BY THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN TAIWAN
Concerning the Bible, the Church and the Nation
Revised English translation of the Report of the Conference on Church and Society sponsored by the Committee on World Church Relations of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. September 15-18, 1975
"Our Appeal" was adopted unanimously by the Executive Committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan on 18 November 1975 expressing the position of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.
When the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan issued its "Statement on Our National Fate" at the end of 1971, it attracted considerable attention and aroused a warm response both at home and overseas. The issuing of the "Statement on Our National Fate" was based on our church's faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the world, and was concerned for human rights for all people in Taiwan, and indeed for the destiny of our nation. Although some, both within the church and outside it, misunderstood or opposed the Statement, our church, as its conscience dictates, has continued to stand by this firm expression of its faith. In the few years since then our church, in accordance with the principles and faith of the Statement, has repeatedly advocated that no external world power should interfere with our nation's destiny. Only our own people have the right to determine our own destiny. Our church has not moved from this original purpose, and firmly believes that only if all the rights which are guaranteed under the constitution are actually observed - which would mean a political reformation - can we have a really democratic government. Our church has not been negligent in its efforts to achieve this goal.
Conditions change very rapidly； our nation has become isolated in its relations with other countries, and we face an impending world economic crisis. In these circumstances the church must not carelessly take its ease and abandon the role of prophet. We know that if we only praise what is commendable, this is not adequate expression of the church's responsibility to the nation and is no way to help the government overcome present difficulties. Only by speaking the truth in love can we show positive concern for our nation's future； only thus can we help in the developing of a democratic, just and honest government.
In view of the danger in which our country stands at this time, the church must take responsibility with regard to the nation's survival, and once again honestly express to the government our church's position on the national fate. We must, at the same time, appeal to the church itself to get rid of a psychology which is concerned only with the individual. In order to save the nation in this time of crisis we in the church must be really united so that we can fulfill our responsibility to promote justice, liberty and peace. Then the church may be worthy to be called a servant of Christ for these times.
Because of this we appeal to the government to view with concern several problems closely related to our national destiny, and we earnestly request the government to accept these proposals：
1. TO PRESERVE THE FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS FAITH WHICH IS GUARANTEED TO THE PEOPLE IN THE CONSTITUTION.
The people in every nation in the free world enjoy full religious liberty. Thus every person should be able to enjoy the freedom to use his own language to worship God and to express his own religious faith. Most regrettably, Bibles published in some of the local languages by the Bible Society have been investigated and confiscated. When this happened it was a great shock to people both here and abroad. The authorities concerned regard the printing of the Bible in local languages as a contravention of the policy to promote the use of the National language and this is their reason for suppressing it. However, one such decision can never contravene the basic spirit of the constitution. Now, although after several negotiations the old edition of the Bible in Roman characters has been returned, we are continuing to press this matter with the government in the hope that, in order to preserve the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of faith, the new translation of the romanized Bible may also be returned； but most important of all we urge that the freedom to continue to publish and distribute the Bible in any language be guaranteed.
2. TO HELP OVERCOME OUR ISOLATION IN FOREIGN RELATIONS.
Since our government withdrew from the United Nations, our nation's foreign relations have suddenly sunk into a state of isolation. Now the government is encouraging people at every level positively to develop foreign relations and to promote cultural and economic contracts. Therefore it ought not to prevent the church participating in the World Council of Churches and other church organizations of an international nature. Because some of the views held in such organizations may not be the same as those of our government, we cannot abandon the opportunity of participating in these international church bodies.
3. TO ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP OF MUTUAL TRUST AND CONFIDENCE BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND THE CHURCH.
It cannot be denied that the church is a powerful force in helping to promote the nation's progress and security. Between government and church there must be an atmosphere of trust based on respect for each other.
We suggest that the government should establish a direct relationship with the church authorities, and that both sides share their views of the future of the nation and the reforming of society honestly together. This is the only way in which we can achieve this mutual trust and confidence.
4. TO HELP TOWARD THE RECONCILIATION AND WORKING TOGETHER OF ALL PEOPLE LIVING IN TAIWAN.
At this time and in this place we should not permit differences, arising out of one's place of origin and whether one is a member of a Party or not, to create unfortunate divisions which would ruin our living and working together.
