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Dr. Wilma Welsh: How the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan Became the Voice of the People in the 1970s Ep 208

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

When Wilma Welsh left Canada to work with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) in 1969, she told me that it changed her life.

Little did she know how she’d be a part of the pivotal role that the PCT would play as a voice for the people of Taiwan. During her time in Taiwan, Wilma experienced the Kuomintang’s surveillance and censorship, and felt the lingering impact of the 228 massacre which happened on February 28, 1947.

She was the English secretary to Reverend Kao Chun-ming, the General Secretary of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. When Taiwan’s international status and the fate Taiwan’s people came in to question Reverend Kao and others wrote the Public Statement on Our National Fate, Wilma typed it up and took it out of Taiwan to Hong Kong where it could be safely mailed out. She also recounted how she was working at the Bible Society in Taipei in 1975 when the Kuomintang arrived to confiscate Taiwanese Hoklo language versions of the Bible and ended up smuggling out 2 copies of the Bible.

 

In 2006 she became the Moderator of the 132nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. She was the first lay person to ever hold this position. In 2010 she was by the bestowing of a Doctor of Divinity Degree (DD) from Knox College, the University of Toronto.  During her year as Moderator she received three additional honors, a life membership in the Women’s Missionary Society, the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Medal, and an honorary membership in the World Taiwanese Christian Association.

 

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.

 

 

NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:

 

  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.

 

To learn more about NATWA visit their website: www.natwa.com

 

Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

 

  • Wilma’s early involvement with the Presbyterian Church
  • What brought Wilma to Formosa (as Taiwan was known then) to work with the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
  • Wilma’s parents’ reaction to her going to Taiwan
  • What Wilma was doing before she went to Taiwan
  • What Wilma knew about Taiwan before she went there
  • The language training that Wilma did before going to Taiwan
  • Wilma’s first impressions of Taiwan
  • How Wilma first worked with M.C. Chong
  • How Wilma work for Dr. Kao (Reverend Kao Chun-ming)
  • How Taiwan was under martial law and Wilma had to beware of informers
  • The censorship of postal mail coming from Taiwan
  • Wilma’s work with Dr. Kao
  • How she worked half a day on Wednesdays at the Bible Society
  • How it was not safe for Dr. Kao to speak with Wilma about certain things in the office because there were planted informants in the office
  • How the Taiwanese were afraid of the Kuomintang since the 228 Massacre had happened
  • How she burned documents that Dr. Kao didn’t want people to read
  • How the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan was pressured to cancel its membership in the World Council of Churches
  • The letter that was written by Presbyterian Church in Taiwan stating that it was not their wish to withdraw from the World Council of Churches
  • How Wilma hid this letter when she left Taiwan for Hong Kong where she mailed the letter out to partner churches
  • The letter was also taken to the American embassy (AIT) to be sent out to the U.S.
  • How the Republic of China’s United Nations seat was transferred to the People’s Republic of China in 1971 when UN Resolution 2758 recognized the PRC as the legitimate representative of China and what that meant for the fate of Taiwan and the people of Taiwan
  • What prompted the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) to issue the Statement on Our National Fate
  • How Wilma secretly took copies of the PCT’s Statement on Our National Fate with her to Hong Hong to be mailed out
  • How the PCT’s Statement on Our National Fate stated:
  • How the PCT’s Statement was perceived as a challenge to the Kuomintang’s authority
  • What happened when the Kuomintang sent police to confiscate Hoklo (Taiwanese) language bible from the Bible Society in 1975
  • How Wilma was asked to intervene and smuggle copies of the Bible out of Taiwan
  • How Wilma smuggled the Bibles out of Taiwan to Canada
  • How Wilma knew that despite the things she did, she was protected by the Canadian government
  • How there were informants in the office of the PCT
  • Wilma reflects on how the time she spent in Taiwan changed her
  • Wilma’s thoughts on current events related to Taiwan, such as the church shooting in Irvine and the visit of Nancy Pelosi

 

Related Links:

 

Presbyterian Church in Taiwan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyterian_Church_in_Taiwan

“The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and the Advocacy of Local Autonomy” (PDF) by Christine Louise Lin for Sino-Platonic Papers, 1999: http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp092_presbyterian_church_taiwan.pdf

Taiwan in Time: The devout dissidents

(Taipei Times article about The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan): https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/feat/archives/2020/01/05/2003728730

Freedom pf Religion? Taiwan Communique 13 includes a brief history of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan: https://www.taiwandc.org/twcom/tc13-int.pdf

Reverend Kao Chun-ming: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kao_Chun-ming

China Is Using a UN Resolution to Further Its Claim Over Taiwan

https://thediplomat.com/2022/08/china-is-using-a-un-resolution-to-further-its-claim-over-taiwan/

Formosa: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Formosa

The Legacy of George Leslie Mackay: http://www.internationalbulletin.org/issues/2010-04/2010-04-221-rohrer.html

George Leslie Mackay: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Leslie_Mackay

Tamsui (aka Damsui): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamsui_District

Aletheia University (formerly Oxford College): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aletheia_University

Reverend Kao Chun-ming: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kao_Chun-ming

Taiwan’s Martial Law era: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martial_law_in_Taiwan

White Terror Era in Taiwan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Terror_(Taiwan)

The 228 Incident: https://228massacre.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/February_28_incident

https://www.taiwandc.org/228-intr.htm

American embassy (AIT): https://www.ait.org.tw/

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 (UN Resolution 2758): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_General_Assembly_Resolution_2758

https://web-archive-2017.ait.org.tw/en/un-res-2758-voted-to-admit-communist-china.html

The Distortion of UN Resolution 2758 and Limits on Taiwan’s Access to the United Nations: https://www.gmfus.org/news/distortion-un-resolution-2758-and-limits-taiwans-access-united-nations

50 Years Later: Richard Nixon’s Historic Visit to China: https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/50-years-later-richard-nixon%E2%80%99s-historic-visit-china

Language policy in Taiwan during martial law era: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language_policy_in_Taiwan_during_martial_law

Father Kurt Anderson continues Maryknoll tradition in Taiwan: https://www.maryknollmagazine.org/2019/03/father-anderson-language-taichung-taiwan/

A deadly church shooting exposes the complexities of Taiwanese and Chinese identities (and article from NPR): https://www.npr.org/2022/06/08/1103653026/a-deadly-church-shooting-exposes-the-complexities-of-taiwanese-and-chinese-ident

Taiwan: Nancy Pelosi meets President Tsai to Beijing’s fury (an article from the BBC): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-62398029

Understanding the History of Taiwan through Dr. Jerome Keating (Episode 97): https://talkingtaiwan.com/understanding-the-history-of-taiwan-through-dr-jerome-keating-ep-97/

The 228 Massacre: Taboos, Scars, Stigmas and an Essential Lesson in Taiwan History (Episode 171): https://talkingtaiwan.com/the-228-massacre-taboos-scars-stigmas-and-an-essential-lesson-in-taiwan-history-ep-171/

George Leslie Mackay: Canadian Missionary Iconoclast and his Contributions to Taiwan with Rev. Michael Stainton (Episode 173): https://talkingtaiwan.com/george-leslie-mackay-canadian-missionary-iconoclast-and-his-contributions-to-taiwan-with-rev-michael-stainton-ep-173/

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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