Editorial and subscription:
Janice Wickeri, Editor
Chinese Theological Review
105 Seminary Road
San Anselmo, CA 94960 USA
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Dr. H.S. Wilson
Executive Director, FTESEA
From the Editor
Since the re-emergence of Christianity in China in 1978, women believers have been in the majority - 75% (see p. 125 in this issue) - in Protestant churches. Their resourcefulness and dedication contributed to the strength of faith that kept the church alive through the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976); they are active in both established churches and home worship gatherings; in leading and participating in lay training courses and social service; many pursue theological studies.
Women are the majority in churches generally throughout the world (and among believers in other religions), but this strength in numbers is not necessarily reflected in church leadership positions. In China, this situation has been gradually changing; women are increasingly prominent in leadership positions in the churches, something which is unique in Protestant churches in East Asia. The Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie is the first woman elected President of the China Christian Council (2002). As of this writing, four of eighteen seminary principals are women. At Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Gao Ying has been named Vice-Principal; her colleague as Acting Dean of Studies is the Rev. Wang Peng. Like the authors whose work is included in this issue, women are well-represented on the faculty at Nanjing and other seminaries. Many women (all those published in volume 20) have studied overseas.
This 20th volume of the Chinese Theological Review highlights this trend with a selection of essays and a sermon by these women theologians. They represent different generations of leadership in the Chinese church and they are writing in a variety of disciplines. The need for a clearer and stronger Chinese Christian identity, articulated theologically and understood practically by ordinary Christians, emerges in many of these essays. A strong sense of Christian identity, one with relevance in modern Chinese society, would be a model for those outside the church seeing answers to the challenges and dilemmas of modern life.
Cao Shengjie sees self-propagation in the Chinese church as crucial to the role of the church in society, which relates to the broader society as a minority group. She discusses the errors in missionary methods in the past and the dangers of “evangelism at any cost.” She is concerned with identifying ways in which Christianity can be made relevant and attractive to non-believers in Chinese society today. An engagement with persons of other faiths has been poorly understood in the Chinese church. Rev. Cao asserts the need for ecumenical dialogue and its importance in a world where increasing violence is justified on religious grounds.
Gao Ying deals with the tendency in the Chinese church for Christians to divide this world from the next and place all hope in the afterlife. Her concern is theological: What is it we hope for in this world; why do we place this hope in God? For her this eschatological hope is “not the human being’s movement toward future, it is human beings’ present reliance on things that promise a good future by God through the resurrection of Christ.” (p.40) Her concern is also pastoral. She feels it is the task of the Christian church to offer more spiritual guidance which “could help people to overcome concrete challenges in their lives rather than try to escape them.” (p.49) The church needs to provide a more convincing vision of Christian hope.
Wang Peng offers an extended historical reflection which is also an appreciation of the way an earlier generation of Chinese Christians grappled with the question of Christian identity and the church’s role in society. Her essay is occasioned by her reading of Y.T. Wu’s book Christianity and New China (1940), a series of essays and reflections on Christian response to the crisis of the war with Japan. She finds a sense of Christian self-sacrifice and an awareness of Christian responsibility to the community and the world.
Lin Manhong writes on the need to have both a clear Christian identity and a proper understanding of the relationship between the individual, church and society. Christian values and ethics have been at the center of social recognition of Chinese Christians, a social witness to the life of faith. Though not offering a comprehensive ethical theory, Lin emphasizes that he work “should be helpful for Christians in China to bear witness in society in addressing the relationship between the individual, community and society.”
Zhang Jing provides a feminist reconsideration and contextualization of the story of the Syrophoenician woman (Mk. 7: 24-30). She finds a resonance in the Bible message for Chinese traditional culture and resources in this understanding for the role of women in a modern Chinese church. She engages with current post-colonial understandings of the text, but finds that a reading in the Chinese context adds a new dimension and appreciation of the woman herself. She hopes her reading of the story will be part of a needed effort to strengthen the voices of ordinary Christian women, who tend to hold to patriarchal views of Bible and their own role.
Beginning in this volume, authors will be introduced at greater length in a separate Contributors’ page. This is intended to help readers get a better sense of the theologians who are writing in China today.
An Index to volumes 11-20 of this journal is provided as well as the usual Index of the Nanjing Theological Review.
I am grateful to the authors of these essays. Any errors in representing their work are entirely my own. I would also like to thank Philip Wickeri for consulting on the contents of volume 20, and for his editorial assistance.
The various levels of church bodies and offices are referred to as CCC or TSPM with appropriate regional modifiers (local/ regional, etc.) or (at the national level) CCC/TSPM. Biblical quotations are taken from the NRSV, unless another version has been used in an original English piece. Personal names are given in the Chinese manner, family name first, except for persons who commonly use another form, such as Y.T. Wu, K.H. Ting or Wenzao Han.
Volume 20 of the Chinese Theological Review marks an important transition in the life of this journal. Our publisher remains the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia. Rev. Dr. Marvin D. Hoff, who was executive director at the time, oversaw the creation of the journal in 1985 and remained, with his wife Mrs. Joanne Hoff, its strong supporter through the ensuing years. Dr. Hoff has retired and Dr. Henry S. Wilson has succeeded him as executive director of the FTE and publisher of this journal. Dr. Wilson has extensive experience as a theologian and educator. We look forward to a long and amicable cooperation in publishing the Chinese Theological Review.