The three-self formula or three-self principle is a missiological strategy to establish indigenous churches. Its principles are: self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners), and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work). It was first coined in the late-19th century by various missions theorists, and is still used today in certain contexts such as in the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in mainland China.
The three principles of self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners), and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work) were first articulated by Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873, and Rufus Anderson, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.The "Nevius Method," named for John Livingstone Nevius, a missionary to China and Korea, developed the three-self principle of Venn and Anderson into a plan for establishing indigenous churches.
By 1877 three-self principles were much discussed among missionaries to China.The principles were drafted formally during an 1892 conference in Shanghai of Christian missions reflecting an almost universal agreement that the future of the Chinese church depended on the indigenization of the leadership, and the finding of sufficiently Chinese modes of worship.
In the early 20th century Roland Allen, a former Anglican missionary to China wrote two influential books that promoted the concept of indigenous churches based on the three-self principle.
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) in mainland China, now the officially sanctioned form of Protestant Christianity in China, took these principles as foundational for its establishment.However, in its alignment with China's United Front Work Department, the TSPM sought to unify all Christians in China behind the government's political and social agenda and thus politicized matters of religious belief and practice and "subordinated the religious mission of the church to the political agenda of the Communist Party." This represented a fundamental change in the concept of the three-self principle from a religious one to a political one. The TSPM’s implementation resulted in the suppression of other expressions of three-self principles that pre-existed it.
The mission historian David Bosch has argued that there needs to now be a fourth "self," self-theologizing.
In China, house churches or family churches, are Christian assemblies in the People's Republic of China that operate independently from the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and China Christian Council (CCC) and came into existence due to the change in religious policy after the end of the Cultural Revolution in the early-1980s.
The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is a Protestant organization in the People's Republic of China, and one of the largest Protestant bodies in the world. It is colloquially known as the Three-Self Church.
K. H. Ting, Ting Kuang-hsun or Ding Guangxun, was Chairperson emeritus of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and President emeritus of the China Christian Council, the government-approved Protestant church in China.
Indigenous churches are churches suited to local culture and led by local Christians. There have been two main Protestant strategies proposed for the creation of indigenous churches:
Roland Allen was an English missionary to China sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG).
Christianity in China appeared in the 7th century, during the Tang dynasty, but did not take root until it was reintroduced in the 16th century by Jesuit missionaries. Today, it comprises Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals and a small number of Orthodox Christians. Although its history in China is not as ancient as Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism or Confucianism, Christianity, through various ways, has been present in China since at least the 7th century and has gained significant influence during the last 200 years. The number of Chinese Christians has increased significantly since the easing of restrictions on religious activity during economic reforms in the late 1970s; Christians were four million before 1949.
Protestant Christianity entered China in the early 19th century, taking root in a significant way during the Qing dynasty. Some historians consider the Taiping Rebellion to have been influenced by Protestant teachings. Since the mid-20th century, there has been an increase in the number of Christian practitioners in China. According to a survey published in 2010 there are approximately 40 million Protestants in China.
Y. T. Wu or Wu Yao-tsung was a Protestant Christian leader in China who played a key role in the establishment of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. Wu also played an important role in the theology of K. H. Ting.
John Livingston Nevius was, for forty years, a pioneering American Protestant missionary in China, appointed by the American Presbyterian Mission; his missionary ideas were also very important in the spread of the church in Korea. He wrote several books on the themes of Chinese religions, customs and social life, and missionary work.
Henry Venn was an Anglican clergyman who is recognised as one of the foremost Protestant missions strategists of the nineteenth century. He was an outstanding administrator who served as honorary secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841 to 1873. He was also a campaigner, in the tradition of the Clapham Sect, who frequently lobbied the British Parliament on social issues of his day, notably on ensuring the total eradication of the Atlantic slave trade by retaining the West African Squadron of the Royal Navy. He expounded the basic principles of indigenous Christian missions: these were much later made widespread by the Lausanne Congress of 1974.
Pope Pius XII and the Church in China involves relations of the Holy See with China from 1939-1958. The Vatican recognized Chinese rites in 1939, elevated the first Chinese cardinal in 1946, and established a Chinese hierarchy.
The Shouters, or more properly the Shouters sect (呼喊派), is a label attached by the People's Republic of China (PRC) to an amorphous group within China that was targeted by the government first as counterrevolutionaries and subsequently as a criminal cult after incidents in Dongyang and Yiwu counties in Zhejiang province in February 1982. "The Shouters sect" became the object of waves of arrests in 1983 and again in 1995. Several 1983 publications with ties to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) accused the late expatriate Chinese Christian teacher Witness Lee of being the leader of "the Shouters sect" and of instigating the disorders. In practice, however, the appellation "the Shouters sect" has been applied far more broadly to many groups that pray openly and audibly and/or do not register or otherwise cooperate with the TSPM. There is considerable reason to doubt the veracity of the reports which led to the condemnation of "the Shouters sect" and the association of them with Witness Lee or the local churches, and the local churches distance themselves from the Shouters.
Hangzhou Chongyi Church is one of the largest Protestant churches in mainland China, registered under the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
Tian Feng: The Magazine of the Protestant Churches in China is the organ of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state-sanctioned body of Protestant Christians in China, and the most widely circulated Christian magazine in the country.
Political theology in China includes responses from Chinese government leaders, scholars, and religious leaders who deal with the relationship between religion and politics. For two millennia, this was organized based on a Confucian understanding of religion and politics, often discussed in terms of Confucian political philosophy. At various points throughout its history, Chinese Buddhism presented an alternative to the political import of Confucianism. However, since the mid-twentieth century, communist understandings of religion have dominated the discourse.
"Direction of Endeavor for Chinese Christianity in the Construction of New China", commonly known as "The Christian Manifesto" or "The Three-Self Manifesto", was a political manifesto of Protestants in China whereby they backed the newly-founded People's Republic of China (PRC) and the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Published in 1950, the manifesto paved the way for the government-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) of Protestants. This movement proclaimed the three principles of self-government, self-support, and self-propagation. The drafting and content of the manifesto was, and remains, controversial to this day.
The National Christian Council of China (NCC) was a Protestant organization in China. Its members were both Chinese Protestant churches and foreign missionary societies and its purpose was to promote cooperation among these churches and societies. The NCC was formed in 1922 in the aftermath of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference.
The Denunciation Movement started on April 19, 1951, as a movement to rid the Christian church in China from foreign influence by denouncing and expelling foreign missionaries. It quickly spread, however, to include the arrest and imprisonment of popular Chinese Christian leaders, particularly evangelicals.