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Prof. Shun-hing Chan

B.A., M.Div. (CUHK), M.Th. (Edinburgh), Ph.D. (CUHK)

Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy

Funding:

  • General Research Fund (GRF), HKSAR Government 
    HK$209,040

Introduction

  • This research project sought to inquire about the role of the Protestant churches in shaping the political opinions of members, and to investigate members’ political behaviour and their antecedents. The investigator examined whether the Protestant churches in Hong Kong played a role in civic life, and whether these churches were an egalitarian provider of civic resources. In addressing these normative concerns with an empirical inquiry into the political salience of the Protestant churches in Hong Kong, this research project contributed to literature across the social sciences:  
    -    To press contextual analyses to confront organizational structures and a diversity of individual motivations;
    -    To advance the study of public opinion formation by elaborating how individuals process information from social sources dependent on social location and interaction;
    -    To push forward the study of political participation by incorporating organizational measures as well as social interactions and formation flow among members.

Abstract

  • This research project sought to examine the political influence of the Protestant churches in Hong Kong. Specifically, this research used Paul Djupe and Christopher Gilbert’s theory of religious influence on political behaviour to investigate how the social context of the Protestant churches facilitated the development of socioreligious subculture inside and outside formal church structures, and how the membership in these subculture units opened up organizational channels that built social networks and transmitted political information, leading to enhanced rates of political participation. The subject of study were the member denominations of the Hong Kong Christian Council (HKCC), in which included 262 churches in Hong Kong. The research findings provided a clearer understanding of the contributions of the Protestant churches to sustaining civil society in Hong Kong. Regarding the theoretical significance of this research project, it explicated a theory of church-centred influences on political behaviour based on contextual analysis, which advanced the study of religion and politics in Hong Kong. Regarding the practical significance, it provided a specified model of how voluntary associations exposed individuals to political information and norms, which helped us to understand how public opinion was formed and why people participated in politics.

Methodology

  • This study used both survey and interview as research methods for a full test of the effects of the Protestant churches on the political behaviour of their members.

    The first stage of this study involved a survey of clergy in the Protestant churches of Hong Kong. According to the webpage of the HKCC in 2012, there were 23 member churches/denominations and organizations, in which the major member denominations included the Church of Christ in China, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong, the Methodist Church of Hong Kong, the Salvation Army, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Tsung Tsin Mission of Hong Kong. The investigator invited church leaders of these denominations to participate in this research project. 

    The second stage of the study moved from clergy to churches, using a subset of responding church leaders as a starting point. The investigator sought permission from the church leaders to survey the clergy and the members of their congregations, in order to bring together data on the perceptions and political behaviour of clergy and congregants.

    In the third stage, the investigator probed for respondents’ involvement in the myriad small groups churches offered, asking about the number of groups and activities in which respondents participated. The investigator asked respondents to compare themselves to the primary small group in which they were involved, a direct parallel to the congregational comparison questions. Another long set of questions investigated respondents’ perceptions of their discussion partners’ political orientations, including voting patterns, ideological views, and specific political issue stances.

Interdisciplinary expertise

  • This research project needs the expertise of Sociology of Religion and Religious Studies, particularly the knowledge of the Mainline Protestant Churches.