A Message From General Secretary: Comments as a Kyodan Observer at District Assemblies

The various district assemblies around the nation were successfully held with near perfect attendance of the delegates. But from the standpoint of the relations between the Kyodan and the districts, both Kyoto District and Okinawa District again declined to accept an official observer from the Kyodan. However, Kyoto District did promise to invite Kyodan Moderator to its some next executive committee meeting, so that is a hopeful sign.

 

Regarding the presence of a Kyodan observer at district assemblies, this is a practice that has continued from when the Kyodan was first organized. In Article 6 of the Kyodan’s Constitution, it is stated that the Kyodan will establish districts for the purpose of facilitating its ecclesiastical functions and operations. Thus, on these occasions when local church pastors and laypersons gather together, receiving an official observer from the Kyodan headquarters to extend greetings from the denomination and to deepen relations with the districts and their churches is a way of sharing in the grace of God. The Kyodan representative prays for the Lord’s blessings and peace upon the district assembly and is there to share together in the mission issues the districts and their churches are facing. It was with those expectations in mind that I attended the various district assemblies this year, and I was warmly received by all. The following are my thoughts concerning things that stood out to me.

 

First of all, I felt that while all the opening worship services, the ordination and licensing ceremonies, and the memorial services for deceased clergy and laity were very dignified, they were also full of joy and thanksgiving. For those clergy and lay members who are forced into lonely battles in their daily lives among the discord of the societies they live in, this is a time of comfort and encouragement for their faith.

 

The strength of the districts was shown in the worship service messages, hymns, and prayers that were overflowing with the joy of a common faith in the one Lord.  Likewise, I was really thankful to see that the ordination and licensing ceremonies were all done according to the Kyodan Shikibun (Book of Common Worship), which is certainly a hopeful sign for the future health of the church. I was curious, however, why some districts dropped the “Amen” from hymns while others did not.

 

When it came to financial reports and other legal matters, I sensed a firm hand in all the districts. Likewise, I could sense a real effort to support smaller churches with a variety of financial aid programs so that the “life blood” could flow into the capillaries, as it were. This, of course, is related to the “Kyodan Subsidies for District Activities” system that is being reviewed now, so there were those who voiced their opinion that this should be handled very carefully.

 

In his words of greetings, Kyodan Moderator Ishibashi Hideo emphasized anew the unity of the Christian church as well as the integral unity of baptism and the receiving of Holy Communion, and he encouraged all to live their lives in such a way that as many people as possible will be led to be baptized and receive Holy Communion. There were numerous questions posed concerning this at many of the district assemblies, but as these were only questions of clarification and no voices of opposition were raised, I felt that this movement towards a unity in the faith was making good progress in all of the districts I visited.

 

Following the dedication ceremonies for the new Task Force on Evangelism Promotion on Easter Sunday at the end of March, it began holding study seminars on the operation and educational policies of church-run childcare facilities, and the office is endeavoring to do this in all around the country. In conjunction with these efforts, seminars are being held for those seeking ordination through the “C course” (for those not holding a seminary degree), and youth delegates are being sent to the “Youth Mission 2013” exchanges with Germany and the U.S., and with the cooperation of the districts, ways are being sought to bear evangelistic fruit.

 

One issue that has come to the fore in all of this is the difficulty many churches face due to fewer children in the pipeline, so there is a trend toward a decreased demand for childcare along with the trend of aging and declining congregations. The initial proposals of the Research Institute on the Mission of the Church, which are based on the “Basic Principles of Mission” under discussion during the previous general assembly period (2010-2012), are still under review in the districts. While there are criticisms of these proposals, it cannot be denied that the church leaders who were pushing for reformation in the churches and cooperative regional evangelism 40 years ago also became radicalized to the point of violence.

 

Times have changed as present-day evangelism policies have developed, and although some districts still have vestiges of the former ways, the new understanding is that the church’s social action consists of service and witness in the Lord, and nothing more.  Together with this, the way districts are administered is quickly evolving as they take over the responsibility for the various Kyodan centers in accordance with the directives for reorganization of the Kyodan. Several notable proposals have surfaced in some districts, such as the establishment of a personnel committee.

