Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan (Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference)

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In 1949 Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) pioneered relief work in the Osaka area headed up by Henry G. and Tina Thielman. From 1950 to 1953, 12 Mennonite Brethren missionaries arrived on the field. Of these pioneers, 9 continued to serve for 30 or more years, giving stability to development.

The early strategy of concentrating church planting efforts in the metropolitan Osaka area and its suburbs promoted fellowship between the congregations and a conference spirit. In 1958 the Japan Field Council, in which Japanese leaders joined with the expatriate missionaries, was set up to promote the work of the Japan Conference.

From the beginning, there was concern that the work become indigenous. Training national leaders was seriously considered. In 1957, the mission established the Japan Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute in the former MCC center. Four years later, the first three pastors were licensed. Circa 1965-1975 the school (renamed Osaka Biblical Seminary) entered into a cooperative arrangement with two Baptist groups and was largely operated by the respective missions. While that was being phased out, the Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference in 1971 assumed complete responsibility for the school and named it the Evangelical Bible Seminary. This leadership training program, from which all the Mennonite Brethren pastors have graduated, has been a key factor in promoting doctrinal unity and maintaining evangelistic fervor among the churches.

The Japan Mennonite Brethren mission has from the beginning enjoyed a very amicable relationship with the Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference (Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan, organized 1964). As leadership matured, the cooperative Field Council was replaced by the Japan Conference Council. Japanese leaders assumed complete responsibility for the work of the conference, though missionaries could attend as observers or serve on committees. A regular conference publication is called Yokiotozure (Good News).

Monthly conference prayer meetings and a bimonthly pastor-missionary fellowship have been a real source of maintaining mutual understanding and fellowship. A committee made up of both Japanese and expatriate leaders expedites missionary assignments. The early recognition of the mission as a "partner" in working with the Japan conference made for a healthy relationship between equals.

As of 1986 the Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference has grown steadily and was in its second 10-year evangelism program. The work spread from the Osaka base to include eight prefectures (Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Mie, Aiichi, Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, and Yokohama). In the late 1980s, 23 local churches had their own land and buildings, and three newer outreaches used other facilities. In addition, the conference operated a year-round camp facility. In 1986 there were 25 Japanese pastors, 9 of whom were ordained. Two missionary families served in church planting ministries. One missionary couple and a single worker assisted in the seminary training program, and four American young people served one-year terms in church-centered English classes. One Japanese couple was serving in Papua New Guinea as Bible translators, and a single worker was sent to Pakistan. There were over 1,886 members 29 congregations in 2006.

See also Japan


Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 164-167.

Mennonite World Conference. "World Directory: Asia & Pacific." (accessed 10 January 2010).

Author(s) Harry Friesen
Date Published January 2010

Cite This Article

MLA style

Friesen, Harry. "Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan (Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2010. Web. 5 Jul 2022.

APA style

Friesen, Harry. (January 2010). Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan (Japan Mennonite Brethren Conference). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 5 July 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 633. All rights reserved.

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