Immediately before us is a very difficult situation, and it is only as we realize that we are all in the same boat that we can weather the crisis. In order to eliminate discrimination based on provincial origin or party membership we should not countenance any feeling that one person is superior to another. Everybody should enjoy the opportunities of equal privilege and responsibility. Basically, we are all brothers and sisters living together in Taiwan and we ought to treat each other in an attitude of understanding, help and acceptance.
5. TO PRESERVE HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE WELFARE OF THE PEOPLE.
The economy of Taiwan has grown and developed very quickly and it has, of course, brought with it an affluent society, but has also brought a loss of personal worth, moral decadence, rampant pollution, a wide gap between the rich and the poor, and the increasingly serious problem of public peace and order. The church, on the basis of its mission to protect human rights and preserve human dignity, appeals to the government to strengthen the development of society, to focus its attention on the problems of the atmosphere of corruption in society, of unequal distribution of wealth, of avarice, public peace and order and pollution, and to adopt effective measures to safeguard human rights and the welfare of the people.
In order that the church may take up its mission for today we also appeal to it to give attention to the problems that lie before us all, and we beseech the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us and to enable the church to give expression to its true role of prophet and priest.
1. TO GIVE HONEST EXPRESSION OF ITS CONCERN FOR JUSTICE.
It is very easy for the church to seek to avoid giving offense and causing trouble, and so fail to be sensitive to the question of social justice. If the church is concerned only for its own interests and ignores its conscience it will become paralyzed. We must constantly be subjecting ourselves to re-examination by the standard of the spirit of Christ.
2. TO PROMOTE UNITY WITHIN THE CHURCH AND TO CALL THE CHURCH TO A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF ITS OWN FAITH.
Recently a divisive spirit has been eroding the unity of the church and positive action needs to be taken to ensure observance of our regulations and to deal strictly with any behaviour that threatens the order and unity of the church.
Because ministers and church members are confused and uncertain about their faith and the position of their church they have often been easily influenced and misled by other groups. It is right that we should cooperate with other denominations, but it is very important that we first understand our own doctrine and church order. There must be an attitude of mutual respect among the churches before any real cooperation can be achieved.
3. TO STRIVE FOR THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH.
Although we have a history of over one hundred and ten years and local congregations have reached self-support, the General Assembly as a whole has to admit "We are still a receiving church". From now on we must put forth greater effort to become "a giving church". This is not in relation to finance only, but has to do even more with the whole missionary task of the church. We must move from a position of dependence on overseas mission boards to one of independence and mutuality in which we share together with the world church in the responsibility for mission. And on the basis of our own faith we must be prepared to proclaim God's justice and uphold freedom and peace in our own land.
4. TO ESTABLISH A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHURCH IN THE WHOLE WORLD.
A lack of confidence in the world-wide church has been a cause of division within our church, but in our confession of faith we profess to believe in the holy catholic church. The various churches throughout the world ought to respect each other's opinions while accepting each other and working together towards a greater unity.
We appeal to our own church members to pay attention to, and try to put a stop to, the kind of harmful activity that damages our relationship with the world church. We should seek to enter into an exchange of personnel and work with other branches of the world church so that we can understand and support each other better.
5. TO BE MORE CONCERNED FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PROBLEMS.
The church should become the servant of justice and truth； the aim of the church's existence is to communicate the message of God's love, and because of this the church must, in the spirit of real love, get involved in the actualities of modern society and through service seek to change the conditions of society.
The world today is full of the fear of injustice and war. Humanity's greatest suffering is the result of its own selfishness in the world. The world's problems of hunger, overpopulation and human rights still urgently call for concern and solution. Our church here and the church in the whole world must stand together to extend a helping hand to each other, so that the love of God may truly be spread throughout the world.
The church cannot, here and now, keep silence, sitting by and watching the world sink into ruin； besides participating in the spreading of the gospel and leading men to repent and believe in the Lord, it must express concern for the whole nation, for society, and for the whole of mankind. Only in this way will it not fail to live up to the mission entrusted to it by God.