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Japanese Baptists' compromise with nationalism in 1941: the historical ancestors of Japanese Baptists were the defenders of religious liberty. However, prewar Japanese Baptists blindly followed other Protestant groups in surrendering themselves to the state.

They sought protection of the denomination by the government, agreed to accept the state policy of religion, and went into the organic union of Japanese Protestant churches promoted by the government. Prewar Japanese Baptists compromised with the state and took part in the Japanese political mission during World War II in the name of Christian evangelism.

When the Japanese militaristic government began to pursue political control in various ways over the entire nation in the late 1930s, it was the dawn of World War II. The government attempted to take the nation to war and forced all Japanese citizens to accept imperial ideology as the founding principle of the state. This philosophy required the people, regardless of their own religions, to worship the Japanese emperor as a living god and show their loyalty both to the emperor and the country.

The state policy of religion became stricter in the late 1930s, especially after the Religious Bodies Law was issued in 1939. This law allowed the government to supervise all religions and even apply censorship over these organizations. With this law, the government could refuse to give religious organizations official permission to continue their activities if they failed to meet state requirements. For instance, the government could ignore smaller groups that were unable to reach the number of members and churches the state required. The government had authority to interfere in the business affairs of the religious organizations. They ordered most religious groups to submit detailed reports of almost every business matter such as erecting new buildings and appointing new leadership. All these attempts were aimed at crushing a sense of religious liberty and shattering every form of antinationalistic sentiment among the people, especially churches of various Christian denominations.

The Religious Bodies Law worked most effectively with the Public Order Preservation Law of 1941. This law permitted state authorities to threaten, harass, and arrest those who were thought to make protests against the government and its policies in general. Furthermore, the National Mobilization Law of 1938 forced the entire nation to offer their time, energy, and possessions for the war without people's choice or consent.

Under such difficult conditions in the late 1930s and early 1940s, most Japanese Protestant denominations quickly severed their organizational ties with the mother denominations overseas and sought to achieve self-support as soon as possible. In this way, they showed their loyalty to and cooperation with the state as good Japanese citizens. The smaller churches became desperate to seek organizational unification with sister denominations that had similar theological views. They found out that it would be difficult for them to satisfy the state requirement regarding their size as independent religious organizations. Not only the smaller churches, but also Japanese Protestant churches as a whole thought that organizational unification like this could make the religious body larger and help them avoid unnecessary conflicts and pressure from the state. Such hardship included arrest, imprisonment, torture, and the disbandment of the denominations and related organizations such as schools.

Some smaller denominational groups became the prime objects of the state punishment, not because of their size but because of their anti-imperial positions. In July 1940, the Tokyo Military Police interrogated several Salvation Army officers under suspicion of spying. Doubts came from their organizational tie with Salvation Army headquarters in London. In addition to that, the Military Police was quite offended by the use of military titles and terms in the Salvation Army; they viewed it as disrespectful to the Japanese armies whose commander was the emperor. No expected crime was found. The Military Police finally released them, but gave strict orders to sever their relationships with the London office as soon as possible. (1)

State officers checked Christian teachings and sermons in the churches and Christian schools during worship services and the chapel hour to judge whether they violated state laws and regulations. If state officials found such violations, they reported that the ministers and teachers propagated harmful ideology against the state. The state officers, especially the Special Higher Police whose major responsibility was to hunt antigovernment activities and teachings, had no knowledge of Christianity. Despite that fact, they asked Christians various tricky questions to test their loyalty to the state.

State interference in religions rapidly increased. One national newspaper reported that the minister of education decided to order the Bureau of Religious Affair to tighten the level of supervision over churches and missionaries. (2) It stated further that the government would promote serious discussions and reevaluations of Christian doctrines and teachings. The minister made his official announcement that Christian churches had to sever their organizational ties with their denominational boards overseas and achieve their immediate self-support. (3)

About ten days after the interrogation of the Salvation Army officers, the same newspaper reported that the Ministry of Education ordered all school principals to release foreign teachers. The reason was that these foreigners might easily make contact with Western forces for the purpose of spying. Missionaries of various denominations soon became the prime targets of the state police just like the Salvation Army officers. No Japanese faculty members on campus attempted to provide care and protection for their missionary colleagues.

