Bio – Stephanie Wong / 黄欣慧

Personal:

I grew up in a mixed Chinese and Dutch-American family, as one of four kids in my family. Life has taken me a lot of places, mainly for studies (alphabetically): Beijing, California, Hong Kong (SAR), Middlebury VT, New Haven CT, St. Louis MO, Valparaiso IN, Washington D.C., etc. As a result, ‘home’ is really wherever God has me at the moment; and ‘happiness’ is having my husband, Josh, and two children, Nathaniel and Joanna, close with me.

Vocational – Student, Scholar, Teacher:

I began my adult academic journey at Washington University in St. Louis, majoring in Religious Studies and English Literature (BA, 2010). There, I gained a broad introduction to the study of religion and grew in my love for writing. During college, I also became involved in the Catholic Student Center and eventually got confirmed Roman Catholic. Those undergrad years were wonderfully rich, as I criss-crossed campus between the Religious Studies Department and the Catholic Student Center attending every lecture, talk, or reading group that I could sign up for, blissfully ignorant of the disciplinary tensions that, as I have since learned, can sometimes characterize ‘religious studies’ and ‘theology.’ As far as my undergrad self was concerned, all the conversations were fascinating. Indeed, I am still of the conviction that that the rigorous study of religion as a socio-historical phenomena and the theological search to know and love God can be complementary quests, and that the etic and the emic are both valid and necessary forms of inquiry.

Next, I studied theology at Yale Divinity School (M.Div, and Education Leadership and Ministry Certificate, 2013). Some highlights of my time included: studying Chinese Christian theology with Dr. Chloe Starr; serving as a pastoral intern for Yale’s St. Thomas More Catholic chapel incorporating Asian Catholic students and their cultures into the liturgy; and participating in a 2013 Yale-Chinese U of Hong Kong sociology of religion workshop where we interviewed religious leaders in Hong Kong about their conception of happiness and the good life. Intellectually, the season at Yale was invaluable in teaching me to think theologically; for instance, Miroslav Volf’s course on systematics (Barth & Rahner)  plunged us immediately into sussing out the suppositions, priorities and implications at work in a theologian’s corpus. In terms of discipline, it was at Yale that I took up my focus on Chinese Christianity and felt the wonderful curiosity and trembling fear of committing oneself to a particular academic conversation; the more I learned of the historiographical and ecclesiological stakes of talking and writing about Christianity in East Asia, the more I saw and was humbled by how little I knew.

Heading to Washington D.C., I continued my studies in Georgetown’s Ph.D in Theological and Religious Studies. I studied with Peter Phan (Asian Christianity) and Erin Cline (Confucianism) as well as many other insightful and kind faculty members. The doctoral program focused on religious pluralism, and so the bulk of my coursework and exams were focused on the comparative study of the Catholic theological tradition and in Chinese religio-philosophical traditions (Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism.) My dissertation “From Subjects to Citizens: Frederic-Vincent Lebbe and the Project to Indigenize the Catholic Church in China” was a case study of a Belgian-Chinese missionary’s efforts to indigenize Catholicism in the Republican Era. I cannot possibly summarize all that I gained from Georgetown — but I think the best way to put it is that I learned how to really operate as a scholar: I gained facility in moving between first-order subjects (all the ‘content’ of the traditions I needed to know for comp exams) and second-order theoretical constructs (theories of religious pluralism, paradigms of mission, periodizations of ecclesiastical or Chinese history, postcolonial modes of analysis, and so on.)

Since Jan 2019, I have been serving as an assistant professor at Valparaiso University. I teach our department’s GenEd “Christian Traditions’ course and the Theo Major’s  ‘Theories and Methods in the Study of Theology and Religious Studies’ class. I have been building new upper-level courses in World Christianity and East Asian Christianity, and thoroughly enjoy teaching students. So far in teaching, I’ve really come to appreciate the wisdom in the aphorism that it’s not texts that we teach, but students!