State Power, Spirit Power: Official Categories of Religion and Pentecostal-Style Activities in Urban Three-Self Churches in China

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

The literature on the Pentecostal/Charismatic nature of contemporary Protestant Christianity in China has largely focussed on congregations widely labelled as “house-churches” or “off-shoots” of mainline Protestantism. This paper, however, will explore the Pentecostal-style activities of a group of “Three-Self” churches in a coastal Chinese city. The study utilises original ethnographic data generated over an extended period of fieldwork in these churches, tracing some of the major influences on local church practice and analysing how congregations engage in Pentecostal-style activity as an integral part of their mission while seeking to portray themselves to the local state as fitting in with official remits on religious activity. The paper argues that while Pentecostal-style activities are at variance with state policy on religion, church leaders and whole congregations “play down” certain practices in their interactions with local state personnel and in Sunday worship services and yet engage with a range of “gifts of the Spirit” in peripheral church gatherings and small-group settings. Further, I argue that in contexts of decreased state scrutiny, Pentecostal-style practice is more prevalent. Ultimately, this practice is part of a broader strategy of negotiation with the state for legitimation and space. Thus, this analysis contributes to our understanding of how and to what extent Pentecostal/Charismatic-style practice is politicised in the Chinese context while also suggesting that Pentecostal-style Christianity may be having a unifying effect across “house-church” and “Three-Self” congregations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014
EventCentre for the Study of World Christianity Seminar - The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Feb 201425 Feb 2014

Conference

ConferenceCentre for the Study of World Christianity Seminar
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityEdinburgh
Period25/02/1425/02/14

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