36th General Assembly Deliberates Communion-related Issues

The 36th Kyodan General Assembly was held Oct. 21-23, 2008 at the Metropolitan Hotel in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Under the theme of “The Kyodan: Unity and Solidarity as the Church Universal,” the agenda items uppermost in the minds of participants centered on the issue of “open communion,” in which non-baptized worshipers are allowed to partake of the communion elements, and on the related issue of the “recommendation of a minister to resign.” The debate was lively, to be sure, as several similar motions related to the issue were voted on. The results were rather confusing, as the motions concerning “withdrawal of the recommendation of a minister to resign” were narrowly defeated [all by hand votes], while the “motion to recognize the invalidity of the admonition (against Kitamura Jiro, the pastor of Momijizaka Church)” narrowly passed [by secret ballot]. The debate will continue into the new General Assembly Period.

Of the 400 delegates, 367 were present when the assembly convened. The ten delegates from Okinawa declined to attend, as they have done since the 34th General Assembly, but three appointed representatives, including Former District Moderator Chibana Masakatsu and the Former Vice-moderator Gushiken Atsushi, were in attendance.?

Kyodan Moderator Yamakita Nobuhisa said in the moderator’s report: “The banner behind me expresses the theme of our assembly, which is ‘The Kyodan, Unity and Solidarity as the Church Universal.’ It is my fervent desire that we would again return to our roots in the present reality in which we find ourselves, when the very core of our unity as a church is being shaken.” In his opening remarks, he referred to the matter of open communion as the most significant issue of the previous 35th General Assembly Period, pointing out the illegitimacy of the practice and saying that “it not only threatens the ecclesiastical structure of the Kyodan and brings disarray into the entire church but also results in damage to our ecumenical relationships.”

Concerning Moderator Yamakita’s report, numerous questions and criticisms surfaced, such as the ignoring of Okinawa in the 150th anniversary of evangelism in Japan, the dropping of the “reconsideration of the union” (of the Japan and Okinawa Kyodans in 1967) due to a lack of time, and references to what a “universal church” should be. Moderator Yamakita responded by saying:”With respect to Missionary Bettelheim [an Anglican doctor who arrived in Okinawa in 1846] and the 150th anniversary issue, this was already brought up in the 34th and 35th assemblies. We inquired of the Anglican Church about this, and they view his service there as part of Ryukyu history, saying that their church would also be observing the 150th anniversary in 2009.? I also understand that there are various opinions on the communion issue, but while it is permissible to have variety, this must still be within a united church that is part of the Church Universal.” This discussion went on for almost an hour, and then the report was accepted on a hand vote, with 213 of the 368 delegates who voted approving it.

General Secretary Naito Tomeyuki touched on structural reform in the general secretary’s report, saying: “Concerning the proposal to revise the number of delegates to the General Assembly, the responses from the various districts were evenly split between those in favor and those opposed, and so more work needs to be done on this. Thus, we will not bring it up for debate at this assembly.”

The most controversial topics of the assembly concerned the issue of how the rite of Holy Communion should be understood and the related issue of the admonition of a minister for practicing open communion. A motion was presented to “establish a format for sincere dialog in order to preserve trust among the churches of the Kyodan.” The General Assembly steering committee ruled that since this motion would be related to the election of officers, it should be dealt with first.

The author of the motion, Kobayashi Sadao, from the Tokai District, explained his rationale by saying: “The practice of open communion ignores the ideals expressed in the Kyodan’s Constitution and Bylaws, so it closes off the path to dialog. We need to recognize that ministers who observe this practice are not fit to be members of the Executive Council or church commissions.”

With respect to this issue, three delegates gave their opinions, which included statements of support, such as “The basis of trust between churches is the Kyodan’s Constitution and Bylaws,” and statements of opposition, such as “This restricts delegates voting rights.” When put to a vote, of the 363 votes counted, only 179 were in support, and so it was narrowly defeated.

As a result, the election process for selecting the next Kyodan moderator was greatly delayed, with the preliminary election not taking place until the evening of the first day. As there were 13 persons with the same number of votes for fifth place, the result was a total of 17 persons for the second round of voting–far more than usual, so the second round of voting was delayed until the next day. The final result was that Kyodan Moderator Yamakita Nobuhisa, pastor of Hijirigaoka Church, Southwest Subdistrict, Tokyo District garnered 193 votes to be reelected to his fourth term.

