Daily Archives: 4 October 2006

Baptist Evangelical Preoccupations in Japan, 1880s

In their approach to evangelism, Baptist missionaries gave priority to Bible translation and literature distribution…. The chief reason for the preoccupation with Scripture translation was the conviction that the Greek word for baptism should be rendered by a term clearly denoting immersion. The time and resources devoted to this effort could have been more fruitfully invested in churches or schools, for Japanese Baptists eventually adopted the interdenominational translation of the Bible in preference to the immersionist version….

Unlike the other denominations, Baptists were reluctant to utilize Christian education as a means of evangelism, for they sought more immediate results through direct means. True, most Baptist missionaries taught pupils informally, and by 1888 four schools had been started for girls. But no school was established for boys until 1895, when Duncan Academy opened in Tokyo. The delay was costly, for Christian schools–34 were reported in 1882 and 72 in 1888–produced the majority of converts in the 1880s. At a time when churches bore the onus of foreign colonies, the schools, being compatible with the traditional value system, served as a spearhead for the gospel and the “birthplace of the church.” It has even been argued that “the Christian school was the only field of Christian evangelism that could be called successful.”

Lacking a boys’ school, Baptists failed to attract and develop strong Japanese leaders–with two exceptions. One was Kawakatsu, a proselyte from Ballagh’s group of converts. The other was Chiba Yugoro, who was sent to America for college and seminary training. Baptists had no seedbed of leadership like the Yokohama schools conducted by Hepburn, Ballagh, and Robbins Brown [Presbyterians who founded Meiji Gakuin University]. There was no Baptist equivalent of the Kumamoto Band, converts of Leroy Janes in Kyushu [many of whom went on to Doshisha University in Kyoto], nor of the Sapporo Band, followers of William Clark [“Boys Be Ambitious”] in Hokkaido. From such dynamic teachers came the early giants of Protestantism in Japan.

SOURCE: The Southern Baptist Mission in Japan, 1889-1989, by F. Calvin Parker (University Press of America, 1991), pp. 18-19

From what I understand, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board is once again concentrating almost all its foreign mission efforts on “church-planting” rather than schools. It no longer pays salaries for the foreign professors at the Southern Baptist Seinan Gakuin University seminary, as it used to from its earliest days.

UPDATE: In googling references for this, I discovered that a true giant among missionary educators—of both Japanese and Americans—died in April this year (while I was in Japan). He was a man of my father’s generation, whose kids were classmates and schoolmates and worthy successors—third generation MKs. My heart goes out to them. Elaine Woo of the Los Angeles Times wrote an obituary worth reading in full. Here’s how it starts.

When Otis Cary interrogated Japanese prisoners during World War II, he softened them with gifts of magazines, cigarettes and chocolates. He broke through their reserve with humor. And he spoke to them in flawless Japanese — shocking from a blond-haired American.

Cary spoke like a native because he was one — the son and grandson of New England missionaries in Japan. With missionarylike ardor, he proselytized for the Allied cause, convincing many of the prisoners to cooperate in efforts to end the war and help rebuild Japan as a democracy.

“Prolonged contact with Americans in the prison camps clearly had an impact on many prisoners, and for none more than those influenced by Otis Cary,” wrote Ulrich Straus, a former diplomat whose study of Japanese prisoners of war, “The Anguish of Surrender,” was published in 2003.

Cary, 84, who died of pneumonia April 14 in Oakland, Calif., played a unique role in U.S.-Japan relations during and after World War II. He was one of the 1,100 Japanese linguists trained by the Navy to serve as interrogators, translators and interpreters after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. For more than four decades after the war, he bridged cultures as a professor of American studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto.

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