Mormonism and the Study of World Christianity

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

The Legacy of the (Counter) Reformation in China: 3 Examples

This article was originally posted here.

This year, there are many festivities celebrating the legacy of the Protestant Reformation – 500 years after Martin Luther penned his Ninety-five Theses in 1517. However, one of the most important legacies which has been overlooked is the Counter-Reformation – the Catholic revival which responded to the protests of Luther and other reformers. When we consider a country like China – or most other places outside of Europe at the time – it is in fact the Counter-Reformation that had an arguably more important impact (at least initially). Three examples, I believe, are worth highlighting, as they show just how much Protestantism in China is indebted to Catholicism in China and, by extension, the Counter-Reformation. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 23.2

Chinese Identity, Christian Identity

Studies in World Christianity

Readers of Studies in World Christianity will be well acquainted with the parable of the Professor of Comparative Inter-Planetary Religions.1 As narrated by Andrew Walls, this long-living, scholarly space visitor travels to Earth on a number of occasions to conduct field research related to the religion known as ‘Christianity’, from the Council of Jerusalem to the Council of Nicaea, from the seventh century in Ireland to the 1840s in London and the 1980s in Lagos, Nigeria. What would differ if our space visitor were to narrow the scope of his research to a particular subgrouping of the human species, such as to those with some affiliation with the descriptor ‘Chinese’? Would Walls’ ‘indigenising’ principle have to be envisioned differently if we were to speak of a more unified understanding of ‘culture’? Or, perhaps, would ‘Chinese culture’ need to be re-evaluated as embodying manifold meanings, especially when ‘Chinese’ is not limited to a given time or locale? Does Walls’ ‘pilgrim’ principle, which speaks of the universalising factor of Christianity, add to or take away from Chinese culture? Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 23.1

Appropriations of Christianity

Studies in World Christianity

The five main articles in this issue have been selected from papers given at the 2016 meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the history of the missionary movement and world Christianity, held at New College, Edinburgh, from 23 to 25 June 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Responses to Missions: Appropriations, Revisions, and Rejections’. Perhaps the most significant shift discernible in the historiography of the missionary movement over the last few decades has been the progressive transfer of scholarly attention from the Western missionaries themselves to indigenous hearers, receptors and agents. Responses to missions were almost always multifaceted and only rarely can be described without qualification as either ‘acceptance’ or ‘rejection’. Indigenous peoples responded selectively to both the missionaries’ presence and their message. Sometimes they welcomed the former, for a variety of instrumental reasons, while being obstinately indifferent to the latter. On other occasions – particularly in the twentieth century – they appropriated the gospel itself while being less than enthusiastic about the continued presence and claims to religious authority of those who had first brought it. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 22.3

Eschatology, Time and Space

Studies in World Christianity

In his famous commentary on Romans, Karl Barth examines Romans 8:24–25 and explains that, without eschatological hope,1

there is no freedom, but only imprisonment; no grace, but only condemnation and corruption; no divine guidance, but only fate; no God, but only a mirror of unredeemed humanity.

For this Swiss theologian, Christianity void of ‘restless eschatology’ is Christianity void of a relationship with Christ and a new life offered by the Holy Spirit. Eschatological hope is the basis for Christian salvation and offers a reason to strive and a reason to change – to change oneself and to change one’s surrounding world. Most commonly, eschatology is understood in terms of the dimension of time. But for others, eschatology reorients understandings of the dimension of space. The four articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity engage this overarching subject of Christian eschatology, but also how different contexts develop understandings of eschatology in terms of time and space. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 22.2

Beyond the Binary of East and West

Studies in World Christianity

However hard it tries, scholarship in world Christianity does not find it easy to escape the grip of the long-standing historical binary of East and West. The Christianities of Asia, Africa, and even Latin America are still often labelled as ‘non-Western’, as if their multiple identities consist primarily in their shared departure from the implicit default setting of European or North American Christianity. The four articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity analyse aspects of Asian Christianity Continue reading

Hong Kong Public Lecture: Christianity and Nationalism: Friend or Foe?

Hong Kong Public Lecture
6th October, 2015 (Tue), 7:30-9:30pm, HKSKH All Saints’ Cathedral

Christianity and Nationalism: Friend or Foe?
Reflections from East Asian Experience in the Twentieth Century

Speaker: Professor Brian Stanley, University of Edinburgh
Respondent: Professor Francis CW Yip, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Christianity and Nationalism - Friend or Foe Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 21.2

Biblical and Non-Biblical Sources of Popular Religiosity in World Christianity

Studies in World ChristianityChristianity, as our first contributor to this issue of Studies in World Christianity reminds us, is supremely a religion of the Book. The narratives, symbols and doctrinal content of the biblical writings supply the constituent texture of the religion. Nevertheless, as the same contributor, Ole Jakob Løland, points out, for much of Christian history the great majority of Christian believers did not have direct access to the text of the bible: its teaching was mediated and refracted through their participation in, or observation of, a non-vernacular liturgy, and through religious art, music, drama and the communal observance of pilgrimages and festivals in honour of the saints. Continue reading

Recap of ‘James Legge and Scottish Missions to China’

Legge 2015 Group Photo

On 11–13 June 2015, the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, in collaboration with the Scottish Centre for Chinese Studies, organised a conference in honour of the Scottish missionary-scholar to China, James Legge, on the bicentennial of his birth (see conference page). The conference received generous financial support from the Confucius Institute and the New College Senate. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 20.3

Making Sense of the ‘Other’

Studies in World ChristianityThe four articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity reflect on various aspects of the theme of how Christians in different non-European contexts over a wide historical period have approached and endeavoured to make sense of those who are, or at least appear to be, different from them. As Ankur Barua observes in his article on Christian theological responses to the alterity of the Hindu majority in India, the question ‘precisely how other is the other?’ is not a contemporary invention of postmodern theory but a theological- philosophical puzzle that has confronted Christians throughout the history of the Church. Christian theology is premised on the foundation of the fundamental created unity of humanity – God’s love extends to all human beings without differentiation as those who all bear the image of God, and the scope of salvation in Christ must be similarly unlimited. Yet this universalism of Christian doctrine is always held in some kind of tension with the inescapable biblical antitheses between light and darkness, the Church and the world, the redeemed and the lost. The often radically divergent ways in which different groups of Christians have expressed and maintained – or occasionally even ignored – this tension forms much of the warp and woof of Christian history. Continue reading