Moderator Yamakita expressed his ambitions for his new term, saying, “While I wonder about taking on a fourth consecutive term, given the circumstances we face, I accept the challenge you place before me and promise to do my best to fulfill my duties.”?

The new vice moderator will be the Sasaki Michio, pastor of Shizuoka Church, Tokai District, who will be serving his first term. In response to his election, he stated, “This is a big responsibility, but with your understanding and support, I pledge myself to support the moderator in his duties.”

Concerning the former vice moderator, Kobayashi Makoto, who served in that capacity for three terms, Moderator Yamakita explained that Kobayashi was scheduled to become the chairperson of the “Doshuren” [Japanese abbreviation for "The Association of Religious Faiths Dealing with the Problem of 'Dowa'" (a euphemism for Buraku discrimination)"] and expressed his appreciation for his past work.

After consultation, the moderator and vice moderator nominated Suzuki Nobuharu, pastor of Otsuka-heian Church in Kanagawa District, as secretary, and he was approved for his fourth term. ?

The general secretary for the previous biennium, Takemae Noboru, had to resign due to poor health, so his replacement, Naito Tomeyuki, was formally approved by the Assembly. Then, the recommendation of the Executive Council that he be elected for a full, four-year term was also approved. Likewise, the director of the Board of Publications for the previous biennium, Akiyama Toru, had resigned and was replaced mid-term by Arisawa Tsugutoshi. After this was formally approved, a new four-year term for Arisawa was also adopted.?

Another topic that became an issue of debate concerned the method of electing the members of the Executive Council. The previous system of voting was to cast ballots for only three persons, but the Executive Council at its fifth meeting of the 35th General Assembly period had passed a resolution to increase the number to ten people, so that proposal was put to a vote. Mukai Mareo from Osaka, however, made a motion to modify the proposal so that delegates could vote for only seven persons, or half of the available spots. His reasoning was that if the Executive Council’s recommendation was adopted, it would mean that a group that had only a slight majority could garner as much as 74% of the total membership of the Executive Council, thus creating a dominate majority. He said that Osaka District has maintained its diversity by keeping the selection process to casting ballots for only half of the available positions. He also proposed that voting be done by secret ballot, and since more than one-fifth of the delegates seconded the motion, it was adopted. His motion to limit the ballots to seven was likewise approved. The voting for Executive Council members then took place on the morning of the third day, with the 14 clergy and 13 lay persons being elected according to the new process.

Due to the lack of time to get through the entire agenda, eight motions were not even dealt with, and were thus abandoned. These included the “motion to cancel the observances of the 150th anniversary of evangelism in Japan,” “the motion to establish a forum for discussion on the sacrament of communion,” and “the motion to make a declaration of opposition to the reorganization of the U.S. military in Japan and a call for the withdrawal of military bases.” This situation was recognized by the body, and the assembly was adjourned.

Note: open communion (the practice of opening communion up to? anyone who desires to receive it irrespective of whether they have been baptized yet or not). (Tr. TB)

Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary

From Kyodan Shinpo (The Kyodan Times)

Christmas in Japan by Tim Boyle, missionary Buraku Liberation Center, Osaka

Rudyard Kipling’s famous words, “East is East and West is West and never the ‘twain shall meet,” may have a certain ring of truth to them, but in many ways the “twain” have met, with both Japanese and North American cultures importing various traditions and even fads from each other. The flow has been mostly from North America to Japan since Japan opened up to the outside world some 150 years ago, but in recent years, there has been a considerable flow in the other direction, as is witnessed by the popularity of pokemon and other such phenomena.

Christmas, however, will be the focus of this article. My first Christmas in Japan was in 1971, and I have found both the familiar and the novel in the ways Christmas is celebrated in Japan.The Japanese people are known for their love of festivals–especially those that can be easily adapted for commercial purposes. Christmas is not, however, the only holiday that has been so exploited, but it certainly tops the list. As a point of comparison, importing Valentine’s Day was a sure-fire way to increase chocolate sales, and the Japanese went one beyond that, creating “White Day” a month later on March 14 for people to return chocolate or other goodies to those they had received? gifts of chocolate from on Valentine’s Day.

