50 Years of Kyodan Data: Analysis and Proposals

by Suzuki Isao, member
Kyodan Executive Council and
Mejiro Church, Kita Subdistrict, Tokyo District

The report “50 Years of Kyodan Data” is the result of an effort by the
Kyodan’s Commission on Finance to lay out the various trends to help the
Executive Council picture the future. It is hoped that this work will be
a catalyst for both clergy and laity to discuss the issues involved and
to think seriously about where the Kyodan is headed as they make their
own analysis and proposals. The following graphs shows data on Kyodan
finances, membership, baptisms, age distribution, church school
attendance, etc., in comparison with the data of other denominations

Graph 1. The Christian Population in Japan in Three Categories:
1) Total number of Protestants (including the Kyodan),
2) The number of Roman Catholics,
3) The number of Kyodan members

Membership (resident communicant members). These statistics show that in
1948, just three years after the end of World War II, the resident
communicant membership of the Kyodan and the membership of the Roman
Catholic Church were virtually the same, but in the 60 years since then,
the Roman Catholics now outnumber Kyodan members by about 5 to 1,
clearly showing the difference between the continued growth of the one
and the stagnation of the other.

【Table 1】 Kyodan membership in relation to the total population of Japan
Graph 2. Changes in total income of the 1,730 Kyodan churches during the
period 2000 to 2007. The total income during the year 2000 was 13.15
billion yen. Income peaked in 2002 at 13.25 billion, but by 2007 it had
dropped 4.3% to 12.58 billion, a loss of 570 million yen.
Graph 3. A comparison of membership and total income for the period 1990
– 2007, which shows the following points.
1) Surprisingly, for about ten years after the “bubble economy” burst,
income continued to rise. It seems that the Kyodan curve is about ten
years behind that of society as a whole. The peak in income in 2002 was
some nine years after the membership began dropping from the peak
reached in 1993.
2) Two other noteworthy points are:
a) The effects of the bubble economy bust finally appeared here in the
income decrease. This is exactly the same curve that the general economy
experienced, so it is perceivable that the decline in Kyodan income will
continue beyond these ten years.
b) In addition, since peaking in 1993, resident communicant membership
has been steadily declining, which is a clear danger signal. So, what is
the behind this decline in membership? One worrisome trend can be seen
in the decreasing number of baptisms.
Graph 4. This graph shows both the differences in membership and
baptisms in each district between 2000 and 2007. It is a serious
situation all across the country. The gray color indicates a change in
membership; the black color represents the degree of change in the
number of baptisms. The average decline in baptisms during that period
nationwide was 26.6%. The greater the decline in the number of baptisms,
the greater the impact will be on the decline in future membership.
Graph 5. This graph represents an estimated present-day age-range for
lay members, based on the decade in which they received baptism. The
first generation of post-war recipients of baptism, from 1948 to 1958,
totaled 103,442. Almost everyone still remaining among this group are
now over 70 years old. During the next decade, from 1959 to 1968, there
was a total of 60,185 baptisms, so persons in this group are now likely
in their 60s. So it can be surmised, just from these figures, that 63%
of the Kyodan’s membership are 60 years of age or older. This highly
skewed age distribution, together with the decline in new baptisms,
accounts for the decline in membership.
Graph 6. A graph comparing the annual figures for baptisms, resident
communicant members, inactive members, and deaths.
1) During the period from 1952 to 1963, there were numerous pioneer
evangelism programs, such as the Lacour Evangelism program, that were
heavily dependent on overseas financial support.
2) In the 20 years from 1948 to 1968, there were 163,527 baptisms. This
represents a total of 63% of post-war baptisms through 2007, so this
coincides with this period of evangelistic activity.
3) There were 11,386 baptisms in 1948, and the number peaked in 1952,
with 15,765. While there were subsequent ups and downs, by 1968 the
strength to rebound was basically spent, and by 1971 it was definitive.
The 40 years since then has been a period of sparse numbers of baptisms.
4) The “Kyodan Struggle” [internal conflict] began in 1969, but as this
graph shows, danger signals were already present the year before. During
the next ten years, due to the issues involved in the “Kyodan Struggle,”
there was an 11.3% drop in membership, with 12,025 people leaving the
church.
5) The 64,483 persons on the inactive membership roles cannot be
neglected. At the very least, there is a need to focus on pastoral care
and fellowship among the laity so that this figure does not rise any
further.
6) The decline in resident communicant membership since 1994 is
indicative of the fact that since then, the number of members’ deaths
has surpassed the number of new baptisms. During 2007, 2,586 members
passed on to their heavenly reward, while there were only 1,424
baptisms, for a net loss of 1,162 members to that factor alone.
Graph 7. Sunday School. For easy comparison, there are two vertical
scales: one for total population of children 14 and under and the other
for Sunday school attendance.
1) The 50-year decline in total population for persons aged 14 and under
was 40.57%, while during the same period the number of such children
attending Sunday school decreased by 84.05%, showing how serious the
decline has been.
2) One fact should not be overlooked: while the decline was fairly
gradual until 1979, when Sunday school attendance was still 74,229, it
has rapidly declined ever since. This was just a few years after the
loss of evangelistic emphasis and shows that the most severe effect of
the “Kyodan Struggle” has been on the number of children attending
church school.

