Diversity and Difference
It perhaps goes without saying that World Christianity is diverse. In large part, this diversity comes from the multiplicity of cultural, religious and socio-political concerns of the majority world, which have raised new questions to pre-existing theologies and practices. Such differences exist not only between North and South, East and West, but also within the same locale – across the progress of time and diversity in visions of mission. Furthermore, these differences have often manifested themselves institutionally, through the proliferation of new church movements, often formed independent of established denominational structures.
I interviewed Dr Melissa Inouye (University of Auckland) about her latest book, China and the True Jesus: Charisma and Organization in a Chinese Christian Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019). Drawing on historical and oral sources, Inouye presents a fascinating analysis of the well-known yet understudied Chinese Christian group, the True Jesus Church.
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.
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It is a truism to state that Christianity has spread across the world as a result of cross-cultural communication. Andrew Walls, who has done so much to set the approach, research questions and tone of World Christianity studies, has highlighted how scripture and Christian thought are translated into new languages and thought-forms as Christianity spreads. Walls, who celebrates his ninetieth birthday this year, has encouraged attention to the historical processes at work in communication that are examined in this edition of Studies in World Christianity. Between them, the articles in this edition illustrate the variety of form and effectiveness of cross-cultural communication in the modern history of encounter with Christianity. They also show familiar patterns. All these articles prioritise textual and oral communication. Reading, writing, preaching and proclaiming are the main modes of communication under scrutiny. (Continue reading Emma Wild-Wood’s introduction here.) Continue reading
Jeffrey Cannon is a PhD student at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, Edinburgh. His research explores Western conceptions of African Christianity. He was previously an archivist at the Church History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This essay continues our series discussing issues raised in the ‘Currents, Perspectives, and Methodologies in World Christianity’ conference at Princeton Theological Seminary held 18–20 January 2018.
Cameroonian Mormons pose outside temple in Aba, Nigeria. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
In a worldwide conference that will be noted for several historic announcements, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Saturday the appointment of Gerrit Gong and Ulisses Soares to its Council of the Twelve Apostles. Their calls represent a significant diversification in the church’s governing bodies. Gong, an American-born political scientist specialising in China, is the first Mormon apostle of Asian descent. Soares, a businessman from Brazil, is both the first from Latin America and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. Continue reading