Chapter 9 Building a National Bible Society: The China Bible House and the Indigenization of Bible Work

In: The Church as Safe Haven
George Kam Wah Mak
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This chapter investigates the formation of the China Bible House as a coordinated response by foreign Bible societies and local Chinese churches to deal with the challenges of rising nationalism in the Republican period. In the late imperial era, institutional distrust and rivalries hindered mutual cooperation among foreign Bible societies and Chinese Protestants. Yet, by the 1930s, Chinese church leaders saw the founding of an indigenous Bible society as a manifestation of their independent agency. They agreed with foreign Bible societies on the global identity of Bible work. This understanding, together with the need for foreign financial support and expertise, gave rise to Sino-foreign cooperation in indigenizing Bible work. Providing manpower, advice and managerial support to the China Bible House, the foreign Bible societies continued to be involved in the ministry of Bible work in China until 1951, when they were forced to withdraw from the country in the midst of the Korean War. While the China Bible House emerged as a successful enterprise entirely owned and run by Chinese Protestants, the antireligious measures taken by the Maoist government made it immensely difficult for the China Bible House to develop into a fully-fledged Bible society.

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