【February 2019 No.401】Statement on Ceremonies related to Imperial Abdication and Enthronement

by Ishibashi Hideo, Kyodan Moderator

 During the period of April 30 and May 1, 2019, the present emperor is scheduled to abdicate his throne and the new emperor is to be enthroned. We wish to express our opposition to the various ceremonies related to these events, particularly the daijosai ceremony [in which the new emperor makes an offering of rice to the Shinto gods]. Following are the reasons for our position.


1. As the various religious ceremonies surrounding the abdication and ascension to the throne are supposed to be religious ceremonies of a private nature conducted by the Imperial Household, having the national government hold the daijosai as a public event gives the impression that the emperor has a separate existence from that of ordinary citizens so leads back to the former deification of the emperor.


2. Having the national government participate in the religious ceremony called the daijosai is in clear violation of Japan’s Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom and the separation of religion from government.


3. No matter how public funds used for the daijosai are labeled, such expenditures of government funding are a violation of the separation of religion from government, as expressly stated in the Constitution.


As followers of Christ who live according to the teaching of Scripture that no being is to be made into a god other than the true God, we express our unyielding opposition to the participation of the government in all religious ceremonies, and particularly the daijosai.(Tr. TB)


July 9, 2018



日本基督教団総会議長  石 橋  秀 雄







【February 2019 No.401】Living with Illness II

My Disease Makes Life Seem More Precious

by Hoshino Takuya, member Sugamo Tokiwa Church, Tokyo District

I am a 47-year-old man, and since May 2014, I have been commuting to a hospital three times a week for dialysis treatment due to chronic renal failure caused by an, as yet, undetermined condition. I realized that up to now, I have never really prayed to God to cure me, to heal my disease.

In dialysis treatment, blood is filtrated by machine through two tubes inserted into blood vessels in the arm, and each session takes about four hours. During that time, I lie down in bed and watch movies on DVDs, or I sleep. In four years, the number of movies I have watched has grown to be at least 800. There are even times when I am scolded by medical personnel for snoring loudly! I commute to a hospital that is a five-minute walk from my home, so in my everyday life, I haven’t been particularly inconvenienced by having to undergo dialysis. Dialysis treatment involves withdrawing and reinserting blood. Before beginning dialysis I thought it would be scary and painful, but actually, it is relaxing.

Perhaps the reason I haven’t been praying for healing is that in my case, the disease and dialysis treatment itself is not so difficult physically. But I was afraid of living as a dialysis patient and as a person with a handicap in a society of healthy people. I thought, “I do not want to live for so long, just for the purpose of having a long life, if I have to live connected to a bunch of tubes.” I cannot deny that this thought was a reflection of the way I looked at the existence of sick people and people with handicaps who are living now. In order to avoid being seen that way myself, I denied the fact that I was a patient with an incurable disease. I pretended to be a healthy person even though I was a person with a handicap. As much as my physical strength allowed, I began going to a gym, swimming in the pool, and running at night. With a saxophone in hand, I also began going to a bar to participate in jazz sessions. Basically, I wanted to be considered a member of the society of healthy people and thought I could achieve that by distancing myself from the typical lifestyle of a sick person.

I thought, “I do not want to live, if I have to live connected to a bunch of tubes.” And I did not even doubt my assumption that such thinking protects my own dignity. At present there are still just two tubes, but it seems that “life connected to a bunch of tubes” is becoming more of a reality than before. However, I certainly do not think that I want to quit living. Rather, I think that I want to live even more. It is ironic, because I thought that getting close to death meant that as the possibilities in one’s life decrease, one’s obsession with living would also decrease.

Even though I cannot even see what kind of work I should do, and though the reality is that I have this disease, I still think that I want to live. I think the reason I want to live is just because I do not understand well the task of a living person. Perhaps I want to live because the kind of work I thought I should do and the kind of work God is entrusting to me are different. I have discovered that though we only see reality as being “closed,” God announces that it is “open.” Let’s just say the reason is that God uses us as the world’s debris in a way that we cannot even imagine.

Though we know that life and death belong to God, we human beings have a dark desire to control one’s life and death, and other people, and to behave as the ruler of life and death. I think that is the reason for the following phenomenon: when our health is in a serious condition, we request to be notified of the fact, yet it is common for us to hesitate to inform our own close relatives when they are in such a situation.

