Communion Matters: From Diocese of Hong Kong

Throughout my years of international travel, many people were surprised to hear that I was from Hong Kong, China. “There are Christians in China?”, they asked.  Christianity was introduced to China by the East Syrian Church in the 7th Century, with little success.  The Jesuits arrived in the 16th Century, but it was not until the 19th century when the Protestant missionaries came, that Christianity was spread widely in China.    

The first Anglican presence in Hong Kong was in 1843, when The Rev. Vincent Stanton, a British Church Missionary Society missionary, arrived as the first colonial chaplain under British rule.  In 1849, Hong Kong became the see of the Diocese of Victoria, which consisted of Hong Kong, China and Japan.  In the late 1800’s, missionaries from the USA, Canada, and the UK arrived, and several Anglican/Episcopal dioceses were established across China.  Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, (the literal translation is Holy Catholic Church in China), the national body of the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, was established in 1912.

The Hong Kong branch existed under various jurisdictions over the past 170 years.  In 1998, our church became a Province within the Anglican Communion, the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.  There are three dioceses, plus the missionary area of Macau.  It consists of a total of 50 parishes and mission churches, 130 schools, and more than 400 social service units, serving the population of almost 8 million in the two cities of Hong Kong and Macau.  Although Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui is the smallest province in the worldwide Anglican Communion, we have played an active part in the international stage.  Hong Kong hosted the Anglican Consultative Conference (ACC) in 2002 and then again in 2019.  Our immediate past Primate Archbishop Paul Kwong was elected the Chair of the ACC in 2016, a position he will continue to hold until 2023.  Our Provincial Music Director, Felix Yeung, has been named the Music Director for the Lambeth Conference, which is scheduled to be held in July 2022.

While the Christian population in Hong Kong is still a minority, only 16% of the general population, much smaller than the Buddhists and the Taoists, yet the church plays an influential role.  Through a strong partnership between the parishes, schools, and welfare services run by the Anglican Church, we demonstrate and proclaim Christ’s presence and love in a tangible way.  Thanks to the dedication of many faithful parishioners and professional workers, the Anglican Church saw a 35% growth in church membership over the past 15 years.  In 2016, the General Synod named “intentional discipleship” as a key area of focus.  Since then, many nurture programs were launched, including diocesan-wide programs for Lent, Easter, and Advent.  When COVID arrived, leading to the suspension of public worship services, numerous online new ministries began. One of them is a daily 8-minute audio reflection on Bible passages, delivered through social media, which have been met with great enthusiasm. 

In recent years, just like many other places around the world, the community of Hong Kong has become increasingly polarized.  Strong tensions between political camps, disparity between the haves and haves not, and the deep-seated generational differences on social and political issues, have all led to an intense antagonism within our community.  Faced with such challenges, the church makes an effort to reach out to different sectors for dialogue, and promote the need for reconciliation.  As a diocese, we have studied Culture of God by The Revd Nadim Nassar, and From Fragmentation to Wholeness in the Realm of Life by Fr Thomas Kwan, to learn about the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation.  For Lent this year, we are studying the book, The Way of Love: Turn, written by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Hong Kong is currently going through its biggest crisis since COVID started two years ago. Your prayers will be much appreciated as we persevere through this ordeal. May God continue to use the church in Hong Kong to witness the power and love of Christ in this moment of crisis! May God’s healing power be upon all those around the world who are ill, and with God’s help, may the world be a transformed place when this crisis is over! When international travel resumes, we welcome you to visit us and strengthen our bonds of affection within the Anglian Communion.    

Communion Matters: VIII: Birthday Observance

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This series of blogs is communion as a concept and a reality, and why it matters to us. As such it has a close relationship to mission, the activity whereby churches come to be, by God’s grace, including their on-going relationship to one another.  With respect to both the communion between churches, and the impulse to mission, no one was more important in the last century than Lesslie Newbigin.  His death (or birthday into eternal life in the ancient church) a quarter century ago this week is a good time to recall him.