3) In spite of the fact that Japan is experiencing a very
low birth rate, it is not as though there are no children at all. Only 1
in almost a 1,000 children is being reached by Kyodan churches.

So how are we to view these past 40 years? Whether or not we turn a
corner and put an end to this period of evangelistic stagnation is the
issue we now face. Other denominations have maintained their
evangelistic outreach during this same period and have continued to
grow. So, what is it that interferes with evangelism in our Kyodan
churches? I pray that we will have the courage to come together in
prayer and follow the path God leads us to.
_________
This article is excerpted from “The Kyodan as Viewed through Graphs,” a
report compiled by the Kyodan’s Commission on Finance of which the
author was a former member. (Tr. TB)

150 Years of Evangelism in Japan: "Planting the Word of God for 150 Years"

With the coming of 2009, Protestant Christianity has been preached in
Japan for 150 years. The commemorative events planned for this milestone
were outlined in the article Commemorative Events for the 150th Year of
Evangelism in Japan on page 4 of KNL’s December 2008 issue (#350).

When Protestant evangelism began 150 years ago (1859), Christianity was
still prohibited in Japan by the Edo Shogunate. However, with a strong
love for the souls of the Japanese, the missionaries felt no fear of
persecution and came to plant the word of God in Japan. Through the
prayers and dedication of these missionaries and those yet to come, the
gospel was spread throughout the country as churches, Christian schools,
Christian hospitals, and Christian welfare agencies were founded. The
results were clear: education brought greater status and roles for
women, and higher ideals were brought to society at large. We give
heartfelt thanks for the work of these missionaries across the years.

Of course, we must not forget that part of the background for those
accomplishments was the work of the Roman Catholic Church in Japan
following Francisco Xavier’s visit in 1549, as well as the work of the
Anglican Church in Okinawa.

Certainly there were extreme difficulties at many points in this
history, as well as the sacrifice of many. Today’s reality is that
material prosperity and spiritual disinterest have encumbered evangelism
since the late 20th century. Even within the Christian community, we see
less interaction among Christian organizations and a weakened unity
among denominations. The fact that we are not advancing our evangelistic
efforts is cause for individual Christians and the church at large to
repent.

At this time of commemorating “150 Years of Evangelism in Japan,” we
give God thanks for his grace through Christ and pray that we may come
together in prayer, understanding one another and deepening our
fellowship together for the continued evangelism of Japan. May we give
of ourselves, our talents, and our resources as we strive to be tools
for this task. This is the commitment to which we are being called.

