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Historical Sketch First Theological Departments

Historical Sketch

Tokyo Union Theological Seminary (TUTS) has deep roots and a rich tradition. Its story reaches back to the earliest beginnings of the Protestant church movement in Japan. Protestant theological education began in Japan among the earliest converts. In 1872, the first theological class was held in Yokohama by Samuel R. Brown, a missionary of the Reformed Church in America (RCA). The following year, Henry Stout, also of the RCA, opened a theological training center in Nagasaki. Soon afterward, American Presbyterian missionaries Thompson, Carrothers, and Hepburn, as well as missionaries of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, started their work in similar ways in Yokohama and Tokyo.

First Theological Departments

Later, when Meiji Gakuin University was founded in Tokyo, it established a theological department. In 1889, a theological department was also formed at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo for the training of Methodist ministers. These schools trained a large number of Japan’s early Christian leaders. In 1904, the Tokyo School of Theology (Tokyo Shingakusha) was established by the Reverend Masahisa Uemura. This has been described as the first seminary independently administered and financed by Japan’s Christians.

In 1926, the Disciples of Christ Theological School was united with the Methodist theological school at Aoyama Gakuin, and in 1929, the Meiji Gakuin Theological Department, administered by the missionaries, was united with Uemura’s Tokyo Shingakusha to form the Japan School of Theology (Nihon Shingakko).

Uniting of Theological Schools

Several years later, during the period leading into World War II, a step-by-step amalgamation of theological schools took place. Not only the Japan School of Theology and the theological department of Aoyama Gakuin, but also the theological schools of the Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, Salvation Army, and others were united into one theological school. In this way the several strands were eventually woven into the present TUTS.

For a time during the war, virtually all Protestant theological education was conducted at this one union seminary. Some denominational seminaries were later separately reconstituted in the period immediately following the war. TUTS, however, formally established by the United Church of Christ in Japan (Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan) in 1943, has continued to carry on the traditions of a union seminary. It endeavors to provide well-trained church leaders for the Kyodan and for the larger Protestant community in Japan as well as for Christian ministry in other countries. The seminary maintains special ties with churches in the United States, Canada, and Germany, and is also developing significant ties with churches and theological schools in Asia.