Walking with the Saints
Today, October 31, we remember the lives of Bishop Paul Shinji Sasaki and Bishop Philip Lindel Tsen. Both of these men exemplified what it meant to be a disciple of Christ in the face of extreme adversity.
The Rt. Rev. Paul Shinji Sasaki was born in Japan, educated in England and would eventually become the first Japanese Diocesan Bishop of Mid-Japan. He would then go on to serve as Primate of the Anglican Church in Japan during World War II.
The Rt. Rev. Philip Lindel Tsen, was born into poverty in the WuHu Province. At the age of 14, Bishop Tsen was homeless but was taken in by the American Church Mission. Educated in China at the Boone Divinity School and ordained an Anglican Priest in 1912, he would go on to study around the world, including a year at Virginia Theological Seminary. In 1929, he would become the second Chinese Diocesan Bishop in an established Anglican Diocese and would be the first Chinese Bishop to attend Lambeth Conference in 1930. In 1937 Bishop Tsen would go to visit Bishop Sasaki and stand together in unity as a testament to their Christian ideals, amidst the war going on between their countries.
During World War II, Japan forcibly ordered churches to unify as the “United Church of Christ in Japan” or “Kyodan”. This would prompt Bishop Sasaki to release a statement in opposition of this forced merger. His basis was that in the ideals and distinct theology of the Anglican Church, and as well as Kyodan rejecting the Apostles Creed. Sasaki’s staunch opposition was met with harassment, criticism and eventually torture at the hands of the military.
In a divisive world where mis-information, civil unrest and conflict rule our news cycles, these stories give me pause. I am reminded that our world has frequently been a place of conflict and that we have often come to blows because of a lack of understand, but that in every generation there are people willing to stand up to the machine and speak out. I am reminded that in 1937 two Bishops from two very different contexts and cultures can come together as siblings in Christ and model a unity for their countries. I am reminded to stand up and live out what the Gospels are calling us to live out, even though there is possibility of criticism and danger.
These past few days I have been saddened by the events of Pittsburg and Kentucky. I am saddened by conversations on social media, and vitriolic rhetoric spewed by administrations. But the stories of these two men today fill me with a sense of hope, that we too will carry on and if we continue to strive for justice and peace, we can achieve it.
In 1996, the Anglican Church in Japan released this statement of responsibility and it is a testament to the influence of Bishop Sasaki –
"The Church had chosen to comply with the government policy and had forgotten its mission .... Since its establishment, the Nippon Sei Ko Kai has been making compromises with the idea of a Tenno (God of Heaven) ruled nation and militarism which go against the Gospel and has not been able to resist strongly against, or refuse those principles.
Our Church has not been able to stand beside those who are oppressed and suffering .... We have been a closed Church whose main concern is the expansion of the membership and the retention of the institution, thus being unable to serve as the salt of the earth as indicated in the Gospel."
[The Nippon Sei Ko Kai] "confesses to God and apologizes to the people in Asia and the Pacific that we did not admit our fault immediately after the end of the war, and have not actively called for reconciliation and compensation until today."