Living is a process of discarding and giving up on various things but, of course, for a person with a disease, the rate of that process will be faster than that of other people. The number of tubes connected to me will not become fewer than at present; rather the number will increase more and more. Just as I thought four years ago when two tubes were connected to me, the more tubes there are, the more life becomes a precious thing to me. In spite of the way reality appears, we have the strength, the ability, and the will to go on living. I think this understanding itself is from the “Word which was in the beginning,” and it is this that supports me even when I have a twisted view of myself. (Tr. KT)

—From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), September 2018 issue




 私は、47歳の男性で、原疾患を不明とされる慢性腎不全(chronic renal failure)により2014年5月より透析dialysis治療のため、週に3度通院をしていますが、今日まで「病気を治してください、癒やしてください」と祈ったことがなかったことに気付きました。







【February 2019 No.401】60th Ou District Retreat Highlights History and Hope

by Hirasawa Noboru, pastor Morioka Matsuzono Church

It is with a grateful heart that I make this report on our annual Ou District Retreat from July 30 to Aug. 1. It was held at the Yumori Hotel Kaikan in Tsunagi hot spa area. The main speaker was Fujimoto Mitsuru, pastor of Immanuel General Mission Takatsu Church. The theme of the retreat was “A Church Living In Hope; Learning From History.” The lecture titles were “The Gospel Shared in the Course of Our Calling” and “Hope in God, Hope in Us.” The retreat began with a message by Muraoka Hiroshi, pastor of Hirosaki Church and chair of the Commission on Ou District’s Commission on Mission.

While introducing himself and sharing with us his relationship with the Kyodan, in his first lecture Fujimoto spoke about missionaries who were called to evangelism in Japan. He pointed out that our journey in mission begins when we encounter Jesus Christ and that mission itself is the work of Jesus Christ. Then he spoke about Paul: how he was chosen and how, in the midst of hardships, he continued in hope to follow Jesus and pass on the baton of mission and evangelism.

In his second lecture, Fujimoto challenged us by asking if we were not much like the early disciples who, when told to go to the other side of the lake, lost sight of Jesus while looking at the stormy sea. The church in Japan, which seems to be struggling in its evangelistic mission, is faced with what is called the “2030 Dilemma”: decreasing number of pastors, aging congregations, and fewer children. However, our mission is Christ’s mission, and he walks with us and shares in the hardships we face. Fujimoto continually stressed to us that our hope is in Christ, and his impassioned words energized and encouraged all of us.

For our optional tour, we visited four churches in Morioka, using a microbus and a minivan. Over 40 participants joined us, and we visited Yotsuya Church (Roman Catholic), Uchimaru Church (Kyodan), Morioka Anglican Church, and Morioka Orthodox Church in Japan. During our visits, we were able to hear about the traditions of each church and the challenges they are facing. The decline in membership and pastors was mentioned. We felt the seriousness of the problems, but we were grateful for the warm welcome we received at each church. The participants said that the tour was a good experience.

There were also three workshops. One dealt with cults and possible countermeasures; another dealt with the problems connected to the nuclear fuel cycle; and the third workshop dealt with sexual discrimination. These workshops were followed by a full group discussion and closing worship. I give thanks for God’s guidance and blessings throughout the retreat.

* * *

Ou District Children’s Retreat, A Welcoming Event

by Kato Naoki, pastor Kitakami Church

As children gathered in the tatami (rice-mat) room on the first day of the Ou District Retreat, you could see the mixture of expectation and tension in their facial expressions. Among the three staff members, the feeling was the same. The “Retreat for Children” began with three youngsters, varying in age from the last year of kindergarten to junior high school, who sat awkwardly at a table. However, after listening to Pastor Matsuura Yusuke of Shimonohashi Church speak about “Shalom” (peace), then working together to make attractive door plates, there were comfortable smiles on the faces of everyone.

On the second day we went outside, in spite of some concern about the heat. In front of us was a public square with a water fountain. It wasn’t long before the children were playing together in the water—at first up to their ankles, then up to their knees, and finally, getting their clothes wet. One of our staff, Sato Midori, member of Kitakami Church got into the water with the children. During the break afterward, everyone tried different challenges on the adventure playground next to the square.

On the third day, the children and staff used a variety of rubber stamps in various sizes and shapes to make colorful images on a large piece of paper as we recalled our experiences during the retreat. In between the stamps we attached origami and pictures that reminded us of what we had seen and shared during our three days together. We were able to create a work that brought smiles and reflected the joys we had experienced. The junior high student who had gotten sick was able to rejoin us, bringing our three days together to a very happy conclusion. I should add that some of the children younger than five, were in the nursery that shared the same room with us.