Japanese Baptist Reactions

Japanese Baptists were quick to react to such difficult political conditions. They sought ways to protect themselves and to comply with the state religious policy to satisfy the government to avoid conflict and pressure. The first thing to achieve this purpose was to cease the organizational tie with the Southern Baptist Convention as other Japanese Protestant churches had done with their mother denominations. This action was specifically obvious among Japanese Baptist mission schools. They feared troubles that other Christian schools were suffering at that time because of the presence of the missionary teachers on campus. Kuriya Hiroji, president of Japanese Baptist seminary in Fukuoka and a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, "We don't want any political minded missionaries. They would get into trouble and sometimes get deported." (4)

Japanese Baptists of that time, like Kuriya, acknowledged that not only Southern Baptist missionaries but also Japanese Baptists as a whole would get into serious trouble. Like other Protestant mission schools in Japan, Japanese Baptist schools were afraid of being disbanded if they kept missionaries in the school and allowed them to be teachers and administrators. (5) In 1942, the board of trustees of Seinan Gakuin, a Southern Baptist boy's school in Fukuoka, decided to decline financial assistance from the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board for at least five years, replace missionaries with Japanese teachers including administrators, and discontinue teaching of the Bible by American teachers. (6)

Second, the Japanese Baptist schools incorporated the state religious policy into their educational principles. They regarded the most important school ceremony the reading of the Imperial Rescript on Education, not the reading the Bible in the worship service or the chapel hour. The Imperial Rescript of 1890 was the national philosophy to educate the nation that aimed at the indoctrination of Japanese nationalism centering on the emperor worship. Like all other schools in Japan, the Japanese Baptist schools had to study this official document with full respect and seriousness. For instance, the principal held the document with white gloves to show his respect for the emperor and intoned each word with great reverence whenever it was read to the students. (7) The Baptist schools were also required to keep a portrait of the emperor in a specially built sacred cabinet on campus.

The state supervisor ordered students and teachers of the Baptist schools to gather at a neighborhood shrine for silent prayer. They had to bow toward the imperial palace in Tokyo and pray for serenity of the loyal family and victory of the Japanese armies. The state officers encouraged these teachers and students to ask their God for blessing and to pray for themselves to be good and loyal Japanese citizens. (8)

At the convention level, Japanese Baptists tried to make their adjustment to win their organizational independence and recognition from the government. The Baptist Convention of Japan was organized in 1940 with 200 delegates from two major Japanese Baptist groups that formally belonged to two missions of the Northern and Southern Baptists. This united body was still far behind other major Protestant groups such as Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists, and Episcopals. (9) However, the new convention was large enough to be admitted as a single independent religious body that might be allowed to maintain their freedom in belief and administration to some degree. They had no doubt that the larger denominational body could expect security and avoid undesirable unification with other small denominations.

With the united Baptist convention, however, Japanese Baptists went into organic union with other Protestant denominations under state leadership, instead of maintaining the independent status as a single denomination. Accepting fully the government's religious policy to create one organic state church, Japanese Baptists anticipated full state recognition that would enable them to continue their denominational life for the future. This was the choice that most Japanese Protestant churches of that time took for their denominational survival.

The United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan)

For more tightened control and supervision of Christian organizations, the government combined various Christian denominations into one established Protestant church called the United Church of Christ in Japan (Kyodan). The moderator represented all participating Protestant denominations and was given power to administrate the Kyodan. Since the Kyodan aimed at being one organic church, no theological and administrative differences among various denominations were permitted.

Japanese Protestant groups including Baptists willingly participated in forming the Kyodan. Their reason was twofold. They were desperate to survive this critical situation for their denominational future. Besides, they firmly believed that they should take their part as good Japanese citizens in a national emergency. In that environment 218,370 members from various denominational churches came together to organize the Kyodan in 1941.

No sufficient preparation or theological consensus concerning church order and a confession of faith existed when forming the Kyodan. Therefore, getting harmony among participating denominations was difficult from the beginning. Some denominations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian-related Japanese Christian Church strongly expressed their dissatisfaction with minimizing their denominational distinctives in the Kyodan. Japanese Baptists whose denominational ancestors made this point crucial did not join this argument. In an attempt to placate them, the Kyodan leadership decided to divide participating denominations into eleven blocs according to theological and organizational similarities. At the same time, the leadership wanted to accomplish as soon as possible the one established organizational structure the government required. Adopting the block system, participating churches innocently believed that the government would guarantee their theological and administrative freedom and denominational diversity in the Kyodan.

