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.
Gender and Family in the History of Christian Missions
This issue of Studies in World Christianity is devoted to five papers selected from a total of nearly sixty presented at the twenty-fourth meeting of the Yale–Edinburgh Group on the history of missions and world Christianity, held at New College, Edinburgh, from 24 to 26 June 2014. The theme of the conference was ‘Gender and Family in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. The popularity of the theme can be deduced from the record number both of participants in the conference (almost one hundred) and of papers presented. Gender and family are hot topics in contemporary historical research into Christian missions (as they are more generally in social history), and it is perhaps surprising that the Yale–Edinburgh Group has never tackled the theme before in any of its meetings since its inception in 1992. As may be predicted, the vast majority of the papers given were about women or children, with only a sprinkling devoted to the role of men or questions of Christian masculinity: the default setting for historical research remains obstinately male in its orientation, with the result that any meeting advertised under the theme of gender is normally assumed to be an intended corrective to the default setting and hence to be primarily or even exclusively about the role of women. Continue reading
The 2014 annual meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group concluded last week with an inspiring collection of 60 papers from colleagues around the world, revolving around the theme of ‘Gender and Family in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. The conference was co-sponsored by the University of Edinburgh, Yale Divinity School, and the Overseas Ministries Study Center. Over one hundred delegates were in attendance. Continue reading