An interview with an oral historian on the importance of church history.
Using a historical approach, this book looks at the early stages of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and Chinese Protestant Christians’ responses to changing church-state relations from 1949-1958. The author proposes that to understand the conflicts between the early stages of TSPM and the Chinese church leaders, theology and Christian identity are significant factors. This work provides valuable insights to keep in mind while studying the history of Chinese Christianity.
Items requiring your intercession.
A significant resource, this website offers the names and life stories of significant figures in Chinese Christianity including those who pioneered and nurtured the churches, led independent Christian movements, and applied biblical values to Chinese social and political challenges across the centuries and around the world.
The guest editor's point of view . . .
In both church and mission in China, women make up the majority of workers; however, their contributions and circumstances can sometimes be overlooked. The author looks at how God has used women of bygone days to build his church in China. She discusses three examples of women as well as a trio of women who provided leadership and greatly impacted the development of China’s Protestant faith. She also provides a bibliography for those interested in further study of this topic.
We must know the past to understand the present. For the most part, Chinese Christians do not understand Chinese church history; therefore, they often have no means to properly respond to changes in society. A look back at Chinese church history shows us that many of the difficulties faced by today’s Chinese church have similarities to those that have confronted the church over the years. Not only can history suggest appropriate ways to respond to today’s difficulties, it can help us discern God’s purposes in the present.
Following a brief review of the ways Chinese have viewed their history over the centuries, the author turns to the consideration of how today’s PRC citizens view their history. All Chinese views of history have included “history” that is promoted nationally and directly serves the interests of the state. This approved narrative means that for most Chinese there is a nation-wide, generally agreed upon social narrative that may well be the only one he or she knows. The author then offers four items for the foreigner to remember when considering Chinese history or Chinese Christian history.
The Chinese church’s lack of historical consciousness is longstanding. While the secular world has increased its understanding of history in many areas, the church has lagged behind. Only recently has research into church history begun. As it becomes known, the church needs to recognize that history has practical applications and must learn how to apply these. When this does not happen, there are negative effects, and the author discusses some of these.
Strong faith is built upon history. Trust in God rests on the memory of what God has done in the past and the consistency of his character seen in the historical record of his dealings with humankind. Whitefield explains why knowledge and reflection on history are essential for the church in a variety of contexts. For foreign workers serving in an alien context, their willingness to learn the history of their area communicates a depth of interest in the people they are serving.
A review of Andrew Kaiser's The Rushing on of the Purposes of God: Christian Missions in Shanxi since 1876.
Nestled in a spring-fed valley in the desert northeast of Los Angeles, St. Andrew’s Abbey is a long way from its roots in Chengdu. The only living link that remains is Brother Peter Zhou Bangjiu, a 91-year-old Sichuan native who rejoined the abbey in 1985 following his release from a Chinese labor camp.
When a Catholic Chinese-American journalist discovers that her grandfather was a prominent Anglican church leader in China in the 1940s and that her granduncle was none other than the famous house church leader, Watchman Nee, she did what every good journalist does—she set out to tell the story.
Some of China’s most famous universities and hospitals were founded by Christian missionaries. Take a quick tour around some of the historic Christian sites in the southern city of Hangzhou with this article from Gospel Times. Once thriving with Christian presence, Hangzhou is a city where its past continues to come alive today.
Many hospitals in Chinese cities, particularly along the coasts or along the Yangtze River, were originally founded by western missionaries. After the missionaries left in the 1950s the hospitals were nationalized and, in many cases, became the leading hospitals in the community. They serve as important and interesting legacies of the work of the missionaries. Recently the Gospel Times published an article about one such hospital in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, founded more than 100 years ago by Methodist Episcopal missionaries.
A painless way to learn about the early history of Christianity in China—listen to The China History Podcast!
Faithful cross-cultural service requires at least some understanding of the local context. During my years in Shanxi I have invested a sizable portion of time and energy into helping my colleagues here—Chinese and expatriate—better understand local history, particularly as it pertains to ministry. I have been impressed over and over again by the striking degree to which the words and deeds of our spiritual ancestors relate directly to our present circumstances.
As Joann Pittman skillfully conveys in her new book, The Bells are Not Silent, the church bells of China provide a valuable—and until now, largely neglected—window into the life of China’s church.
When Joann discovered a 150-year-old American bell hanging in a church in southwest China she knew there was a story to tell. Who had decided to ship it? How had it been transported? How had it survived the political turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s? She also knew that if there was one bell there must be others. Over the course of eight months she traveled around China looking for old church bells, finding ones from the United France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. This book is a collection of stories about those bells. But more importantly, they are stories of God’s faithfulness to his church in China.
