Chapter 12 Revive, Survive, and Divide: Rebuilding Seventh-Day Adventism in Wenzhou

In: The Church as Safe Haven
Christie Chui-Shan Chow
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This chapter focuses on the causes and processes of the first Seventh-day Adventist church division in Wenzhou in the broader context of China’s religious revitalization during the mid-1970s. It argues that the collapse of Seventh-day Adventist missionary institutions and the decades-long turmoil under Mao’s rule created organizational and leadership voids among Chinese Adventists. As a result, the Adventists organized clandestine house church gatherings to continue religious activities, and a younger generation of lay Adventists who demonstrated talents in preaching and organization emerged as new leaders of the church. These new leaders took advantage of the leadership vacuum to experiment with new liturgical and praying practices learned from Watchman Nee’s Christian Assembly, a home-grown Protestant group. Schisms occurred when the younger and older generations of church leaders disagreed over liturgical practices and modes of church governance. By examining the internal dynamics of Adventist schism in Wenzhou, this study moves beyond a romanticized view of the Chinese Protestant revival to investigate how religious division went hand in hand with Adventist church growth in contemporary China.

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