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Christianity in China

Major new resource on Chinese Christianity

T
he Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity (www.bdcconline.net) now includes a major new resource for the study of Christianity in China:

A “Directory of Christian Organizations” includes the abbreviation, full name in English, name in Chinese, and date established/started work in China for more than two hundred Christian organizations.

Dr. Cui’an Peng, Global China Center Senior Associate, compiled this list from the 1936 Handbook of the Christian Movement in China World Missionary Atlas (New York, 1925). To our knowledge, it is the most extensive resource of its kind.

This directory can be found on the “Stories by Affiliation” page of the BDCC (http://www.bdcconline.net/en/stories/by-affiliation), and is available as a pdf file for researchers and contributors.

On that same page, there is also a list of all biographical stories by the person's organization or institution. By clicking on the name of the organization or institution, you will find all the biographical entries or persons affiliated with it.
Many of the organizations or institutions are also briefly described, making this section of the BDCC a mini-encyclopedia of Christian organizations in China before 1950.

Even a cursory glance at these two resources will reveal much about Christian organizations in China before 1950.

First, the sheer number of them – more than two hundred – shows the extent of both foreign and Chinese organizational presence in China.

Second, their variety helps to explain the complexity of China’s Christian heritage, which impacts the nature of the church today. Dozens of denominations from many countries, reflecting not only theological, but also cultural and national backgrounds, combined – or competed – to create a Christian presence of bewildering complexity. No wonder ordinary Chinese were confused! And no wonder there was a desire to eradicate denominationalism.

Third, the presence of indigenous Chinese organizations, even early in the 20th century, demonstrates the growing vitality of what was to become a thoroughly Chinese Christian church – both Protestant and Roman Catholic – by the 21st century.

Fourth, the mixture of “mainline” Protestant denominational and independent groups, both foreign and Chinese, helps to explain the distinctions and divisions between the TSPM/CCC and “house” churches today, and even within those two large groups.

Fifth, the variety of missionary work belies the simplistic characterizations that have bedeviled some recent historical work about Christianity in China. For example, evangelicals, sometimes labeled Fundamentalists, did engage in educational, medical, and relief work, though not generally in the formation of universities. And “mainline” denominations included both traditional missionaries who preached the Gospel and those who spent their lives in schools and hospitals.

As you will also readily observe, the BDCC is very much a work in progress. Not only are there thousands of people whose stories remain to be told, but many organizations still need a brief introduction and description. We welcome additional contributions or corrections to this list. Please contact us if you want to add to, or compose, a description of an organization, or if you want to submit a new biographical entry.

G. Wright Doyle
BDCC, General Editor