This study of the Lutheran church at the mission field of the Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS) in Hunan spans the years 1902-1951, beginning with the establishment of the first congregations, shortly after the arrival of the pioneer missionaries, and ending with the anti-Christian campaigns of the Chinese Communist Party and the eventual retreat of the missionaries.
The case of the Lutheran church at the NMS mission field in Hunan has not, so far, been the subject of much scholarly attention. Most major contributions to this history of the church are written by former missionaries to an audience of NMS supporters. Instead of focusing on the missionary project, this dissertation aims to shed new light on the case, asking:
How did the Lutheran church develop in the interaction between Norwegian missionaries and Hunanese Christians?
As China’s so-called “Red Province,” Hunan holds a special place in Chinese history. Mao Zedong originated from Hunan, and at the helm of nearly every movement in modern Chinese reform and revolution, we find Hunanese leaders. When Mao started his career as an activist in the early 1920s, he was part of a movement going back to the nineteenth century. As the title Negotiating Church in China’s Red Province suggests, this dissertation aims to explore how the NMS church concept was negotiated within the Hunanese context of reform and revolution. In order to better understand how the social context affected the church building process, I also ask:
How did Norwegian missionaries and Hunanese Christians relate to the cultural, social, and political developments in Hunan, and how did these developments shape their understanding of the church’s nature and purpose?