The Protestant Missions — June 20, 2011 at 1:25 am

Doshisha losing its Christian character!


Joseph Hardy Neesima

There had gradually arisen among the missionaries of the American Board much dissatisfaction with the conduct of the Doshisha. As the affairs of that institution occupy considerable space in the history of this and succeeding years, it may be well to recall a few facts concerning it. It will be remembered that it had been established by Dr. Neesima in cooperation with the missionaries. The American Board had given money for the erection of buildings and for other expenses, and had acted as the medium through which other contributions from American friends of missions had been bestowed. Its missionaries formed an important part of its teaching force. Since foreigners could not hold real estate in the interior of Japan, it was distinctly understood that the Board had no legal claim upon the property, unless possibly to insist that it should be used in conformity with the purpose for which it had been given. A company of Japanese had been formed with a brief constitution declaring that it should hold the property, should use it for the maintenance of Christian schools, and should have charge of all business arising between said schools and the Japanese Government. One article said that money contributed by the American Board should be expended under the direction of the missionaries of the Board after consultation with the President and the Japanese teachers of the school.

Footnote by Rev. Otis Cary: “Gladly would I omit from the record of the next few years many of the things that must be written concerning the Doshisha and this the more gladly because most of those who differed concerning the policy of the institution were able after some years to unite again in its support; but while these desire so far as possible to let bygones be bygones, history does not permit the dead past to bury its dead, and it is necessary that events so greatly affecting Christian work in Japan should be duly narrated.”

After a time it seemed advisable to have a more thorough organization and to put the financial management of the school entirely in the hands of a new company, which was necessarily composed of Japanese, though three members of the Mission were to act as Associate Trustees, giving advice but having no vote. The American Board continued to contribute to the funds of the Company, and gifts came from individual friends of the school in America. Money from Japanese donors was given with full knowledge that the Constitution declared Christianity to be ” the foundation of the moral education promoted by the Company.”

During Dr. Neesima’s life and for a short time after his death, all went on satisfactorily. Then it seemed to the missionaries that the school was gradually losing its Christian character. Some of the teachers declared that they were in the school simply to give instruction, and that they were under no obligation to concern themselves with the moral condition of the pupils. One of the first marked occurrences to show the difference between the views of the missionaries and those of the Japanese teachers came in connection with a course of lectures given by Captain L. L. Janes. He was the man through whose influence the members of the “Kumamoto Band” had been led to a belief in Christianity. Some of them were now leading teachers in the Doshisha, one of them was its President, and others served on the Board of Trustees. Captain Janes had been in America for several years. His old pupils felt that the missionaries had failed to take his side as they ought when certain charges had been made against him; and this feeling lay at the bottom of many of the troubles that at this time crippled the educational and evangelistic work of the American Board Mission. After a while he returned to Japan, having been engaged as a teacher in one of the government schools in Kyoto. In the autumn of 1893 he was asked to speak before the Lecture Association of the Doshisha students. In his lectures he denounced theological instruction, criticized the church as the enemy of progress and liberty, sneered at missionaries, denied the existence of a personal God, and ridiculed fundamental Oiristian doctrines. The foreign teachers remonstrated with the person who, in the absence of the President, was in charge of the school; but he refused to interfere with the liberty of the students to have such lectures as they desired. Fortunately the students themselves, after two or three lectures, were unwilling to listen to more. They went to the lecturer, saying they did not care to have the course continued, and one of the advanced pupils, who, had acted as interpreter, made a public apology of his own accord for having aided a person who was trying to tear down what Dr. Neesima had built up.

As time went on, the missionaries felt that more and more their influence was being undermined, especially by some of the teachers who, at the morning chapel exercises, in the classroom, and in public journals ridiculed them and their teaching. The missionaries were not alone in considering that the school was proving unfaithful to the principles on which it had been founded, for many of the alumni and Christian friends of the school grieved over what was being done.

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