Church’s future in China has last bishop worried

Published April 1, 2001

Anglicab Bishop K.H. Ting

China’s last Anglican bishop, K.H. Ting, may be moving a bit more slowly these days, but at the age of 85 he has seen the most important developments in the life of the Chinese Christian church and he has deep concerns about its future.

At a dinner with members of a delegation from the Episcopal Church of the United States, Bishop Ting said that Anglicanism seems to have disappeared in China’s post-denominational church, but “Anglican bishops and priests have been greatly appreciated for better learning and theological education.”

As a result, they have exerted a strong influence on the formation of church life at the local and regional level, as well as providing leadership for the China Christian Council, the national organization that supervises church life.

Although he is the last bishop and there are no priests who function as Anglicans, he detects a new interest in the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican style of worship centered in the Eucharist. Chinese students returning from studies abroad sometimes bring back elements of Anglican liturgy, even a few vestments. “I like to think in pride that we are an experiment on behalf of the whole church,” he said.

The rapid growth of the church is causing some problems in China, and Bishop Ting is open in describing his deep concern for its theological direction. The key to maintaining unity is an attitude of mutual respect in matters of faith and worship, he said during the conversation at his home. The church’s strong interest in evangelism means, however, that there is not much discussion about sacramental theology.

“We are paying a heavy price in order to maintain the present unity,” he said. “Many things are being omitted in our church life in order to be mutually respective. In building up our theological life and thinking we are trying to emphasize that we all need more diversity. We are doing our best to encourage students to be interested in theology, not just schools of theology.”

Bishop Ting was consecrated in Hanzhou while teaching at Nanjing Seminary in the early 1950s, after graduating from Columbia/Union Seminary in New York. The church was not anti-communist then, and, he said, “The mission of the church in China will be fruitless if it adopts anti-communism as our mission, especially these days.”

He is convinced that “the Communist Party is changing its attitude towards the church.”


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