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Exploring the Academic Field of Chinese Christianity

By Easten Law on Oct 13, 2021 12:10 am

There is always some gap between the academy and the field, especially when it comes to scholarship on Christianity and missions studies. During the best of times, that gap is small with scholars and practitioners regularly hopping from one side to the other, exchanging insights that both deepen our understanding of God and advance God’s work in the world. At its worst, to the detriment of both parties, the gap becomes a chasm with increasingly irrelevant scholarship on one side and uninformed, often harmful, action on the other.

When it comes to Christianity in China, ChinaSource has become a dependable bridge that often brings the best of both sides together. With this post, I would like to introduce and invite the ChinaSource readership to further explore the academic side of the conversation with some of the top anglophone scholars of Chinese Christianity.

Dr. Anthony Clark (Whitworth University) and Dr. Joseph Ho (Albion University) co-lead the Chinese Christianity Studies Group, affiliated with the Association for Asian Studies. Over the course of the past year, they’ve curated a series of interviews entitled Christianity in China: Recollections on the Field by Prominent Scholars, featuring 24 individual interviews—nearly all with video and audio. For those who may be unfamiliar with developments in the academic study of Chinese Christianity, this is an accessible and rich resource available for viewing on Youtube at your convenience.

In addition, Dr. Alexander Chow (University of Edinburgh), one of the co-chairs of the American Academy of Religion’s Chinese Christianities Unit (along with Dr. Christie Chow), convened an online discussion between a social anthropologist (Dr. Mark McLeister), a theological linguist (Dr. Chloë Starr), and a biblical scholar (Dr. Kevin Xiyi Yao) to consider how scholars ought to orient their research on Chinese Christianity in the upcoming decade.

Together, these interviews touch upon both the history and the future of Chinese Christianity’s academic study from a range of perspectives. What do these insights and reflections mean for those of us in the field? Do they open up new considerations, reinforce positive trajectories, or challenge pre-held assumptions? When the academy and the field work together, a mutually enriching process of action and reflection emerges that strengthens mind, body, and spirit, both as individuals and as a community. Whatever your orientation toward the Chinese church might be, expanding our perspectives on the complexities of the Chinese church’s story is a must.

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