A small white chapel of Western design sits amid the high-rise residential buildings of Macau, a former Portuguese colony now administered by the People’s Republic of China. Popularly known as the “Morrison Chapel” in honor of Scotsman and Presbyterian minister Rev. Robert Morrison, the first missionary to land in the region in 1807 and the first to translate and publish the Bible in Chinese, it was the first Protestant chapel built on Chinese soil.
From there, Protestant Christianity spread throughout China.
“This is where the gospel came to the Chinese,” said the Rev. Stephen Durie, an Anglican priest and pastor of the chapel, officially christened a century ago as a nondenominational House of God, during a tour of the grounds in late February.
Christianity actually first reached mainland China in the seventh century during the Tang dynasty but didn’t begin to flourish until the 19th century. Later, in 1949, Mao Zedong banned the religion following the Chinese Revolution. It didn’t resurge until after his death in 1976 and the end of the Cultural Revolution. Now, with the communist central government’s sanction and oversight, Protestant Christianity has spread dramatically, manifesting in an unprecedented post-denominational, independent fashion.
And the Chinese government wants to work with the Episcopal Church, said Peter Ng, the church’s global partnerships officer for Asia and the Pacific, in an interview with ENS in China. “The government sees the Episcopal Church as a relevant voice in modern society.”