In 1909, when the first 50 years of Protestant evangelism were
celebrated, the Church of Christ in Japan took leadership in planning a
revival at the Tokyo YMCA in Kanda on March 13~14 for the celebration.
Following this, revivals and retreats were held at local churches
throughout Tokyo. The Methodist Church observed a “Revival Month,” the
Congregational Church observed a half year of “Extension Revivals,” and
other special forms of evangelism took place. Then, a joint
commemorative symposium was held at the Tokyo YMCA, Oct. 5~10. During
this time there was a special service of thanksgiving, as well as
symposium topics on Christian education, Christian literature, and
Christian influence as well as other opportunities for study.

With the approach of the 100th Anniversary of Protestant Evangelism in
Japan, plans for commemorative evangelistic events were approved at the
8th General Assembly of Kyodan in 1954. The goals were to double the
overall membership of the Kyodan and to move more deeply into the life
of the general public. The slogan accompanying these goals was “Go
forward with Christ.” These events continued through 1958.

As we enter this 150th Year of Protestant Evangelism in Japan, we feel
that active participation in the following events is a positive response
to our Lord’s invitation.

MAIN SCHEDULED EVENTS (All in 2009)
June 24 (Wednesday)
Commemorative Worship Service for the Founding of the Kyodan
Location: Fujimicho Church, Tokyo

July 8 (Wednesday), July 9 (Thursday)
Commemorative Convention for 150 Years of Protestant Evangelism in Japan
Location: Pacifico Yokohama

November 22 (Sunday)
Kyodan Laity Convention
Location: Tokyo Yamate Church

November 23 (Monday, a national holiday)
Kyodan Celebration: 150 Years of Protestant Evangelism in Japan
Location: Aoyama Gakuin, Tokyo

In preparation for these commemorative events, the Kyodan has set a
fund-raising goal of 5 million yen (about US$50,000). Churches, groups,
and individuals are being asked to support this effort to commemorate
150 Years of Evangelism in Japan. (Tr. JS)

–Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary

The General Secretary's Diary

Among the many guests from around the world who attended the 36th Kyodan
General Assembly in October 2008 were several guests from Northeast
Asia. I especially appreciated the presence of two of them. One is the
Reverend Dr. Lee Won-Jae, general secretary of the Korean Methodist
Church. I first met him last June when I visited Korea. The major
purpose of my June visit was to reinstate the considerably long-halted
relationship of the Kyodan and the KMC. When I had an interview with the
chairman of the KMC’s Council of Bishops, General Secretary Lee was
present. During our friendly conversation, I asked him to attend the
upcoming Kyodan General Assembly. He graciously accepted my invitation
and kept his promise. I am sincerely grateful to him.
The other person whose presence I greatly appreciated is the Reverend
Asing Aman, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. I met him
for the first time two years ago when the joint conference of the PCT
and the Kyodan was held in Takao-City, Taiwan. I took the occasion to
request Moderator Asing Aman to attend the 36th Kyodan General Assembly.
He also responded favorably to my invitation and attended the meeting.

I have long been advocating the importance of fellowship with churches
in Northeastern Asian countries that have the same cultural legacy as
Japan, which is based on the Chinese writing system. Mission cooperation
among Christians who share these common historical roots is as important
as coworking with churches in North America and European countries.

Renewed friendship with these two guests is indeed my great joy. (Tr. FK)

─Naito Tomeyuki
Kyodan General Secretary

Asia Gakuin (Asian Rural Institute)

by Ban Hyung Wook
Korean Methodist Church missionary

Established in 1973 in Nasu-san-roku in Tochigi Prefecture, Asian Rural
Institute is a school founded on the love of Jesus Christ to promote the
progress and prosperity of the rural peoples of Asia. It was established
with the goal of promoting just and peaceful societies through the
training of local leaders who themselves hold these goals.

This year marks the 36th anniversary of the founding of ARI. During the
eight months from April to December, invited participants from Africa,
Asia, and at times the Pacific Island nations, South America, and others
of the world’s developing nations, come for leadership training. These
leaders are pastors, priests, officials of NGOs, farm organization
leaders, women’s group leaders, teachers, and any who are rural
grass-roots leaders working to improve the lives of rural people.

