Leadership and Succession in Taoist-Buddhist Temples

By Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #118
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
June 30 – July 4, 2013
(see list of papers from #118)

Next presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #121
Louhelen Bahá'í Center: Davison, Michigan, USA
October 10–13, 2013
(see list of papers from #121)

    While there is a large body of research on religion, there is very little on the internal structure of religious organizations. More specifically, on the topic of leadership and succession, a keyword search on Amazon produced more than 7000 titles, which indicate these are topics of wide appeal. Yet there is hardly anything on leadership and succession in Chinese religious organizations.

    This paper examines leadership hierarchical structures and processes in traditional Chinese temples. My research questions fall into three major clusters:

      STRUCTURE -- Who chooses the leader or the assembly? What is the length of the appointment (for life or for a fixed term length)? How powerful are the leadership positions? How does the leadership of Chinese temples and mosques compare with each other?

      PROCESS & IDEOLOGY -- What are the ideologies and presuppositions behind the internal structure of these religious organizations? How do Chinese temples and mosques influence their membership or help their group to live out its purpose and character?

      CHALLENGE & CHANGE -- How do Chinese religious organizations keep relevant in the winds of globalization and change? Are leadership and succession policies in both the Chinese temple and the Chinese mosque able to meet the challenge of operating in highly demanding political, social, and economic climate?

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