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Bishop Griswold visits Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan
12/1/2009
Bishop Frank T. Griswold spent October 23 – November 19 in Japan where he taught, preached and visited the Nippon Sei Ko Kai (NSKK), the Anglican Episcopal Church in Japan.  The NSKK, a province of the Anglican Communion, is now celebrating its 150th anniversary.
 
The occasion for Bishop Griswold’s trip was his appointment to the 2009 Williams Memorial Lectureship, established in honor of Bishop Channing Moore Williams.  Bishop Williams, an 1855 graduate of the Virginia Theological Seminary, served in China and Japan in the latter half of the 19th century, and was instrumental in the founding of the NSKK. 

Bishop Griswold, who completed his nine-year term as Presiding Bishop in November 2006, has found the past three years fruitful, as he has continued to serve the church in other ways, including teaching and writing.  As he says, “I went to Japan not only to teach but to learn.  A gift of my time was the opportunity to listen to the voices of brother and sister Anglicans, as well as those of other religious traditions, in order to come to a fuller sense of how they do theology in the Japanese context.”

Bishop Griswold was accompanied on the trip by his wife, Phoebe Griswold, who while in Asia participated in a conference in Hong Kong sponsored by the Anglican Observer to the United Nations on the topic of human trafficking.  She also paid a return visit to Korea, where the Griswolds had spent a month in 2007, and met with Anglican women’s groups.  She has chronicled her journey in a blog: http://web.me.com/pwgriswold.  Barbara Braver, who served as Bishop Griswold’s Assistant for Communication, and who has prepared this webpage entry, aided the Griswolds on the Japan trip.


The Most Rev. Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu, Primate of Japan, shared with Bishop Griswold that the Nippon Sei Ko Kai is “struggling to see what it means to be an instrument of peace in this society.”  Bishop Griswold praised the “evangelization-by-example” practiced by the Nippon Sei Ko Kai.  He explained, “In the best of the Anglican tradition, educational, social and medical institutions in both rural and urban communities transmit the values of the gospel.  Through these institutions the Good News is proclaimed and people are served.”   

 
Rikkyo (St. Paul’s) University, founded by Bishop Channing Moore Williams, is now celebrating its 135th anniversary.  Rikkyo is highly respected for its philosophy of educating the whole person and inculcating a sense of the need to make an offering to society for the broader good.  Bishop Griswold delivered the Williams Memorial Lecture in All Saints Chapel on the Rikkyo campus in Tokyo.  Pictured here are Jun Itoigana, chair of Rikkyo’s Board of Directors; Bishop Griswold; Rikkyo’s president, Hideitsu Ohashi; and the Primate of Japan, the Most Rev. Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu.  

 

Interfaith conversations have a particular importance in Japan, where Christians make up less than one percent of the population.  Shinto and various Buddhist sects account for the majority.  

Bishop Griswold articulated a Christian perspective in a panel discussion sponsored by the National Christian Council of Japan on the “approaches to the Ultimate” of the various faith traditions.  “As I encountered the gods of the various religions that constitute the spirituality of Japan, the familiar words of Psalm 95, ‘For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods’ took on a new meaning,” he observed.

The ways in which interfaith dialogue contribute to world peace was the subject of a lecture given by Bishop Griswold in Osaka.  Members of other faith groups then responded.  Organizers and participants, pictured here, gathered for informal conversation following the symposium. 

  

 
The Griswolds enjoy the autumn foliage in the mountains while visiting the Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP). KEEP is an economic and community development project founded in 1938 by an American Anglican layman, Paul Rausch.   At left is Herbert Donovan III, Assistant to the President and member of the faculty of the College of Business of Rikkyo University.  He coordinated the Griswolds’ visit to Japan on behalf of the Williams Fund.  Donovan also serves on the American Committee for KEEP.   

 
A visit to the Peace Memorial Park with the Bishop of Okinawa, the Rt. Rev. David Shoji Tani, was a reminder of the tragic history of that island.  Okinawa was a fierce battle ground during World War II with over 200,000 people killed, among them more than 100,000 civilians.  In the background are the cliffs from which many plunged to their deaths.  U.S. military bases currently occupy more than 25 percent of Okinawan land.  

 
The Hongwanji Temple in Kyoto, with its numerous historic structures and gardens, is considered a national cultural treasure and is a center of Japanese Buddhism. Bishop Griswold was invited to meet with the Monshu, who is the head priest and spiritual leader.   

 
Meeting with Anglican seminarians for informal conversation was an emphasis of the visit.  Bishop Griswold spent time at Bishop Williams Theological Seminary in Kyoto, shown here, and lectured at Central Theological College outside of Tokyo.   

 
Each Sunday Bishop Griswold visited and preached at a different congregation of the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, which includes 11 dioceses.  Here he blesses the children following the service at St. Gabriel’s Church in the Diocese of Tokyo.  

 
The study of English is a staple of Japanese education and any opportunity to practice with a native English speaker is welcomed. Here a young student, on coming upon Bishop Griswold during a visit to a Buddhist temple, asked if he could do an interview. In the lively moments that ensued the student discovered that indeed Bishop Griswold enjoyed visiting Japan very much, that he likes Japanese food and that sushi is a favorite.