In the spring of 1950, William C. Voth, former missionary to China, stopped in Japan to investigate mission opportunities. A decision to open work in Japan was made at the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM) sessions held in Freeman, SD in August 1950.
In 1951 ten missionaries arrived in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, for language study. The same year William Voth and Verney Unruh made a survey of southern Kyushu Island and recommended Miyazaki Prefecture as the place to establish churches. Missionaries engaged in various types of evangelism, e.g., English Bible classes, radio, tent meetings, hospital visitation, literature, prayer meetings, Sunday worship, and Sunday School. A bookstore was opened in Miyiazaki City in 1955, a kindergarten in Nichinan in 1955, camp work at Aoidake in 1962, and a university student center in 1963 (this developed into a congregation). From 1959 on, a number of Pax workers arrived in Japan, mainly to teach English. As a result of these various efforts seven congregations were established.
When the missionaries first came to Japan, they made all the decisions and carried out the work. The only organization was the General Conference Mennonite mission. As the church grew and leaders matured, an agreement was reached to become one body and form a conference. In October 1964 the Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference (Nihon Menonaito Kirisutokyo Kyokai Kaigi) was officially started with seven congregations and the mission cooperating.
The conference plays an important role in helping the different congregations. Its structure does not control congregations from the top, rather all the member congregations are independent and self-governing. Key decisions are made at the annual meeting of the church conference in February, by delegates representing all the churches, pastors, and missionaries. Between annual conferences the conference's executive committee or other committees transact necessary business. A small paper Menonaito ("The Mennonite") is published bimonthly.
From 1952 to 1967 Miyazaki Prefecture was the main area of evangelistic work. Outreach was then extended to Oita Prefecture, Fukuoka City (1976), and Hiroshima (1979).
In 1986 the conference had a total of about 730 baptized members. In 2003 there were 679 members. Sixteen churches had been established, twelve of which had Japanese pastors, three of which were pastored by missionaries. One church had lay leadership. Six of the churches were outside Miyazaki Prefecture. A few members had served abroad in England, Africa, and Vietnam.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 168-172.
Mennonite World Conference. "MWC - 2003 Asia/Pacific Mennonite & Brethren in Christ Churches." Accessed 9 May 2006. <http://www.mwc-cmm.org/Directory/asiapacific.html>.
Sprunger, W. Frederic. Theological Education by Extension in Japan. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1981.
Cite This Article
Isobe, Hiroshi. "Nihon Menonaito Kirisutokyo Kyokai Kaigi (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 26 Jan 2015. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Nihon_Menonaito_Kirisutokyo_Kyokai_Kaigi_(Japan_Mennonite_Christian_Church_Conference)&oldid=76356.
Isobe, Hiroshi. (1987). Nihon Menonaito Kirisutokyo Kyokai Kaigi (Japan Mennonite Christian Church Conference). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 January 2015, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Nihon_Menonaito_Kirisutokyo_Kyokai_Kaigi_(Japan_Mennonite_Christian_Church_Conference)&oldid=76356.
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