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3136 Edition
April 2-8, 2012
Headline News

Church leaders ponder membership decline among indigenous members in urban areas

Reported by Lin Yi-ying

Written by Lydia Ma

Urban Indigenous Christians Research Center of Taiwan Theological College and Seminary (TTCS) held a seminar in TTCS’ Activity Center on March 30, 2012, on “The present situation and future vision of urban indigenous churches”. Pastors and leaders from various indigenous presbyteries, including Atayal, Amis, Bunun, Rukai, Paiwan, were present at this seminar.

During the seminar, some pastors said bluntly that some indigenous rural churches in indigenous reservations view urban indigenous churches as their competitors and have discouraged its members of its congregation from attending or joining urban indigenous churches. As result, indigenous Christians turn to churches in other denominations instead to find spiritual nourishment and then begin attending church services there.

Another problem brought up during the seminar is that urban indigenous churches have slowly adopted the worship service format used by churches in other denominations. By adopting praise and worship, as is the trend in other churches, they have completely transformed the solemn and sacred form of worship used in Presbyterian churches and confused their congregations into thinking they are attending a church service at another denomination.

Rev. Behuy Payas from Singkayo Presbyterian Church remarked that an urban indigenous pastor’s vision of his ministry will determine the direction of urban indigenous churches. He is convinced that urban indigenous churches must return to their PCT roots and focus on holistic evangelism, which includes proclaiming the gospel, training God’s children, serving in love, social service, creation care, and connecting the gospel with the culture.

Rev. Behuy Payas also said that another problem facing urban indigenous churches is location and finances. Most of these churches are located on the 3rd or 4th floor of apartment buildings, which is very inconvenient as neighbors may complain about noise levels. However, renting 1st and 2nd floor levels are usually more expensive and beyond these churches’ ability to afford as they usually receive very little in terms of tithes and offerings.

Another concern is the decline of the use of indigenous languages in these churches as most members working in urban areas have been living in the city for many years and have consequently grown accustomed to speaking Mandarin or Taiwanese because of their work environment. Behuy Payas expressed concern at the decline in usage or estrangement of indigenous languages among indigenous churches in urban areas.

However, the lack of trust between indigenous churches in rural and urban areas was deemed as the gravest and most pressing problem. Many pastors expressed that whenever members start going to indigenous urban churches because of the location of their work, their offerings to their offerings and time also go with them. In other words, “mother churches” or rural churches experience a dramatic drop in offerings and church volunteers as people return less frequently during weekends and start attending urban indigenous churches altogether.

This has resulted in rural churches viewing urban churches as their rivals, prompting some rural church leaders to be reluctant in letting their members know about the existence and location of indigenous urban churches when they move. Though some leaders hope that this will cause some of their members to come back home more often, it has actually resulted in indigenous Christians going to other denominations to find a spiritual home, which in turn means a loss of members for the PCT as a whole.

Urban Indigenous Christians Research Center coordinator and TTCS professor, Cheng Yang-en, said that the purpose of this seminar is to provide a means for indigenous pastors in rural and urban churches to get acquainted and dialogue so that these problems can be resolved. He hoped that such an opportunity would help indigenous churches flourish and grow and underscored that TTCS would continue to hold such seminars if they can truly help pastors in their ministries.

 

 
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3136 Edition
April 2-8, 2012
General Assembly News

57th PCT General Assembly Annual Convention set to begin on April 10

Reported by Lin Yi-ying

Written by Lydia Ma

The 57th PCT General Assembly Annual Convention will take place at Changhua Christian Hospital on April 10-13, 2012. Items on this year’s agenda include electing a new moderator, vice-moderator, clerk and treasurer, as well as electing a new General Secretary. Delegates representing Christian organizations in South Korea, Japan, Canada, USA, Germany, India, Malaysia, and the Christian Council of Asia will also attend this meeting, as well as Taiwanese delegates representing the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, and other churches will also attend this convention.

Because the theme of this year’s general assembly is “Loving our country -Taiwan; sharing the gospel everywhere”, the General Assembly has invited US missionary Milo Thornberry to come to Taiwan and speak on “The People I Met on the Way to Jericho” wherein he will also share about how he helped Professor Peng Ming-min, a democracy activist, escape to the USA.

