This newsletter begins with a word of deep thanks to the United Reformed Church from the PCT. The URC moderator, Mr. Alan Yates, wrote a letter on May 4, 2018 addressed to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Department of Health to advocate for Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly. Moderator Yates said:
We know that there are strong political feelings in various quarters about Taiwan’s place in the family of nations. However, health ought to transcend politics. Including everyone in an international gathering of this kind is an expression of our common humanity, and a contribution to health and well-being across the world. Disease does not respect our boundaries. Excluding the doctors of any land from such a widespread sharing of wisdom and current concern about treatment, prevention and hygiene affects not only the land excluded but indirectly endangers us all.
PCT 2018 General Assembly
The PCT 63rd General Assembly was held from April 17 to 20, 2018. The overseas guests who graced the occasion were from the Asia Evangelical Missionary Fellowship (AEMF), Basel Christian Church of Malaysia (BCCM), Berlin Mission (BM), the Brotherhood of Christ Church - Kirisuto Kyodaidan (BCC) , Gereja Presbyterian Malaysia (GPM), Jesus Christ Church in Japan (JCCJ), Korean Christian Church in Japan (KCCJ), the Korean Evangelical Church (KEC), Presbyterian Church in Singapore (PCS), the Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Formosa in Brazil (Pa-se Tiong-hoe), Presbyterian Church in Korea (PCK) and the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK), Oriental Deaf Christ Evangelical Church (ODCEC), the Reformed Church in America (RCA), the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ), and the World Alliance of Taiwanese Christian Churches (WATCC).
Two important new partnerships were established: the Korean Evangelical Church and the Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of Formosa in Brazil (Pa-se Tiong-hoe). Though the KEC is not from a Presbyterian tradition, under the encouragement of the National Council of Churches in Korea, and based on an extensive consultation process, a partnership signing ceremony was completed at this General Assembly.
Representatives from both churches expressed their hope that the partnership will be strong and lead new people to follow Christ. The Presbyterian Church of Formosa in Brazil (Pa-se Tiong-hoe) is already a third generation since the early days of immigration of many Taiwanese. The KEC Moderator, Rev. Lee Youngho, regretfully was unable to be present but KEC Vice Moderator, Rev. Youn Chulho, delivered and read his written message in which he expressed their churches hope that the partnership would search for a common strategy to confront the challenges to the Christian faith, through Bible study, and prayer. Moderator Lee said that only in that way could the church be the salt and light of the earth. The PCT Moderator, Rev. Hsieh Pao-Tsan responded to these warm words indicating that doing mission and evangelism together would give meaningful expression to mutuality as members of one body, one faith and one baptism. He was delighted that all the three churches had matured from the early sacrifice and witness of the missionaries.
In his installation address, the new moderator, Rev. Hsieh said that he had always been very honored to be a PCT pastor because the church, since Taiwan’s rural days until today's urban society, had always stood and identified with the people. Though no PCT worship service could claim over a thousand persons in attendance, but the PCT presence in the society was like a convenience store, it could be found at every village and street corner. He was delighted that the church believed in and shared the good news that Jesus Christ is the only true God in the world. He asked for the whole church to pray for him and for the Mission witness of the PCT so that through suffering and hope and faith in Jesus Christ, Taiwan could soon become a new and independent nation.
In another special event of the General Assembly, it called on the church to make a priority of caring for the senior citizens. To stimulate local congregations to consider an appropriate response, Rev. Tan Gi-Beng, an Associate General Secretary, highlighted a video presentation of the numerous activities that the General Assembly office had been implementing. He said that the issue was urgent because by 2026 20% of the population would be over the age of 65. He urged the delegates to nurture and equip their churches, in cooperation with the government, to develop a professional response to the multiple needs of the elderly and their families.
The GA also heard a special lecture by its Legal Consultant, Lawyer Stephen S. S. Lee on the theme of “Distinction between Sovereignty, Huma Rights, Canon and Laws for Christians and Non-Christians” Elder Lee laid out the starting Christian perspective which confesses the supreme sovereignty in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and therefore the society and the nation must also reflect this will of God and establish a just and compassionate social order. He also pointed out that such a social order must reflect the freedom of religion and not religious persecution and repression.
