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
On March 6, 2018, we will be launching Alexander Chow’s new book, Chinese Public Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018).
The event is co-sponsored with the Centre for Theology and Public Issues and will be held in the Martin Hall, New College. It will include a discussion with Edmond Tang (University of Birmingham) and James Eglinton (University of Edinburgh).
The event will be followed by a reception and is open to the public. For more details, please see the advertisement flier.
This review was originally posted here.
Recent historical scholarship on modern Christian missions to China, as to the non-European world as a whole, has been bedeviled by two weaknesses. First, historians have written about Protestant missions to China, or less frequently about Catholic ones, but very rarely about the two together within a single monograph. Second, Anglo-American scholars have tended for obvious linguistic reasons to confine themselves to the study of British or American missions, to the general neglect of those from continental Europe. Not the least of the virtues of Albert Monshan Wu’s book is that it transcends both of these limitations at once. By selecting as his two case studies in missions to China the Protestant Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) and the Catholic Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Wu is able to illuminate both commonalties and dissimilarities across the confessional divide. Continue reading
Chinese Identity, Christian Identity
Readers of Studies in World Christianity will be well acquainted with the parable of the Professor of Comparative Inter-Planetary Religions. 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