I myself am a graduate of ARI, class of 1983. I am a Korean Methodist
Church pastor and, since September 2004, I have been working as a
missionary staff member of ARI. I love ARI from the bottom of my heart.
Here I find great joy in working for God’s purposes as God’s vessel.
Since being sent to ARI, I have continually been filled with a burning
sense of my high calling. Here I can meet with young students who gather
from all over Japan and, while working together or eating together in
the Koinonia dining hall, I can share my thoughts and feelings with
these students. As the staff person responsible for group life, I can
assist ARI students when they complete their training and return to
their home areas as rural leaders. My heart swells with joy and thanks
to God as each ARI student achieves transformation into a good leader.
This becomes the motivating power for my work as a missionary.

Sometimes I receive telephone calls or E-mail from young people who have
at some time visited ARI. Sometimes these are reports of someone
beginning to read the Bible or beginning to attend Sunday worship
services, or receiving baptism. This is one such E-mail. “Dear Pastor
Ban, my life at ARI and the community there are very precious to me. For
me and my friend, the summer spent at ARI, where we experienced the
power of God, had deep importance for us. Through our experiences at ARI
our friendship has deepened. Can you believe that she decided by herself
to begin attending church services? Pastor Ban, you and your wife Chinhe
have been excellent Christian models for her and for me too.”
My wife Chinhe is fulfilling her calling from God by working as a
volunteer at ARI. One thing she does is to bake birthday cakes for
everyone in the ARI community. “This is the first time in my life that
someone has baked such a wonderful cake and celebrated my birthday,”
said one joyful person. When I see scenes like this, I too am overjoyed.

Even now the training of rural leaders from all over the world is
continuing. Knowing this, why is ARI’s name still the same? Why not
change the name to “Asia-Africa Rural Institute” or Asia-Africa-Pacific
Rural Institute? That is a question that sometimes arises, but there is
a reason for the name as it stands. The reason is that the founding of
ARI was an act of repentance before God for the sins committed against
the people of Asia during World War II. Because of the need to confess,
apologize, and repent for the brutal acts committed against the people
of Asia, the name “Asian Rural Institute” must remain.

Please pray for Asian Rural Institute, its students, its graduates, and
ARI’s calling to labor for those suffering in poverty? (Tr. GM)

Shinpo( The Kyodan Times)

Note:
Asian Rural Institute was awarded the 2008 Welfare Award by the Asahi
Shinbun newspaper company. Asahi gives this prize each year to the
organization it chooses to honor for its exemplary services to society
and its welfare. Begun in 1947 as the Social Welfare Award, this prize
was split into two separate awards from 1975. It is a great honor for
ARI to receive one of them.

2008 Kyodan Newsletter Index

CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Catholic-Protestant Fellowship
Addresses Educational Issues……………………348/4 June
First Christian Education Seminar
Held in Kochi………………………………………….348/3 June
JOCS Articles Feature Overseas Workers………346/3 Feb.
Kyodan Women’s Federation Hosts
Japan-Germany “Youth Mission 2008………349/6 Oct.
Morioka Holds Joint Church School
Apple-picking………………………………………….347/6 Apr.
Nine-day PCT-Kyodan “Youth Mission
2008″ Held in Japan…………………………………349/6 Oct.

CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN
Catholic-Protestant Fellowship
Addresses Educational Issues…………………..348/4 June
Christian Composer Leaves Legacy of
“Tomi-songs”………………………………………….350/5 Dec.
Christian Events Marking the Year of
Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”………………….350/6 Dec.
Christmas in Japan……………………………………….350/1 Dec.
Churches Damaged by Chuetsu
Earthquake Celebrate Reconstruction……….348/2 June
Church’s Monthly Birthday Party
Celebrates God’s Gift of Life……………………348/3 June
Coffee Shop Evangelism Enhances
Local Churches’ Ministries………………………350/7 Dec.
Commemorative Events for the 150th
Year of Evangelism in Japan…………………….350/4 Dec.
Day that Sado Became Iona…………………………347/4 Apr.
Desire to Teach Faith to Children
Inspires Japanese Hymnist……………………….349/8 Oct.

