Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church
Who is the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
Baptism at Murozono Church
The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church (Nihon Fukuin Ruteru Kyokai, JELC)
is a member of the Lutheran World Federation and has a membership of 22,000 in five districts. Most JELC congregations have less than fifty members. Pastors are well trained at the Lutheran seminary in Tokyo. Though there have been increasing numbers in seminary graduates in recent years, the lack of growth in church membership and consolidation of churches due to financial constraints have prompted renewed efforts for evangelism.
Throughout the history of the JELC, education has been emphasized along with evangelism. Kyushu Gakuin High School
was established in 1911 for the training of pastors and education of young men (now co-ed), followed by Kyushu Jogakuin in 1925 (for girls; now co-ed and renamed Luther Junior and Senior High School
). Kyushu Lutheran College
was accredited in 1997, with Dr. Yoshiro Ishida as its first president. Many congregations throughout the JELC serve their communities through Christian preschools and kindergartens.
Social welfare has also been an important part of the JELC. Two institutions, Jiai-en (House of Mercy) in Kumamoto and The Tokyo Home for the Elderly in Tokyo, have been leading pioneers in the field of social work in Japan. The Kamagasaki Diaconia Center in the slums of Osaka includes child care, mutual learning, problem study, and community projects. Today, many Japanese social workers, as well as pastors, are trained at the Japan Lutheran College and Seminary
The JELC has sent successive missionaries to serve among Japanese immigrants in Brazil, serving with the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil
, as well as to the United States among expatriate Japanese. Ecumenically, the JELC is active in the National Council of Churches in Japan and the Japan Bible Society, which further the outreach and witness of the church.
The JELC works closely with other, smaller Lutheran church bodies which have different origins in Japan, for example, sharing the Tokyo college seminary with the Japan Lutheran Church. A common worship book is being planned across four Lutheran church bodies.How do the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Kyushu Lutheran College Chapel
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the JELC and places participants throughout Japan with a Young Adult program
This relationship is deepened and extended by the JELC’s relationship, though the ELCA Companion Synod program, with the ELCA South Carolina Synod. Other international companions active with the JELC are the Lutheran Evangelical Association of Finland and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick (Germany).Churchwide funding
through the ELCA Global Mission unit, particularly with a mission endowment established in Japan from previous investments in Japan, supports key priorities identified by the JELC. These include English-language teaching, student ministries, theological education, English-language expatriate ministries, and social ministry. The ELCA has 23 mission personnel in Japan.
The JELC accompanies the ELCA through the sending of a missionary to serve among Japanese expatriates in California and through a pastor exchange program to South Carolina.Japan: The context in which the JELC serves
Japan is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government and constitutional monarchy established in 1947. Over 127 million people live in Japan. Japanese is the official and predominant language. Two primary religious traditions, Shinto and Buddhism, are practiced by 84% of inhabitants. Of the remaining 16%, less than 1% is Christian: becoming a Christian is considered extremely counter-cultural in a country where following cultural norms is very important.
Japan has created the second largest economy in the world. Between the 1960's and the early 1990's, Japan experienced an era of unprecedented economic prosperity. A recession in the 1990's continues to today, and the turmoils of 2008 resulted in further economic challenges.
Japan has increasingly opened its markets to foreign investments, and these have risen annually. But there remain fears that such an opening may cause the destruction of the fundamental Japanese way of life. In recent yeas, Japan has been moving some of its primary industries abroad to take advantage of cheaper labor markets.
Rampant pollution, due to earlier rapid economic growth, has been brought under control to a large degree. But, acidification of water, air and water pollution and the depletion of regional resources remain Japan's primary environmental concerns.
Overcrowding of habitable land and the direction for the second largest economy are of concern. Meanwhile, an increasing aged population (due to longevity) plus a population that is in negative growth (fewer children) is causing concern.
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