Christianity in Taiwan

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Christians make up some 4.5% of Taiwan's population. Roughly half of Taiwan's Christians are Catholic, and half Protestant. [1] Despite its minority status, Christianity has had a disproportionate influence on the island's culture and development, as illustrated by such exemplary figures as George Leslie Mackay (Presbyterian) and Nitobe Inazō (Methodist, later Quaker). Several ROC presidents have been at least nominal Christians, including Sun Yat-sen (Congregationalist), Chiang Kai-shek, and Chiang Ching-kuo (both are Methodists) as well as Lee Teng-hui (Presbyterian). Former president, Ma Ying-jeou, apparently received a Catholic baptism in his early teens, but does not identify with the religion. At the same time, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has been a key supporter of human rights and Taiwan independence, a stance opposed to many of the politicians listed above.

History[edit]

Protestantism arrived in Taiwan with the Dutch East India Company, which settled in southern Taiwan (today's Tainan) in 1624; and Catholicism with the Spanish forces, which maintained a presence in the north (today's Danshui) between 1626 to 1642. In 1662, the Dutch missionaries were driven out of Taiwan by the Ming Dynasty loyalist Koxinga, leaving no permanent religious influence. The 1860s saw the return of the Spanish Dominicans (via the Philippines), as well as the arrival of Presbyterian missionaries from England and Canada. One particular missionary, George Leslie Mackay, founded the island's first university and hospital.

During the Japanese era (1895-1945), no new missions were allowed, with the result that Catholicism and Presbyterianism remain the largest Christian denominations. The development of Christianity took a whole new turn after 1949, when Christians of various denominations followed the Chinese Nationalist army in its retreat to Taiwan. During the dictatorships of Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan became outspoken in its defense of democracy, human rights, and a Taiwanese identity. The number of denominations, and independent churches (often Evangelical or Charismatic), skyrocketed with the political liberalization and economic success of the 1980s.

Today, ROC government statistics estimate that Christians comprise some 4.5 percent of Taiwan's population, a figure which is about evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics. Nearly all of Taiwan's aborigines profess Christianity (some 70 percent Presbyterianism, the remainder mostly Catholicism).

Catholicism[edit]

Main article: Roman Catholicism in Taiwan

Taiwan has been part of a missionary jurisdiction since 1514, when it was included in the Diocese of Funchal (Portugal). In 1576, the first Chinese diocese was established in Macau, covering most of mainland China as well as Taiwan. The diocese was divided several times from the 16th century through the 19th; in chronological order, Taiwan belonged to the dioceses of Nanking (1660), Fukien (1696) and Amoy (1883). In 1913, the Apostolic Vicariate of the Island of Formosa (Taiwan) was established, being detached from the Diocese of Amoy. It was renamed for Kaohsiung in 1949.

Before the end of World War II, the Catholic Church had a very minor presence in Taiwan, based mainly in the south of the island and centered around Spanish Dominican priests who arrived from the Philippines in the 1860s. The following years saw a mass migration of religious communities from mainland China as Communist persecution began to take effect. As a result the Catholic Church has many Mandarin-speaking postwar mainland immigrants and is under-represented among the native Taiwanese.

Since 1952, the Papal Internuncio to China has been stationed in Taiwan, and now constitutes one of the last significant formal diplomatic ties of the ROC.

Presbyterianism[edit]

Main article: Presbyterian Church in Taiwan

The first Presbyterian mission started in 1865, with the arrival of James Laidlaw Maxwell of the Presbyterian Church of England in Taiwan-fu (Tainan). His colleague George Leslie Mackay of the Presbyterian Church in Canada arrived in 1871, settling in Danshui. Mackay traveled widely throughout the island, and founded numerous churches. He also founded Tamsui Oxford College (now Aletheia University) in 1882, and Mackay Memorial Hospital (which NB, is named for a different Mackay) in 1912. In 1949, the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined these northern and southern jurisdictions together as the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT). The PCT doubled its membership between 1955 and 1965, perhaps as a result of its outspoken support for democratization, human rights, and Taiwan independence (against the view of the Kuomintang regime that as a notional province of the Republic of China, democratic elections in Taiwan would have to await the military reconquest of the mainland).

Other Protestant[edit]

A number of denominations (including the Baptist, Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Adventists) arrived on the island in the wake of the expulsion of foreign missionaries from China, and the 1949 retreat of Nationalist troops to Taiwan. The same is true of Witness Lee, protégé of Watchman Nee, founder of The Local Churches movement.

The Chinese Baptist Convention and its predecessors had been planning a Taiwan mission since 1936; its first missionary arrived in 1948. Activity swelled in the 1950s. Baptist churches being congregationally governed, the CBC is not so much a denomination as a cooperative association of independent churches. It supports Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary (f. 1952).

