The 2007 Missional Planning Conference was held on March 10-11 at Fujimicho Church. The main topic was “Kyodan’s Evangelism and Cooperative Efforts in that Endeavor” and the subtitle was “150 Years Since the Beginning of Protestant Evangelism in Japan.” The 72 participants were able to delve deeply into the topic at hand and significant insight and learning were achieved as they fellowshipped together.
Takahashi Jun, chairperson of the Commission on Ecumenical Ministries, stated that “although the question has been raised as to whether it is even possible to have a missional planning conference without a plan, we all agreed that without the delegates coming together to deliberate, there would be no progress.” In his greeting the host said, “It is important to have representatives from all the districts gather together to reach a mutual understanding of the present circumstances unique to the various Kyodan districts and churches and to learn lessons from history as we plan for the future.” Korean Christian Church in Japan General Secretary Park Sookil expressed his prayer that a fruitful harvest would come out of this conference as he shared greetings filled with humor.
Three lecturers made presentations. In his presentation entitled “Reflecting on the History of the Kyodan,” General Secretary Naito Tomeyuki stated that the 150-year history of the Protestant Church in Japan can be divided into three 50-year periods. The first period focused on ecumenism. There was a great emphasis on church unity as opposed to the sectarianism and denominationalism that was prevalent in Europe and America. The second period was a time of militarism and war. It must be acknowledged that the church was unable to escape this influence while attempting to protect its confessional beliefs. At the same time, although political and military pressure cannot be denied, it was this conviction of the ideal of ecumenism that played an important role in the formation of the Kyodan.
In his discussion of the third period, Naito shared vivid recollections from his own experience of the Kyodan General Assembly and other events and examined them through the paradigm of the ecumenism of the church. Given his historical perspective and ecclesiology, Naito was critical of some of the events that have occurred since the 16th (1969) General Assembly. However, he concluded by referring to the hope that lies ahead.
While all three presenters dealt with very deep subjects, Yamaguchi Takayasu particularly did so in his lecture. Just as he promised, he condensed the contents of his book into one hour. The lecture was entitled “Evangelism from the Viewpoint of the (Kyodan’s) Confession of Faith and Constitution.” Organizationally independent from the government, the Kyodan is founded on its own constitution and confession because ecclesiology is the characteristic of a church and not of an association. Yamaguchi’s boldness was persuasive as he went against what is often considered to be common-sense understanding of the meaning of the Kyodan’s Constitution and its Confession of Faith.
Tomisato Church Pastor Uchida Hiroshi presented the third lecture, which was entitled “Cooperating in Evangelism.” From his background in church planting and cooperative mission, Uchida gave a very practical and well thought-out presentation. His first example was of how Shikoku District is working together cooperatively to do church planting. He emphasized how Shikoku District’s cooperative system has created the fellowship that exists between pastors and supporting churches. The second example was “church planting with the cooperation of a parent congregation.” The parenting church congregation organized a loose union to found a church located on the Hokuso train line. There are three reasons that were offered for why Chiba Hokusou Church was able to be established: responsible people, trust relationships, and the vision borne out of home gatherings.
Ou District Moderator Ohara Muneo, Tokai District Executive Council Member Nishinosono Michiko and Higashi Chugoku District Vice-moderator Miyakawa Tsunenobu gave their reports. All three seemed to be eagerly working at the task of finding concrete solutions. (Tr. AK)
─Takezawa Chiyoshi, chief editor
Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)