Wu, Y.T. [Wu Yao-tsung] (1895-1979)

Chinese Christian reformer and founder of the Protestant Three-Self Movement

吳耀宗Born into a non-Christian family, Y.T. Wu made first contact with Christianity in a YMCA camp in 1911. He later attended evangelistic services led by Sherwood Eddy and Frank Buchman and in 1918 joined the Congregational Church in Beijing. The turning point of his life was reading the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus “captured me and I was unable to escape.” Leaving a remunerative customs service job, Wu joined the YMCA staff in 1920. He stated at Union Theological Seminary, New York, from 1924 to 1927, where Harry Ward was a prominent advocate of radical social reform. Wu received an M.A. from Columbia University in 1927 and returned to work in the schools department of the China National YMCA. After another half year at Union in 1936-1937, Wu headed the YMCA publishing house, and in 1945 founded Tien Feng, which became the quasi-official magazine of Chinese Protestantism.

Having found in Jesus’ teachings a guide to action, Wu’s concern for the improvement of Chinese life moved from spiritual reform to social reform to social revolution. In the spring of 1950 he arranged meetings with the new Communist government and was principal author of a “Christian manifesto” denouncing missionary imperialism and calling for a self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating church. Within a year the Three-Self Patriotic Movement became the exclusive organ of Protestantism in China, to be guided by Wu in its intimate relations with the Chinese government until his death.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.