I give thanks to Jesus, to the churches, and to the families for sending their children to participate in our retreat. (Tr. JS)

From Ou Kyoku Tsushin (Ou District News) , No. 325 Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko



   盛岡松園教会 平澤 昇牧師


 宣教部長の村岡博史牧師(弘前教会)のメッセージで始まり、講演一では、藤本先生が自己紹介や日本基督教団との関係などにも触れ れ、日本伝道へと選ばれた宣教師について語られました。また、主イエスとの出会いからすべての歩みが始まることを通して、宣教は主イエスの働きであること。そして、パウロが選ばれ、パウロは試練の中にあっても希望をもって主イエスを見上げ、宣教に励み、宣教のバトンを繋いだことが語られました。







北上教会 加藤直樹



 三日目は、一緒に過ごした三日間を思い出しながら、全員で一つのものを作りました。 子どもたちやスタッフが、大きさや形も様々な、色とりどりの手のスタンプを(大きな紙に)押しました。スタンプの間には、この三日間で一緒に見たものの絵や折り紙がいっぱいに貼られ、笑顔になれる思い出が、ぎゅっとつまった作品を一緒に作ることができました。体調不良でダウンしていた中学生も合流でき、本当に嬉しい三日目となりました。


【February 2019 No.401】From the General Secretary’s Desk: The Life of Takami Toshihiro, Founder of Asian Rural Institute Rural Leaders Training Center

As we enter the new year of 2019, we hear many joyful reports from Kyodan churches of people who have been baptized at Christmas, joining together with those already experiencing resurrection life in Christ. At this time, when the aging of church members leads to an increasingly reduced ability to engage in evangelism and when Japanese society is increasingly apathetic toward or skeptical of religion, it is a great encouragement to hear these reports of new life in Christ from these churches. We pray that God will use these newly reborn lives as his instruments to be ambassadors of reconciliation in this world.

With this feeling in mind I think of Rev. Takami Toshihiro, who passed away in September 2018 at the age of 91, and the diligent work he did in training agricultural leaders from Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, South America, and elsewhere at Asian Rural Institute (ARI), which he founded. On Dec. 16, graduates and supporters from all over the world gathered together at ARI with people from around Japan who are connected to the institute to commemorate his life and thank God for raising up this servant to do his work.

Takami was born in Bujun, Manchuria (Japanese puppet state, now in China), and after World War II, was repatriated to Japan. Due to poverty, he ended up living and training at a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto while attending middle school. After graduation, he did manual labor in businesses, including working as a longshoreman and in a salt factory. Later, he had the opportunity to work as a cook in the home of a missionary family, and it was there that he encountered Christ. Thus, he had quite a varied life as a young person, culminating in his conversion and baptism as a Christian. As he dedicated his life to Christ, he felt the call into full-time ministry and was able to go to the United States to study, first at Doane University in Nebraska, then at the University of Connecticut, and finally at Yale Divinity School.

After returning to Japan, he found his calling was in rural evangelism and the nurturing of agricultural leaders, so he began teaching at the newly established Rural Evangelical Seminary. In 1959, he participated in the East Asian Christian Council meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where it was unanimously decided that the pressing need of the time was for the development of rural leaders to help rebuild war-ravaged Asian countries and that churches in Japan should help with this. In recognition of this, the Kyodan established the “Southeast Asian Course” at Rural Evangelical Seminary, with Takami taking a leading role. In 1973, the seminary moved to Nishi Nasuno in Tochigi Prefecture to establish an independent entity known as Asian Rural Institute. Takami laid its foundations as its first president and served as its spiritual leader until his retirement in 1993. Following retirement he continued to serve as honorary president, working to further develop ARI.

In the background of this decision by the church in Japan to take on this task, under Takami’s leadership, was the issue of war responsibility for what Japan had done under its military government in the first half of the 20th century, as it invaded the Asian countries of that time: China, Taiwan, Korea, Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands. This dragged all of these countries into World War II, resulting in the loss of many lives and the destruction of their economies. This goal of a world government under the Japanese emperor resulted in the usurping of these peoples’ freedom and sovereignty, and the church in Japan succumbed to the pressure of the state to participate in the pacification of these lands under Japan’s harsh occupation. Thus, the church in Japan felt compelled to repent of its wartime actions and take responsibility through concrete actions of atonement, not withdrawing in fear of denunciation, but pursuing the gospel of reconciliation shown by Christ through his atonement on the cross for the forgiveness of all sin.

