CRCC researchers went to Seoul, South Korea for a conference on Religious Competition and Creative Innovation. Seoul serves as a comparison city to Los Angeles for the CRCC project, and the Seoul team invited scholars from around the world to discuss the central theme.
— USC CRCC (@usccrcc) August 25, 2016
We summarized the research presented at the conference on instagram, along with photos of the researchers. You can find them all by following us @USCCRCC.
Sung Gun Kim leads the Seoul RCCI team and has been studying four megachurches in Seoul, considered the megachurch capital of the world:
Sung Gun Kim, who organized this conference, studied four #megachurches in #Seoul that have avoided the decline of Protestant #Christianity in recent years. These churches directly answer society's accusations that megachurches have too much wealth, he says. He found #innovative activities and structures that differentiate them from corrupt megachurches by showing commitment to #faith: preaching on the basis of Biblical literalism, healing #ministries, #evangelism and the renunciation of worldly possessions and power. For instance, two #churches don't own property, one would rather "slim down" and send out #missionaries than built up itself. #ReligioninSeoul
The RCCI project is also studying the faith lives of young adults in Seoul. Click here to read more about how young religiously unaffiliated Koreans and Americans compare.
At religious university in #Seoul, an "anti-chapel movement" is a sign of decline of #religion among young people in #Korea. Seil Oh, a sociologist and #Catholic priest (top photo), has found that schools are creating non-religious "chapel" options, such as dance, plays and music. At Sogang University, where Oh work, he noted the popularity of Buddhist monk speaking over typical Masses. Sogang also has found success meeting the #spiritual needs of students with a non-religious retreat-like program that offers time for reflection and growth, with meditation opportunities. Similarly, Francis Jae-ryong Song (below) found an innovative "Theological Chatter" program at the Anglican Cathedral based on "Theology on Tap" in the U.S. The minister allows young adults to come talk about any subject, regardless of religious or irreligious background.
Another case study from the RCCI project looks at Filipino Catholic migrants living in Seoul. A guest scholar presented about Chinese immigration to France.
Nanlai Cao (left) and Hyung Chull Jang (right) both spoke about the #faith of #immigrants in two different situations. Cao has captured the life stories of 40 Wenzhou Chinese #Christians living in #Paris, while Jang studied #Filipino #Catholics in #Seoul #SouthKorea. For both populations, #church plays an essential role in their lives and they understand their #migration through a lens of faith. Interestingly, the respondent for Jang's paper, Saul Serna S. (below), is a Mexican Ph.D. student who has been in #Seoul for six years. As such, the discussion of #immigration hit home for him. He said #religion can help immigrants answer the question, "Who am I in a new social context?”
Faith-based social services was also a theme of the conference, with two presentation on two different contexts:
Social services in #Japan were the responsibility of the state until the late 1990s, when #faith-based #NGOs became involved, particularly in supporting #homeless people. Tatsuya Shirahase shared how different groups balance working with the public sector and proselytization in their work with the homeless. Similarly, Kwang Suk Yoo explored the history of mixing of #spiritual and #social #missions in #Korea. In studying the Urban Industrial Mission, he found that religious actors cooperated across denominations as they found their role in supporting the #rights of industrial #workers. #religion #socialservice
The conference also included scholars studying how religion is changing in Latin America, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
Juan Martinez, a fellow with CRCC and professor at @fullerseminary presented how religious #innovation plays out in #LatinAmerica. #Mestizaje has allowed people to deal with conquest and encounter, he said. "#Evangelical conquest made people #Catholic but the old practices did not disappear." Today, #Pentecostal #faith harnesses powers of indigenous and African spirits under #Jesus. He showed visual examples of the #Aztec goddess Tonantzin and Guadalupe, Mayan altars in front of Catholic Churches and popular sites. The mixing of cultures is idealized, but here, he shows a mural illustrating the messy, difficult process of mestizaje.
Michael Feener presented a historical look at #Muslim – #Christian competition and conflict in #Indonesia, challenging the sociological idea that individuals "choose" best product in religious marketplace. History and culture often played a bigger role. Portuguese merchants brought #Christianity to Indonesia and pushed Muslim merchants to the farthest corners of the archipelago. This helped spread #Islam beyond the region where it flourished on its own. Medieval confrontations between the two shaped communal Indonesian Muslim identity until today. The perceived threat of Christianity led to Islamist organizations that focused on the promulgation of Islam, including by adapting tools of Christian #missionaries. #religion
Shun-hing Chan from Hong Kong Baptist University explained how #Christians were split between support for Hong Kong's #OccupyCentral for Love and Peace movement that pushed for constitutional reform. Many #Christian leaders helped start the #UmbrellaMovement. They were #innovative in the ways they used #religion to advocate their position—such as positioning people of #HongKong as David versus Goliath of #China. Meanwhile, some conservative #evangelical and #Anglican leaders opposed the protests. "Silence is better than saying anything," an Anglican bishop said, using example of Jesus not answering Pilate's accusations.
Last but not least…
Last but not least from #seoul conference last week, CRCC researchers shared their framework for #innovation in #religion, along how case studies of #religioninLA fit in that framework – from #burningman to #mindfulness to #mcc #churches. We previewed videos as well. Check out more at https://crcc.usc.edu/topic/creativity-innovation
The Religious Competition and Creative Innovation project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.