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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This guest post was written by Dr Jason Bruner, assistant professor of religious studies at Arizona State University, as a reflection on the recent conference “Currents, Perspectives, And Methodologies In World Christianity” held at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr Bruner’s most recent book is entitled Living Salvation in the East African Revival in Uganda. He can often be found on Twitter @jason_bruner.
Is World Christianity a field, a sub-discipline, an analytical disposition? What are its methods, if any? And where is research in relation to it going at present? I will reflect on these questions in light of the proceedings of a recent conference, convened at Princeton Theological Seminary from January 18-20, 2018, which gathered a remarkable group of scholars from around the world who saw their work as intersecting with World Christianity. Continue reading
Spirits of Nationalism, Power and Prophecy
The four articles published in this issue cover a wide range of geographical contexts – Manchuria and Korea, the colonial Gold Coast (modern Ghana) and London, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. They also embrace a variety of themes that occur with some frequency in the story of world Christianity over the last century or more – the disruptive or catalytic impact on Western missions and indigenous churches of nationalism and communism, the historical origins and contested influence within the public sphere of Pentecostal styles of Christianity, the significance of migrant churches, and the ambiguous role of the Church in promoting reconciliation following the disaster of ethnic conflict in which too many Christians remained silent. If there is a common thread linking all four articles together, it is the dynamic power for good or ill wielded by new movements that previous generations of Christians would have struggled to recognise or incorporate within their worlds of understanding. Continue reading
Special Issue: Religion and Sport
Religion and Sport is an emerging theme. However, while there is an ever-increasing literature base, there is a serious lack of empirical research in the field of sport and religion. Research, scholarly meetings, journals and practical initiatives that focus on sport and religion have exponentially increased during the last decade. However, these discourses are limited to contexts of a particular country and of a particular discipline. The vast majority of research on sport–religion has come from the USA and focused on a narrow evangelical manifestation of Christianity. There is little, except for Catholic reflection on sport from the Vatican, from mainland Europe and on non-Western understandings of religion and sports. Most of the contributions published in the USA or the UK, for instance, do not take into account developments on the European continent or in Canada, not to mention Africa, Latin America and Asia. And yet important sporting events are characterised by their international dimension.
The articles in this special issue of Studies in World Christianity addresses this fascinating theme, and is based on a interdisciplinary workshop held in March 2013 at the University of Edinburgh entitled ‘Religion and Sport: Past, Present and Future’. Continue reading
Making Sense of the ‘Other’
The 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