- Christian Women in Chinese Society: The Anglican Story ed. by Wai Ching Angela Wong and Patricia P. K. Chiu
Both in the past as well as in the present, women have played a crucial role for the life and development of the worldwide Church, not least the Chinese Church. The history of the Chinese Church, however, has rather focused on male contributions and many names of Chinese Christian women have been forgotten and even lost. Only in recent years has this started to change, and Christian Women in Chinese Society: The Anglican Story is yet another addition that contributes towards a fuller picture. The Anglican Story is the fourth installment in the series Sheng Kung Hui: Historical Studies of Anglican Christianity in China, edited by Philip L. Wickeri and originating from a conference in 2015. Editors Wai Ching Angela Wong and Patricia P. K. Chiu are Hong Kong academics at Chinese University and Hong Kong University, respectively.
The book is comprised of eleven chapters, split into four sections: "Cross-Cultural Partnership," "Women and Ordained Ministry," "Life Histories," and "Serving the Community." Kwok Pui-lan's first chapter is the only chapter in the book with a more abstract or perhaps conceptual outlook, as she reflects on the "cross-cultural partnership," the complexities of Sino-Western interactions and gender issues. The other two chapters focus on educational enterprises as Saint Hilda's School for Girls in Wuhan (Judith Liu) and Zenana Mission Bible women in Fujian (Zhou Yun). These provide for interesting contrasts between [End Page 93] the idealism of the "social gospel" at Saint Hilda's in the 1920–1930s and the practical and down-to-earth work of Bible women in Fujian. One missionary is quoted in Zhou's chapter saying that "one realizes the amazing part the simple and poorly educated Bible women has played for the growth of the Church" (p. 73), a very important and often overlooked insight.
Florence Li Tim Oi is a name mentioned many times throughout the book, and she is given a chapter of her own in the second section, by series editor Philip L. Wickeri. Rev. Li Tim Oi was the first woman ordained as a priest in the Anglican Communion, and this happened in Hong Kong in 1944. Although a singular event with no immediate successors, Li Tim Oi's ordination had repercussions and she was clearly one of the earliest ordained Chinese women of any denomination. Wai Ching Angela Wong continues the discussion in her chapter, claiming that the later ordination of women priests in Hong Kong in the 1970s was a "distinctive Chinese contribution," however without giving a very distinctive explanation of the Chinese contribution. The impression one gets is that it was a mix of pragmatism and the relative periphery of Hong Kong in the Anglican context, with particular local and Western clergy playing decisive roles, and not quite so distinctly "Chinese." Peter Cunich expands the picture with his chapter on deaconesses in southern China from the 1920s to the 1950s.
The third section "Life Stories" tells of the Wolfe sisters in Fujian (Frances Slater), Fujian farm girl turned teacher Zhan Aimei (Jennifer R. Lin) and Kuo Siu-may (Chen Ruiwen), the wife of Bishop Ding Guangxun (K. H. Ting). The book is a selection of articles from a conference, but this section would have fared better with some wider perspective, a more abstract objective and a clearer rationale for the specific selection of these topics. The three chapters are interesting as such, but Frances Slater who writes about the Wolfe sisters is actually personally related to the Wolfe family, and in 2017 self-published a book about the family history. Zhan Aimei is a good example of a woman who could have gone unrecognized into history, but the author Lin is Zhan's great- grandchild which makes the rationale for her selection as topic...