PC(USA), Taiwanese Presbyterians agree on renewed mission and ministry together

After a decade, PCT and PC(USA) representatives held a reunion Mission Cooperative Conference at Hsin-chu from Oct. 10-15, 2014. —Courtesy of Presbyterian Church in Taiwan

HSIN-CHU AND TAIPEI, TAIWAN (PNS) Due to a series of personnel changes and organizational adjustment, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had not been able to keep an official contact with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) for a decade.

But from Oct.10-15, an historic mission cooperative conference between PC(USA) and PCT in Hsin-chu, reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in order to further mutual understanding and initiate future cooperation on mission and ministry.

To express PCT’s remembrance and thanksgiving for the generous favor and support of the PC(USA) since 1949, the Rev. Lo Reng-quei, moderator of PCT General Assembly, together with the Rev. Lyim Hong-tiong, PCT general secretary, presented the PCT Hymnal (Sèng si) to the Rev. Roger Dermody, PC(USA) deputy executive director for mission, and the Rev. Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Why does the PCT treasure her relationship with PC(USA) so much and the PC(USA) also care very much about this Mission Cooperative Conference? Rev. Lyim explained it is due to the very close and cooperative relationship PC(USA) and PCT have had, dating to 1949.

Financially, Lyim said, PC(USA) had helped to finance many PCT institutions for evangelical mission, be it the current PCT General Assembly building, Taichung Missionary Center, land and property in Yuli of Huan-lien County, Aboriginal College Student Center or the Laymen Building in the Presbyterian Bible College.

Politically, Lyim added, when the China Christian Council(CCC) wanted to enter the World Council of Churches (WCC) in the 1990s, the PC(USA) resolutely spoke for Taiwan and unflinchingly rejected China’s request to exclude PCT from the WCC as a pre-condition of entrance.

Practically and demographically, the PC(USA) currently includes 45 Taiwanese churches, which places future cooperation on mission and ministry firmly on the agenda for the two churches. In addition, many PC(USA) missionaries currently serve in Taiwan, like the Rev. John McCall, the Rev. Lin Chun-tsu and the Rev. Jonathan Setz, whose missionary enthusiasm and contribution to Taiwan church is tremendous, Lyim said.

Before starting the official mission cooperative conference, PC(USA) representatives visited five PCT churches in three presbyteries: Tayal, Hakka and Tainan. Farrell expressed his appreciation for PCT’s hospitality. He said that from his childhood on he has heard so many wonderful stories about missionary work in Taiwan “but could never be glimpsed ― now my dream comes true with this personal witness.”

During the mission conference, PCT committees shared their ministries and related their progress on the “One Leads One, New Doubling Mission Movement.”

Dermody introduced a current PC(USA) mission movement ― 1001 New Worshiping Communities ― which since 2012 has encouraged presbyteries and congregations to establish 1001 new worshiping communities, inviting youth, new immigrant and minority groups not usually reachable by the extant church. The PC(USA) has established 237 new worshiping communities across the United States, Dermody said.

Evangelist Yeh Ching-an, secretary of PCT Ecumenical and International Committee, stressed within his PCT ecumenical ministry report that it is not PCT policy to transgress into partner church’s “dioceses” to build up her own denominational regime or impact. Before launching into any ecumenical mission, PCT would always respect partner church’s establishment and sovereignty to propose joint mission or theological education projects, Yeh said. In other words, PCT would do her ecumenical mission only under a request from her partner church.

Farrell responded that he wished to confirm if PCT has the same mission vision and enthusiasm as the PC(USA). He noted that the budget of World Mission accounts for 5 percent within the  Presbyterian Mission Agency and only one-fifth of this 5 percent, or 1 percent of the total PMA budget, is invested in the Asia area.

So, this money should be spent at the most needed people and places, Farrell said ― the reason why this Mission Cooperative Conference was needed to seek a consensus. Farrell led all the conference participants in prayer, prior to sub-group discussions on priorities and policies for mutual cooperation.

Through many earnest prayers and conversations among the conference attenders ― diligently mediated by the Rev. John McCall, the PCT and PC(USA) reached an MoU as follows:

On Mission Ministry

Regarding “One Leads One, New Doubling Mission Movement” and “1001 New Worshiping Communities,” PCT and PC(USA) wish to share these missionary resources and ideas, and engage a joint research. Both churches would also push “third party ministry,” which is less mentioned in PCT, referring to a joint mission in third countries and joint cooperation with Yukon Presbytery of PC(USA) to serve Alaska Natives.  

On Church and Society Ministry

PCT and PC(USA) will carry on the current cooperation framework of international emergency rescue (disaster assistance), like the joint relief effort after Haiyen Typhoon in Philippines. Social justice issues among aboriginal people, land justice and human rights will also be developed further. 

On Women’s Ministry

Current partnerships in women’s ministry and related education materials and biblical translation will be strengthened. 

On Ethnic Minority Ministry

A cultural exchange program and partnership blueprint between Taiwan aboriginal church and American ethnic minority church will be outlined to facilitate a common growth. 

On Youth Ministry

Encourage PC(USA) youth to take part into PCT’s Ecumenical Youth Exchange Program (EYEP), or arrange some voluntary college youth from both PCT and PC(USA) to third countries and engage with international aid and casualty relief work. 

By Simon Lin and Lin Yi-Ying, Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
Translated by Peter Wolfe