A new book, The Independence of the Church in Modern China: A Case Study of the Chaohui Presbyterian Church (1881–1949), was recently released.
The work is written by Professor Hu Weiqing of Shandong University and was published by China Religious Culture Publisher in March 2023.
The book focuses on various issues. First is the issue of self-support in modern Chinese churches. In the early independence movement of modern Chinese churches, economic self-support was considered a prerequisite for the church to become independent; the book therefore examines the condition and level of self-support that the Chaoshan area Presbyterian Church has reached. The factors that constrain a church’s self-supporting ability and the correlation between self-support, self-governance, and self-propagation are also discussed.
The second issue is the self-governance of modern Chinese churches. The Presbyterian Church implemented a comparatively uncommon democratic system in its management. It is different from both the Congregational Church’s autonomous congregationalism and the Methodist Church’s highly centralized episcopal polity; lying between the two, it can be called a moderately centralized democracy. The book studies how such a system was related to church autonomy, in particular its relevance to congregation autonomy, and also its influence on church division.
The third issue discussed is the “missions agency factor” and nationalism. The “missions agency factor” is often considered a negative factor for the local churches’ independence in China, while nationalism is considered the driving force behind the independence movement of the churches. The book investigates and addresses the question of whether these ideas, which are well accepted in academic circles, are relevant to the Chaoshan Church's independence movement.
Employing the research methods of disciplines such as socio-economic history, clan history, and overseas Chinese history, the book quantitatively assesses the elements relating to the church’s independence movement as far as possible. It also expounds on the internal drivers of the movement and outlines the general growth trajectory of the local churches in China. Moreover, the author tries to avoid showing only institutions instead of people, which is one of the drawbacks of research studies. Therefore, he not only conducts a general overview in the book but also an in-depth analysis of several typical cases so that the activities of relevant figures can be combed through in detail and the richness of the church independence movement can be shown.
Born in 1961, Dr. Hu Weiqing is a professor and doctoral supervisor at the School of History and Culture of Shandong University. He has published various academic works, including The Challenge of Universalism: A Research on Christian Education in Modern China, From Education to the Gospel, Suffering and Faith: The Religious Experience of Modern Chaoshan Christians, and more than 60 academic papers.
- Translated by Joyce Leung