Fever. I am confined within the church, and gazing up at the sky everyday, I have come to realize deep within my heart that there is only One upon Whom I can depend.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18: 2) “I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’ (Psalm 121:1-2)

Christmas teaches me to depend only on the Lord. I am praying for a great blessing for all of you. (Tr. RT)

by Ehara Yukiko, Kyodan missionary

Pirapo city, Paraguay

主に在る兄弟姉妹の皆様   ¡Feliz Nividad! 盛夏のパラグアイから、クリスマスのご挨拶を申し上げます。パラグアイは南半球にありますので、季節が日本と逆になり、クリスマスは夏の盛り、イースターは秋になります。昨年は11月に汗を流しながらアドベントクランツを作りました。聖書の季節が北半球のものであることをしみじみと感じます。








【April 2020 No.407】Executive Council Focuses on Structural and Financial Issues

The sixth Executive Council meeting of the present 41st General Assembly Period was held Feb. 3-4 at the Kyodan headquarters, with 28 of the 30 members in attendance. Executive Secretary Akiyama Toru reported that the Kyodan will cooperate with the operations of the Multi-Faith Center of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Chaplaincy as the chair of the Japan Confederation of Christian Churches.


The 2018 Disaster Relief Response Committee detailed its relief efforts following the northern Osaka earthquake, the western Japan floods, the Iburi Tobu Earthquake in Hokkaido, and on the damage caused by Typhoons 21 and 24. By the end of January 2020, a total 39,210,000 yen was received to support those efforts. Next, Sugahara Tsutomu, chair of the Council for Reviewing the System of Clergy Development, reported on his visit to Kyushu District to discuss the issue of two levels of ordination for clergy, with final consideration to be made by the Council.

Purpose and Plan for Kyodan Restructuring

Then, Kuze Sorachi, chairperson of the Subcommittee on Structural Reform in the Kyodan, gave an overview of the purpose of structural reform, clarifying the efforts to address the looming financial crisis in the Kyodan and laying out a road-map for how to reduce Kyodan expenditures and local church apportionments so as to help in the maintenance and growth of local churches. Specifically, the expenses related to general assemblies would be curtailed by reducing the number of delegates from the present 400 to 216 and changing the venue from a hotel to a church. This would reduce that expenditure from 22,400,000 yen to 6,800,000 yen. Likewise, Executive Council membership and activities would also be reduced, with Executive Council membership being reduced from 30 to 15, and Executive Committee membership being reduced from 10 to 5.

In the proposed Kyodan organizational structure, a Board of Evangelism and a Board of Church Affairs would be formed. The Board of Evangelism would oversee related activities, establishing short-term committees as needed and coordinating voluntary organizations while reducing standing committee and meeting expenses. The Board of Church Affairs would oversee the Department of General Affairs, the Department of Finance and the Department of Clergy Affairs, and the newly named Department of External Affairs (which would deal with world mission relations and ecumenical ties both overseas and in Japan, along with interactions with other religious bodies).   The Chairperson of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, however, did express an opposing opinion about the new name, “Department of External Affairs.”

Board of Publications’ Financial Concerns

Much of the deliberations on the second day were taken up with reports relating to the Board of Publications. In his report, Board of Directors Chair Yamakita Nobuhisa described how the Board of Publications has been dealing with the red ink experienced since 2014, mostly due to personnel costs. Ii Hikari, representing the head of the Board, reported on efforts to resolve the approximately 13 million yen of royalties that still must be paid out and to reduce the 9-million-yen cost of storing publications.

Kyodan Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi also touched on the written opinion submitted by the Auditing Committee to  Moderator Ishibashi  concerning the finances of the Board of Publications. This document urges the Kyodan to take decisive action to rectify the financial crisis of the Board of Publications, as its available funds in the bank are less than the money owed to the bank. It was decided that the directors of the Board of Publications would meet together with the Executive Council and the Kyodan Board of Directors to consider how to stabilize the finances and operations of the Board of Publications. (Tr. TB)

—Kato Makoto, executive secretary




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