Mission tops agenda for Japanese Church
by Carol Barnwell
An ageing population, apathetic youth and a general shortage of priests are challenges facing the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, says the new General Secretary, the Rev Samuel Koshiishi. He was appointed at the province's first General Synod, held last May.
``The challenge for the Anglican Church in Japan today is to create an interest in mission within the general population,'' he says, adding that the province recently approved the ordination of women and moved to review its entire structure. It currently has 300 churches in 11 dioceses and a total of 50,000 active members. ``Most people in Japan are nominally religious,'' Mr Koshiishi says. They use Buddhist or Shinto services mainly for weddings and funerals. Most Anglicans come to faith through their association with Anglican schools.
The first missionaries arrived as Japan was moving out of feudalism, but the profound impression they left dissipated when all missionaries were expelled before World War II. The imposed theological isolation was difficult for the Christian Church to overcome, Mr Koshiishi says, adding that in a more westernised Japan the Church ``offers the possibility to be moral leaders.'' Mr Koshiishi began work for the province 13 years ago, with Partners in Mission and as secretary for the provincial office. But his journey wound from Japan through Canada and Central Pennsylvania where he studied and was ordained before serving churches in both Takasaki and Urawa.
He received a Master's degree in Theology from St Paul's,Tokyo, furthered his studies in Old Testament at Trinity College, Toronto, and was ordained in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania (a companion to his home Diocese of Kita Kanto) in 1976. He is attending the Conference as a member of the Anglican Consultative Council and says it has exposed him ``to the variety within the Communion, yet given me the sense of one Church.'' ``There are many positive signs in our Church in Japan,'' he says, citing an exchange of students with Korea and a youth pilgrimage between United States and Japan. Ecumenical work with Lutherans and Roman Catholics also is important.
three grown children, Mr Koshiishi chuckles as he considers his youngest son's career
choice. ``He is 23 and studying in New Zealand to become a circus clown,'' he muses.
Another son studies art in Tokyo and his daughter attends a Presbyterian university
in Yokohama where she is studying French and managing an icehockey team.