Professor, Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong
The proposed research will apply the concept of civility to investigate the "civil character" of the contemporary Chinese church. "Civil character" refers to a kind of good will among individuals, the community, and society. Lacking such character, people will compete only for their own interests or the group they belong to, which makes it difficult to cultivate a civil society that promotes social development.
This study focuses on the concept of civility by examining both positive and negative factors that affect the construction of civility in Beijing Christian churches, such as their governance model, theological trends, relationship with the government, and the economic and social status of the believers. We will select four types of churches in Beijing as the subject of our investigation: the registered church, the newly-emerging church, Wenzhouer's church, and the migrant workers' church. They represent some major trends in the development of contemporary China: that the government still has a strong impact on social development, but a new non-governmental domain of modernization has been taking shape, and regionalism and urban-rural disparity are still widely-existing phenomena. We will adopt some research methods including a literature review, participative observation, focus group interview, and questionnaire to examine the relationship between the social and political context of the church and its "civility."