1840  — 1882

Chen Mengnan

First Chinese Christian to advocate the idea of a self-governing church.

A native of Guangdong Province, Chen was educated in the traditional schooling system of private tutelage. Hence he was well versed in classical Chinese literature, as well as the art of Chinese medicine. He heard the Gospel from a Baptist missionary, with whom he studied the Sermon on the Mount, and consequently became a Christian. Believing that a Chinese scholar should not be baptized by a Westerner, he hired a boat to take him to the provincial capital of Shao-xing, where he was baptized by the Chinese canon Sin Kwai-Tang. Several years later, he went to Canton, where he had more opportunities to learn the truth.

Chen taught at the charity school run by the church. In 1973, he founded the East Guangdong Chinese Alliance Church and advocated that the Chinese set up their own churches. The following year, he bought property to start a Chinese Alliance church and became its pastor. In his spare time, he edited and translated articles for Alliance Digest, e. g., “Brief Commentaries on the Parables of Jesus.” His “Showing Forth the Truth” was particularly valued and was reprinted many times after his death for a total of one million copies. His writings were as much respected as his personal integrity. His arduous labors eventually led to his illness, and he had to return to his native home in 1881. He died during one of his evangelistic meetings. The Chinese Alliance Churches won wide support from the Chinese people, eventually reaching a peak of 40-50 local congregations.


This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright © 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.