A ChinaSource 3 Questions interview with Stacey Bieler, co-editor of the Salt and Light: Lives of Faith that Shaped Modern China.
Like many things in China, history remains firmly under the control of the Party. Only approved topics are allowed to be researched and only approved interpretations are allowed to be taught. The narrative is tightly controlled.
Very little is taught about the history of Christianity in China, and when it is touched on, it is done so in a negative light. Western missionaries have typically been portrayed as being part of the vanguard of imperialism. Less is known about some of the positive things early missionaries were engaged in.
In recent years, however, a small space has begun to open up for the exploration of Chinese church history, as many educated Christians seek to understand the historical roots of their faith.
Many of the church structures in China were originally built by missionaries in the 1800s and early 1900s. Some are tucked away in old neighborhoods; others surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers or towering apartment blocks. All of them have interesting stories—like the story of Chongzhen Church of Wuchang.
A wealth of scholarship on the history of Chinese Christianity has emanated from Asia during the past 50 years. Yet, although significant work on Christianity’s past is taking place in academic circles—including among mainland scholars—many Christians in China today are largely unaware of the rich history of the gospel in their own nation.
In June China Christian Daily posted an article and photo gallery of 113-year-old church in Xingtai, Hebei Province. Originally built by Presbyterian missionaries from the US, it is now one of the main churches of the city.
The mainland site Gospel Times recently reported on the discovery of a stone monument commemorating the life of a Swedish missionary named Anna Karlsson.
On May 5, the mainland news site China Christian Daily reported on the death of Pastor Li Tian’en, one of China’s most famous house church leaders.
Voices from the Past: Historical Reflections on Christian Missions in China by Andrew T. Kaiser.
Reviewed by Brent Fulton
A new blog in China called iWorship is giving voice to Wang Mingdao, one of the great evangelists and leaders of the Chinese church during the twentieth century. Last week, on our Chinese Church Voices blog, we posted a translation of one of their posts, called “Slow to Speak.” In it, Pastor Wang reminds us of the importance of using our words for God’s glory.
It is easy for the church to lose sight of her purpose in the face of today’s challenges. During a recent commemoration of Samuel Pollard, a missionary whose life dramatically impacted large pockets of southern Yunnan, Pastor Gai of Kunming preached on the nature of the church and the calling we must not lose sight of.
The Missionary's Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village by Henrietta Harrison.
Reviewed by Andrew Kaiser
Harrison recounts the story of Catholicism in a small village in Shanxi, from its initial arrival at the opening of the seventeenth century right up to the present. She uncovers insights regarding the cross-cultural process in China that diverge significantly from common perceptions about how Christianity and Chinese culture relate to one another. Well researched, her book challenges some of the prevailing scholarly understandings of Christianity’s encounter with Chinese culture and should cause expatriates to ask how they can best contribute to the growth of the church in China in view of the influence of globalism upon it.
If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend reading Builders of the Chinese Church: Pioneer Protestant Missionaries and Chinese Church Leaders, edited by Wright Doyle and Carol Hamrin.
June 25th marked the 150th anniversary of Hudson Taylor’s call to take the gospel to China and the founding of the China Inland Mission (today’s OMF), an event that not only precipitated a wave of missionary activity to China, but also upended the traditional ways in which missionary work had been conducted.
On May 28, the Gospel Times reported on the 80th anniversary celebrations of a church in Yunnan Province. The church’s history is an interesting window into the denominational twists and turns (some might say confusion) that were often a part of church growth and development in China.
China’s Reforming Churches by Bruce P. Baugus, ed.
Reviewed by Jennifer Guo
This volume is written from the conviction that China’s need for church development is largely the need for the development of a healthy and robust presbyterianism that comes from an understanding of biblical theology of the church as articulated within the Reformed tradition. It frequently corrects common erroneous presuppositions and reveals that within China there is a surprising amount of freedom for Christians—and even for the officially illegal, unregistered churches.
Fierce the Conflict by Norman H. Cliff.
A Review by Tony Lambert
The last year has seen the promotion by Bishop K. H. Ting (Ding Guangxin), former head of both the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), of a campaign for “theological construction” that is “compatible with socialism.” To understand this current movement we look back at Bishop Ting's early life and work.
Today, the church needs to commission and groom a new generation of middle-management “China experts” with China experience. These individuals must learn the language, they should have a firm foundation placed by seminary training which believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, they must have much experience among the Chinese, and perhaps a doctoral degree in Chinese history or intercultural studies. And they must hold to a strong, unqualified confidence in the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, and a high view of God, Scripture and the cross. More than anything else, what China needs is a clear message of the sound, complete gospel.
China’s Christian Millions by Tony Lambert,
Reviewed by Alex Buchan