Book Review: The Practical Prophet

There are two kinds of prophets: those who foretell the future and those who confront their own generation with the will of God. Moira Chan-Yeung’s biography of Bishop Ronald Hall, using new material that she has gleaned from personal and institutional archives, reveals Bishop Hall as a prophet who confronted and challenged both Christians in and the Community of Hong Kong and Macau.

For many who know Bishop’s Hall’s name, it will be associated with the ordination of the first woman priest in the Anglican Communion, Li Tim Oi. It was an action which was pragmatic in circumstances where there were no male priests, but it was also to be personally costly.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, that being a Christian involves two things: prayer and righteous action. Bishop Hall’s understanding was similar, describing it as prayer and love-in-action. A major focus of his episcopal ministry was concerned with Social Welfare, and in particular housing and education for the poorest in society. On Bishop Hall’s retirement the Hong Kong government recognised the enormous contribution he had made to the development of their entrepreneurial society. Moira Chan-Yeung recounts how Bishop Hall organised provision of one decent meal a day for the poorest children, with the result that their academic results improved. Much of his vision was inspired by the writings of the Victorian Christian Socialist F.D.Maurice.

Perhaps his most important legacy was to work for the embedding of Christianity in Chinese culture, a culture which recognised the contribution of the elderly and the family. His ministry bequeathed the foundations for a truly indigenous Church.

This is a book which ought to be given to and read by, amongst others, all those who have leadership roles in Christian communities.