From Taiwan to Hokkaido:

A Missionary’s Story………………………………..346/2 Feb.
Izu Island Churches Experience
Support Amidst Natural Disasters……………..347/3 Apr.
Japanese Hymns Now Appearing
in English Hymnals………………………………….349/7 Oct.
Japanese Pastor in Ministry.
with Korean Congregation……………………….347/5 Apr.
Local Church Program Features Haiku,
Sign Language & Finger Braille Classes……348/7 June
Marina and a Thousand Picture Books…………..346/7 Feb.
Memorial Fund Aids Filipino Students………….346/4 Feb.
New Telephone System Enables
Worship Participation from Home…………….348/5 June

CONFERENCES, CONSULTATIONS, ASSEMBLIES
11th Kyodan-PCT Conference
Held in Taiwan………………………………………..346/1 Feb.
36th General Assembly Deliberates
Communion-related Issues……………………….350/2 Dec.
2007 Missional Planning Conference
Held in Tokyo………………………………………….348/1 June

First Christian Education Seminar
Held in Kochi………………………………………….348/3 June
Kyodan Women’s Federation Hosts
Japan-Germany “Youth Mission 2008″……..349/6 Oct.
Nine-day PCT-Kyodan “Youth Mission
2008″ Held in Japan…………………………………349/6 Oct.

ECUMENICAL AND INTERCHURCH RELATIONS
11th Kyodan-PCT Conference
Held in Taiwan…………………………………………346/1 Feb.
Catholic-Protestant Fellowship
Addresses Educational Issues……………………348/4 June
Christian Events Marking the Year of
Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”………………….350/6 Dec.
Details of the Visit to Retired Missionaries…….349/3 Oct.

From Taiwan to Hokkaido:

A Missionary’s Story………………………………..346/2 Feb.
Japan Representatives Visit
Retired Missionaries in the USA………………349/2 Oct.
Japanese Pastor in Ministry
with Korean Congregation……………………….347/5 Apr.
Kyodan Representatives to Visit
Retired Missionaries………………………………..347/2 Apr.
Kyodan Women’s Federation Hosts
Japan-Germany “Youth Mission 2008″…….349/6 Oct.
Memorial Fund Aids Filipino Students………….346/4 Feb.
Nine-day PCT-Kyodan “Youth Mission
2008″ Held in Japan…………………………………349/6 Oct.
Sign of Growing Relationship Between
Japanese and Korean Churches…………………349/1 Oct.

EVANGELISM & MISSION; HISTORY & CULTURE
2007 Missional Planning Conference
Held in Tokyo………………………………………….348/1 June
Catholic-Protestant Fellowship
Addresses Educational Issues……………………348/4 June
Christian Composer Leaves Legacy of
“Tomi-songs”………………………………………….350/5 Dec.
Christian Events Marking the Year of
Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”…………………350/6 Dec.
Christmas in Japan………………………………………350/1 Dec.
Churches Damaged by Chuetsu
Earthquake Celebrate Reconstruction……….348/2 June
Church’s Monthly Birthday Party
Celebrates God’s Gift of Life……………………348/3 June
Coffee Shop Evangelism Enhances
Local Churches’ Ministries……………………….350/7 Dec.
Commemorative Events for the 150th
Year of Evangelism in Japan…………………….350/4 Dec.
Day that Sado Became Iona…………………………347/4 Apr.
Desire to Teach Faith to Children
Inspires Japanese Hymnist……………………….349/8 Oct.
Japanese Hymns Now Appearing
in English Hymnals………………………………….349/7 Oct.

Japanese Pastor in Ministry
with Korean Congregation……………………….347/5 Apr.
JOCS Articles Feature Overseas Workers………346/3 Feb.
Kyodan Newsletter: Identifying Its
Purpose and Function……………………………….347/7 Apr.
Memorial Fund Aids Filipino Students…………..346/4 Feb.
Sign of Growing Relationship Between
Japanese and Korean Churches…………………349/1 Oct.