Every year, about 30 trainees from around the world come to ARI for a nine-month period of study, which includes Christians as well as rural leaders who are Buddhists and Muslims. Their purpose is not only to learn advanced Japanese agricultural techniques but also to learn traditional farming methods that have been developed in these countries in order to develop sustainable agriculture that maximizes the power of nature. Through the communal living of eating and studying together while working as a team to grow food and raise animals, these people from different backgrounds—with different languages, religions, and customs and often with strong personalities—overcome their initial hesitation and learn how to live together as they listen to and dialog with each other and work towards the common goal of maximizing sustainable agriculture. This process develops within them the spirit of servant leadership that they can take back to their own societies to become a force towards developing their own active communities. Already some 1,200 graduates have returned to countries around the world and testify to how their experiences at ARI have served them well.

Takami Toshihiro dedicated his life to developing a community based on love and peace, where each individual’s gifts were utilized to release the inherent power of the world God has created, as opposed to a society focused on wealth and power that is based on the love of power and things. In his faith and wisdom, we can see the life of one who tried to live as an ambassador of reconciliation faithful to the word of God. (Tr. TB)

—Akiyama Toru, general secretary









【December 2018 No.400】Christmas: A Time to Celebrate the Birth of our Savior

 by Chibana Sugako, Kyodan missionary

                                                                                                        Sakai Keishi Memorial Church

                                                                                                        Pirapo Free Methodist Church, Paraguay


Every year Christmas is celebrated around the world. Here in Paraguay, the Christmas vacation begins in mid-December. People who are working far from home use this time to return to their hometowns to celebrate Christmas and enjoy being with family. Once Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day, people light fireworks, and the greetings “Felicidades de navidad!” (Merry Christmas) can be heard.

Why is Christmas a time to celebrate? Is it because families are able to come together to see each other and celebrate their growth and safety? Of course, that is something to celebrate. However, the real reason for celebration is something else. The reason is that good news “which will bring great joy to all the people” (Luke 2:10b) was announced. That good news was the birth of our savior, the news that Jesus Christ has come from Heaven to dwell with us on earth. Therefore, at Christmas we remember this event and worship together. Christmas literally means “Christ’s Mass,” or “the worship of Christ.”

The events of that first Christmas are recorded in the Gospel of Luke. On a winter evening, angels appeared and, in an instant, a dark sky became as bright as noonday. The angels announced the joyful news of the birth of the savior. This news was first announced to poor shepherds. It seems that shepherds were looked down upon by the average Jew in those days, and generally avoided. They were poor, with no social standing. However, it was to these poor and powerless people that God first chose to share the good news of Christmas.

After the angels announced the birth of the savior to the shepherds, they told them, “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” As the surprised shepherds looked upward, a great army of angels gathered, singing “Glory to God in the highest heaven” in loud voices of praise.

So what do you think the shepherds did after they heard the chorus of angels? Did they doubt the angels, saying “There is no way that our savior will be born in the manger of a stable.” No they didn’t. They believed the angels and quickly took action. They hurried to the stable where they found Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus. With their own eyes they were able to see Christ.

After that, “The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2:20) In this way, the first Christmas was presented to us by poor shepherds who dwelt at the lowest level of society. After praising the baby Jesus with great joy, they returned to their homes. But they did not keep their joy to themselves, they shared their story of Jesus’ birth with everyone they met. In other words, they were evangelists. It’s a great story, isn’t it!

These shepherds did not yet know how salvation through this baby would work, but I believe that their experience had given them the conviction that this child would remember them and save them. Those of us living today know how Jesus saved us. Yes, we know that our salvation came through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Christ, through giving his life in our place on the cross, has atoned for our sins. And through his resurrection on the third day, our sins have been forgiven, and we have been given eternal life.

We are certain that Christ came to earth. And Christ has told us, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) Because the Lord is always beside us, there is no reason to fear death, nor is there a need for us to fear what the future holds for us. Rather, let us depend upon the Lord, and like the shepherds, let us praise Him as we continue our Christian journey. (Tr. JS)


ピラポ自由メソジスト 酒井兄姉記念教会




 毎年、世界各地でクリスマスが祝われます。ここパラグアイでは12月半ばからクリスマス休暇となります。出身地から遠くはなれて生活している人々は、この期間に帰省し、家族と一緒にクリスマスを祝い楽しく過ごします。クリスマスイブから日付が変わるころ、方々で花火が打ち上げられ「Felicidades de navidad!(クリスマスおめでとう)」の声も高らかに聞こえてきます。