However, the illusion soon disappeared when more aggressive pressure came from the state since the Kyodan administration was a puppet leadership for the state. No administrative freedom in any areas of the Kyodan business was permitted. It was the minister of education who reviewed all administrative actions made by the Kyodan leadership. The minister also had the authority to appoint the Kyodan's moderator, administrators, and officers. The government approved all business records of the Kyodan, its finances, qualifications of ministerial candidates, and memberships of the participating churches.

Even churches that had already won their organizational independence and official recognition from the state were willing to agree with the formation of the Kyodan. They feared that they might become the target of severe state persecutions that increasingly grew after August 1940. Around that time, the Salvation Army and Western missionaries were interrogated under suspicion of spying. Later, members of specific Christian denominations that were rather charismatic or biblical literalists were taken to the state police for interrogation, punishment, imprisonment, and torture on the charge of antinationalism and disrespect for the emperor. These churches included the Japan Holiness Church, its sister denominations, and churches related to Plymouth Brethren.

These churches could not harmonize emperor worship with the simple but strong belief in God's sovereignty and Jesus' second coming. All 120 pastors of the Holiness Church were arrested in 1942 because the Special Higher State Police declared that these churches had violated the Public Preservation Law by disseminating statements that rejected the national structure based on the public respect for and adoration to the emperor, his family, and Kokutai, the national polity. Seven of those arrested died in prison or as a result of imprisonment, and all 270 Holiness churches were closed. (10)

These persecuted churches belonged to the Kyodan. According to the official documents of the Special Higher State Police, the Kyodan churches thought the arrest of these churches were appropriate and reasonable. But at the same time they began to fear that they would face the same hardships. (11) The Kyodan leadership offered no defense and provided little help when the government punished these suffering churches. The Kyodan's brains who were also the leading Japanese Protestant theologians neglected these churches because of their limited understanding of Christian orthodoxy and traditional teachings from the theological point of view of the Kyodan leadership. Therefore, Moderator Tomita Mitsuru stated that the Kyodan was unable either to promote or to maintain "true Christian relationship" with these churches as long as they claimed such different Christian faith from the orthodox Christian doctrines shared among other Japanese Protestant churches. (12)

It was shocking for other Kyodan churches to recognize that even the participating churches could be the objects of state censorship and punishment. This understanding drove them to seek more reliable ways for protection and security from the government. Japanese Protestant churches willingly chose to take such an action because of the external pressure to their peace and security. (13) Based on this motivation, prewar Japanese Protestants could justify their decision to form the Kyodan as the result of their long-time prayer since the mid-nineteenth century when Protestant missions were first launched in Japan. This was also the reason prewar Japanese Baptists gave to explain their participation in the Kyodan. (14)

Japanese Baptists and the Kyodan

Churches had one way to minimize conflicts with the government and maintain some degree of denominational freedom; however, it was not considered as ideal as being a part of the Kyodan in terms of gaining state protection. (15) If denominational churches chose to remain at the lower rank as a small gathering or fellowship, they could come under the local state administrator for supervision, not the direct control from the central government. No Japanese Baptists chose this option.

Like other Protestant groups, Japanese Baptists participated in the Kyodan and surrendered themselves to the state. On forming the Kyodan, Japanese Baptists showed neither stern resistance nor disagreement with their being involved in the state religious policy. Instead, they expressed their positive attitudes toward establishing one organic church led by the state and agreed to minimize their denominational heritage. Joining one organic church required denominational churches to cease their theological diversities among participating churches in the Kyodan. This demand should severely question the Baptist principle of local church autonomy. Further, with this requirement Japanese Baptists had to loosen the requirement of believer's baptism by immersion and tolerate various other baptismal traditions. Japanese Baptists raised no critical questions. The question should be whether Baptists would sacrifice the denomination's distinctive teachings to join the state church for organizational survival. Japanese Baptists were at a crossroads.

