The job searching system of the United Church of Christ in Japan

I appreciate my friend who corrected my writing after I posted this article on my facebook. In Christian context, job means "vocational placement" as clergy and hiring means "invitation from church."

Friends, give me constructive criticism and encouragement. I'm in the midst of looking for a job in Japan, but am stuck. This is to let you know the situation that I am in. I will post my opinion later. Compared to the sadness of the victim families or struggles of the children in conflict areas, this may be a small thing. But I can't help but wonder, why do I have to go through this?

- The following 15 points illustrate the hiring situation that I am in. There are multiple players here: informal groups/sects that have power and say over hiring decisions (usually alumni groups, theological sects, or simply cliques based on friendship), the applicants and the system of job placement at the United Church of Christ in Japan. The following information is based on the advice that I received from several Japanese pastors in my process of searching for a job placement since July 2013.

1. There is no public information about job placement for the applicants and local churches. The conference usually doesn't know anything about the applicants.

2. The groups which have the power and authority over personnel issues do not get along with one another for political and theological reasons.

3. The applicants are expected to contact one of the groups when looking for jobs, but for the above reason, they must not contact more than one group at a time.

4. However, the groups are not necessarily responsible for finding placement for the applicants.

5. Consequently, the applicant are not sure whether they will be able to land a job or not. In addition, no one knows how long the search process is going to take.

6. If a group fails to find a job placement for an applicant, the applicant may contact a different group. However, in such cases, the applicant is required to disclose which groups they had been in contact with.

7. The first contact to a group largely depends on the applicant's seminary or their original network.

8. This means that those who already have established connections with certain groups have an advantage over those who do not. These privileged applicants are usually the sons/daughters of pastors/professors or an alumni of one of the two big-name Japanese seminaries.

9. The reality of local churches is such that the average age of the members is around 70-80 (or 60-70?), and they didn't have a chance to learn about gender issues, sexism, racism and LGBT discrimination from a theological standpoint while they were younger. Therefore, they tend to look for people with similar backgrounds/status.

10. Traditionally, the ideal pastor is a married male, educated in the same seminary as the previous pastor, middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual and Japanese.

11. It has long been believed that this hiring procedure is the only way to make personnel decisions for the applicants.

12. Disadvantaged applicants are:
those who have graduated from small or non-Japanese seminaries;
are not acquainted with the powerful pastors;
are not regarded as a "traditional" pastor - e.g., those who are: female, single, physically challenged, young, non-Japanese (except white European and American missionary), and LGBT.
One of the pastors actually was about to force me to conceal my lesbian identity for my benefit, but this is not healthy for me.

13. Finance is a major concern for the search committee of the local churches. Thus, elderly Japanese citizens who have started receiving monthly government pension are considered to be favorable for small local churches, which constitute the majority of the churches in the United Church of Christ in Japan.

14. Japanese seminary professors and alumni groups, of which the majority of the members are male, able-bodied, heterosexual and Japanese have the strongest power in this hiring system.

15. Since breaking "harmony" is considered to be a "sinful" or "betraying" attitude according to Japanese virtue, few people are willing to change this system.



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