The Protestant Missions — January 24, 2012 at 6:54 am

Mr. Robert E. Speer’s Secretary of the N. Presbyterian Board Visits Japan!


Robert Elliot Speer

At the time there was a dispute in the Japanese Church concerning who should hold the reigns. Should it be the Foreign missions or the national church.  The reverend Otis cary describes it in the following passage:

“In the Church of Christ in Japan (Presbyterian) the question of the relation between the presbyteries and the foreign missions was vigorously discussed. The missions associated with this church gave financial aid to the evangelistic efforts of the presbyteries. In addition to this some missions had such work of their own, paying wholly or in part the salaries of evangelists, who were therefore under the direction of the missions concerned. This was displeasing to many of the Japanese, who wished all such work to be brought under the direction of presbyteries, and to have these entrusted with all funds used in this way. In July, 1897, the Synod, after hearing the report of a committee which declared that it had not found ” a single case of proper co-operation,” passed a resolution whose preamble defined a cooperating mission as one ”that plans and executes all its evangelistic operations through a committee composed of equal numbers of the representatives of a mission working within the bounds of a presbytery of the Church of Christ in Japan, and of members of said presbytery.”

The position of the Japanese is more fully expressed in the following words of Rev. Oshikawa Masayoshi, one of their leaders:

“Our desire is to control all evangelistic work under these proposed co-operating committees. My opinion and that of others is that the work of missions independent of presbyteries is hostile to the genuine work of the presbytery and the Church.

It tends to create a missionary party composed of men of inferior class who obey the missionary and have a foreign exotic character.”

Another person said :

“This is no longer the time for missionaries to control, bat thev and the boards should stand off and let the Japanese control. The old slavish time must end and the Japanese Church established by the Christians of America must be followed, not led.”

This last quotation shows one of the difficulties that has attended attempts at what from an Occidental standpoint would be considered co-operation. The Japanese have had but little idea of the association of partners with equal rights. In business matters one member of the firm was recognized as its head and all others were subordinate to him. He expected that his plans would be followed, even though the majority might not think his policy the best. If dissatisfaction grew too strong, either the head partner withdrew or the whole partnership came to an end. The same method prevailed in political matters; the parties being made up of those that followed such leaders as Ito, Itagaki, Okuma, etc., rather than of those whose political views were similar.

Rev. Oshikawa Masayoshi

To the Japanese Christians it seemed as though in their relations with the missionaries they must be either servants or masters; that one side must acknowledge the pre-eminence of the other. Hence, it is not strange that with the increase of the nationalistic spirit the Japanese desired to make it evident that they were not controlled by the foreigners, and that everything connected in any way with their church was fully under its authority. Where the experiment of having joint committees composed of equal numbers of Japanese and foreigners was tried, it was usually found that the latter must always yield to the views of the former, or else find themselves the object of much ill-feeling, which sometimes led to efforts for undermining their work and influence.

To the missionaries it did not seem advisable to put everything out of their own hands at so early a date. They feared that the interest of the Japanese in some features of the work would lead them to neglect others of equal importance. Moreover, the placing of a large sum of money coming from foreign sources in the hands of committees such as were proposed seemed inadvisable, at least until the raising of larger amounts by the Japanese Church than it was then contributing should increase the sense of responsibility for choosing men well fitted to administer the funds. Accordingly the Council of Co-operating Missions declared its opinion

that co-operation is “best carried out where the Japanese Church in its Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synod all ecclesiastical matters, availing itself of the counsels and assistance of missions or missionaries as occasion arises; while the missions direct their own educational, evangelistic, and other missionary operations, availing themselves, likewise, of whatever counsel and assistance they may be able to obtain from their brethren in the Japanese Church.” This decision was far from pleasing to the Japanese leaders, and though open discussion of the question ceased for a while, it was actively renewed a few years later.

In considering this question of co-operation the Council was helped by the advice of Mr. Robert E. Speer, a secretary of the (Northern) Presbyterian Board of Missions, who was spending a short time in Japan. Mr. Speer also rendered valuable aid to the missionary work in general by addresses made in several cities. Another visitor of the year was Rev. J. H. Barrows, D.D., who, as President of the World’s Parliament of Religions, held at the Columbian Exhibition, had become well known to Buddhists and Shintoists as well as to Christians. Large audiences listened to his lectures, some of which were afterwards published.

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