The Last Anglican Bishop

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Last year I began to write to Philip Wickeri, a professor at San Anselmo Seminary (Presbyterian) in San Francisco. He travels frequently so it was hard to keep up with him. Presently he is teaching liturgy at Nanjing Seminary here in China.  He had written a book on Reconstructing Christianity in China (2007) and because my present work is closely related to Christianity in China although of a different period I thought he might be of some help. He was very kind to write back and correspond. Since then I have followed up on his research and he has had a lifelong association with Bishop K.H. Ting, the last Anglican Bishop in China. In 1950  the Anglican Church disappeared in China and was absorbed into the “Three Self Church.”

To my delight Bishop Ting is still alive although confined to a wheelchair his mind is intensely interested in theology and world affairs. I wrote to Bishop Ting today and asked if he would be so kind as to have his secretary arrange a visit between us at a suitable time in the near future.

According to Wikipedia Bishop Ting is a controversial but inspirational figure. I hope to meet him soon.

“Ting was educated at Shanghai’s Saint John’s University (1937–42), receiving his B.A. in 1937 and his B.D. in 1942. In 1942 he was also ordained to the Anglican diaconate and married Siu-May Kuo (d. 1995). In 1946 he and his wife moved to Canada where he became missions secretary of the Canadian Student Christian Movement. He subsequently studied at Columbia University and at Union Theological Seminary, both in New York (1947 to 1948). He graduated with masters in arts and theology.

From 1942 to 1945, Ting worked in administrative affairs of the YMCA, and from 1946 to 1947, of the Canadian Student Christian Movement. From 1948 to 1951 he worked in administrative affairs of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1951 they and their young son returned to China. Their second son was born in 1952. He went on to serve as General Manager of the Shanghai-based Chinese Christian Literature Society, from 1951–53. In 1953 he became principal of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and the following year was elected to the standing committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. In 1955, he was consecrated as the Anglican bishop Zhejiang. During the cultural revolution he lost his positions but returned to prominence in the 1970s. In 1980, he became President of the China Christian Council and leader of the TSPM, positions he held until 1997. In 1985, he helped found the Amity Foundation and he remains its president as well as being principal of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.

Human Rights Controversy

Human rights activists around the world are divided in their opinion of K.H. Ting. Some see him as a Communist Party stooge and propagandist (he has denied that persecution of religious believers is an ongoing reality in China, a claim disputed by many human rights organizations including Amnesty International). Others consider that he is doing the best he can by working within the system to get the best possible deal for Christians in circumstances that are beyond his control.

Theology

Bishop Ting’s contribution to theology in China includes his controversial campaign of “theological construction” or “theological reconstruction.” This is an attempt to create an indigenous Christian theology, devoid of foreign influence but sensitive to the Chinese context.

He is known best for his Christology of the Cosmic Christ. Influenced greatly by the thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and process theology, Ting’s Cosmic Christ attempts to teach (1) that the whole cosmos is Christ’s domain and (2) that God must be understood in terms of the love of Jesus, as seen throughout the four Gospels.[1]

In regard to the hamartiology, Ting has pushed away from the traditional emphasis on people as “sinners” but also as individuals who are “sinned against.”[2]

He has been accused of replacing the traditional Protestant Doctrine of justification by faith with justification by love. Some have accused that this allows those who practice love to be within the boundaries of Christianity, regardless of their religious confession, and is considered an attempt to reconcile the atheistic ideology of Communism with Christianity in order to maintain good relations with the People’s Republic of China. However, he has explicitly stated that he neither understands what the phrase means but considers it a misleading imitation of justification by faith.[3]

  • God is Love: Collected Writings of Bishop K. H. Ting, Cook Communications Ministries International, 2004. ISBN 0-78144-233-8
  • No Longer Strangers: Selected Writings of K. H. Ting, edited by Raymond L. Whitehead, Orbis Books, 1989. ISBN 0-88344-653-7
  • Love Never Ends: Papers by K. H. Ting, edited by Janice Wickeri, Yilin Press, 2000. ISBN 7-80657-067-5
  • A Chinese Contribution to Ecumenical Theology: Selected Writings of Bishop K. H. Ting, edited by Janice and Philip Wickeri, WCC Publications, 2002. ISBN 2-8254-1358-5
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About daleinchina

Chongqing University of Arts and Sciences.
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