General Assembly Votes to Mend Relationship with Tokyo Union Theological Seminary

The 38th Kyodan General Assembly was held over a three-day period, beginning Oct. 23, at the Metropolitan Hotel in the Ikebukuro section ofTokyo. Altogether, 376 of the 400 allotted delegates attended. As has been the case since the 2004 General Assembly, the Okinawa District delegation did not send any representatives.

 

The Assembly began with the opening worship service, where Takahashi Kazuto, pastor of Sendai Higashi Rokubancho Church, gave a sermon entitled “A Restoration that Transforms Tears into Comfort,” based on Ezekiel 37:1-10 and Hebrews 5:7-10. The following is the essence of that message:

 

From among the scenes of death and destruction visited upon us by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, we have also seen the essence of the world. From the sad ruins of the valley of bones, the Lord asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel had no answer as he stood there among the bones, but it was from that situation that God commanded him to speak.

 

We too have had to stand speechless in the face of destruction, and yet we must still speak to that situation. It is in such times that the Spirit blows in like a wind. The Lord Jesus himself had to learn obedience among tears and prayers, so he now stands among us as our High Priest, interceding for us in our wailing and tears of pain. Those being interceded for can know that the Lord is particularly close to them amidst their tears. People-power is certainly a prerequisite for recovery, but a recovery through the Spirit—one that is “a restoration that transforms tears into comfort”—is one that comes from the Lord.

Moderator Ishibashi Hideo’s report focused on the following four points, among others:

 

1) Promoting evangelistic cooperation among the churches through the establishment of the Evangelism Promotion Office during the 37th General Assembly period, with the intended goal of transforming the Kyodan from a “Kyodan that is warming up to evangelism” to a “Kyodan that is on fire for evangelism”;

2) The importance of “realizing the Holy Catholic Church” through unity based in the Kyodan Confession of Faith;

3) The proposal of a revised basic theory of mission; and

4) A reworking of the budget based on the original projection of overseas donations for relief and reconstruction of the disaster areas of the 2011 quake that has reached a plateau of 228 million yen, which is only 19% of the goal of 1.2 billion yen.

 

Following General Secretary Naito Tomeyuki’s report, the election of the new moderator was held. Secretary Kumoshikari Toshimi presented the proposal from the Executive Council to bypass the preliminary election system, but delegate Mukai Mareo proposed that a preliminary election be held, with the five candidates with the most votes moving on to the main election, which would be held after each of them had made a presentation of their thinking. The motion was narrowly defeated, with the final result that Ishibashi Hideo was reelected. The same process happened during the election of the vice-moderator, as a similar motion to hold a preliminary election was likewise narrowly defeated, and Ito Mizuo, a pastor ofOizumiBethelChurchinTokyowas elected. As for the secretary, in accordance with established tradition, the Assembly approved the candidate nominated by the vice-moderator, so Kumoshikari Toshimi was reelected. The election of the general secretary resulted in Nagasaki Tetsuo replacing Naito Tomeyuki, and among the members of the Executive Council, 3 of the 14 clergy members and 5 of the 13 lay members were likewise newly elected.

 

The Executive Council had also made a proposal concerning the restoration of relations with Tokyo Theological Seminary, the problem of which stemmed from the 1970 and 1972 General Assembly’s resolutions regarding the seminary’s decision to call in the police during the student demonstrations at that time. The Assembly had passed resolutions criticizing the seminary’s decision as being improper, and that has been the background of the inability to restore full relations all these years. A vote was taken and the resolution passed. Moderator Ishibashi stated, “As a result of the passage of this resolution, I plan to visit Tokyo Theological Seminary to submit a formal apology and seek restoration of relations.”

 

Much of the final day of the Assembly involved discussion of the issue of “unity and order” in regards to baptism and participation in communion, based on the Kyodan Confession of Faith and the Kyodan Constitution and Bylaws. From the standpoint of those opposing the move to enforce the rule of not allowing participation in Holy Communion until after baptism, a representative opinion was that “the type of order expressed in the proposal is not clearly defined in the Kyodan Constitution and Bylaws.” From the support side, however, the position taken was that “the Kyodan Constitution and Bylaws have been the basis for unity as a merged church coming out of a variety of denominational backgrounds.

 

Likewise, the expression of the Church delineated in the Kyodan Constitution and Bylaws is one in which a person becomes a part of the Body of Christ through baptism and then is nurtured by the life of Christ through the receiving of communion. Thus, there is a need to clarify this issue of church order. Due to the lack of time, the motion was referred to the Executive Council for further deliberation.

 

There were also a series of reports concerning the Great East Japan Earthquake. Ohara Muneo, moderator of Ou District, reported that while the emergency measures taken concerning those churches damaged or destroyed in the disaster have been finished, the road to complete recovery is going to be a long one, as there are other problems, such as a lack of unity within the churches as to their recovery plans. Takahashi Kazuto, moderator of Tohoku District, reported that over 70% of the churches in that district had suffered at least some damage in the quake, and that working together with the Kyodan as a whole, relief activities were continuing through two agencies that had been established: the Tohoku District Survivor Relief Center “Emmaus” and the Tohoku District Committee on Church Relief and Restoration. Next, Kanto District gave a presentation, using photographs of the damage that churches had experienced and describing the progress being made towards recovery. Following additional reports on two social welfare institutions, Kataoka Terumi, representing theAizuRadiationInformationCenter, reported on its activities, including the “rest and recreation camps” being sponsored together with the Kyodan. She emphasized that such work would be necessary well into the future. Finally, Moderator Ishibashi closed with an appeal for all to pause on the 11th day of each month to remember in prayer those affected by the great disaster that unfolded, beginning at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011.

