The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and Its Changing Narrative on Human Rights



Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has the longest tradition of any Protestant denomination in the country. There has been a Presbyterian mission in Taiwan for over 150 years and it has long been a promoter of the human rights, minority rights, and political rights of the Taiwanese people. The PCT stands in the line of Protestant reformed churches based on the teachings of John Calvin (1509–1564) and his followers and was formed by the amalgamation of the British and Canadian Presbyterian missions. The two missions shared a theological and historical background, both having been built on the heritage of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland founded by John Knox (1513–1572), who wedded Calvin’s theology to a Presbyterian system with elected church leaders (elders) who met at regular national synods (Tomkins 2009, p. 232). The PCT functions as a presbyter-synodic establishment based on the principle of election and delegation. Local religious associations are united into regional presbyteries with elected superiors. These regional bodies are further grouped into higher units called synods (Filipi 2008, p. 112). From the late 1960s, the central theological position of the PCT began to change, especially with the emergence of contextual theology and a gradual move away from the Calvinist view of the separation of church and state. It nonetheless continued to build on Calvin’s theology regarding the image of God and common grace. The person largely responsible for introducing contextual theology to Taiwan was the influential theologian Shoki Coe Huang Zhanghui ??? (1914–1988). Shoki Coe maintained that contextual theology could be understood as a methodology that allows the interpretation of a particular (and invariable) biblical text at a certain time and within a local context. The new theology combined social engagement and Christian teaching and called leaders within the PCT to engage in social and political action. By creating a space for the promotion of human rights, the new dogmatic paradigm helped church leaders to focus on spheres of believers’ lives other than spiritual consolation. This paper will address the following questions: How has the issue of human rights been narrated within the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan? In what ways has the church’s narrative been innovative? What lies behind the change in the church’s narrative on human rights? Because religious bodies have the potential to be a positive force for change in a society, it is essential to analyse how a Christian church creates a discourse on human rights while adhering to both religious doctrine and municipal and international law. A Christian perspective on human rights can, furthermore, contribute to the secular discourse on the topic.
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