 

Lastly, I want to express both my surprise and gratitude to the three districts of the Tohoku region that were affected by the March 2011 disaster because they are continuing to contribute their share of the support for ministerial pensions and the support of retired pastors. (Tr. TB)

 

—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary

 

総幹事室より

本年各地で開催された教区総会は、何れも皆出席に近い総会議員 の参加のもと盛会の内に終わった。

ただ、教団と教区との関係からして、京都教区並びに沖縄教区 総会は、今回も教団問安使を受け入れず、代わりに京都教区は後の何れかの常置委員会に教団議長を招くとの約束がなされ、将来に希望は ある。

教団問安使について、「本教団はその教会的機能および教務を 遂行するために教区を置く」(教憲第6条)とあることから、教団が派遣する問安使は教区総会に各教会教師・信徒が集ま るこの機会をもって安否を問うため総会に出席し、教団として教区と教会との間柄を深め、互に恵みを分かち合おうと願って今日までの歩 みを進めて来た。

それ故に、問安使はまず教区総会のために、主の恵みと平和を 祈り、教区と教会の負う宣教的課題を共有するのである。

今回、わたしもそうした願いを込めて各教区総会に出席させて 戴き、皆に温かく迎えられた。その中で、幾つかのことが心に残ったので以下それらを書き記す。

先ず、各総会とも開会礼拝に次ぐ按手礼・准允式・逝去教師と 信徒の追悼礼拝等実に厳かに、しかも喜びと感謝に溢れて献げられたことである。

これらの儀式は、日頃より地域社会の只中で様々な軋轢の中、 孤独な闘いを強いられている教師にも信徒にとっても大きく深い信仰の励ましと慰めに導かれるものとなった。

実に教区の力が、主に対する一つの信仰による喜びに満ちた礼 拝説教と賛美と祈りにおいて示されたのである。

更に、按手礼及び准允式も教団式文に沿って行われたことは、 今後の教団にとって間違い無く健やかな歩みが約束されたものと確信し感謝した。ただ、教区によっては賛美歌に「アーメン」を付けない のは何か理由があるのか。

財務報告を含むいわゆる法定議案に関しては、何処の教区にも 手堅いものを感じた。更に、小教会に対する援助や互助の手が様々な配慮と工夫において血液の毛細管まで至るような支え合いと配慮が随 所に見えた。

これらには、現在見直されようとしている「教区活動連帯金」 制度の扱いとの関連もあり、関係者の注意深い扱いを期待する声があったことも事実である。

今回、教団議長挨拶の冒頭、教団はキリストと教会の一体性、 洗礼と聖餐の一体性及びその秩序の確立が改めて強調され、一人でも多くの人が洗礼に導かれて聖餐に陪り、喜びに満ちた人生を送って戴 くことが求められた。

この件を巡って、多くの総会で質疑があったが、それ以上の異 議は出ず、問安した教区では、大きく信仰の一致を目指す意気込みがあることが感じとられた。

3月 末のイースターに発足式を終え、直ちに認定子ども園運営・教育・保育の検討会を持った伝道推進室は、これを各地域に広げて実施しよう との計画がある。

平行して、いわゆるCコース受験者のための研修会開催と 「ユースミッション2013」日独及び日米青年交流会に対して多数の青年派遣等をもって伝道の実質的な成果 を教区の協力のもとであげようとしていることを伝えた。

一方、これらによって浮上していることは、子ども園に幼児が 集まらぬことや諸教会に於ける高齢信徒減少の波は止まず、諸教会の深刻な困窮の声を聞いた。

多くの教会に未だその動きが届いていないが、第37回教団総会期以来検討されている宣教基礎理論を巡る宣教研究所の第一次草案は、 現在各教区に諮問されている。

これに対する批判もあるが40年前、教会の体質改善・伝道圏伝道から発した教会の社会化路線は、行き着く所暴力主義に陥ったことも総括されずにはおかない だろう。

それらが時を経て、今日の伝道路線が生み出されており、教区 によっては尚かつての名残を見せる姿があったが、「教会の一切の社会運動は主にある奉仕と証しの業以外何ものでもないのではないか」 と訴えた。

また、教団センターの責任が教区の扱いとなり、教区のセンター管理体制が急ピッチで進んでいることや、教区によっては「人 事」委員会の開設等注目すべき幾つかの案件があった。

この他、注目すべきは北日本3教区等3・11の 被災にも拘わらず、年金局並びに隠退教師を支える運動への協力が担当者によって果敢になされていることに驚きと共に感謝の思いを厚く したことである。