Chinese Theological Review 28 published

The Chinese Theological Review (CTR) 28 is published. It presents Chinese voices directly by providing translated theological essays, church statements, sermons, etc. for an English-language readership. CTR 28 focus on Sinization and in particular on women and feminist theology in the Chinese Protestant Church.

From the Editor

Janice Wickeri

Zhongguo hua中国化, that is, sinicization, as applied to religious beliefs and Christianity, Protestant and Catholic in particular, has become in recent years the major topic of discussion among officials, scholars and theological thinkers and educators. In keeping with this theme, this 28th issue of the Chinese Theological Review (CTR) opens with an essay by the Rev. Dr. Gao Feng 高峰, president of the China Christian Council and president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, on building up the Chinese Protestant church through sinicization.

Rev. Gao begins with a brief discussion of the historical background, from the earliest entry of Christianity into China to the efforts of Matteo Ricci and the many missionaries who followed. He notes the often-cited fact that early translations of Christian terms and ideas made use of Buddhist and Daoist concepts and language already familiar to Chinese people. It is generally affirmed in discussions of the process of zhongguo hua that Buddhism, as an imported religion that has become thoroughly Chinese, is an example of successful sinicization. In the history of Chinese Protestantism, theologians, pastors and leaders have long made the realization of a truly Chinese Christianity their goal.

For Rev. Gao, sinicization is based on and develops through both the Three-Self principle and Theological Reconstruction, with important emphasis on the sinicization of theological thinking. Chinese theology, he feels, must break with the idea of “the centrality of the Western Christian tradition.” He concludes his essay with these words: “To sum up, the sinicization of Christianity accords with biblical teaching. It is a deepening and development of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a basic requirement for the existence and development of Christianity in China, and is the goal and vision of the development of Christianity in China. The sinicization of Christianity is a comprehensive, long-term project. It cannot be settled once and for all or accomplished in a single move. It requires that we put forth our unremitting efforts.”

Following Rev. Gao’s piece are five essays by women authors on feminist theology in the Chinese Protestant church. This section begins with “Feminist Theology and the Chinese Church,” by the Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie. Rev. Cao is a church woman and leader who has been active in the church since her seminary training in the 1950s. She is a past president of the China Christian Council. Here she gives an overview of how Chinese Christian feminism grew through exposure to international feminist thought via ecumenical contacts and participation in the worldwide church. She also notes the growth of women’s participation in the church and in the number of ordained women.

Her essay is followed by “A Brief Look at Women’s Ministry in the Chinese Church,” by Rev. Gao Ying, president of Yanjing Theological Seminary in Beijing. She begins her look at women’s ministry with the Opium War and posits three stages of development: Establishment and Expansion; Transformation and Refining (1949-1979); and Rejuvenation and Rebuilding (1979-), discussing issues of women’s ordination, participation in decision-making in the church and in leadership positions, as well as gender issues and the encounter with traditional culture.

The remaining three essays, “A Biblical Perspective on Women’s Role in the Church,” by Rev. Sun Meici, Rev. Wang Peng’s “Understanding Paul’s Prohibitions Against Women in First Corinthians and “Women, Faith, Marriage—The Challenges of Marriage for Women: A Feminist Perspective,” by Meng Yanling, take in the main a more textual approach, emphasizing careful attention to the original meanings of the text and urging a feminist exegesis that would go deeper in uncovering the male-centered cultural norms operating in the text. Both Wang and Meng draw on Chinese classical texts, using the traditional patriarchal mindset of their own culture to show how these views have had an impact on Chinese Christian women that continues today, even among women clergy.

These five essays are taken from Theological Writing from Nanjing Seminary, Vol. 2 (1993-2017). Volume 2 was issued in May 2017, along with a reprint in the new format of Volume 1 (1952-1992), originally published to mark the 40th anniversary of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary (NJUTS).

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