Japanese church in court over communion row

By ENInews
December 11, 2011

A Japanese pastor has sued the country's largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), over his dismissal for giving communion to congregants who were not baptised - writes Hisashi Yukimoto.

The Rev Jiro Kitamura hopes to regain his status as a minister, and seeks compensation of 10 million Japanese yen ($130,000 dollars), according to his petition. He says he was "discarded without discussion" by UCCJ executives "by force of numbers."

According to his lawyers, the lawsuit is "not about doctrinal dispute on the communion," but rather concerns "a violation of his basic human rights." They say the suit will "focus on the procedural aspect" of the dismissal and "bring justice to a certain political force within the UCCJ," since a court would not hear a case on religious doctrinal disputes.

"Through this lawsuit, I would like to criticize United Church's control and prompt it to become a united church as it is meant to be, without discarding various differences, through patient dialogue for unity," Kitamura told ENInews.

"I hope the disciplinary punishment of dismissal will be withdrawn, and hope to question the authoritative nature of the United Church," he added.

UCCJ moderator, the Rev Hideo Ishibashi, says the church has no intention of withdrawing the punishment, and that Kitamura should repent and submit his request to the UCCJ to return to his position as a minister.

Kitamura's dismissal was finalised at the UCCJ general assembly in October 2010. Though he had been told in 2007 to stop giving communion to unbaptised people or leave the church, Kitamura continued to defy the order at the UCCJ church in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

[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.]


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