Monday, September 22, 2014

Taipei Day Eight

We started the day by celebrating the Eucharist together. Bishop Prince Singh of Rochester was the celebrant, the Rev. Stephanie Spellers was the preacher.

The Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu, Primate of Japan -- Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK -- which is translated Japan Holy Catholic Church). He offered us his gratitude that we came to Taiwan -- showing solidarity with our brother and sister Episcopalians here. He also expressed his thanks that we are here in Asia.

Nippon Sei Ko Kai -- in June 1859, the Rev. Channing Moor Williams landed at Nagasaki. He later became a Missionary Bishop. The first General Synod occurred in 1887 in Osaka. In 1923 the first Japanese bishop was consecrated.

Abp. Uematsu referred to the era at the beginning of the last century as a regrettable and troubled era in Japan iand in the Church. The militarization in Japan, the forced annexation of Korea in 1910, the Church's failure ot speak against the state. The government's attempt to take make all Protestant churches into one church. After Japan's defeat in 1945, the country began to rebuild.

Growing into maturity as a province, NSKK became a self-supporting province in 1972. There are now 280 churches in 11 Dioceses, with 52,000 members and 230 clergy. They also have published a new prayer book (1990) and hymnal (2006). In 1998 Japan began ordaining women to the priesthood.

NSKK turned toward reconciliation with their neighbors. They issued a statement of war responsibility at the 49th General Synod in 1996. NSKK's responsibility during WWII -- confessing to God and apologized to the people in Asia and the Pacific. They have reconciled especially with the Anglican Church in Korea. Since 2007, clergy from the Anglican Church in Korea are deployed in Japan. There are over 20 clergy from Korea serving in Japan.

In regards to Taiwan, the Philippines, etc. -- NSKK has sought forgiveness and reconciliation with these countries.

The challenge is in the difficulty of evangelism in Japan. Christians make up only 1% of the population, and the NSKK is shrinking. Yet, the laity are dedicated to services in Japan, and they are growing in the number of young people who come.

The shape of the NSKK going forward -- Abp. Uematsu noted the importance of the community of the people of God gathered in worship, nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, sent out into society to serve in the world. They are proclaiming a message of peace and reconciliation, grounded in their own repentance.

Abp. Uematsu, when asked, noted that a big difference between the church in Korea and the church in Japan is that the church in the Korea never cooperated with the government, but advocated for the people. The church in Japan cooperated with the government, especially during WWII, for which they have actively sought repentance and reconciliation. The Japanese Church from its beginning had cooperated with the government, and they have now turned that around.

The Rt. Rev. Paul Kim, Primate of Korea, along with our own Fr. Aidan Koh, presented the theological context and mission challenge in Korea. He talked about the division in Korea. The church is working on reconciliation with North Korea. Christ's message of reconciliation and peace is the basis for their work. Christ's reconciliation should be the core of the Christian message according to the Archbishop. Reconciliation and renewal of the churches is of utmost importance.

The church in Korea delivers the bulk of the social services for Korea -- the church is known for this throughout the peninsula. The church is not silent on the current political issues, and preaches the gospel of reconciliation. The movement within the Anglican Church in Korea is to return to the heart of Jesus 2000 years ago. The division of the Korean Peninsula is the issue in Korea, but it is a global issue as well. Abp. Kim called for all members of the Anglican Communion to unite and provide a prophetic voice for reconciliation throughout the world.

In Korea, the important difference between Japan and Korea is that in Korea, the churches were on the side of the weak; in Japan the churches were on the side of power. This has lead to Christians making up 35% of the population in Korea -- Koreans were attracted to Christianity because of the Church's stands.

