The Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Question of a Native Church in the 1920's

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Gloria Tseng, Hope College

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Since the beginning of Christianity, the Church has been involved in spreading the Gospel's message of universal salvation. Yet, wherever Christianity has gone, it has almost always conflicted with the societies it has encountered. In the early twentieth century as China was undergoing sweeping political changes and becoming a more modern nation, Chinese Christianity was developing an identity of its own. Some missionaries and Chinese Christians were working to direct the growth of a Chinese Christian identity, while also maintaining the connections of the mission churches with the home churches. However, others looked for a complete break between the Western churches and the Chinese Christians, seeking devolution of control to the Chinese and the formation of a united and national Chinese Church throughout the country. At the heart of this competition was the struggle between Liberal and Fundamentalist Christianity, in which one side emphasized the spirit of Christianity and the other emphasized the institutions of Christianity. Among the many missionary societies active in China at this time was the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), an interdenominational missionary society founded in 1897 with a focus on foreign missions. The C&MA's Alliance Weekly magazine included stories from its missionaries in the field, which told of their work involving natives and provided evidence of the Alliance's efforts to bring about a national church headed by the Chinese. Yet, in 1926, less than a year before this goal was to be accomplished by the National Christian Council (NCC) with the establishment of the Church of Christ in China (CCC), the C&MA withdrew its support of the NCC based on fears that the native church would be a faulty manifestation of Christianity and thereby abandoned the event which would have fulfilled their mission's dream of a church led by the Chinese.


This material is based upon work supported by the 2011 Jacob E. Nyenhuis Faculty Development Research Grant.

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