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Protestant Church Updates

August 2021 UPDATAES

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

August 2021

 

5 Updates

 

1. Chinese Churches Serving Those with Disabilities.

2. Why do Chinese come to Faith.

3. Protestant churches told to preach Chinese president's speech.

4. The Chinese Church in Transition.

5. ChinaSource Quarterly: Student Ministry in China (Summer Issue, 2021).

 

 

1. 

Chinese Churches Serving Those with Disabilities

17th August 2021

 

Chinese Churches Serving Those with Disabilities

By ChinaSource Team on Aug 17, 2021 12:10 am

Among Chinese Christian charity and social services, wheelchair donation has been an ongoing ministry in supporting the disabled in recent years. Caring for people with disabilities has long been a tradition of Christian charity and social service. This article from Christian Times shows how Chinese churches and Christians should care for and serve this group.

Wheelchair Donation, Disability Theology and Construction of Charity Culture in Contemporary Chinese Churches

Among Chinese Christian charity and social services, wheelchair donation has been an ongoing ministry in supporting the disabled in recent years. According to incomplete data as of May 2018, roughly 30,000 wheelchairs have been donated across China by the China Christian Council and the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China (CCC & TSPM), the Amity Foundation, and local churches working together with domestic and international organizations. (The actual number may be far higher than this. According to the 2015 Social Service Ministries Annual Report published by the CCC & TSPM Social Service Department, 6,600 wheelchairs were donated across the nation that year. Additionally, the Amity Foundation donated 1,531 wheelchairs in Jiangsu Province over the course of 2015 to 2017).1

In provinces such as Henan, Gansu, Qinghai, Guizhou, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu alone, over a thousand wheelchairs have already been donated. Starting in 2015, CCC & TSPM began cooperating with the China Foundation for Disabled Persons. CCC & TSPM donated one million yuan to the foundation, for the purpose of donating wheelchairs and building community rehabilitation centers for the disabled in places such as Henan and Hubei.2

These 30,000 wheelchairs were given to people with disabilities, one of the largest groups of people in China. The most recent official statistics show that at the end of 2010, the total number of disabled people in China was 85.02 million, which accounts for 6.34% of the country’s population, and about three out of four of the people with disabilities live in rural areas.3 Official statistics from the same period also show that there were 23.05 million Christians in China,4 which means that on average there are about four disabled people living near every Chinese Christian.5 But for various reasons, this large group rarely appears in public.

There have been two main approaches in supporting the disabled: (1) helping disabled people obtain medical treatment and rehabilitation and (2) helping them exercise their right to equality in life. The first belongs to physical rehabilitation, the latter to social rehabilitation. In recent years the idea of “social integration” has emerged. The World Health Organization proposes that the goal of social rehabilitation, guided by social integration, is to encourage disabled people to take on meaningful roles and responsibilities in both the family and the wider community, and to treat them as equal members of society.6

With the promotion of social integration, some changes have been made in supporting disabled persons in China. Take the “Yangtze River New Milestone” project of the China Disabled Persons Federation for example. There are three phrases to this project. The theme of the first phase is “Prosthetic Services” (2000–2005), the second phase is “Supportive Services for Children with Cerebral Palsy” (2007–2012), and the third is “Caring for Your Disabled Neighbors” (2014–2018).7 The first and second belong to physical rehabilitation, and the third is social integration.

Caring for the disabled has always been a tradition of Christian charity and social services. In these changing times and with the development of the model of social integration, how should Christians and the Chinese church care for and serve disabled persons? This requires the Chinese church to provide a relevant theology of disability, especially guidance grounded in a Sinicized theology of disability.

For reference we can turn to disability theology that has emerged in Western countries in recent years. The emergence of disability theology has started to correct the view that “the Bible marginalizes people with disabilities.” For example, in addition to the traditional medical and social models, Deborah B. Creamer proposed a third model, the limits model—acknowledging the limits of all people, and enriching life through accepting and understanding diversity and limits, so that disabled persons will not be marginalized by society.8 This fits well with the concept of social integration being promoted by China’s work with disabled persons.

