Taiwan Church News
February 20 – 26, 2017
Prophetic Role Of The Church: Responding The Public Spheres Through Public Theology
Reported by Simon Lin
In the Panel on Prophetic Role of the Church, a session of the International Forum of the Mission of the Church in Taiwan Today held by PCT on February 16, Professor Zeng Yang-en, a WCC Central Committee member and a church historian from Taiwan Theological Seminary and College, was invited to deliver a speech on the prophetic role of PCT.
Professor Zeng retrieved, since PCT’s participation into several ecumenical church bodies from 1951 and under the influence of these ecclesiastic communities, the issues of human rights, social justice, ethnic harmony, environmental protection and etc gradually became the important perspectives of PCT’s understanding of the ecumenical Christian faith.
These ecumenical concerns gradually became the bedrocks of three renown PCT statements, urging Taiwan authorities to respect the self-determination of all Taiwanese people, implement a political reform, and treasure the languages of mother tongue, in the 1970s. The Urban Rural Movement (URM), supported by the ecumenical movement, began to educate social activists and grass-root-workers for Taiwan’s social movement in these 1980s.
And the human resources trained by URM also played a very critical role in Taiwan’s social reforms afterwards.In the past three decades, Professor Zeng observed, public theology in Taiwan gradually became a very important theological movement. Quoting the remarks of Professor Sebastian Kim, a famous British theologian versed in public theology, contemporary theology has to respond three major interlocutors: church, academy, and the public sphere, which includes government, enterprises, NGOs, and the media, Professor Zeng said.
And the point to engage a public theology decently is offer a fair and balanced viewpoint between church, academy and the public spheres, proposed Professor Zeng, adding that public spheres were usually most easily to be overlooked. Therefore, in addition to traditional theological concerns, such as ethics, pastoral theology, and mission studies, theologians have to consider more about the public dimension of the Christian faith and respond to the issues of public interests or civic society, etc, Professor Zeng said.
Following the end of World War II, the demise of the mainstream Christianity denominations, the increase of the independent churches, and the expansion of cold war’s stand-off between communism countries and anti-communism blocs, most Taiwan churches and denominations other than PCT were deeply skeptic and repulsive about ecumenical movement or any theology concerning public issues, Professor Zen observed.
Worse was that, under the negative impacts of KMT’s parochial political culture, Taiwan church were cultivated to treat our neighbors from an isolated or even a self-centered perspective overlooking the macroscopic or structural issues, like social justice, ethnic equality, ethical values, and social norms, according to Professor Zeng.
Facing the rise of public theology, Professor Zeng encouraged the audience, not only PCT should carry on her past ministries in kinds of political reform, human rights improvement, immigrant workers, aboriginal peoples, LGBT people, but also respond those critical life and death issues, such as the context of colonialism/post-colonialism, gender issues, economic justice, materialism and consumption culture, ecological concerns and etc, concerning this land and our people.
In order to build up the society’s “third sector”(civic society), engaging with the government and the enterprise independently, Taiwan church has to stand by and walk beside the Taiwanese people. Until the civic society could be grown up strong enough to walk in his indispensable role, the church should not stop her prophetic voice to speak out and warn against the possible dangers toward the society, Professor Zeng concluded.
Translated by Peter Wolfe