Such conditions placed Japanese Baptists in a serious dilemma: either remain faithful to their denominational principles and heritage or preserve themselves in compromise with the state under difficult social conditions. Japanese Baptists chose the latter. Concerning a burning dilemma regarding their faithfulness to the denominational principles and heritage, one of the prewar Japanese Baptist leaders satisfied himself and said, "Japanese Baptists have to leave our denominationalism behind and make our best efforts to bear the great Christian union under cooperation with other Protestant denominations." (16) Another leader supported this view and stated that Japanese Baptists should do so because of "our historical Baptist origin" as he understood it. The same leader continued that this was the time for all Japanese Baptists to take this organic union seriously and celebrate this event. He challenged Japanese Baptists to have a broader and wider point of view to benefit the entire nation. He added, "We shall do this organic union by following Jesus' teaching of being one." (17)

Another Baptist leader explained the necessity of organic union: "Now we need to examine psychological elements that allowed various denominations separated from each other. I personally believe that we should not repeat the same mistakes that our forefathers had made in the past." (18)

To the denominational leaders, historic Baptist emphasis on local church autonomy and believer's baptism by immersion was the mere product of the narrow-mindedness of their denominational ancestors. These Japanese leaders thought that such strong insistence on their own denominational distinctives was nothing more than selfishness that ignored the benefit of others. Regarding religious liberty, prewar Japanese Baptist leaders treated this principle as a mere issue of human psychology, not as a genuine Baptist contribution to all whose conscience and integrity were diminished because of their religious conviction.

Among the pro-Kyodan statements made by prewar Baptist leadership, Chiba Yugoro made the most influential one that showed his full support of Baptist participation in the Kyodan and his cooperation with the state. Chiba, who received his theological education at the Northern Baptist Seminary in Rochester, New York, was an outstanding Japanese Baptist leader in the convention's formative years. He won wide respect and fame not only in Baptist circles but also in other Protestant denominations. He was a frequent participant at various international conferences representing both his denomination and other Japanese Protestant churches.

In January 1940, Japanese Baptists, who had formerly related to the Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, held their annual meeting to discuss whether they would like to merge with the Northern Baptist-related group. They saw the necessity to enlarge the denomination to win independent status as a recognized religious group and obtain full security from the state. Holding his strong support for forming the Kyodan, Chiba urged the audience:
 Under richness of Divine grace of our forgiving God, ... forget the past
 and become new by unifying our two Baptist groups. This is what we prayed
 for years. Now our prayer is heard by God.... the Japan Baptist Union was
 the united organization that expressed our unified will. This is not
 restraint of Baptist freedom. Instead, this action came out of sacrificing
 Christian love taught by Jesus. Freedom never shall be anarchical that
 always claims individual right only and ignores one's responsibility for
 the public.... We did this [unification] because we believe the most urgent
 problem in the present situation is how to maintain our denomination
 healthy. We anticipate full development of this union for the purpose of
 providing benefit for the public.... (19)

On another occasion, Chiba expressed his Christian patriotism and his understanding of Christian service to the nation in the national crisis. At the annual meeting of the United Baptist group in October 1940, Chiba revealed his view of interchurch cooperation. According to him, this effort was to aim at evangelizing the entire nation that Japanese Baptists had to share with other Protestant groups as a common goal. He understood that this is what Christian responsibility should be as a faithful citizen:
 All Christian churches in Japan are currently suffering the violent
 rainstorm. Do you avoid this moment as the troublesome situation? No, of
 course not. As we bravely take this opportunity and use it wisely, our
 Japanese Baptists shall pursue the denominational growth through this newly
 formed Baptist body. In cooperation, we will help each other with unselfish
 Christian spirit and work diligently to supply benefit to the public that
 should be our highest priority as Japanese Christians. How can we serve the
 country? The answer is evangelism. We Baptist Christians serve the nation
 through evangelizing the people. (20)

After Chiba's address, inspired delegates discussed extensively whether they would join the Kyodan. They finally decided to reject the idea of remaining as an independent denomination and overwhelmingly agreed to be a part of the one organic state church. One delegate among them strongly expressed his disagreement with the idea. However, such a voice was unheard and gone after the vote was taken. (21)

