Saturday, March 27, 2010

English-Speaking Stake Discontinued in Japan

The Tokyo Japan South (English) Stake was discontinued and is now a district. The stake was the most recently created in 2003 and had four wards during the seven years it functioned. The stake was likely discontinued because it barely met the qualifications to be a stake with only four congregations. The Japanese economy has also suffered over the past decade and may have resulted in the English-speaking community returning to the United States or relocating elsewhere. There are now 28 stakes and 15 districts in Japan.


Tom said...

To be honest, Japan is a country where I sadly have to admit where the church is declining. Since reaching its height in the mid 2000's congregations and stakes seem to have gone backwards with poor membership growth and retention.

Luckily this pattern doesn't reflect the rest of growth in Asia, the church seems to be flourishing more in the Phillipines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and eventually I can see widespread Growth in China.

I am not sure about the church's progress in South Korea though, I presume as you know a lot about that Matt you can give an overview on it, right?

Matt said...

Japan has seen little progress in terms of increasing congregations and national outreach over the past decade. Some areas have seen increased convert baptisms and higher retention, but this has not occurred long enough to merit the creation of additional Church units.

As for the Church here in South Korea, we have seen a lot of restructuring going on over the past decade. A dozen or so units have been discontinued in the past decade, including two branches that were discontinued last November in my district, the Seoul Korea Military District. In my district, one of the branches discontinued had 170 attending meetings weekly and was combined with my branch, which previously had 110-120 attending weekly. Our branch now has around 250 or so attending meetings a week, likely making our branch the congregation in Korea with the largest active membership in all of South Korea. The decision to discontinue a branch with so many active members was for many reasons, one of which was so that families in both units could enjoy all the programs a large congregation could offer. If the Church wanted do, we could have several branches created from just our branch, one of which would be Tagalog speaking. I do not believe that certain measures of member activity, like sacrament attendance, have changed much in my branch and the branch that merged with mine.

As for Korean Church units, we have seen a strengthening of many congregations over the past decade. When I served my mission, most wards had between 50 and 80 active members, with a few having over 100. Now there appear to be many more with over 100 active members. In my mission, we had several wards and branches which had fewer than 30 attending meetings and nearly all of these units have since been discontinued. What seems to have happened is that members move out of their ward or outside the country and overtime the ward is reduced to only a few core families and individuals. We had a broadcast just for Korea for stake/district conference in late 2009 in which several Church leaders told Koreans to remain in the Church and to seriously consider any time in which they relocate elsewhere. Sacrament attendance reached 10,000 for the first time in 2005 indicating that activity rates are very low, perhaps 12-15%. Retention of converts has improved over the past decade. Most of the membership growth occurred before 1995 and consisted of youth and young adults who were only activity for a short period of time. Many often vaguely remember the Church or completely forgot that they were ever baptized. All the units I served in had around 30-50% of the members active on the unit records. The problem with the less actives in Korea is that no one knows where most of them live. Some of them do have a desire to return to Church but do not know how to begin the process.

Overall the Church in Korea is fairly strong, particularly due to the strength in local leadership. Two points appear most troubling to me, which are the declining outreach to small cities and rural areas and the small number of native Korean missionaries (just over 100 worldwide). We used to have many more a decade or two ago and their numbers have fallen. I believe this has occurred due to the low numbers of youth joining the Church today compared to in the 1980s and 1990s. The education situation here is hard for non-Asians to imagine and leaves most youth unreached by the Church due to their busy schedule as most high school students are in school for 16 hours a day. Korea is also suffering from low birthrates which rank among the lowest in the world.

Matthew Crandall said...

my sister is a member of this now district, I went to church there last summer this will be good news for everyone there as they were overstretched trying to fill stake callings in addition to ward callings. One of the bishops there said wards would have to get by with what they had, an elders quorm president with no counselors for example. There are now 3 branche instead of 4 wards, so there are now more people per unit which will make for a better experience.