The Easter Bunny, however, is something that (perhaps fortunately) has not yet made much of an impact. Even within the church, Easter celebrations are proportionately much less emphasized than in North American churches, in large part due to the inconvenience of its date changing from year to year and, more importantly, because it comes at the busiest time of the year in Japan, with both the fiscal and school years ending on March 31 and beginning anew on April 1.

The relatively recent import of another North American holiday has now been given an unusual twist in connection with Christmas. Halloween is depicted in the Japanese media as a “Christian Festival” (a bit of a misunderstanding, to say the least), and this year, I witnessed a marvelous bit of syncretism, seeing my first “Halloween Tree.” It was exactly like a Christmas tree, except the ornaments were a variety of Halloween images, such as orange jack-o-lanterns, white ghosts, skeletons, and black witches on broomsticks. It was quite attractive, even if a bit jarring, and who knows, maybe that will soon become a new reverse import into the U.S. ?

Christmas also begins early in Japan, as there is no tradition of waiting until late November, after an equivalent of the “Thanksgiving Day turkey,” to begin putting up Christmas decorations. Icons of Santa Claus grace store windows as early as the beginning of November, and Christmas irumineishon have become quite common–even on private homes. (In case of confusion, that word is “illumination.” Many words are also imported and most definitely “transformed” when put into the Japanese phonetic system.) ?

North American Christians often lament the crass commercialization of Christmas and express their desire to “put Christ back into Christmas.” While the real “reason for the season” may have lost ground in North America, it never really got off the ground in the average Japanese mind. Most Japanese may recognize that Christmas is a “Christian festival,” but you cannot count on even that. A few years ago, I overheard a Japanese person comment upon seeing Christmas decorations in the lobby of a church, “Even churches celebrate Christmas!”? This lack of historical context leads to all sorts of incongruence, such as the popularity of having a “candlelight service” complete with the singing of “Silent Night” during year-end parties–even when there is not a single Christian in the group. It is the lovely atmosphere that Japanese find attractive, and this is also the primary reason that Christian-style weddings have become predominate. ?

While perhaps a bit off the subject of Christmas, this other postwar import has some interesting connections with the topic. Japanese young people prefer the “glamour” and emphasis on love found in Christian-style weddings, and so the majority of Japanese weddings are now performed in wedding chapels, which are often beautiful Christian architectural structures built right on the grounds of hotels and used exclusively for commercial purposes. One such wedding chapel I came across does, however, directly connect this phenomenon with the main topic of Christmas. Located near Narita Airport, “Hotel Chapel Christmas” is a combination hotel and wedding chapel, with a huge statue of Santa Claus inviting people in.?

So Christmas in Japan is a mixture of the familiar and exotic, and as a Christian missionary to this land, I sometimes lament the shallowness and naivet? of the ways it is celebrated. Nevertheless, this season is the time of year when we have by far the most opportunities to connect with people through the appeal of Christmas and to direct their attention towards Jesus. Thus, we make every opportunity to utilize the attraction Japanese have to Christmas to plant seeds of faith that can sprout throughout the year.

May you have a Merry Christmas, wherever you are.

Desire to Teach Faith to Children Inspires Japanese Hymnist

It has been eleven years since the Kyodan’s new Hymnal 21 was compiled and

published by the Kyodan’s Hymnal Committee. Included in this hymnal are a

number of hymns by Japanese composers. We would like to share with you how

the words of one of the hymns, “In Old Galilee when Sweet Breezes Blew” (No.

57 in Hymnal 21), were written by Befu Nobuo (1913-2003).

Befu Nobuo was born in 1913 in Kochi Prefecture. In 1934 he attended an

evangelistic service at Yokohama Shiro Church. He was soon baptized and

began working with the church school teachers. In addition, he became a

member of the newly-formed Christian Association for Children’s Stories,

giving time and effort to writing Christian stories and sermons for

children, and composing hymns.

The father of four children, Befu was a middle school science teacher, a

Sunday School teacher, and as an author of children’s literature he found

meaning in writing children’s hymns as a way of conveying truth to the

younger generation. Befu said: “In the future I want to continue to write

children’s hymns that can be understood, enjoyed, and from which children

can grasp God’s grace and love. However, it is only through God’s power and

grace that I can hope and trust that my poor, unskilled poetry can be used

to nurture the faith of children.” It was out of this earnest desire on the

part of Befu-his earnest desire to convey God’s word to children-that “In

Old Galilee when Sweet Breezes Blew” was born.