When the Ministry of Education finally gave official recognition to the Kyodan in October 1941, Japanese Baptists became official members of the state-promoted, one-organic Protestant church. Yuya Kiyoki, who later became a strong postwar Japanese Baptist leader, overwhelmingly expressed his joy:
 It is God's will for us to crush our denominational selfishness and to be
 one under the Lord.... Churches experienced ugly and conflict filled
 history in the past. This tragedy divided us from each other and created
 unnecessary confrontations among us. This is why the Great Commission was
 slow to be achieved and the holy name of God was disgraced. Now all
 Japanese denominations came together and became one church.... Let us work
 together to save millions of souls in the nation, assist to establish the
 new world order, and seek for real peace in the world. (22)

In later years, Yuya reflected on the event and said, "We were willing to go into a union with other denominations." (23) Unlike Japanese Baptist leadership who shared his views, however, some Japanese Baptists were less excited about this historic event and showed their low expectation of the denominational expansion within the Kyodan.

Prewar Japanese Protestants believed that good Christian stewardship was to be faithful Japanese citizens who fully supported the state and its policy. Therefore, they uncritically offered their cooperation to the war government in early 1940s.

Practicing the idea of the indigenous church that claimed self-support and self-propagation, Japanese Baptists did their part in building the "New Order in the Great Orient" echoing a national slogan during the war period. For example, Japanese Baptists invited military Foreign Minister Matsuoka Yosuke as a guest speaker to encourage Sunday School teachers to promote more Sunday School attendance. (24) Being aware of the importance of religious education for the youth, Japanese Baptist leadership promoted the Christian Youth League of the Rising Orient supported by the state aiming at uniting young people under the new world order among Asian nations. Having foreign minister Matsuoka as chairperson, the League was celebrated in Tokyo in 1941. Ohtani Kenji, director of the youth division of the united Baptist convention, expressed his wish to promote this kind of movement not only in Japan but also in the neighboring countries such as China and Korea. Under this purpose, he attempted to visit these countries and encourage them to join this promotion. (25) Otani represented the typical Japanese Baptist view of politics in the war period that identified their Christian mission with the Japanese political mission.

Japanese imperialism that propagated its nationalism in the neighboring countries was the center of international criticism at that time. Acting as the faithful Japanese citizens, the Kyodan attempted to rationalize Japanese atrocities and sent a letter to Asian churches that they interpreted Japan's military expansion as historical progress and God's will to make the neighboring nations free from Western colonialism. (26) Then, the Kyodan sent missionaries to these neighboring countries such as Korea, China, the Philippines, and Indonesia as part of the military pacification program.

Japanese Baptists were no exceptions. Like other denominations, they uncritically harmonized with Japanese political ideology and nationalism in the name of Christian evangelism. They followed the stereotypical ethnocentric missiology like the Kyodan's, and decided to send the first foreign missionary to Manchuria in 1942 with their unanimous vote. The goal and identity of this missionary clearly reflected the imperialist view as well as national sentiment among the people of that time:
 Manchuria is the lifeline of our land. First, Manchuria is for our national
 defense; second, for national economy; and third, for integrity of our
 nation. Japanese army will take care of the first one. Economists will do
 on the second. And the religious people like us should devote ourselves to
 accomplish the third one with the sacred heart for our Emperor. (27)

An Interpretation of the Prewar Japanese Baptist Compromise

Like the majority of Japanese Protestant groups, Japanese Baptists silenced their voices and took no prophetic stand during the national crisis. This was the crisis of religious liberty that historic Baptists sacrificed their lives to achieve and to protect. I would like to offer an interpretation why this compromise took place among prewar Japanese Baptist leadership and churches.

From the beginning when the first Southern Baptist missionaries came to Japan in 1889, Japanese Baptists heavily depended on Southern Baptist denominational wealth to develop their own evangelical work. This process was the same as other Japanese Protestants whose evangelistic efforts were promoted under strong missionary leadership of various denominations. At the same time, the birth of the Japanese Protestant mission totally depended on the state policy of modern Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. To join the world community dominated by Western forces at that time, modern Japan willingly accepted Western technology and way of life, including Christianity. Western missionary societies, predominantly American Protestant groups, sent a number of missionaries to Japan. (28) These missionaries dedicated their lives to the newborn modern nation not only as missionaries but also as qualified educators. One American missionary wrote in 1895 that no one could deny that modern Japan deeply owed its national success and progress to Western civilization that was largely offered by the Western missionaries. (29)