Taiwan Methodists erected a Taipei church in 1953. The national organization gained autonomy in 1972, and installed its first bishop in 1986.

The Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan (est. 1954) belongs to Province VIII of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The Taiwan Lutheran Church began meeting in 1951, and received formal recognition in 1954. One of several Lutheran denominations in Taiwan, it claims 18,000 baptized members.

The Adventists founded Taiwan Adventist College in 1951, and Taiwan Adventist Hospital in 1955.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance arrived in 1963. It now claims a membership of approximately 2300 [2]

The Fellowship of Mennonite Churches in Taiwan (f. 1962) emerged from medical and relief projects carried out among Taiwan aborigines from 1948 (notably Hualian's Mennonite Christian Hospital, f. 1954). In 2004, it claimed 1658 adherents, concentrated in three major urban areas. [3]

Latter Day Saints movement[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit]

In 1956, four Mormon missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Taiwan, and reportedly attracted 50 converts. Chapels were built in Taipei and Kaohsiung in 1960. Church president Spencer W. Kimball visited Taiwan in 1975 and 1980. Gordon B. Hinckley dedicated the Taipei Taiwan Temple in 1984. The number of LDS Mormons is estimated at around 56,000.[4]

The Community of Christ[edit]

The Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has had a church in Taipei since the mid-1970s.

Unification Church[edit]

Moon Sun Myung, founder of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, apparently visited Taiwan in 1965. A missionary was sent in 1967. The church received government recognition in 1971,[5] only to be banned in 1975, then finally permitted again in 1990. [6]

Orthodoxy[edit]

Main article: Orthodox Christianity in Taiwan

The history of Orthodox Christianity in Taiwan can be divided into three distinct phases. The first corresponds to the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945), when the first believers arrived on the island from Japan, and petitioned St. Nicholas of Japan to send them a priest. A Taiwan parish, named for Christ the Savior, was created in 1901.

The second period begins in 1949, with the arrival of some 5000 Russian emigres fleeing the Chinese Civil War. A House Church of St. John the Baptist was organized, and visited by various Orthodox dignitaries. At its height, this community numbered one or two hundred believers, and grew inactive by the 1970s. Sources differ as to whether these Russian believers had any contact with their Japanese coreligionists from the earlier period.

The third period begins in 2000, with the arrival of Fr. Jonah (Mourtos) to the island as a missionary priest under the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia (itself under the Ecumenical Patriarch). Fr. Jonah established Taipei's Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, which formally registered with the government in 2003. Its congregation--a mixture of Russians and East Europeans, as well as Chinese and Western converts--numbers about 30 (rising to more than 100 at Christmas and Easter).

In 2012, the Moscow Patriarchate, apparently in response to petitions from local Russians, "reactivated" the 1901 parish, and established (in Taipei) the Church of the Elevation of the Cross, with Fr. Kirill (Shkarbul) as its first priest. OMHKSEA Bishop Nektarios (Tsilis) of Hong Kong responded by objecting to what he sees as an uncanonical attempt to extend the territory of Moscow beyond its canonical jurisdiction, and by excommunicating Fr. Kirill and a parishioner. (The Moscow-affiliated church has not reciprocated.)

Christian educational institutions in Taiwan[edit]

Grade Schools[edit]

Morrison Academy (f. 1952), non-denominational Protestant

Dominican International School (f. 1957), Catholic / Dominican

Universities[edit]

Aletheia University (f. 1882), Presbyterian

Fu Jen Catholic University (f. 1952), Catholic / Jesuit

Chung Yuan Christian University (f. 1953), non-denominational Protestant

Tunghai University (f. 1955), Methodist

Christ's College (Taiwan) (f. 1959), non-denominational Protestant

St. Johns University (f. ??), originally Episcopalian

Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages (f. 1966), Catholic / Ursuline

Chang Jung Christian University (f. 1993), Presbyterian

Seminaries[edit]

Taiwan Theological College and Seminary (f. 1872/1882), Presbyterian

Tainan Theological College and Seminary (f. 1876), Presbyterian

Taiwan Bible Institute (later Yu-Shan Theological College and Seminary, f. 1946), Presbyterian

Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary (later Taiwan Baptist Christian Seminary, f. 1952)

Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary (f. 1959)

China Lutheran Seminary (f. 1966)

China Evangelical Seminary (f. 1970?)

Central Taiwan Theological College and Seminary

Taiwan Nazarene Theological College

Taosheng Theological Seminary

China Reformed Theological Seminary (f. 1990)

Holy Light Seminary (), Free Methodist


Taiwan Catholic Regional Seminary (f. 1994, as a union of Pius Seminary, f. 1962, and St. Thomas Major Seminary, f. 1965)

St. Stanislaus Minor Seminary

St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary

Sacred Heart Minor Seminary

St. Joseph Minor Seminary

References[edit]