Among contemporary Chinese churches, there is not much exegetical study, theological consideration, or preaching about disability. In their work with the disabled, most churches come from the perspective of charity and mercy, emphasizing that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and “being light and salt.”  There is not enough attention to the feelings and dignity of disabled persons. In supporting the disabled, theological renewal and support are of vital importance.

The contemporary Chinese church’s charity culture still awaits improvement. The Amity Foundation’s “Amity Bakery” is the first social enterprise in China servicing disabled persons and is an excellent example of social integration. However, so far it is still the only social enterprise that serves the mentally handicapped. Wheelchair donation, a public project with large-scale influence that the Chinese Church has long been involved in, has the foundation and potential to develop in the direction of social integration. In the third phase of the “Yangtze River New Milestone,” one of selected projects is a family outing plan called “Enjoying the Blue Sky Together,” which is worthy of reference.

After surveying the desires of 763 disabled people in the district of Dongyuan Street in Harbin City, it was discovered that a significant number of those with mobility impairments wished to go outside and see the blue sky. In response to this need, social workers and volunteers arranged for a number of wheelchair-bound residents to visit parks, museums, and see the city etc. This was popular and will continue for several more months.9 This shows us that behind the 30,000 wheelchairs donated, are 30,000 souls longing to see the blue sky; and material donations can eventually lead to social integration. This can be considered a Good Samaritan story in contemporary China from the perspective of the Bible and the circumstances.

Contemporary Chinese church charity culture needs to learn from the Good Samaritan. It is necessary to review the biblical teachings related to loving your neighbor. After Jesus talked about the mission of loving God and loving neighbors, a lawyer tested Jesus by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus did not answer directly but told a story about a good Samaritan instead. A man fell among thieves. Both a priest and a Levite walked past but continued on their way without stopping. Finally, a passing Samaritan “took pity on him” and helped him. Jesus asked the lawyer: ” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” He said, “The one who had mercy on him.” Then said Jesus onto him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)

The passage is often used in sermons to exhort believers to “love their neighbors” and even “search out” their neighbors. But from Jesus’ perspective on neighbors, neighbor relationships are built to focus on the weak and their needs, and not centered on those who offer help. This reminds the contemporary Chinese church that when fulfilling the mission of “love your neighbors,” they should avoid self-centeredness and understand that the acts of “do the same,” “good Samaritan” and “having mercy” are how Jesus taught us to love our neighbors.

Faith is always connected to historical circumstances. Chinese society and the disabled groups exist in their own particular environment of historical, social and cultural characteristics. That disabled persons rarely appear in public in China is primarily due to the social environment. How the Chinese church and Christians should respond to, care for, and serve the needs of the 80 million disabled people, is closely connected with the development of Chinese church charity culture, development of Chinese theology, and even the Sinicization of Christianity.

A 2013 report of the CCC & TSPM shows that, the most important current task of the Chinese church is to “transform the fruits of theological thoughts,” which includes “how to provide theological motivation from public charity.” In addition, “strengthening social services and practicing Christ’s teaching of ‘love your neighbor as yourself’” is also one of the current tasks. According to this report, the importance of “exploring effective approaches for Christianity to engage in charity,” “discovering and cultivating church charity culture,” and “striving to expand the scope of social services” is beginning to gain attraction.10

In the Outline of the Five-Year Working Plan for Promoting the Sinicization of Christianity in our Country (2018–2022), one of the five tasks of Sinicization of Christianity is to “engage in charity and strive to serve the community.”11 From wheelchair donations, disability theology, to the development of contemporary Chinese church charity culture, we see an ocean of opportunity.

Originally published by WeChat account “Christian Study.” Published with permission. This publication does not hold the rights to this article.

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2. 

Why do chinese come to Faith

19th July 2021

By: ChinaSource Team 
A year ago this month we started a blog series on church growth in China, “God at Work: How the Church Grows in
China.”
One thing that almost everyone agrees on is that the church in China has grown remarkably in recent decades. The
question that was asked in this series was “how has it grown?” What factors have influenced Chinese believers to put
their trust in Christ?
As the introductory post states, the researcher found “that the Bible itself, along with the influence of personal
relationships, especially among family members, were key factors in people coming to faith.”
The series goes on to explore those influences, and other factors as well, to help us better understand why a person in
China might become a Christian.
Could it also can help us understand what might influence the many mainland students who leave China to go
overseas to pursue further studies to come to faith in Christ? To that end, InterVarsity International Student Ministry
used the data from the research and created a helpful infographic illustrating those factors.

https://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/blog-entries/why-do-chinese-come-to-faith/

____________________________________________________________________________________

3. 