After his time at Cambridge as the leader of the evangelical student group (and a leading social activist!), Newbigin set out to south India as a missionary in 1936. He would stay for nearly a half century, as he mastered the Tamil language. After the creation of the Church of South India this Presbyterian pastor would become a bishop in apostolic succession, much to his surprise. His career tracks all the great themes of modern mission, and noting each directly informs our own missional situation. 

The Church scene in India which Newbigin encountered included all the denominations in rivalry as we might expect. But as time went on, it became clear that the challenges all the churches faced were far more significant in the face of omnipresent Hinduism than the inherited theological differences.  New settings in mission created the impetus for ecumenical reunion. (Though the Anglo-Catholics objected over the apostolic succession), a number of Protestant denominations, including the Anglicans, joined the new Church of South India. Newbigin played a leading role in its creation in 1947.  Here we see the close connection precisely between mission and communion, between evangelism and the Church’s form. At the same time, Newbigin had a deep appreciation and friendly attitude toward Hindus and Muslims. He believed that Christians had in themselves no grounds for a sense of superiority, and that all religions, including the Church, are reduced to their knees at the foot of the cross of Jesus. By this he clarified how the Church does and doesn’t have a unique claim.

In the decade after World War II the churches of the Global South pressed for independence, and the age of colonialism came to an end. Newbigin was a theological leader in the new thinking, which sought to be more Christo-centric, as opposed to emphasizing the building up of the Church per se.  The main agent of mission was God Himself, who in his very triune being sends the Son for the redemption the world. This emphasis came to be called ‘missio Dei,’ ‘the mission of God,’ and became  very popular in the ensuing generation. Eventually Newbigin also became chary of the idea, when he saw how people came to identify what God was up to in the world in His mission with what they wanted him to be doing! (One scholar called it a ‘wax nose.’) Newbigin wanted the discernment of the missio Dei to be determined by the Word of God.

In the late 1970’s he returned to an England very different culturally from the one he had left. He came to see it with new eyes, as a mission field in itself, rather than as the cultural norm one might assume of home. This experience of ‘turning the lens’ and seeing the familiar as new, problematic, was connected to being a missionary accustomed to a certain sympathetic detachment.  He came to see more clearly that the Church needed all its branches, in their widely different cultural settings, to be in communication with one another, to encourage but also challenge one another, so that things that seemed ordinary in one place might be shown to be cultural accretions rather than outgrowths of the Gospel.  One might call this a principle of ‘recognizability.’ Can Churches of other cultures recognize a change as consistent with the Gospel, and can we do the same for them? Here the cultural diversity of the global Church serves to bring a mutual testing to one another, and so communion is intimately related to truth. One can see how applicable this last idea is to our own membership in a global family of churches from different cultures in the Communion.  

Finally, the popularity of the very word ‘missional’ as a way to describe our thinking about the nature of the Church comes from the community of thinkers in the wake of Lesslie Newbigin’s work. He continued his work in a cross-cultural parish in Birmingham, though blind and in his 90’s. May a fraction of his spirit for mission be found in us. 






Complete the Race (II Timothy 4:17)

At the end of our vacation we find ourselves in Chicago for its Marathon weekend (the fastest, I have read this morning, perhaps because it is cool and relatively level). Marathons offer many good things. You can see world-class athletes from places like Ethiopia and Kenya. There is a feel of fiesta with signs by family members, getups by some for-fun runners, and food for sale.

But as I looked out my hotel window at 7:30 a.m., I watched the race of competitors who have lost legs or their use. Wheeling vehicles by arm for 26 miles means serious fitness and determination.

Those competitors were to me, this morning, a symbol of the Church too. For each is wounded. The larger family cheers them on. Each by grace has risen up to run the race. Ahead is the goal, the prize, the welcome home. We find the companionship of Jesus the Lord, there, and along the route too.