However, this meant that Japan welcomed Christianity as a philosophical foundation that could give profound impact to the new nation, as a shaping force of their morals and values. Even in the new Japan declared to be a modern nation in the mid-nineteenth century, old Japanese religious sentiment still remained along with a sense of ethnicity. The Japanese Constitution of 1889--the first written constitution in its history--clearly stated the divine and unbroken linkage of the Japanese emperor and identified him as the sole ruler of the new Japan. In addition, the Imperial Rescript of Education of 1890 that outlined the principle of public education and became the philosophy of the nation, pointed at the excellence of the Japanese traditional value system. The constitution limited full toleration of religious freedom. Under such political conditions, freedom of religion in modern Japan was severely limited and the people were allowed to pronounce their faith freely as long as they would pay respect for the emperor and show their loyalty to the state. (30)

This is how Japanese Protestant missions were allowed to start. Taking a political package in such a given situation was hard to be ignored in order to develop the missionary efforts. Political situations like this made it extremely difficult for Japanese Protestant churches to take their own stance against the state. Therefore, it seems that Japanese Baptist sentiment of self-protection and their inwardness was a natural product of the characteristics of Japanese Protestants.

Prewar Japanese Baptists were more interested in preserving the denominational body than practicing their historic teachings and heritage. One possible reason of this tendency was strong Southern Baptist denominational leadership that made it possible for Japanese Baptists to achieve denominational growth in their formative periods. Since the first Southern Baptist affiliated church was organized in 1893, Southern Baptists in Japan had made steady progress as a denominational body by the middle of the 1920s. Southern Baptist denominational influence continued. The foundation of current Japanese Baptist institutions including schools and the theological seminary was mostly set in the prewar period. The new national convention was formed in 1947; however, its organizational framework and the denominational characteristics were largely indebted to these early milestones.

Japanese Baptist denominational growth in the prewar period was a reflection of strong Southern Baptist denominationalism that flourished from its founding in 1845 and fully developed by the mid-twentieth century. During this period, Southern Baptists strongly neglected any critical examinations of their theology as well as mission philosophy. Southern Baptists in the late-nineteenth century and the early-twentieth century tolerated no historical-critical methods to study the Bible and their Baptist origin. In 1932, W. E. Hocking published his Rethinking Missions: A Laymen's Inquiry after One Hundred Years. The book challenged major American foreign mission societies to apply analytical reflection on their past efforts on the mission field, particularly in that of the Asian countries, for wiser promotions in the future. Southern Baptist leadership was greatly disturbed by such challenge and openly criticized the publication as an attempt to "smash all denominational lines and direct evangelism with an extreme modernist-liberal view." (31)

Seeking denominational growth and solidarity, Southern Baptists came to relax their conformed theological view and placed their concentration on equipping the organizational machinery. Missionary candidates grew up under such an atmosphere and took the denominational policy as a powerful instruction to shape their missionary identity and visions. Since Southern Baptist presence was the only historic and physical encounter with Japanese Baptist churches, it seems natural for prewar Japanese Baptists to have more opportunities to learn limited views of Baptist understanding and heritage filtered by denominational missionaries. If denominational missionaries exclusively emphasized Baptist passion of evangelism under such circumstances compared with other historic Baptist distinctives, such as separation of church and state and religious liberty, and exposed it to early Japanese Baptists, it is easy to understand why prewar Japanese Baptists lost their prophetic voices and came to be different from their denominational ancestors who were the defenders of religious liberty for all.

Prewar Japanese Baptists abandoned their historic relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention and claimed self-support and self-propagation. Some would say such an effort was to grow indigenous Christianity as being indigenous Baptists. However, a large part of their direct intention was because of political pressure from the state, instead of their internal passion to root historic Baptist principles in Japanese soil. Seeking social recognition helped them to be good Japanese citizens and useful people for the nation. At the same time, this choice made prewar Japanese Baptists pay a costly price; they lost their voice for defending religious liberty for all and their strong support for separation of church and state. They justified compromise with the state in the name of evangelism during the nation's political crisis.

