True Jesus Church in China - Background - The Church Indigenization Movement

The Church Indigenization Movement

The internal cause was due to events that occurred from the final years of the 19th century till the early years of the twentieth century. Alyhough the Three-Self_Movement had been encouraged by missionaries as early as the 1870s, this did not gain momentum until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Chinese Christians suffered from the Boxer Movement, New Culture Movement and wave after wave of Anti-Christian Movements that swept China. Criticism and opposition to Christianity had also arisen from numerous Chinese politicians, intellectuals, the gentry and the masses. This caused many Christian intellectuals and pastors in China feeling perplexed, distressed, and in a state of shock or panic. Some Christians who had a national sense of justice and a pious faith began to reflect on what had been lost and gained so far from the Christian missionary work in China. They also started exploring the pathway for the churches in China to eventually break away from the influence and perceived association with Imperialism. Hence some Christians began to put into practice the idea of an independent Chinese church. For example, Chen Men-nan (陈梦南) established the Baptist Self-Support Church (浸会自立会) in Guangdong and felt that since the overseas churches belonged to the overseas countries, the churches in China ought to belong to the Chinese. He held that Chinese Christians should form their own independent churches and preach the gospel themselves and thus avoid being labelled as a "Western religion" (洋教) or associated with the European colonial powers. In 1872, Chen rented a house with some financial aid from Chinese Americans and commenced preaching. The following year, he formed the "Cantonese Guangdong Chinese Evangelical Mission" (粤东广肇华人宣道会) and created the "Chinese Evangelistic Chapel" (华人宣道堂). Not long after the 1900 Boxer rebellion, a Chinese Presbyterian named Yu Guozhen formed a self-supporting Presbyterian congregation in Shanghai. By 1906 he formed the "China Christian Independent Church" using the principle of "love the church and love the country, self-support and self-governance" as its main founding aim. Gradually, numerous other independent churches were established, after splitting away from their Protestant denominations, and were able to run their own affairs without outside financial aid, interference, or ecclesiastical control. This surge in church indigenization continued into the Chinese Revolution period of the 1910s and 1920s with up to six hundred independent churches throughout the country. The True Jesus Church was amongst those which developed and grew under such circumstances.

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