The Oversight Council of Jinja Honchō met on October 13th, for the first time since the disputed election to the presidency. In all, Jinja Shinpō spent two whole pages (out of six in the newspaper) on it, and the event is well captured by one of the subheadings.
Sale of the Dormitory Also Raised; Debate Goes Nowhere
I am not going to summarise everything that was said, because there was a lot of rehashing of ground that has already been covered, and you can get the background by looking at the posts under the “disputed presidency” tag.
There was no sign of movement towards compromise. The chairman opened the meeting by announcing that he had appointed Revd Ashihara as the president in the hope of introducing transparency and integrity into the management of Jinja Honchō. The secretariat then went on to insist that Revd Tanaka was the president, and that it didn’t matter what the chairman thought, but others disagreed, quite strongly. Some people suggested that Revd Tanaka had not been completely cleared of corruption by the court decisions, and Revd Tanaka asked Revd Sano about the results of a project costing ¥150 million that Revd Sano had led for Jinja Honchō — thirty years ago. At one point, the secretariat suggested that one person’s description of Revd Tanaka’s behaviour was slander. The chairman objected to the description of Revd Ashihara’s application to be recognised as the president that was published in Jinja Honchō’s internal newsletter, and other councillors raised questions about why the chairman had not approved that article.
In short, it is still a mess.
On the bright side, the accounts were approved and the budget was passed, although one councillor is reported as stating that he did not approve of the budget, so it clearly did not pass unanimously. One question did receive a good answer. The current court cases are over who the president of Jinja Honchō is, so one councillor asked why Jinja Honchō is paying the legal expenses of just one side. The answer is that, formally, Revd Ashihara, as an individual, is suing Jinja Honchō, as a religious corporation. Given that, Jinja Honchō should be paying for its own side of the case.
It is interesting that, as far as I can tell from the reports, no-one raised the fact that the previous board of directors, under the leadership of Revd Tanaka, illegally fired a senior employee of Jinja Honchō. That has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, so it would seem to be the obvious problem to raise. I am really not sure why no-one does — it certainly is not out of consideration for the feelings or dignity of the people involved.
The debate was ultimately cut off, over protests from some councillors, on the grounds that they needed to wait for the court’s judgement, which is due on December 22nd. There was some talk of calling an extraordinary meeting of the Oversight Council before the end of this year, but as there would be little point doing so before the court made its decision, I am inclined to doubt that that will happen. The court’s decision could well make such a meeting necessary, but given how busy jinja are in the New Year period, I cannot see it happening before mid to late January. I could be wrong about that, of course, and major changes in the positions of some of the people involved might make an earlier meeting useful, or even necessary.
When Revd Tanaka was asked why he felt he had to serve a (highly unusual) fifth term, he raised the problems of depopulation, the shortage of young priests, and the survival of small jinja. I agree with him that those are the most important problems that Jinja Honchō and the Shinto world are facing at the moment, and it is disappointing that so much energy is being spent on other issues.