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Bishop K. H. Ting, 1915-2012.

Bishop K. H. Ting, China's foremost Christian leader over the last four decades, died peacefully in Nanjing on November 22, 2012. He had been hospitalized for several years and was 97 years of age.

Born and raised in Shanghai, Ting (Ding Guangxun) was the third of four children. The greatest influence in his early life was his mother, a devout Anglican, who encouraged her son to enter the ministry. Ting received a B.A. in 1937 from St. John's University, Shanghai, and a B.D. from its school of theology in 1942. In the same year, he was ordained to the Anglican diaconate and priesthood and married Siu-may Kuo (d. 1995). He worked for the church in wartime Shanghai, and he was one of the many YMCA student workers inspired by Y. T. Wu (1893-1979). In 1946 the Tings went to Canada, where K.H. had been appointed mission secretary for the Student Christian Movement. The following year they moved to New York to continue their studies. In 1948 Ting received an M.A. in religious education from Union Theological Seminary, New York. He then moved to Geneva to assume the position of executive secretary (responsible for mission) with the World Student Christian Federation. In this capacity, he traveled widely and got to know many men and women in the then-flourishing ecumenical movement.

The Tings returned to China in 1951, committed to the newly established People's Republic of China. Ting served for a brief time as general secretary of the Christian Literature Society (1952-53) in Shanghai before moving to Nanjing, where he became principal of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, a position he held until 2010. Ting joined in the work of the Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) and became a well-known interpreter of the Chinese revolution to the West. In 1955 he was consecrated bishop of the diocese of Chekiang (Zhejiang). With the intensification of radical political movements in China beginning in the late 1950s, Ting's position became increasingly difficult. He was removed from all his church and political posts at the start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

With the beginning of the period of "openness and reform" in the late 1970s, K. H. Ting emerged as the preeminent leader of China's Protestant Christians and headed both the newly organized China Christian Council (1981) and the reestablished TSPM. He promoted the reopening of churches and other religious institutions, the printing of the Bible and religious literature, and increasing contacts with churches in other parts of the world. He was the leading spirit behind the Amity Foundation, which promoted Christian involvement in society. As China's best-known Protestant theologian, Ting's central concerns were love as God's primary attribute and the importance for Christians to practice love in society. After his retirement, Ting promoted "theological reconstruction" in the Chinese church, which involved a broadening of theology and an opening of Christian faith to the changes taking place in society. His theological views and emphasis on working in concert with the government continue to be criticized in some conservative church circles, but his views have also been commended by theologians in China and abroad.

Under Ting's leadership, Christianity assumed a higher profile in Chinese society and culture than at any previous time in its history. He was among the most important figures in world Christianity in the late twentieth century. K. H. Ting worked for reconciliation between church and society, Christian and non-Christian, China and the world. This is his enduring legacy to Christians in China and to the church universal.

A simple funeral was held for Bishop Ting in Nanjing on November 27, 2012, and on December 8 the China Christian Council held a memorial service for him at the Mochou Road Church, a short distance from his home of almost sixty years. K. H. Ting is survived by two sons and their families, including two grandchildren.

Philip L. Wickeri is Advisor to the Archbishop on Theological and Historical Studies, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican), and visiting professor at Ming Hua Theological College and Shanghai University. He is the author of Reconstructing Christianity in China: K. H. Ting and the Chinese Church (Orbis, 2007).
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Author:Wickeri, Philip L.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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