Japan's ecumenical grouping of Anglican and Protestant churches and interdenominational organisations has laid out a proposal for its organisational restructuring by reducing the number of its officials and clarifying its decision-making functions - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.
"This is really a tentative proposal for a tentative proposal," said the Rev Isamu Koshiishi, moderator of the National Christian Council in Japan, at its recent executive council meeting in Tokyo. "We would like it to be discussed at the executive council meeting in October for its approval and prepared for the general assembly to be held in March next year."
The executive council's official document on the proposal contains three basic policies.
The first includes "clarifying the functions, tasks, and responsibilities of the decision-making bodies, the executives, and the secretariat," and "making the scales of the General Assembly and its subsidiary decision-making bodies appropriate, to make decision-makings prompt and appropriate."
The policies also propose that the number of general assembly members be reduced to 61 from 114, and that of the executive council to 25 from 41.
The third proposes renaming and restructuring decision-making bodies and titles of the council's leaders by changing the executive council into the board of directors, the general executive council into the permanent board of directors, and the moderator into the board chairperson.
The document also proposes that the General Secretary be replaced by the Secretary General who heads the secretariat with another full-time and four part-time staff.
"We can no longer depend totally on what they call 'bureaucrats,'" Koshiishi said. "And we have a rather strong feeling that we must review whether it has been really the right way."
In December 2010, Koshiishi wrote in the council's annual Japanese newsletter, "Since we had to focus on our personnel matters, we cannot deny the fact that we cannot avoid criticisms that it was an inevitable measure due to our budgetary limitations."
Yoshiyuki Ishikawa, who chairs the council's finance committee, told the executive council meeting that the major point in the council's budget in the fiscal year 2011 is "the reduction of the members' annual dues by 17 per cent" due to problems such as the socio-economic difficulties and the decline of the member churches.
He said that the reduction has resulted in a 2011 budget cut of more than 3.4 million yen, about US$27,880, or about 15 per cent of the budget.
"Therefore, we have to slash the expense budget drastically, including the personnel expenses in particular," Ishikawa said. "And as a result of this, we cannot help making a fundamental change to the number of the secretariat staff."
"I believe that everyone knows that the NCC has its budgetary limitations," Koshiishi said. "But I have begun to have a hope that, by sharing responsibilities among those [members of the general executive council] who are involved in the NCC in specific activities, we can overcome the budgetary problem."
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]