Every summer at the St. Mary’s Campsite in Ichinomiya-machi, a summer

retreat was held for middle and senior high school students in Chiba

Prefecture, in which Befu participated as a leader. The theme of the 1973

summer retreat was “The Bible.” On the last day of the retreat, each of the

participants wrote their impressions of what they had experienced. Befu sat

down at a slightly elevated area beside a lake where there was a pleasant

breeze. He thought of the middle and senior high school students, and prayed

that he might be able to convey the blessings of the Bible to the students.

There was a cool breeze, and on the highest point of the campsite was a

replica of the crucifixion.

1. In old Galilee, when sweet breezes blew o’er the lake,

? ? Where he spoke to crowds when they came to hear,

? ? Those words of grace that gave them promise;

? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of grace.

2. On that stormy day, when waves billowed high on the lake,

?? ? His disciples feared till he spoke to them,

?? ? Those words of power that gave them courage;

? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of power.

?3. On that cross he hung, to die for the sins of the world,

?? ? From Golgotha’s shame he called out in pain,

?? ? Those saving words of hope to sinners;

?? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those saving words.

?4. On that eventide two friends for Emmaus were bound,

?? ? Recognized him not till he spoke again,

?? ? Those words of life to his disciples;

?? ? Oh speak to me now, and let me hear those words of life.

(Translation taken from Sound the Bamboo, the Christian Conference of Asia

Hymnal published in 2000)

This earnest prayer, which 60-year-old Befu was striving to convey to

teenagers, is now loved and sung by many people as “my own prayer,”

transcending generations, denominations, and nationalities. (Tr. WK)

? ? ? ? ? ? * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Befu Nobuo, ‘ In Old Galilee When Sweet Breezes Blew’”

From Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend)

Summarized by Nishio? Misao, member

KNL Editorial Committee

Japanese Hymns Now Appearing in English Hymnals

by Tim Boyle, missionary

? ? ? Buraku Liberation Center, Osaka

Japanese Hymns in English is the title of a book I ran across that was

written by Pauline Smith McAlpine in 1975.? It contains her translations of

50 hymns written by Japanese Christians, along with short biographies of the

composers of the hymns.?Few of these hymns have been known in the West, but

in recent hymnals of several mainline denominations, some now

appear.?Likewise, two specialized hymnals focusing on Asian hymns contain

numerous translated Japanese hymns.?The following website gives a complete

listing of the hymnals that contain particular hymns:


I want to highlight a hymn that is often confused with the hymn described in

another article on Japanese hymns in this KNL issue, since both begin with

the words “Gariraya no Kaze” (Winds of Galilee).?The other “Gariraya no

Kaze” hymn was composed by Yuki Ko, the “Charles Wesley” of Japanese hymn

writers.?In fact, Yuki’s 10 hymns in the new Hymnal 21 is second only to

Wesley’s 15, unless the 24 hymns attributed to the Kyodan’s Hymnal Revision

Committee are counted.

First, a brief biography of Yuki Ko: Born in 1896 in Tottori Prefecture, he

was educated at Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya. In 1921, he was

installed as the pastor of Tokyo Futaba Independent Church, the predecessor

of the Kyodan’s Higashi Nakano Church.?He also was a lecturer at Aoyama

Gakuin University and a member of the Board of the Christian School of

Music.?He passed away in 1985.

Yuki’s version of the “Galilean breezes” is set to “Missionary Hymn,” a

Lowell Mason tune that in English hymnals is usually associated with “From

Greenland’s Icy Mountains.” While McAlpine includes her translation of this

popular hymn, it does not appear in any standard English hymnal, most likely

because it is not associated with a Japanese melody.

Another of Yuki’s best-known hymns, however, now appears in several English

hymnals, including the New Century Hymnal published by United Church of

Christ (UCC). “In A Lowly Manger Born” (also known by the title “Behold the

Man”) is set to a tune known as “Mabune” (Japanese for “manger”), written by

Abe Seigi in 1930.?


1. In a lowly manger born,

Humble life begun in scorn;

Under Joseph’s watchful eye,

Jesus grew as you and I;

Knew the suff’ring of the weak.

