The Protestant Missions — March 29, 2011 at 8:59 am

The end of rapid growth!


Baron Kaneko Kentaro

Some statistics

The period of rapid development may be considered as closing with the year 1888. The check was not so sudden that the succeeding years did not show considerable growth; such growth, indeed, as in some other countries would have filled the hearts of missionaries with great joy. Those in Japan had seen such rapid growth that their hopes had been unduly excited, and thus the years of comparative unproductiveness caused great disappointment. The statistics of the Protestant missions for 1888 show something of what had been accomplished up to that time. There were 150 male missionaries, 27 unmarried male missionaries, and 124 unmarried female missionaries; making a total, including wives, of 451. Of 249 churches, 92 were wholly self supporting. The church-members numbered 25,514, the adult baptisms for a year being 6,959;  15 boys schools had 2,709 pupils, while 39 girls’ schools had 3,663. There were also 47 day schools with 3,299 pupils, 14 theological seminaries with 287 students, 3 schools for Bible-women with 92 pupils, and a school for nurses with 14 pupils. There were 142 ordained Japanese ministers, 257 un-ordained preachers and helpers, 8 colporteurs, and 70 Bible-women. The contributions of the Christians for all purposes in a year amounted to 64454 yen, a yen at that time being worth about three fourths of a gold dollar.

Christianity’s recognition outside the churches

Christianity had gained the respect and to a considerable extent the approval of many outside of the churches. It was indeed true then, as it has always been, that some travelers, spending a few weeks in Japan without visiting Christian schools or churches, but taking up the loose talk that prevails on the steamers and in the smoking-rooms of hotels, went back to write books and articles in which they declared that the missionaries were accomplishing nothing. In some cases people with better opportunities for informing themselves allowed dislike of missionaries and their teaching to blind their eyes to what was going on. The Unitarian workers were inclined, as we have seen, to belittle what others were doing; and some of their coreligionists in America seemed glad to believe that evangelical missionaries were laboring in vain. An example of this was seen the next year in the reception accorded to Mr. (afterwards Baron) Kaneko Kentaro, and the remarks he made before the officers of the American Unitarian Association, which were reported in full in the Christian Register, a Unitarian paper published in Boston. Mr. Kaneko was at this time a secretary of the Privy Council, and had been sent to America and Europe to examine the parliamentary systems of different countries. Among other remarks derogatory to missionaries he said: “The missionary idea has never penetrated the upper classes. They report a large number of converts, but we see little or no sign of their influence.” This remark led Rev. D. C. Greene, D.D., to write an article in which he spoke of the headway Christianity was making among the influential classes. He showed that, although the shisoku (those formerly belonging to the military class, and at this time including most of the leaders of thought) constituted less than six per cent, of the population; they furnished about thirty per cent, of the church-members. He then went on to say:

“Not less than thirty students of the Imperial University are avowed Christians. Among the members of a single Congregational church are a judge of the Supreme Court of Japan, a professor in the Imperial University, three Government secretaries (holding a rank hardly, if any, inferior to Mr. Kaneko himself), members of at least two noble families; while in a Presbyterian church are the three most prominent members of the Liberal Party, one of them a count in the new peerage. Two influential members of the legislature of the prefecture of Tokyo, one of them the editor of the Keisai Zasshi, the ablest financial journal in Japan, are also members of a Congregational church. In the prefectures of Kyoto and Ehime, the Christians have two representatives in each local legislature. In the prefecture of Gumma, the President and Vice-President and three other members of the legislature are Christians, and in the Executive Committee, out of a total of five, three are Protestant Christians.”

Though these words were written a few months later, they were true of the conditions at the close of 1888.

The list of Christians belonging to the influential classes as given by Dr. Greene, might have been considerably lengthened. Indeed, among some Christian workers it was a cause for regret that the progress thus far made had been so disproportionately among those usually designated as the “upper-middle” classes, and the question was often asked how those belonging to the lower strata of society could be reached more effectively.

see here for Kaneko Kentaro’s Wiki page

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