Christianity in Modern China: The Making of the First Native Protestant Church

Christianity in Modern China: The Making of the First Native Protestant Church

Christianity in Modern China: The Making of the First Native Protestant Church

Christianity in Modern China: The Making of the First Native Protestant Church


Using mainly hitherto unstudied primary materials, this monograph studies a very significant episode in Chinese Christianity. Focusing on the origins and earliest history of Protestantism in South Fujian, this analytical-critical study investigates the evolution of the churches which pioneered in indigenisation and ecclesiastical union in China during the nineteenth century. Some subjects studied are primitive missionary objectives and methods, the relationship between the Talmage ideal and the Three-self concept, and the nature and dynamics of native religious work. Extremely useful is the critical assessment of South Fujian in terms of self-propagation, self-government, self-support and organic union. The key areas suggested for future research are also quite thought-provoking. The volume is especially valuable to social and church historians, missiologists and sociologists.


In early post-imperial China, a Chinese man returned from America preaching with great excitement 'the idea of a Chinese independent Church'. At Amoy, his public proposal of a church 'absolutely free from foreign name or domination' was applauded heartily by the local Christians. But when he urged them to join such a church, they replied, 'All the freedom which you have held up before us we have already enjoyed for more than forty years.' What appeared as a novel and radical idea to one man turned out to be the normal state of affairs to one community for more than a generation. The contrast is all the more striking considering that the zealous propagator confidently thought himself to be 'progressive' and his audience 'backward'. In truth, something approaching the opposite turned out to be the case.

For no mean accomplishment was the Protestant Church in South Fujian (Banlam) celebrated. In China, Banlam owned the first Protestant church building , the first organic union of churches and the first bona fide Presbytery . At the same time, she was the first church in the Central Kingdom to gain autonomy 'for a fairly large group of Christians' . Although in terms of the pursuit of the Threeself ideal, she still had a long way to go in 1863, Banlam represents the most advanced accomplishment among Protestant Missions at the time. The inauguration of her devolution preceded even that of the To Tsai Church (the present-day Heyi Church) which in 1888 became the first congregation in colonial Hong Kong to achieve full independence of its founding mission. In many ways indeed was Banlam ahead of her times. When the English Presbyterian (EP) Synod of 1888 adopted the resolutions of the Edinburgh Conference

Mess (1915) pp. 140–141.

RCC, pp. 25ff; WHP, p. 15.

Not simply 'the first Presbytery' (WHP, p. 47). See AER, Talmage from Amoy,
23 November 1861; Talmage, History, p. 60.

Latourette, History, pp. 259, 366.

Smith, Chinese Christians (1985) p. 183.

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