Knew the patience of the meek,

Hungered as but poor folk can;

This is he. Behold the man!

2. Visiting the lone and lost,

Steadying the tempest tossed,

Giving of himself in love,

Calling minds to things above.

Sinners gladly hear his call;

Publicans before him fall,

For in him new life began;

This is he. Behold the man!

3. Then to rescue you and me,

Jesus died upon the tree.

See in him God’s love revealed;

By his Passion we are healed.

Now he lives in glory bright,

Lives again in Pow’r and might;

Come and take the path he trod,

Son of Mary, Son of God.

The UCC’s New Century Hymnal contains four other Japanese hymns, while the

United Methodist Hymnal and the Presbyterian Hymnal each contain three.

Interestingly, the Japanese hymn that appears most often in English language

hymnals is to a tune called “Tokyo.”?It appears in eight hymnals, with three

slightly different translations, but all close to “Here, O Lord, Your

Servants Gather.”?Yet, it must not be sung very often in Japanese churches

because to use a musical phrase, it does not “ring a bell” with me.

The next most common hymn appears in four hymnals and is one I am very

familiar with, as it is frequently sung in Japanese churches. “Mikotoba

Kudasai” appears in the United Methodist hymnal as “Send Your Word, O Lord,”

while in the UCC hymnal the first line is, “Make a Gift of Your Holy Word.”

These few Japanese hymns that are included in English language hymnals are a

good beginning. I can think of several other beautiful Japanese hymns that

would be excellent additions.?Hopefully, some of them will find their way

into our various hymnals, along with hymns from other cultures as well.

Nine-day PCT-Kyodan "Youth Mission 2008" Held in Japan

The event? “Under the Lord’s Blessing, Youth Mission 2008,” was successfully

held July 31-Aug. 8 by Kyodan’s Committee on Edudation. There was good

fellowship between the seven young people from the Presbyterian Church in

Taiwan and the Japanese youth who participated.

The program began with a reception on July 31, and the next day, on Aug. 1,

we had the opening service. Afterwards we strolled through Harajuku, the

youth district of Tokyo. It was fun making gyoza (Chinese dumplings) for

dinner with young people who are members of the Student Christian

Fellowship. An evening lecture was given on “Japan’s Christianity and

Yokohama” as preparation for the following day’s study trip to Yokohama.

After a meditation session, everyone enjoyed a dance party. SCF members

presented yukata (a kind of summer kimono) to the visitors. On Aug. 2, we

visited the Yokohama churches referred to in the lecture given the previous

night. That evening, the youth from Taiwan headed to the churches assigned

to be their hosts, where they observed Sunday morning worship on Aug. 3.

On Aug. 4, we traveled to Osaka via the Shinkansen (bullet train) in the

morning, and spent the day sightseeing in Osaka. We moved on to the Mt.

Rokko YMCA, where the conference was held, Aug. 5-7. Under the theme of

“Walking Together with Our Lord,” we talked about God and about ourselves.

At the end of the conference, we prepared a candlelight service using our

own forms of worship, including holding hands in a circle, sharing

testimonies, and engaging in a drama based on the Bible-all to the praise of

God. At the end of the conference on Aug. 7 we went to Nara, where we

enjoyed the sights of this traditional city. The closing worship of Youth

Mission 2008 was held at Nara Takabatake Church. We had a good time with the

youth from Osaka District. We all enjoyed Nara cuisine. Then, on Aug. 8, we

sent off the visitors to Taiwan from Kansai International Airport.

Although only five Japanese youth participated in the whole schedule of the

event, the group from Taiwan had many encounters with Japanese young people.

We also received a warm welcome from a great many others. The Japanese youth

were impressed by the faith of the youth from Taiwan, and the nine-day

program was a precious and memorable event for them. We experienced the fact

that we are brothers/sisters sharing a common faith in our Lord Jesus

Christ. I would like to report with much gratitude that our Lord was with

us, protecting our health and encouraging our fellowship throughout those

nine days.?

The next session of the Youth Mission of the Kyodan and the Presbyterian

Church in Taiwan is scheduled to taken place in Taiwan in 2010. May God

continue to bless our Youth Mission program in the future. (Tr. HL)

?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Sato Tomoko, member

?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Youth Mission 2008 Committee