The celebration marking 150 years of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) was called a “significant and dramatic” part of church history in Asia by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Tveit made these comments during his visit to Taiwan from 4 to 7 April, where he participated in the 150 years celebration of the life and ministry of PCT as a church which has been a member of the WCC since 1951.The PCT today is a vital member church of the WCC, serving the people of Taiwan and beyond in the local churches, in diaconal ministry and institutions, in witness for social justice and peace, and particularly in the work with the indigenous peoples.
“The PCT is a minority church which has significantly contributed to Taiwan’s society, and I believe it will continue to do so,” Tveit said expressing his pleasure at being part of this celebration, where he was representing the world wide fellowship of churches in the WCC. Tveit also said that in the PCT “the strong presence and participation of younger people is a great inspiration.”
The PCT has been a strong promoter and mobilizer of the people for the cause of democracy and human rights during authoritarian years of the 1970s and 80s. The church issued numerous statements and many of the church leaders were imprisoned by the government as a result.
“When the nationalist government in Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations in 1971, the PCT was prohibited from participating in the WCC events until the WCC Vancouver assembly in 1983. This was a bleak period in the history of the PCT, but the WCC stood by the PCT sending several pastoral delegations to render ecumenical support especially during the trial and imprisonment of the PCT general secretary, Rev. C. M. Kao,” said Rev. Dr Victor Hsu, PCT’s associate general secretary for ecumenical relations and a former WCC staff member.
The PCT began in 1865 with the work of English Presbyterian missionaries in the south of the island and Canadian Presbyterian missionaries in the north (1872). After the Japanese occupation in 1895, mission bodies were refused entry. This resulted in the development of a single Protestant church.
During his visit to Taiwan, Tveit preached on 5 April at the National Thanksgiving Service of the PCT which was attended by more than 15,000 members from all across the country addressing the theme “Do not be afraid!” based on the biblical passage from Mathew 28:1-10.
The general secretary of the PCT, Rev. Hong Tiong Lyim said, “The visit of Rev. Tveit and his sermon on Easter Sunday, gave tremendous encouragement to the entire church as a continuing sign of ecumenical accompaniment for our life and witness.”
The PCT also arranged a courtesy call for the WCC general secretary to speak with former president Lee Teng-Hui and the former presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and now chair of the DPP, Tsai Ing-Wen.
The PCT runs three theological seminaries, one Bible college, two universities, three high schools, three hospitals, and a nursing school.
Tveit said that the mission partners have immensely contributed to building the church and the society through education and health services, but also in very critical times of the church and the people of Taiwan.
“The PCT has become itself a church which contributes a lot to other churches and the mission around the world,” he said.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is an ecumenical partner of the PCT through its membership in the World Council of Churches and the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).