- Guest Editor’s Introduction
Every generation interprets and reinterprets its past—or should. This maxim rings true with respect to Christian missionary experiences in Korea. Ever since 1875, when Charles Dallet’s (Catholic) Histoire de l’Église de Corée was published, or 1929, when L. George Paik’s The History of Protestant Missions in Korea, 1832–1910 was published, scholars have been interpreting and reinterpreting Christian missionary experiences in Korea. This interpretive legacy is being honored in this issue of the Journal of Korean Religions. In it are seven articles contributed by some of the most active English-language scholars of Korean Christianity working today. As a contributor and organizer of a symposium that gave rise to these articles, I am grateful to JKR for publishing them—and in doing so advancing the conversation on the history of Christian missions in Korea, in particular, and the history of Korean Christianity, in general. I am also grateful to all the contributors, some of whom presented draft versions of their articles at the symposium.1
In a Korean translation of his above-mentioned classic, Paik contends that Christian history’s essence lies in the part dealing with missions. Today this view does not enjoy wide acceptance. Even so, no historian of Christianity—or of any missionizing religion, for that matter—would deny the importance of explaining how the faith has spread and interacted with indigenous peoples and cultures, giving rise to new kinds of ethos and worldviews. Engaging in such explanations is what the seven articles in this issue seek to do. The articles may be organized into three groups according to their primary aim: 1) those that address missionary experiences by placing them in a broader narrative; 2) those that probe missionary topics that have only marginally been treated in prior scholarship; and 3) those that introduce new issues related to Christian missionaries in Korea, issues that may deserve further research. [End Page 5]
Belonging to the first group are the articles by Don Baker and Sean Kim. In his article, “The Transformation of the Catholic Church in Korea: From a Missionary Church to an Indigenous Church,” Baker makes the case that the Korean Catholic Church’s metamorphosis into a genuinely Korean religious community occurred only after the Korean War, especially after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Since that period, foreign missionaries have been replaced by Korean priests in ecclesial leadership; Korean, rather than Latin, came to be used in liturgy; and the Church actively engaged with the nation’s socio-political issues—gaining larger social acceptance and growing in numbers in the process. This is a succinct yet comprehensive study, richly informed by statistics. In it, Baker recognizes the foundational role played by the missionaries but embeds their experiences in a larger narrative that gives pride of place to native clergy and lay folk, who eventually shape the Church into one that is more consonant with the indigenous culture.
In the other article of the first group, “Via Media in the Land of Morning Calm: The Anglican Church in Korea,” Kim, like Baker, offers a broad narrative in which missionaries figure importantly but not overly so. Kim ably describes the foundational work of missionaries such as Charles John Corfe and how the “via media” character of the Anglican Church that they strove to establish took hold. What differentiates the Anglican experiences from those of the Catholics, we learn from this article, is that in Anglicanism the missionaries’ leadership was not eclipsed by, but integrated with, that of the Koreans. English works on Korean Anglicanism are hard to come by, so this succinct, up-to-date, and comprehensive article is most welcome indeed.
Three articles treat topics that have only marginally been dealt with in previous English scholarship on Korean Christian missions: those by Franklin Rausch, Lee-Ellen Strawn, and Timothy S. Lee. In “The Bishop’s Dilemma: Gustave Mutel and the Catholic Church in Korea, 1890–1910,” we find Rausch focusing on a missionary who perhaps exercised more influence on the Korean Catholic Church than any other missionary but who remains woefully understudied in non-Korean scholarship. Rausch seeks to redress this lack by focusing...