Guest content blogging for Logos Anglican

With the publication of my first guest post on Logos Anglican, I am pleased to announce that I’ve been brought on as a guest blogger to write content once a month. My first post reads the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, through the lens of fourteenth-century English visionary and theologian Julian of Norwich.

Anglicanism isn’t something that I’ve written explicitly about in my scholarly work. I do cover the resignation of Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury in an early post on Religion Ethnicity Wired (I posted on the day that Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy!), and a co-authored chapter with my doctoral supervisor David Ley does discuss Global Anglicanism in the context of religious migration from the Global South.

I really do happen to know a thing or two about the Anglican Communion, though. Let me explain.

I study religious publics. In particular, I study how religious publics have formed in ‘secular’ civil societies in the Asia-Pacific and in Asian North America.

Studying religious publics in this region and among this population makes the Anglican Communion simply unavoidable. Anglicanism is everywhere, not least because of the colonial legacy of the British Empire (which is why there is a ‘Communion’ in the first place). I intend for my posts on Logos Anglican to draw out the more general implications of what I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn!) from my Asia-Pacific and Asian North American research for the Anglican Communion. Consider it me giving back in my small way to a field that has given me so much.

Indeed, Anglicanism was everywhere since the beginning of my graduate work. The pseudonym ‘St. Matthew’s Church’ that I used during my master’s thesis work (see here) referred to an Anglican church. Indeed, I was questioned repeatedly about calling this church an evangelical church by those who were used to institutions like the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church as the mainline. My defence was that this congregation, like any other church, had porous boundaries that allowed for people from other evangelical traditions to join. Because of its connections to other Chinese churches in the Metro Vancouver area, it served as a great case study for how a Hongkonger Christian church ‘family’ was constructed, regardless of denomination. But read the thesis as well as the article, and it’s pretty obvious that the evangelicalism there has an Anglican flavour, especially when members spoke about the ‘liturgy.’

My doctoral work took the question of the Anglican Communion much more seriously. My dissertation (which I am now developing into a book manuscript) dealt with how Cantonese-speaking Protestants in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Vancouver engaged their secular civil societies. Within this Cantonese Protestant rubric, Anglicans played major roles in all three sites. If I learned anything about Anglicanism from this project, it was that there are multiple ways of doing Anglican theologies in the public sphere. I discovered also that taking a side in Anglican debates would also detract from the more interesting geographical project of mapping the diverse ways that Cantonese-speaking Anglicans approached secular civil societies.

To get at the history of Cantonese-speaking Protestantism, I had to deal with the history of colonialism in Hong Kong, including the role of the Anglican Church as an arm of the British Empire (something that the current Primate of the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, has discussed in his Identity in Community). But lest one start throwing post-colonial rocks at the supposed uniform conservatism of Hong Kong Anglicanism, I also researched a progressive, post-colonial strand that emphasizes social justice, democratic solidarity, and sexual equality that developed in Hong Kong from the 1980s into the present day, particularly in the work of feminist theologian Rose Wu Lo Sai. If there is one thing that characterizes Hong Kong Anglicanism, it’s that it is very theologically diverse, comprising liberal, liberationist, evangelical, and Anglo-Catholic strands against a very conscious backdrop of its colonial legacy.

At the same time, the question of global Anglican politics came up during my fieldwork in Vancouver (and to some extent, in San Francisco as well). Chinese Anglicanism was a touchy political topic in Vancouver because the Diocese of New Westminster is one of the three known ‘fault lines’ in what has come to be known as the Anglican realignment, the breaking-away of parishes from home dioceses to seek alternate episcopal oversight due to disagreements usually over sexuality issues. Among Cantonese Protestants in Vancouver, the departure of three Chinese Anglican parishes from the Anglican Church of Canada (along with a lawsuit advanced by two of them, no less!) was still the talk of the town while I did my fieldwork, and because of this, my empirical work led me to research both the perception of the splits from within Cantonese Protestant circles more generally as well as what actually happened in the Anglican realignment in Vancouver. By contrast, the Chinese Episcopal parishes in the San Francisco site had not broken away from their dioceses, and that served as an interesting foil to the Vancouver case study. Add to that the fact that social geographers in the United Kingdom have been discussing this Anglican realignment in recent major publications in the geography of religion, and this is yet another geographical spin on Anglicanism that comes straight out of my dissertation.

