Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Far East Daily Blog #9

September 22, 2014 Today we continued our discussions of the theological context of what it means to be Christian in the countries, provinces and dioceses in the Far East. Our first context speaker was the Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Uematsu of The Anglican Church in Japan, or Nippon-Sei ko kai (or NSKK), Diocese of Tohoku. The Christian population in Japan is <1%. Japan was closed to Christian missionaries until 1863. Bishop Nathaniel told of the experience of going into the homes of parishioners and finding Christian symbols alongside a statue of Buddha. A major part of their recent ecclesiastical history has to do with the post-WWII era when the country experienced democratization, demilitarization and the demise of emperor worship. In the midst of this opportunity the NSKK began to grow and evolve. One of their first tasks was to affirm NSKK responsibilities for their country's actions during WWII and, the initiation of both their confession to God and an apology to the people of Asia and the Pacific. Today the NSKK struggles to have a significant cadre of educated priests to lead the congregations. Additionally, the NSKK continues to discern its role to pursue peace and reconciliation. To many in this body, the US military presence in Japan is troublesome. Next we heard from the Rt. Rev. Paul Kim of the Anglican Church of Korea. Like the NSKK, the period following WWII was a time of intense expansion. The Korean Peninsula has been divided for over 60 years. This great divide has been very painful to not only the families on both sides of the 38th Parallel division of North and South Korea, but also has been painful to the Christian church. The possibility of war has an overwhelmingly powerful ever-present reality in the two Koreas. The people of the church are committed to the transformation of Korea and know that the road to peace must be traveled in the absence of force and in the presence of peace-making forgiveness and reconciliation. Our final Episcopal primate was the Most Rev. Edward Malecdan of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. The ECP, founded through mission of PECUSA/TEC in 1901 through the action of the General Convention of that year in Los Angeles. At that it became a missionary diocese of PECUSA/TEC. Only since 1991 has the ECP begun to become independent from TEC. The year 1991 was a important year for ECP when it began to develop its own mission strategies and priorities as it experienced economic independence. According to Bishop Ed, many of the Filipinos did not want to cut this dependency tie. Finally, in 2005 they completely severed the economic umbilical cord when they decided that such would be necessary if ever they were to assume full self-responsibility for their mission. Even though their population is the 4th poorest in the hemisphere, this entity of the Christian church is beginning to develop and grow. Economic indicators reveal that the Filipino economy is experiencing the fastest growth in all of S.E. Asia. Against this background of independence and growth, they know that they must deal with the overwhelming abject poverty, ecological disasters, and war with radical Muslims and Communist insurgents. The remainder of the day was devoted to three particular foci: the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church (TREC), the Task Force for the Study of Marriage and the election of our next presiding bishop. Let me say a few words about each one of these important topics. TREC has been put together in response to a resolution of the General Convention of 2012 with a task to reimagine TEC: both how it is structured and how it does its work. Four of our bishops have worked very hard on this project and are nearing the finish line which is the place at which they will prepare resolutions to be presented to the General Convention of 2015 that meets in Salt Lake City next summer. For a fuller look at their work go to http://reimaginetec.org. The Task Force for the Study of Marriage, also put together in response to the General Convention 2012, has been engaged in the study of Christian marriage from every possible perspective. After the study was presented we were asked to discuss their preliminary work at our small table groups. To be quite honest, I do not spend a great deal of my time focused upon marriage. Like most of you, I have performed my share of marriages. Like most of you, I have gone through with the pre-marital work and for time to time wondered if the couple whose relationship I was about to bless would even be living in the same state or even country one year hence; so much for my belief in the fidelity of enduring love. However, most of my table-mates and I surprised ourselves when we came down solidly to say at least two particular things about marriage. The first was that work we do with couples is an evangelical opportunity when we may nearly have the undivided of both parties. We out to exploit that opportunity. In addition we said that we believe in marriage. That is, we believe that marriage is a good thing in that it brings two people into the most intimate of relationships, which, when engaged in for the right reasons, can be a solid building block for the larger social community and certainly of the Christian community. The final presentation was from the Presiding Bishop Nomination Committee. Next summer at the General Convention we will elect a new Presiding Bishop. Our much beloved Katharine Jefferts Schori will have served 9 full years as our PB, the canonical limit of time any bishop can serve as our primate. Currently nominations are actively being sought. On the 31st of October the nominations will close. Then at the spring House of Bishops meeting at Kanuga Conference Center, Hendersonville, NC the slate will be announced. There is not a great deal more than can be said about the process right now. Between the end of October and the next House of Bishops meeting, all of the vetting and interviews will have to take place in order to determine who will be on the final list. Stand by. +Jay

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