Alexander Chow is an American-born Chinese who was raised in Southern California. He completed his PhD in theology at the University of Birmingham, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Renmin University of China, where he was doing research in Chinese Christianity and teaching in the School of Liberal Arts, and joined the University of Edinburgh in September 2013. He is also an editor of Studies in World Christianity.
Why did you want to produce this study on the True Jesus Church?
I first encountered the True Jesus Church in China when a woman struck up a conversation with my husband and my baby son on a bus in a city. She invited him to church that evening. At the time we were attending a local Three-Self congregation, so he asked, “Is it a Three-Self church meeting?” She said no. So he asked, “Is it a house church meeting?” She said no. I was intrigued to hear about this church that defied the categories I had in my mind for Chinese Christianity. I went to the meeting place in a sort of commercial building and found that it was in fact a True Jesus Church. I had previously encountered the True Jesus Church in Taiwan but was surprised to find them here, in the PRC. In addition to being intrigued by the True Jesus Church’s out-of-the-box identity, I also wanted to investigate the relationship between native religious culture and transplanted Christian culture within the church. It struck me as extremely Chinese, but also very like other global forms of restorationist Christianity such as Mormonism.
Migration of Christianity, Christianity of Migration
Last week we had the privilege of having Professor Peter Phan, Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, deliver the Cunningham Lectures in the School on the topic: Migration of Christianity, Christianity of Migration. The topic of migration is quite timely in today’s political discourse. Whether we speak of Syrian refugees in Europe or Central Americans being stopped at the US-Mexican border, with parents separated from children, it is hard not to encounter news around the so-called ‘migration crisis’. Phan’s lectures, however, argued that migration should not be disregarded as the latest left-wing fad, but deeply essential to Christianity and the Christian message. Continue reading →
Migration has featured as a major topic in contemporary social and political discourse. In Europe and North America, where many have lamented the decline of the church, much of this migration includes the waves of vibrant expressions of Christianity coming from peoples with origins in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Of course, the connection between the development of Christianity and the movement of people is nothing new. The book of Acts, for instance, narrates the early church’s trajectory from Jerusalem as the centre of Judaism to Rome as the centre of the Gentile world – the earliest ‘gravitational shift’ of Christianity. Luke describes the Day of Pentecost as the moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers, who were ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem’ (Acts 2: 5, NRSV). These were Jewish believers from the diaspora who had returned and were then living in Jerusalem.
Much of Christian history is a story of the multidirectional movement of the faithful dispersed into new lands and returning to old lands. Continuing this theme, the four main articles in this issue were originally delivered at the 2017 meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the history of the missionary movement and world Christianity, held at Yale Divinity School from 29 June to 1 July 2017. The theme of the conference was ‘Migration, Exile, and Pilgrimage in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. These papers narrate a story of Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon developed, negotiated and reconfigured through migration, diaspora and return. Continue reading →
Dr Emma Wild-Wood delivered the lecture ‘Where does the wisdom of the white man come in? The Interpretations, Problems and Possibilities of Missionary Sources in the History of Christianity in Africa’ on 6 February 2018 in the jointly hosted Centre for the Study of World Christianity and History of Christianity research seminars at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.