My postdoctoral work on younger generation Asian American and Asian Canadian Christian publics shows no signs of letting up on Anglicanism. Aside from the fact that I’m using my postdoctoral fellowship to churn out articles from my graduate work (including articles on Chinese Anglicanism in its very diverse forms), there are younger generation Anglicans at work forming publics. To give one immediate example, the Asian American open letter to the evangelical church last October 2013 would not have happened without the efforts of the first Korean American woman to be ordained in the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Christine Lee at All Angels’ Church (yes, for those who have read Lauren Winner’s Girl Meets God, the same parish!). I have also met other Asian American and Asian Canadian evangelicals who are interested in constructing ‘sacramental publics’ and find Anglican traditions useful. These experiments with sacramentality are not just limited to Anglicans, but as I’ve hinted at in this blog post on Alliance pastor Ken Shigematsu, some experiments dovetail (likely unintentionally) with local Anglican developments. All this is work in progress, but suffice it to say that the work on Anglicanism in Asian America and Asian Canada may prove productive indeed.

In other words, my field work has immersed me in the life of the Anglican Communion with its colonial legacies, social justice work, aesthetic emphases, divergent theologies, and communion fractures. My posts on Logos Anglican are meant to draw out the implications of my work for Anglicanism, to be informed by what I’ve done ethnographically as I read Anglican texts.

It’s no secret that Logos Anglican is using these posts to sell their e-book collections of Anglican works. Their collection is impressive, comprising patristic and medieval sources as well as key Anglican divines such as Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, Lancelot Andrewes, J.C. Ryle, John Henry Newman, Michael Ramsey, and N.T. Wright. The Anglican ecumenist Paul Avis also makes a significant contribution. But it should also be no secret that I’m approaching Anglicanism based on my particular immersion and ongoing academic reflection on Global Anglicanism and religious publics, especially in sites that grapple in diverse ways with what theologians Ian Douglas and Kwok Pui-lan call getting beyond colonial Anglicanism.

All this is to say, I look forward to giving back to a tradition that has given me so much. I’d also like to give a special shout-out to Ben Amundgaard, the product guy at Logos Anglican, thanking him especially for being simply awesome to work with. I look forward to having my immersion into all things Anglican deepened through this encounter with Logos Anglican, and I am very excited about the conversations to follow.

Making a Cantonese-Christian Family: Quotidian Habits of Language and Background in a Transnational Hongkonger Church (Population, Space, and Place)

My first article is finally out in press.

It is entitled ‘Making a Cantonese-Christian family: quotidian habits of language and background in a transnational Hongkonger church.’ It is part of a special issue of Population, Space, and Place: A Journal of Population Geography on Migration and Everyday Matters: Materiality and Sociality.  Edited by Elaine Ho (Leeds) and Madeleine Hatfield (Royal Holloway, University of London), this issue represents an approach to geographies of migration from the ground up.  We investigate everyday lives and quotidian geographies: how is space materially and socially created by people who have moved from one place to another?

My contribution tackles geographies of everyday life in both the religious dimension and the Hong Kong-Vancouver migration network.  This is based on my MA research, which took place in a transnational Hongkonger church in Metro Vancouver I have anonymised as St. Matthew’s Church.

This paper looks at how St. Matthew’s Church became and is continually reinforced as a transnational Hongkonger church.  For the examination of everyday lives, I use the work of Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life as an heuristic, differentiating between strategies in which ordinary citizens consciously plot political resistance and tactics in which people unconsciously and unreflectively use everyday habits to prop up their lifeworlds.  As I suggest in the paper, most of what goes into making a Cantonese-Christian family are everyday habits (de Certeau’s tactics) that are often subtle, unconscious, seemingly insignificant, and unreflected upon, but which turn out to be politically constructive at the end of the day. By advancing the geography of religion, I also am working within the boundaries of new cultural geography in which James Duncan famously showed in The City as Text that geographical landscapes, networks, and spaces don’t just exist superorganically in some abstract space above us, but are in fact constructed politically over time.

Here’s the abstract:

Studies of the Hong Kong-Vancouver transnational migration network seldom pay close attention to religion in the everyday lives of Hongkonger migrants. Based on 9 months of ethnographic fieldwork at St. Matthew’s Church, a Hong Kong church in Metro Vancouver, this paper examines the tacit assumptions and taken-for-granted quotidian practices through which a Hongkonger church is made. I argue that St. Matthew’s Church has been constructed as a Hong Kong Cantonese-Christian family space through the everyday use of language and invocations of a common educational background. This argument extends the literature on Hongkonger migration to Metro Vancouver by grounding it in a religious site whose intersections with Hong Kong migration to Vancouver consolidates the church as a religious mission with a specifically Hongkonger migration narrative. This consolidation is problematised as I show that contestations in church life by migrants from the People’s Republic of China over language and asymmetrical educational backgrounds both reinforce and challenge the church as a Hongkonger congregation. Through an examination of these everyday interactions at St. Matthew’s Church, this paper advances the geography of religion as I demonstrate that specific geographical narratives and networks shape quotidian practices in religious sites.

The paper is available on Wiley-Blackwell’s Early View.  Inquiries regarding the paper can be directed to: jkhtse@interchange.ubc.ca or tse.justo@gmail.com.