Protestant churches told to preach Chinese president's speech

16th July 2021

UCA News www.ucanews.com


Protestant churches told to preach Chinese president's speech

Officials say praising and supporting the Communist Party and Xi Jinping are necessary for survival in China

UCA News reporter

Chinese officials have ordered pastors of the leading state-controlled Protestant Church body to study and preach the speech of President Xi Jinping delivered on July 1, the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The directives were announced during the national conference of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-controlled body of the Protestant Church in mainland China, and the China Christian Council, which oversees education in Three-Self churches, reports Bitter Winter magazine.

The theme of the July 8 conference was “Learning and Implementing the Spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Speech of July 1” and it was led by Xu Xiaohong, chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and Wu Wei, chairman of the China Christian Council.

Both groups are overseen by the United Front Work Department, the umbrella intelligence and coordination body of the CCP that gathers intelligence, manages relations and attempts to influence individuals and organizations including religions and religious groups inside and outside China.

In his strongly worded speech lasting around an hour, Xi eulogized the vital role of the CCP in laying the foundation of modern China and warned that attempts to separate the party from the Chinese people would fall flat.

"Only socialism can save China, and only socialism with Chinese characteristics can develop China. We will never allow anyone to bully, oppress or subjugate China. Anyone who dares try to do that will have their heads bashed bloody against the Great Wall of Steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people" Xi said in what seemed a veiled threat to the West.

Xi also said China maintains an "unshakeable commitment" to unification with Taiwan.

Despite democratic Taiwan long functioning as an independent country, China still considers it a breakaway province and a part of its territory. It has threatened to annex Taiwan militarily.

"No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Xi said.

During the conference, state-appointed heads of the groups said they expect pastors of the churches to make President Xi’s speech a principal topic of study, preaching in their sermons and a matter of discussion for Bible study groups.

Xu Xiaohong offered a model sermon for pastors based on nine points in the speech that glorified China, the CCP and President Xi.

He urged pastors to realize the CCP and Xi materialized the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and that Christians should frequently repeat two slogans: “Long live the great, glorious and correct Chinese Communist Party! Long live the great, glorious and heroic Chinese people!”

He insisted that the roots and blood of the CCP are in the people and it is the people’s own party.

Xu said the CCP has brought great and harmonious developments to the “five civilizations”: material, political, spiritual, social and economical.

Christians should trust the CCP as it has successfully governed the country for more than 70 years and they should join the CCP in telling foreign hostile powers that “the era when the Chinese nation was slaughtered and bullied is gone forever,” he added.

The official also warned that failure to follow the directives would be seen as violation of Sinicization, which is a necessary condition for churches to survive in China.

Sinicization aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Officially atheist China recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism.

For decades, Chinese authorities have strictly controlled official religious groups and persecuted those adhering allegiance to unrecognized or unregistered groups such as the Church of Almighty God and Falun Gong. The latter is among 20 cults or belief groups labeled “anti-China” or “evil cults."

Since 2018, under the pretext of the new regulations on religious affairs, Chinese authorities have shut down hundreds of churches and church-based charities including Catholic-run orphanages on allegations of operating illegally or violating rules by indoctrinating people with religion.

___________________________________________________________________

4. 

The Chinese Church in Transition

5th July 2021

By Swells in the Middle Kingdom

We had just gotten into a taxi at rush hour, and we knew we were in for a long stop-and-go ride across town. Noticing the crucifix hanging from the rear-view mirror, I mentioned to our taxi driver Ms Zhang that I too believed in Jesus. A big smile broke out across her face, as she said, “I don’t know what I would do without Jesus!” My wife and I initially thought this was the opening of a conversation, but we quickly realized that our role for the next half hour was to sit back and hear this woman’s testimony.