History teaches us that Baptists love neither establishment nor institutionalized organization. Rather, a Baptist makes one's best effort to build the community of regenerated individuals. These individuals take the Scripture seriously under any circumstances, trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and stubbornly advocate freedom of belief for all. Studying Japanese Baptists' desperation to protect their denominational organization before and during the war period, I wonder if Japanese Baptists of that time thought that no Baptist evangelism seemed possible without the solid and established organizational structure of the denomination. They might believe, as one Japanese pastor later reflected on their participation in the state church: "The Kyodan was a flimsy shelter where we went to find a bit of protection from the worst winds of persecution. It was cold, though it did keep us from dying. And for that we can be grateful." (32)

Japanese Baptists' organizationalist tendency showed clearly when they sought to restore denominational ties with the Southern Baptist Convention after the war. Without serious reflections and evaluations of their war-time attitudes toward the state, Japanese Baptist churches immediately declared their withdrawal from the Kyodan within a few years after the war. They explained that the major reason for this decision was their deep disappointment and frustration with the undemocratic and bureaucratic attitudes among the Kyodan leadership that treated smaller denominational groups lightly. (33) Postwar Japanese Baptists further explained that they were eager to restore their denominational heritage and tradition in order to experience organizational growth in the new era assisted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

The most straight and honest explanation was that postwar Japanese Baptists learned that the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (FMB) would withhold its support until they left the Kyodan and showed their old friendship to Southern Baptists. Exhausted postwar Japanese Baptists desperately needed Southern Baptist money and missionary personnel for the restoration of the denomination. (34)

Reflecting strong denominationalism, the Southern Baptist FMB separately sent its own emissary to the postwar Japanese Baptists in 1946 to find out the possibility of resuming their missions, while six interdenominational missionary societies of American Protestant churches organized the relief team for Japan. When Southern Baptist FMB emissary Edwin B. Dozier, who was a Japanese-born second-generation missionary to Japan, visited his old Japanese colleagues in 1946, he implied the strong expectation of the FMB and encouraged them to withdraw from the Kyodan. Explaining why Southern Baptists oppose the Kyodan, Dozier indicated that the FMB would refuse support for the churches that still maintained their tie with the Kyodan. (35) Dozier further told postwar Japanese Baptists that only churches that voted to withdraw from the Kyodan could restart cooperating with Southern Baptists and form a new national convention. (36) His challenge to postwar Japanese Baptists regarding the Kyodan business was undergirded by the strong Southern Baptist view against interdenominational cooperation expressed at the Southern Baptist annual convention meeting in 1945. (37)

Losing more than a half of the pastors and one third of the churches from the war, postwar Japanese Baptists overwhelmingly welcomed the Southern Baptist support as well as its denominational policy to restore their evangelical work. This decision made it possible for Japanese Baptists to organize the new national convention in April 1947. On forming the new convention, the new Japanese Baptist Convention sent the message to the Southern Baptist Convention stating that they voted to form the new convention "based on the historic Baptist principles." (38)


During the postwar era, Japan worked hard to become a democratic nation. Japan became one of the strong countries in the world in the fields of economy and advanced technology. However, this achievement does not necessarily mean that the national sense of democracy has also grown.

In the spring of 2000, Japanese Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro made a public statement that harks back to the old patriotism of the prewar and war period. He declared that his political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, which is the leading party in the Diet, has tried for the last thirty years to make the public realize that Japan is a divine nation centering on the emperor. Three weeks later, he also described the current state as Kokutai, which referred to a national polity centering on the emperor before and during World War II.

Responding to stormy criticism of public opinion, Mori reluctantly released his apology for his "misunderstanding" but not for his dangerous anachronism. Some Japanese and also keen-sighted international communities--especially the neighboring nations that experienced national tragedy under Japanese militarism--are deeply worried that Japan as a nation might be faced with a tough decision sometime in future: maintaining democracy or going back to old nationalism.

Critical conditions that would threaten religious liberty and violate separation of church and state still exist in Japan even at the end of the twentieth century. This is the serious challenge for current Japanese Baptists and we have to take the given environment seriously.

Abundant Southern Baptist support in the postwar era helped Japan Baptists recover quickly from the war, and their Convention became the largest Protestant denomination in Japan. Like postwar Japan, however, this achievement does not mean a sense of democracy among postwar Japanese Baptists has fully matured.