KYODAN
11th Kyodan-PCT Conference
Held in Taiwan…………………………………………346/1 Feb.
2007 Missional Planning Conference
Held in Tokyo………………………………………….348/1 June
Commemorative Events for the 150th
Year of Evangelism in Japan…………………….350/4 Dec.
First Christian Education Seminar
Held in Kochi………………………………………….348/3 June
General Secretary’s Diary……………………………..346/8 Feb.
General Secretary’s Diary……………………………..347/8 Apr.
General Secretary’s Diary……………………………..348/8 June
General Secretary’s Diary……………………………..350/8 Dec.
Kyodan Newsletter: Identifying Its
Purpose and Function……………………………….347/7 Apr.
Kyodan Representatives to Visit
Retired Missionaries…………………………………347/2 Apr.
Kyodan Women’s Federation Hosts
Japan-Germany “Youth Mission 2008″……..349/6 Oct.
Nine-day PCT-Kyodan “Youth Mission
2008″ Held in Japan…………………………………349/6 Oct.
Sign of Growing Relationship Between
Japanese and Korean Churches…………………349/1 Oct.

Kyodan: Executive Council & General Assembly
36th General Assembly Deliberates
Communion-related Issues……………………….350/2 Dec.
Executive Council Deliberates
Internal Church Issues………………………………347/1 Apr.
Executive Council Votes to Admonish
Pastor, Abolish Mission Commission………..349/2 Dec.

Kyodan: Districts & Subdistricts
Hokkai & Hyogo: Coffee Shop Evangelism
Enhances Local Churches’ Ministries……….350/7 Dec.
Kanto: Churches D
amaged by Chuetsu
Earth
quake Celebrate Reconstruction……….348/2 June
Kanto: Church’s Monthly Birthday Party
Celebrates God’s Gift of Life……………………348/3 June
Kanto: Day Sado Became Iona…………………….347/4 Apr.
Nishi Chugoku: Japanese Pastor in
Ministry with Korean Congregation………….347/5 Apr.
Ou: Morioka Holds Joint Church School
Apple-picking………………………………………….347/6 Apr.
Shikoku: First Christian Education Seminar
Held in Kochi………………………………………….348/3 June
Tokai: Local Church Program Features Haiku,
Sign Language & Finger Braille Classes…..348/7 June

Tokyo: Izu Island Churches Experience
Support Amidst Natural Disasters……………..347/3 Apr.
West Tokyo: West Tokyo District
Holds Church Council Seminar…………………347/6 Apr.

Kyodan: Mission Personnel & Events
Career Missionaries Retire……………………………348/7 June
Commemorative Events for the 150th
Year of Evangelism in Japan…………………….350/4 Dec.
Details of the Visit to Retired Missionaries…….349/3 Oct.

From Taiwan to Hokkaido:

A Missionary’s Story……………………………….346/2 Feb.
Japan Representatives Visit
Retired Missionaries in the USA………………349/2 Oct.
Kyodan Representatives to Visit
Retired Missionaries………………………………..347/2 Apr.
Reflection on Our Years in Japan………………….348/6 June

Kyodan: Other Featured People
Christian Composer Leaves Legacy of
“Tomi-songs”………………………………………….350/5 Dec.
Desire to Teach Faith to Children
Inspires Japanese Hymnist……………………….349/8 Oct.
Japanese Pastor in Ministry
with Korean Congregation……………………….347/5 Apr.
Marina and a Thousand Picture Books………….346/7 Feb.

SOCIAL AND SOCIOPOLITICAL CONCERNS
Catholic-Protestant Fellowship
Addresses Educational Issues…………………..348/4 June
Christian Events Marking the Year of
Japanese-Brazilian Exchange”………………….350/6 Dec.
JOCS Articles Feature Overseas Workers………346/3 Feb.
Memorial Fund Aids Filipino Students………….346/4 Feb.
Sign of Growing Relationship Between
Japanese and Korean Churches………………..349/1 Oct.