Bishop Edward Malecdan, Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), offered his reflection. The Philippines was created as a missionary district in 1901 -- Bishop Brent was the first missionary bishop. Until 1991 when it inaugurated its autonomy as an independent province of the Anglican Communion. The move towards autonomy was not without its problems. Many perceived the move as a move towards death. Aggravating this was a financial crunch in 1995, which caused them in one diocese to hold back payment for their clergy for 6 months. Help from ECUSA kept it afloat, and in 2005 the Philippine church refused help from ECUSA in order to be fully independent. ECUSA, which had previously approved a diminishing rate of help and insisted that the Church in the Philippines take the money. The ECP accepted the monies, but on the condition that they would put the money into a perpetual fund for the diocese, not use it for operating expenses.

The ECP began to grow, planting more churches, having a larger number of students at St. Andrew's seminary being trained for lay and ordained ministries.

The number of Filipino's working overseas as domestic workers is growing because of the poverty in the Philippines. There is severe poverty which affects the church and the world. The local problems offer opportunities and challenges for mission. ECP gives voice to the voiceless, working to establish just peace and social action to overturn unjust structures and powers. 7 dioceses and 170,000 members. They are a minority church, but for the ECP they are aware that what they are doing is just like a drop of water in a great sea, but they continue the work of reconciliation and overturning unjust structures.

Action for renewal and empowerment -- their ECARE program helped a group of farmers who were living as tenants on land, only being able to make makeshift homes that blew away each year. The church purchased land nearby and is helping the families to build permanent homes. ECP is giving them 1 year to pay back the money with no interest. The families gathered together and decided to pay the money back in 6 months -- reflecting their desire to be homeowners.

In the case of the death of 3 men who were accused of stealing and taken away, they were buried under a slab of concrete and a thin layer dirt. Their families were afraid to dig up the bodies. The Bishop in that area and two of his priests, dressed in their cassocks, went to the spot and started to dig. The families, emboldened, help them, and brought the bodies back for a proper burial.

Next, there was a panel discussion with the Primates where we were able to ask questions. The first question was addressed to the Prime Bishop of the Philippines, asking about the difference between ECP and PIC (Philippine Independent Church) -- last year the concordat was renewed between the two churches.

The next question, again to the Prime Bishop of the Philippines was regarding Muslim/Christian relations in the Philippines. The bishop shared that the Muslims are struggling for land, which is and has been an on and off occurrence throughout history there. There is a gathering of Bishops to work for peace in Mindanao, the area where there is the highest Muslim population.

Abp. Kim was asked about the North Korean situation in terms of Christianity -- Evangelism is difficult because the country in the north is shut down. Most of the mega churches are on the side of the government (South Korea) and only a few, such as the Anglican Church, is working for reconciliation and unification.

Abp. Uematsu was asked and talked about the fact that 1 in 100 people in Japan are Christian. He has told his people that they may be small in number, but they are called to evangelize and to let people know that they are there, they want to be in relationship, they have a heart for the poor. While they are small in number, they are large in work -- in mission and ministry.

The last question was to all three bishops -- how has their focus on mission and ministry with the poor affected your communities. The Buraku situation in Japan are the lowest, and untouchable class in Japan. At the earliest stage of evangelization, this group was brought the gospel first, but it was difficult.

In Korea there are 3 dioceses with 20,000 people in church on Sunday, and 230 clergy. The Presbyterian and Methodists have mega churches, but our focus starting 30 years ago with the poor and elderly. Helping those in need is the starting point of our spirituality.

In the Philippines they care for those who are in need, regardless if the people are episcopalians or not. We follow the mandate of Jesus to care for the poor and needy. We go out and meet people in need -- if they want to join the church, that is fine. If not, that is fine too. Their work is their work, and if it draws people to the church, great. Oftentimes it does -- their preference for the poor attracts people to them.

In our afternoon session, the bishops talked on various issues in a closed session.

It is now almost 5:00 pm Taiwan time. The sky is still dark outside, but it looks like the rain has stopped. I believe the typhoon has now passed through all of Taipei -- there has been at least 1 death and some injuries. The rain last night was relentless!

I am now relaxing with a cup of tea, writing in my journal. There are two musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. It is a nice way to end this day.

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