Taking Christianity to China: Alabama Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom, 1850-1950

Article excerpt

Taking Christianity to China: Alabama Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom, 1850-1950.

By Wayne Flynt and Gerald W. Berkley. Tuscaloosa: Univ. of Alabama Press, 1997. Pp. xiv, 424. $34.95.

How did Protestant missionaries from Alabama impact China, and how did China impact them? This is the story told by Wayne Flynt, professor at Auburn University, and Gerald W. Berkley, director of East Asian Studies, University of Guam. The life and work of forty-seven missionaries are examined. Of these, five are Methodists, six are Presbyterians, and a dominant thirty-six are Baptists. The account is arranged around the following subjects: preparation, travel to China, understanding Chinese culture, reporting home, missionary life, missionary work, "woman consciousness," conflictbetween missionaries and with their boards, and participation in political issues. One of the book's values is its extensive use of manuscript collections, interviews, oral histories, and letters.

The authors deal critically, but fairly, with all the faults, failures, and foibles of these Alabama natives far from home. And yet the remarkable growth of the church in China in recent years is proof of the positive legacy they left. …