 

—Makoto Kato, executive secretary

Based on an article in Shinpo

(The Kyodan Times), No.4761

第38教団総会報告

 

加藤 誠(教団幹事)

 第38回教団総会は10月23日(火)から3日間、東京・池袋のホテルメトロポリタンで、議員400名中376名の出席を得て開催された。沖縄教区は第34回総会以来連続して議員を選出しなかった。

開会礼拝では高橋和人牧師(仙台東6番丁教会)が、エゼキエル書37章1~10節、 ヘブライ人への手紙5章7~10節より「涙から慰めへの復興」と題して説教した。 東日本大震災が残した情景、その死と滅びの力の中に私たちは世界の本質を見る。悲しみの残骸の中で、神はエゼキエルに「これらの骨は生き 返ることが出来るか」と問われる。エゼキエルは、答えなく立ち尽くすしかなかったが、神はそこから語り始めることを命じられる。震災の 後、何度も立ち尽くしながら語らなければならない状況に置かれた。しかし、そこに霊が風のように吹き込んで来る。主イエスは涙と祈りの中 で従順を学ばれた。我々の激しい涙と叫びがあるところに主イエスが、大祭司として立ちとりなして下さる。とりなしを受けている人は、涙の 中にこそ主が近いと知ることが出来る。復興には人の力が必要であるが、霊による復興、涙から慰めへの復興は主のとりなしによって起こる。 以上がその内容である。

石橋秀雄議長は「①37総会期に伝道推進室を設置し、『伝道に熱くなる教 団』から『伝道に燃える教団』へと諸教会への伝道協力を推進する②教団信仰告白による一致のもとの『聖なる公同の教会の確立③改定宣教基 礎理論案の提案④東日本大震災募金の海外献金が目標12億 円に対し現在2億2,800万円に止まっていることによる見直し作業」 などの議長報告を行った。総幹事報告の後に議長選挙が行われた。雲然俊美書記が選挙方法について予備選挙を行わないとの常議員会提案を議 場に諮ったところ、向井議員が「予備投票を行い、上位5名 の所信表明後の本投票」の修正案を出し動議として成立したが、投票の結果少数否決となった。選挙の結果石橋秀雄議長が再選された。続いて 行われた副議長においても「予備投票を行う」修正案が出されたが少数否決となり、選挙の結果、伊藤瑞男議員が当選した。書記は慣例通り、 正副議長の推薦により雲然俊美議員が承認され、雲然書記は再選された。総幹事選任の件では、内藤留幸総幹事に代わって長崎哲夫議員が新総 幹事として承認された。常議員選挙では教職14名 中3名、信徒13名中5名が入れ替わった。

常議員会提案による「教団と東京神学大学の関係を回復する件」では、第17,18教団総会において学校法人東京神学大学に対し、別法人である教団が特に東京神学大学 機動隊導入に関して適正さを欠いた決議を行ったがゆえに、今日に至るまで両者の関係が正常化していないことが背景にある。採決の結果可決 され、石橋議長は「本案の可決を受けて、東京神学大学を訪問、お詫びし関係回復を申し入れたい」と述べた。

総会最終日には「『信仰告白』と『教憲・教規』における洗礼と聖餐〈一体性 と秩序〉とを確認する件」が上程された。提案理由として「信仰告白と教憲教規の諸規定は、洗礼を受けた後に与ることを前提とし、受洗者を 生み出すという教会の使命にために」このことの確認が必要であるとした。反対意見として「信仰告白と教憲教規には提案のような秩序は明文 化されていない」という見解が紹介された。賛成意見として「信仰告白と教憲教規は、様々な教派的背景を持つ合同教会の一致の拠り所であ る。信仰告白、教憲教規が示す教会のかたちは、キリストの体に洗礼によってつなげられ、キリストの命に聖餐によって養われることにある。 故にこの秩序を明確にする必要がある」との意見が述べられた。時間の都合で本案は常議員会付託が承認された。

今回の総会では東日本大震災に関する報告会が持たれた。奥羽教区の邑原宗男 教区議長は、被災教会は応急処置は済んだが、具体的な復興ビジョンをめぐり、教会内での意見の相違などの問題があり、完全復興までの道は 遠いと報告した。東北教区の高橋和人議長は教区内の70パー セント以上の教会が何らかの被害を受けた。震災支援として東北教区被災者支援センター「エマオ」、東北教区東日本大震災教会救援復興委員 会の二つの委員会が設置され、教団との連携の中で救援活動が行われていると報告した。関東教区は具体的な教会の被害が映像で紹介され、復 興の現状を確認した。社会福祉法人2施設の報 告の後、会津放射能情報センターの報告を片岡輝美代表が行った。センターが教団と連携して行っている保養キャンプの成果を報告し、長期に 亘る対応が必要であると述べた。最後に石橋議長が毎月の11日 に大震災が起きた2011年3月11日午後2時46分を覚える祈りの時の充実を訴えた。