Proclaiming the good news is the fundamental business Japanese Baptists should never neglect. However, Baptist evangelism in Japan loses its meaning if they do not advocate religious liberty for all and separation of church and state. If they will take a valuable lesson from the past, Japanese Baptists shall never repeat the mistake prewar Baptists made.

(1.) Mission Institute of the United Church of Christ in Japan, ed., A Sourcebook for History of United Church of Christ in Japan (Tokyo: United Church of Christ in Japan, 1997), 1:7. Some national newspapers reported that similar suspicions took place around the same time in other parts of Japan.

(2.) Ibid.

(3.) Ibid.

(4.) F. Galvin Parker, The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989 (New York and London: University Press of America, 1991), 136.

(5.) For instance, journals produced by state authorities in the late 1930s and the early 1940s recorded detailed reports of speeches and articles made by Western Protestant missionaries when they expressed their critical views to Japanese imperialist policy toward its neighboring nations. See Doshisha Institute of Human Science, ed., Christian Activities during the War, 3 vols. (Tokyo: Shinkyo Publishing Co., 1972-1973).

(6.) Christian Activities during the War, 337.

(7.) D. C. Hokom, Modern Japan and Shinto Nationalism: A Study of Present-Day Trends in Japanese Religions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1947), 77.

(8.) Parker, 135.

(9.) According to Parker, this united Baptist body had a total of eighty-nine churches and 6,868 members, of whom 2,556 were active or resident members. They were still far behind the Presbyterian. Reformed denomination (55,372 members), Methodists (50,505), Congregationalists (33,523), and Episcopals (28,587). See Parker, Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 156.

(10.) Carolyn Bowen Francis and John Masaaki Nakajima, Christians in Japan (New York: Friendship Press, 19911), 31.

(11.) Mission Institute of the United Church of Christ in Japan, ed., A Sourcebook for History of the United Church of Christ in Japan, 2:123.

(12.) Ibid, 7.

(13.) Ibid., 1:247ff.

(14.) Minezaki Yasutada, ed., A History of Japan Baptist Convention, 1889-1959 (Tokyo: Japan Baptist Convention, 1959), 488.

(15.) A Sourcebook for History of United Church of Christ in Japan, 1:318-19.

(16.) Minezaki, 505.

(17.) Ibid., 506.

(18.) Ibid.

(19.) Ibid., 488.

(20.) Ibid, 500.

(21.) Ibid., 50I.

(22.) Ibid., 514-15.

(23.) Edwin B: Dozier, Japan's New Day (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1949), 124.

(24.) Minezaki, 517.

(25.) Ibid., 516.

(26.) Carolyn B. Francis and John M. Nakajima, Christians in Japan (New York: Friendship Press, 1991), 31.

(27.) Minezaki, 433.

(28.) By 1896, about thirty societies sent their missionaries to Japan. This included the Swiss-German Evangelicals, the Society of Friends, American Unitarians, American Universalists, and the Seventh-Day Adventists.

(29.) James I. Seder, "Japan's Debt to Christianity," The Missionary Review of the World 8 (September 1895), 653-61.

(30.) Marl Mullins, Shimazono Susumu, and Paul L. Swanson, ed., Religion and Society in Modern Japan: Selected Readings (Berkeley, Calif.: Asian Humanities Press, 1993), 81.

(31.) E. P. Allderedge, "Re-Thinking Missions: A Layman's Inquiry," Western Recorder (January 26 1933): 6; "Appraising the Layman's Inquiry Appraisal," 5.

(32.) Dozier, Japan's New Day, 110.

(33.) Ibid., 124, 130.

(34.) A Sourcebook for History of United Church of Christ in Japan, 3:106.

(35.) Edwin B. Dozier, "Report to the Foreign Mission Board" (unpublished document, 1946), 9.

(36.) Ibid., 9-10.

(37.) Southern Baptist Convention, "Report of the Foreign Mission Board," 1945, 143, 146.

(38.) Dozier, Japan's New Day, 134-35.

Eiko Kanamaru is professor of Christianity, Seinan Jo Gakuin Women's University, Kitakyushu, Japan.
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Author:Kanamaru, Eiko
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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