After just twelve years of marriage, Ms Zhang’s young husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. When he passed away, no one from their village families was willing to help with any of the funeral rites or burial for such a young man. A kind neighbor woman offered to help Ms Zhang, preparing the body, sitting vigil with her through the night, and even accompanying her back to her hometown in the countryside to bury his urn. Overwhelmed by this kindness, she was told by the neighbor that this was what Catholics did—they cared for people like Jesus cared for them. The neighbor woman offered to introduce Ms Zhang to her local priest, who offered to help Ms Zhang and her young son as they struggled with life without her husband. Overwhelmed by the compassion of these strangers, Ms Zhang decided to attend a service at the local Catholic church—and she immediately found peace. As she struggled through her grief, her son’s schooling, marriage, and then most recently his divorce, Ms Zhang learned to lean on Jesus and the Catholic community for all that she needs. “Trust Jesus for everything! He will give you peace, even when things are bad!”

Ms Zhang’s testimony is not unusual. Many Chinese believers enter the church at times of personal crisis. Financial troubles, broken relationships, health emergencies—real world trials often reveal to Chinese people the fractured nature of their safety nets, as friends, family, and the state fail to provide them with what they need. These moments of brokenness can be used by God to open people’s hearts to their own weakness and God’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whether through miraculous interventions or through the obedient agency of God’s people, blessing enters people’s lives leading them to put their faith in Jesus.

It is hard not to see this pattern of mutual care and support as a contemporary manifestation of the model of church life recorded in the book of Acts (Acts 2:42–47). For most new believers, adoption into the family of God (Romans 8) is experienced as a homecoming, as they discover that the kind of family they have been culturally conditioned to desire does exist—within the Christian church. In this sense, Ms Zhang’s testimony is about her finding her place in her new family—the church.

The church in China is going through a tremendous time of transition. Several years of pressure at various levels of government have made all aspects of religious practice in China more difficult. Increased surveillance and direct prohibitions against Party members and youth attending religious events has altered registered church practice, while direct confrontation has brought an end to even moderately-sized gatherings of unregistered believers across China. COVID restrictions have further tightened all these limitations, with more and more religious life pushed online—and now even those virtual venues are being closed and constrained.

While the transition to online worship brought about by COVID closures brought an initial upswing in participation and attendance, time has eroded many of those gains as the return to “normal” life and the lack of personal engagement has caused many to slip away. The ease of “attending” an online service has also encouraged many believers to replace local church life with listening to the online teaching of famous speakers and pastors from China’s megachurches. All of these developments pose challenges to the Chinese church’s historic emphasis on its identity as the family of God.

Ms Zhang’s testimony resonates with many, many Chinese Christians. It is hard to imagine Chinese conversions that do not contain at least some of the real-world personal support that so clearly drew her towards the church. Family is a concept so close to the Chinese heart—even if the biblical understanding of the family of God calls for a more inclusive and diverse notion of family than is found in Chinese tradition. Will a Chinese church that loses this personal touch still be relevant for future generations of Chinese people? Or can Chinese Christians find a way of doing church that balances the constraints of the current regulatory environment with the model of Christian community displayed in the book of Acts? Will the revival of the cell church model in China develop a way to mirror the inclusiveness and diversity of the early church within their much smaller gatherings? Or will “Chinese megachurches” that exist primarily online be able to create the kind of expansive Christian community that can both appeal to Chinese desires for belonging and still function within the constraints of the state?

It is still too early to say what the future will bring. But for the sake of all the Ms Zhangs out there, I pray that Chinese Christians no matter where or how they worship in the coming years will continue to welcome their fellow citizens into the family of God with the same acts of love and service that have changed the hearts of Chinese people for centuries.

https://chinasource.us9.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1f6ba9f5d5026b037e776e0ee&id=cb9f8ff0b8&e=b01b1ff995

Recent Articles:

100 Years of God’s Protection and Guidance (Part 1)
Chinese Communist Party Centennial—Struggle and Flexibility
WeChat and Chinese Christians, Part 2
Webinar Recording: Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom
Finding Themselves in China

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5. 