As regards the conflict of church order within the church, he cautioned against rumouring or using the media to promote one’s point of view. Elder Lee appealed to all the PCT members to respect one another and to set good examples on the basis of the teaching of the scripture. Adding that the law of the nation should not be the primary forum for resolving PCT’s internal conflicts. Legal suits prevent Christians from setting a good example for the society nor to be a good witness as a follower of Jesus Christ. He reminded the GA to follow the scripture injunction: do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God –what is good, acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
In a first in the General Assembly proceedings, the delegates observed Thursday in Black - Towards a world without Rape and Violence. The Thursdays in Black campaign protests began in the 1970s and its roots lie in groups such as Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina. Later in the 1980s, it became an international human rights campaign supported by the World Council of Churches. On the second day of the GA, for the official photo, all the participants dressed in black and held up enlarged copies of the international campaign’s logo Thursday’s in Black and the words No Sexual Harassment, No Violence, No Discrimination in Chinese. Lapel badges “pins” of the logo were also distributed. A day later, a Thursday, many of the participants continued to wear black in support of the ecumenical campaign to denounce violence and rape against women and call for gender justice.
Recent PCT General Assembly sessions had not been without controversy and heated debates with name-calling and personal attacks. These exchanges were especially evident in the LGBTQ issue and the appointment of board directors for the PCT institutions. Some of the debates were also illegally recorded and taped for private use to denounce GA officials and staff. Some observers wished that the delegates would be conscious of the fact that the way they conducted these internal controversies are a critical test of their own integrity and a vital part of their witness to the Taiwanese society.
本通訊首先要代表台灣基督長老教會（PCT）由衷感謝英國聯合歸正教會（URC）。 URC議長Alan Yates於2018年5月4日致書予英國衛生署，懇請部長 Jeremy Hunt 倡議通過台灣參加世界衛生大會（WHA）。議長Alan Yates說：
兩個教會代表皆期盼夥伴關係能更為堅強，進而帶領凡人跟隨基督。自早期許多台灣人移民到巴西至今，巴西中會已傳至第三代。KEC 議長 Lee Youngho 不克前來，故派副議長 Youn Chulho 作為代表傳達信息。議長 Lee Youngho 表示，期盼夥伴關係能透過研經及禱告的方式，尋求共同策略以面對基督教信仰所接受的挑戰。只有如此，教會才能成為世上的光與鹽。PCT 新任議長薛伯讚也回應夥伴教會熱情的信息，他表示一同著手事工同時傳遞福音，將傳達一個有意義的訊息，我們一同在主裡分享信仰與洗禮。他很高興 PCT、KEC 及巴西中會三個教會，經歷早期傳教士的犧牲與見證中一同茁壯。
薛伯讚議長於就任演說中表示，他一直深感榮幸能成為 PCT 的牧師，因為 PCT 從早期台灣的農村社會過度到今天的都市社會，總能體認人民並與人民站在一起。雖然 PCT 的禮拜人數並未破千，但PCT在現今社會中就像便利商店一樣，遍及每個巷弄街角。薛伯讚議長樂見教會能相信並傳揚福音，即主耶穌基督是這世上唯一的主。他祈求大家能為他及 PCT 的事工見證代禱，因唯有通過苦難、希望及對主耶穌基督的信仰，台灣才能很快成為一個嶄新而獨立的國家。
總會代表於通常會議上，首次響應「週四黑衣運動 - 邁向一個無性侵、無暴力的世界」。週四黑衣運動始於 1970 年代，源於阿根廷團體如消失的母親。1980年代後，這樣運動逐漸轉為人權運動，並由普世教會協會所支持。議會開會次日，大家齊聚在大禮堂內進行合照，所以與會者皆身著黑衣，手舉以中文呈現的國際標誌「週四黑衣運動 - 反性侵、反暴力、反歧視」。 週四黑衣運動的黑色徽章也在會場中進行發放。合照隔日剛好是星期四，許多與會者繼續穿著黑衣，表示支持這項普世運動，並藉此譴責對女性的暴力與性侵，呼籲彰顯性別公義。
近來 PCT 的通常議會常有爭議與激烈辯論，甚至是人身攻擊及誹謗他人的傾向。這些過激的討論在 LGBT 問題及任命 PCT 董事長時尤其顯著。有些辯論過程甚至遭非法紀錄與錄音，以用來譴責總會的執行委員與員工。有觀察者希望通常議會的代表們能意識到，他們所導致的內部爭議，將是對自我誠信的嚴峻考驗，也是他們如何見證台灣社會的關鍵所在。