In Memory of Rev. Dr. C. M. Kao
at the Executive Committee Meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Chruches (WCRC)
by Rev. Lian Chin-Siong
Sisters and brothers of the Reformed family, I am happy that you would like to remember him here in the Executive Committee of the WCRC. And I am honored to be able to stand before you, to bear witness to a person that in fact I have personally never met. But he has nevertheless changed my life and led me to faith in Jesus Christ.
He is one of the most important person of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT). Most of his crucial events happened right before I was born. He was General Secretary of the PCT during its darkest years from 1970-1989. The PCT, being ecumenically inspired to be a prophetic church that is rooted in the land of Taiwan, was considered by the government to be the rebellious religious group especially in the 70s. The PCT was even forced to exit the WCC because of its alleged “red” label by the government from 1970-1980. During these darkest days the Chiang Kai-Shek government was repelled from the UN and most countries in the world turned their recognition of who is the legitimate China from the Republic of China (that is Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China. The PCT, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. C. M. Kao, issued timely public statements in the 70s calling for reform, human rights and democracy, hoping to make Taiwan a new and independent country.
These brave moves certainly angered the government at the time and he was imprisoned for protecting a political dissident. He is one of our modern prophets who have actually went into jail for his faith. It was also when he was imprisoned that the ecumenical partnership was most timely and crucial. The WCC along with the WARC at that time gave huge support for PCT and pressure to the government. And he was released after being imprisoned for 4 years 3 months and 21 days. Rev. Dr. C. M. Kao is testimony to the darkest and also the best days of the prophetic witness of the church and for ecumenical partnership.
It is this kind of prophetic witness that actually led me to faith in Jesus Christ. My family was not Christian. They nevertheless sent me to a Christian elementary school that does not belong to one of the mainline churches—they couldn’t care for such difference and also couldn’t tell. Upon graduation, our school teachers tried to baptize all the pupils. I was baptized then and then my parents came to their senses and insisted that I go to a Presbyterian church instead. Why did they insist? It was because of the difficult prophetic witness of Rev. Dr. C. M. Kao and the PCT that left a good impression for the people with awareness and conscience in the general society.
Also because I don’t know him personally, allow me to remember something not so good in his life. During his late years long after retiring from the PCT, he pushed for movements related to preserving traditional family values. This was regarded by some young people as contradictory to the prophetic witness he served as General Secretary of the PCT. Today, the PCT struggles to continue to be a prophetic witness in the society as the ecumenical movement also struggles for new models of ecumenical partnership. Rev. Dr. C. M. Kao’s life and witness be it good or bad is still with us even as we struggle for today’s church and world.