Daily Archives: 2 October 2006

The Cultural Revolution Hits Seinan Seminary in Japan

In the fall of 1970 [the year right-wing novelist Mishima Yukio committed ritual suicide] the [cultural] battlefield shifted to the seminary campus in Fukuoka, where most [Japan Baptist] Convention ministers were trained. The seminary was–and is–a part of Seinan Gakuin University, which was plagued by student rebellions in 1969…. The rebellions were nationwide in scope, affecting private and public universities alike, though carried out by a militant minority and not by the majority of students. At Aoyama Gakuin University (Methodist) in Tokyo and Kanto Gakuin University (American Baptist) in Yokohama, the theology departments became so involved as to self-destruct over a period of time. Neither has been reopened. Belatedly, though no less ominously, a group of dissident students at the Fukuoka seminary called a strike in September 1970.

The seminary had 34 students: 23 in the theology department of the university and 11 in an unaccredited Bible school. The striking students numbered only 10 at first and never exceeded 11, but they forced the cancellation of all classes until January 1971. With the backing of a few area pastors, they assailed the faculty for not speaking out jointly against the Vietnam War, the Security Treaty, the Baptist congress, Expo ’70, and government efforts to nationalize Yasukuni Shrine, where the war dead are enshrined. A theology that does not address such issues is invalid, the students declared; any evangelism that does not attack the evil structures of society is incomplete.

These social activists declared that the seminary was bankrupt and not salvageable, that the faculty should resign en bloc to clear the way for a new beginning. George Hays had the misfortune of being seminary dean at the time. On October 7, citing “two instances of misunderstanding related to the language,” he resigned the position, no longer confident that he could negotiate with the students. Hays was succeeded by Professor Sekiya….

Numerous meetings were held, some of them loud and boisterous, in quest of reconciliation. Position papers were demanded of each faculty member, and each was interrogated as though an accused heretic at an inquisition. No exceptions were made of the three missionary teachers: Hays, Bob Culpepper, Vera Campbell. Culpepper returned from an emergency furlough in November 1970, in the midst of the turmoil, and went on trial as the others had done. All three handled themselves well and helped the seminary to survive. When the new school year opened in Apri1 1971, however, total enrollment was down to 22. Not until the next decade did it reach 34 again.

Ozaki Shuichi has said that the most tragic result of the strike was the loss of some very promising students to the gospel ministry. If so, a close second was the loss of Ozaki himself to the seminary faculty. This New Testament scholar, second-generation preacher, and sometime interpreter to Billy Graham resigned during the struggle. Consequently, he was scathingly denounced as irresponsible and harassed by late-night phone calls. Dean Sekiya also got calls at night. The harassments came to an end when Ozaki’s daughter Yoko, the seminary librarian, was struck and killed by a train–an apparent suicide. So great was the shock that 16 years were to pass before Ozaki accepted an invitation to speak at the seminary, though he lived in Fukuoka all this time.

SOURCE: The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989, by F. Calvin Parker (University Press of America, 1991), pp. 238-240

Nowadays Seinan [‘Southwestern’] Seminary is independent of the (U.S.) Southern Baptist Convention, which since the 1970s has imposed stricter doctrinal controls at all the major seminaries in the U.S. (Southern in Louisville, Southeastern in Wake Forest, Southwestern in Fort Worth, and New Orleans). Seinan Seminary pays the salaries of several former missionaries who would likely have trouble passing the current SBC creed tests.

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The Sixties Hit Southern Baptist Families in Japan

In 1967 the [Japan Baptist] Mission had voted to encourage couples whose children were grown to consider work opportunities in outlying areas. But no pressures were ever applied, and the clustering of missionaries in central areas continued to bother [Japan Baptist] Convention strategists. Sizing up the problem, one Mission wit compared missionaries to manure. “When spread out,” he said, “they do good; when piled up, they raise a stink.”

Unlike the ’50s, when several couples in outlying areas taught their own children with Calvert School materials and in a few cases sent them to Japanese schools, in the ’60s most parents insisted on living near an English school, and a few demanded a particular school. A major reason for this trend was the growing emphasis on quality education in America, especially as it affected Baptist colleges and universities. A number of Baptist schools that formerly accepted any high school graduate had grown selective, some of them highly selective. To be assured of acceptance, MKs [= missionary kids] now had to submit good SAT or ACT scores.

American military schools were still available in several places, including Fukuoka, but their number was decreasing. To fill a void or meet new needs, international schools had been established in Kyoto (1957), Sapporo (1958), Hiroshima (1962), and Nagoya (1963). Some years would elapse before these schools could offer the higher grades. Most children of high school age, and some of middle school age, attended one of the older schools in Tokyo, Yokohama, or Kobe. Dormitory facilities were available at Christian Academy in Tokyo and Canadian Academy in Kobe, as noted earlier, but not at Tokyo’s American School in Japan, the choice of many parents. So in 1962 the Mission opened its own dormitory in Mitaka near ASIJ.

Baptist Dormitory, as it was called, looked like a dream come true. Built by Homat Homes, the neat and spacious two-story building accommodated a dozen or more students of both sexes in middle or high school. Sadly, the operation was soon plagued with troubles, dashing the dream of a Christian home environment for MKs. The supervisors were changed rather often, and some of them were quite the opposite in discipline and manner. Some were considered too strict and some too permissive. The parents and the trustees sometimes clashed on how the dormitory should be run or how a controversial rule should be worded. It was agreed, for example, that smoking should be strictly prohibited in the dormitory and on the premises. But should a student be retained who smoked off the premises, in violation of the Japanese law forbidding the use of tobacco by minors? The trustees said no, which caused a family to move to Tokyo against their wishes. So divisive and irresolvable were various issues that twice during the decade the trustees voted to close the facility. Each time they then yielded to parents’ demands that it be kept open. To complicate matters, sometimes a parent with a child in the dormitory served as a trustee, contrary to what some considered a sound administrative principle. At any rate, the dormitory was sadly disruptive of the Mission’s fellowship.

The MK problem came to the fore in a shocking manner at the 1969 Mission meeting. The meeting was held July 29 to August 1, not at Amagi Sanso, but at the Kokusai Takamatsu Hotel on Shikoku. On the closing night some of the young people held a “drinking party” in the hotel annex where they were staying. Descriptions of what took place ranged from “drinking only a tiny amount of whisky in a coke” to heavy drinking that left the imbibers “dead drunk” and “staggering.” Some children who witnessed the scene “spent the night sitting in the hall, afraid to return to their room.” The incident caused grave concern throughout the Mission for its effect on the smaller children and on the Christian witness in Takamatsu.

That autumn the dormitory supervisors sent five boys home for one week because of improper conduct. Subsequently the trustees expelled three of the boys for the remainder of the school year. The charges included smoking, theft of several items (even an airplane propeller from a nearby airfield), wrongful possession of dormitory keys that provided access to the girls’ section, obscene writing and speech, damage to property, and intimidation of younger boys with threats of bodily harm. Some parents expressed regret that they had opposed the closing of the dormitory years before. At the end of the 1969-70 school year, in which 12 students had been accommodated, the dorm was closed “for lack of applicants.” The facility was turned into a guest house and later sold.

SOURCE: The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989, by F. Calvin Parker (University Press of America, 1991), pp. 232-233

A couple of the decades covered in this book intersect a lot with my own biography. I was part of the inaugural class at Kyoto International School, which began as Kyoto Christian Day School, using Calvert School curriculum materials. Although I didn’t attend ASIJ, I later caused my share of trouble at another school’s dormitory during the Sixties.

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