- Christian Encounters with Chinese Culture: Essays on Anglican and Episcopal History in China by Philip L. Wickeri
This study of the Anglican and Episcopal churches in China includes nine chapters, beginning with an overview by the editor, Philip L. Wickeri. The second chapter, “The Protestant Episcopal China Mission and Chinese Society” by Edward Yihua Xu, also takes a broad perspective, but the remaining chapters are more narrowly focused. Patricia P. K. Chiu looks at “Female Education and the Early Development of St. Stephen’s Church, Hong Kong” and Fuk-tsang Ying discusses Bishop R. O. Hall’s hopes for the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion, founded in Hong Kong in the late 1950s. Two chapters, by Chloë Starr and Feng Guo, describe efforts to create a universally acceptable translation of the Book of Common Prayer. Qi Duan examines the role of St. Peter’s Church in Shanghai during the conflict with Japan beginning in the 1930’s and Wickeri and Ruiwen Chen write on St. Mary’s Church in Hong Kong during the period 1912–1941. Peter Tze Ming Ng introduces the thought of two prominent Chinese theologians associated with the Anglican church, T. C. Chao and Francis C. M. Wei. In the final chapter, Yongtao Chen further explores the theology of Chao, longtime dean of the Yenching University School of Religion in Beijing, who converted from Methodism to the Anglican faith at the age of fifty-three.
As the Archbishop of Hong Kong, Paul Kwong, acknowledges in the Foreword, despite a British and American missionary involvement that began in the 1840s the numerical strength of the Anglican and Episcopal [End Page 235] churches in China was never large. The book makes the case, however, that their impact has been greater than mere numbers would suggest because of the special talents of their missionaries and an early commitment to education. This was particularly true of the American Protestant Episcopal China Mission (PECM), as Edward Yihua Xu argues that its “missionary enterprise...began, succeeded, and ended with education,” an evangelistic effort aimed at the urban upper classes in China, rather than the disadvantaged rural poor (26). The PECM sent several remarkable individuals to China in the nineteenth century, not least the Bishop Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky (1831–1906). A Latvian-born Jew, Schereschewsky, immigrated to the United States, converted to Christianity, and arrived in China as a missionary in 1859. This brilliant linguist’s indefatigable efforts in translating scriptures into Chinese are legendary, a task he persisted in despite severe physical impairments that would have defeated a lesser man. Schereschewsky also established St. John’s College in Hong Kong in 1879, the institution that set the early standard for missionary higher education in China.
Another exceptional American missionary, Francis Lister Hawks Pott (1864–1947), oversaw the development of St. John’s, leading the college from 1888 to 1941. This influential educator also took the step, remarkable for the time, of taking a Chinese wife, the daughter of PECM’s first Chinese priest. Also notable is the fact that in 1912 the Anglican and Episcopal churches were able to unite their estimated 30,000 members into the Holy Catholic Church of China (Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui). This, Wickeri points out, became the “first non-Roman Catholic national church body formed in China” (p. 10), although he acknowledges [End Page 236] that missionary influences continued to hinder it from becoming “a truly Chinese church” (p. 11). The denomination peaked with some 85,000 members in the late 1930s, but suffered greatly from the chaos of the Sino-Japanese War, which is well described in Duan’s case study of St. Peter’s Church, and the Chinese Civil War, before dying a slow death as an independent entity under the rule of the Chinese Communists.
The volume is well written and based on solid research. Wickeri, a veteran scholar who serves as advisor to Archbishop Kwong on historical and theological studies, did excellent work in compiling and editing the book. Most chapters will appeal...