【October 2016 No.389】UMC Quadrennial Conference Held in Oregon

The Quadrennial Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) was held in Portland, Oregon from May 10 to 20. I, Akiyama Toru, attended this conference along with the Reverend Takada Teruki, a Commission on Ecumenical Ministries’ staff member. General Secretary Nagasaki Tetsuo was scheduled to attend, but due to his illness and subsequent hospitalization, I attended as his substitute.

 

The UMC is not limited to the United States. With congregations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe, it has a membership of approximately 12,300,00. The UMC’s Quadrennial Conference is held once every four years, bringing together over 850 delegates from around the world. Added to these delegates were over 4,000 people who came to be a part of the conference in various ways. Held at what is said to be the largest convention center in the American Northwest, people around the world were able to follow these eleven days of proceedings via television and the Internet.

 

Although the Kyodan is not a member of the UMC, we are invited as a guest to attend each quadrennial conference because of our deep connection. Especially this time, we attended in order to express our gratitude for the support we received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) following the 2011 East Japan Disaster. The activities of the Sendai and Ishinomaki Emmaus centers, the Kohitsuji (Little Lambs) Camp, radiation measurements, and other activities are continuing in large part because of the more than 100 million yen received from UMCOR.

 

Because I was only able to attend the conference from the opening worship on May 10 through May 12, I am not able to share a detailed account of the conference. However, tables with five or six delegates per table were spread across the conference floor, from which you could barely see the other side because of the size of the conference hall. Seated on the stage in front were the session conveners and parliamentarians, worship leaders, choirs, and over 50 bishops who oversaw the proceedings of the conference.

 

A bishop heads each church board, and I was able to view closely the episcopal structure and authority within the UMC. Of particular interest to me was the way voting and voices from the floor were handled. No hands were raised. Rather, each delegate had an instrument similar to a smart phone. These were used to vote as well as to notify the chair of a delegate’s desire to speak. When the instrument was used for voting, a large electronic bulletin board at the front registered the voting results immediately. When wanting to address the floor, a delegate would use the instrument to indicate to the chair whether his/her statement was in favor or in opposition to the topic being discussed, before being recognized. Following recognition from the chair, statements were limited to three minutes. After one minute passed, the electronic billboard clearly indicated how much time the speaker had remaining. In this way, the long speeches that often plague our Kyodan General Conference were avoided.

 

The theme of this conference was “Therefore Go,” taken from Matt. 28:19-20. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

Addressing this theme, the president of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., energized the conference with a powerful sermon that I consider the highlight of the conference. Amid several standing ovations, Bishop Brown spoke powerfully of our mission as Christians and the possibilities we have as we take the gospel and confront the darkness of the present age. (Tr. JS)

— Akiyama Toru, chair Commission on Ecumenical Ministries

秋 山 徹(教団・世界宣教委員長) 参加報告

合同メソジスト教会(United Methodist Church(UMC))総会が5月10日~20日アメリカ・オレゴン州ポートランドで開かれ、世界宣教委員会のスタッフ高田輝樹牧師と共に参加した。長崎哲 夫総幹事が参加する予定であったが病気入院のため急遽筆者が代理参加することになった。

UMCはアメリカだけでなくアジアやアフリカ、さらにヨーロッパの諸国のメソジスト教会系の集ま りで信徒1230万人を擁する。総会は4年ごとに開かれ、その代議員は850人を超える。さらにこの会議を支えたり傍聴 したりする者4,000人を加え、アメリカ北西部最大といわれるコンヴェンションセンターで11日間の大会議が行われ、その様子はTVやインターネットを通して全世界に伝えられた。

教団はUMCのメンバーではないが、関係の深い団体として毎回総会にはゲストとして招かれている。とり わけ、今回は東日本大震災に際してUnited Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)を通して大きな援助をいただいており、感謝の思いを伝えるための参加であった。仙台エマオ や石巻エマオのセンターの活動やこひつじキャンプ、仙台いずみによる放射能値測定検査などの働きが続けられているのは、ひとえにUMCORからの1億円を超える援助によるところが大きいからである。

私は10日(火)の開会礼拝から~12日(木)までの部分参加であったから会議の内容を詳しく伝えることはできないが、本会場では議員席はフロアに 並んだテーブルごとに5~6人が囲むかたちで、これが端のほうはかすんで見えるほど広く広がっている。前のステージには会議を進行させる ための議長団や礼拝の司式者、聖歌隊のほか、50人ほどの司教団が陣取って会議の進行を見守っている。

全体会の下にある各コミッションのリーダ-としても司教(ビショップ)の存在は大きくメソ ジスト教会が司教制度の教会であることの実際の姿をみることができる。興味深かったのは、全体会の賛否の議決や意見を述べる時には、挙手 によるのではなく、それぞれの手元にあるスマホのような機器を使ってボタンを押せばただちに前面の電光掲示板に賛否の議決が表される仕組 み、また、意見を述べるときも、賛成、反対のどちらの意見であるかかがボタンを通して議長席に知らされると、議長が指名をする。発言時間 は3分に限られ、1分を過ぎると前面の電光掲示板にあと何分と大きく表示される。我教団の総会でよく見られるような冗長な演説に 悩まされることを防いでいるわけである。

今回の総会のテーマは“Therefore Go”(だから、行きなさい)で、主イエスの大宣教命令「だから、あなたがたは行って、すべての民をわたしの弟子に しなさい。彼らに父と子と聖霊の名によってバプテスマを授け、なたがたに命じておいたことをすべて守るように教えなさい。わたしは世の終 わりまで、いつもあなたがたと共にいる」(マタイによる福音書28:19,20)から取られている。この主題に基づく司教団の議長ワーナー・ブラウンJr.司教の力強い説教はこの会議の圧巻で、何度もスタンディング・オベイションを受けながら現代の 暗黒に福音を携えて立ち向かってゆくキリスト者の使命と可能性に目覚めさせる力強いものであった。