To help various Christian media outlets in Taiwan better understand the day-to-day developments of this year’s convention, PCT Associate General Secretary Kho Sing-doh and the General Assembly’s news team has arranged a dinner meeting with reporters to discuss the schedule of events ahead of time. As in previous years, the election of new leaders such as moderator, vice-moderator, clerk and treasurer, etc. will take place on the evening of the first day of the convention followed by an installation and handover ceremony, while the election of the General Secretary will take place on the following day in the morning. Kho underscored that no matter who is elected to the General Assembly as General Secretary or other positions, it is imperative that everyone realize that God is present and in control.

 
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3136 Edition
April 2~8, 2012
Headline News

Christian youths join masses in protest over controversial urban project’s infringement of dwelling rights

Reported by Simon Lin

Written by Lydia Ma

The Taipei City government forcibly evicted a family surnamed Wang on March 28, 2012 from their home in Shilin District to make way for a new housing complex, which is part of a bigger urban renewal project known as the Wenlin Yuan Urban Renewal Project. According to reports, it issued permits to Le Young Construction to rezone and pre-sell housing units before construction and before obtaining consent from the Wang family, who owned the land and had repeatedly declined to sell.

On the day of the eviction, the city government dispatched about 1,000 police officers to the site to forcibly expel nearly 300 protesters, mostly college students and professors, who had come to support the Wang family and defend their rights. Backhoes were sent to demolish the house on that day though there were still people inside the house, prompting outrage and fear from the crowd as it became clear that, “If they demolish the Wang’s house today, then, they may well demolish my house tomorrow.”

This incident has now become the focus of news reports across Taiwan, prompting backlash in many quarters. Those who support the Wang family are demanding an immediate examination of the constitutionality of this project and a change in policies governing urban development.

On March 29, which happened to be Youth Day in Taiwan, Rev. Yang Po-wen from Taipei College Ministry Committee brought a dozen of church youths and some students from Taiwan Theological College and Seminary (TTCS) to attend a protest held in front of Taipei City Hall. It became a good opportunity to turn faith into action by supporting the weak and oppressed.

According to the Alliance of Victims of Urban Renewal Project, when the city government handed out building permits to Le Young Construction before ensuring that an agreement with residents in the area had been secured, its utter disregard for residents’ rights was obvious. The Alliance said that the Wang’s were not notified that their land would be appropriated until the very last minute – long after the land had been rezoned and sold to a third party by Le Young Construction.

Current laws stipulate that as long as a construction firm has obtained the consent of 75 percent of the property owners on a site, it can ask the government to demolish the rest of the buildings without the consent of the remaining owners. However, allegations by Le Young Construction that only a very small fraction of residents in that neighborhood had opposed the project are false because as many as 43% of area residents had opposed the project but were pressured into giving up their lands.

DPP legislator Yu Mei-nu said that the Wang’s were not the kind of people to intentionally raise the price of a house to NT$200 million to make a profit. The reason they set such a price was to discourage Le Young from trying to acquire the land in which their family has lived for 6 generations. However, not only did Le Young bribe the media into discrediting the Wang’s, it also misled the other 36 households into giving up their homes.

On March 29, some students decided to go to Taipei City Council to protest against the city’s mayor, Hau Lung-bin. Upon hearing this news and seeing how this event would be a good opportunity for Christian youths to become socially active and live out their faith, a few staff from Taipei College Ministry invited students to attend. They were later joined by 7 other students from TTCS.

When they arrived at the square in front of the Taipei City Council, students took turns voicing their views on these urban renewal projects. Taiwan Seminary Student Chiang Chih-hao said these projects should be undertaken with respect for people’s right to property at all times and if a minority of people do not want to move, their wishes should nevertheless be respected and an alternative plan should then be devised. Another student said bluntly that the government had broken the 10th Commandment wherein God commands his people not to covet other people’s possessions, which includes houses. TTCS students and faculty vowed to participate in future marches to support dwelling rights.

 


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