ChinaSource Quarterly: Student Ministry in China (Summer Issue, 2021)

INFO
China Source

ChinaSource Quarterly: Student Ministry in China (Summer Issue, 2021)

In this edition of ChinaSource Quarterly, we hear from several writers who have been intimately involved in the campus ministry there. Two of the writers (including myself) are foreigners who have lived in mainland China for many years, partnering with local believers in the campus ministry there. The other three writers are all mainlanders who are key leaders within campus ministry networks there. For security reasons, all the writers have used pseudonyms. I am grateful that these writers have shared their perspectives about the campus ministry that has been happening in mainland China for more than one hundred years. 
 
(downloadable PDF version available)

If you or your company/organization would like to sponsor a link in ZGBriefs, please contact info@chinasource.org for more information.

 

 

End

 

 

July 2021 UPDATES

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

July 2021

 

2 Updates

 

1. The Chinese Church in Transition.

2. Church in China. Or Churches in China?

 

 

1. 

The Chinese Church in Transition.

14th June 2021

 

Topic: Church History

 

The Chinese Church in Transition

By: CHEN Jing 

 

 

In recent years, bad news about the church in China has been plentiful: the authorities’ forceful removal of church crosses, the shutting-down of large urban house churches’ sanctuaries, the unprecedented tightening of control over registered and unregistered churches alike, expulsion of a large number of foreign cross-cultural workers, plateauing of church growth, and so forth. There is no doubt that all these incidents point to a very concerning trend and make one wonder whether the Chinese church is going through a profound transition and entering a new era. By tracing the past forty-plus years of church development in China, and reading current signs, I would affirm this statement.

In my view, from the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 to the present, the development of the Chinese church (primarily the house church) has gone through roughly three phases.

Phase 1: Resurrection and Revival (late 1970s to late 1990s)

In the wake of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party took steps to re-install the policy of religious tolerance. The Chinese church not only came back to life, but also experienced widespread revival and growth. While the registered churches under the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) were busy re-opening their sanctuaries, the unregistered house churches mushroomed especially in the countryside and among the lower classes.

As the country opened up to the outside world, cross-cultural workers from America, South Korea, and other countries began to arrive and impact local churches. However, the revivals that took place were largely spontaneous under local leadership, and resurgent and growing churches were indigenous and non-denominational. In fact, some indigenous, and often hierarchical organizational patterns emerged, such as Tuan Dui (团队, large church networks with nationwide outreach), from Henan and Anhui provinces and sizeable networks of house churches in Beijing. As house church theological education was still in embryonic form, most of those in church leadership had very little formal theological education. There was almost no erudite, denominational theology but rather fundamentalist theology inherited from older generations of Chinese church leaders. The ethos of the church during these decades was spontaneous, single-mindedly evangelistic, biblical, and largely indigenous.

Phase 2: “Golden Age” of Church Growth (late 1990s to mid-2010s)

These years can arguably be considered the best time or “golden age” of the house church movement in China. Externally the church enjoyed a relatively favorable social environment: open-mindedness of the general public and greater tolerance of the authorities.

Internally the center of gravity of the church’s growth increasingly shifted from the countryside to the cities. The social make-up of the Christian community changed, as increasing numbers of upper-middle class people or elites joined the church. In comparison to the previous phase, the church became more resourceful and sophisticated. More foreign cross-cultural workers were working with the church in China and played critical roles in church development during these years.

In unprecedented church planting endeavors across the country, the church demonstrated increasing eagerness to learn church-planting know-how and to import theological traditions and denominational polities from the West without critical evaluation. As a result, the megachurch model and certain strains of Calvinistic traditions from America and Korea gained significant traction. The landscape of the Chinese church diversified significantly, featuring a wide spectrum of traditions ranging from the prosperity gospel to hardline Calvinism and an expanding inventory of programs and institutions.

The tone or ethos of the church during these years was overwhelmingly upbeat and even triumphalist. The church sounded very optimistic about its own future, and very confident in its ability to influence the society and culture to the point of turning China into a so-called “Christian nation.” If you look at such famous urban house churches as Shouwang and Zion in Beijing, Wanbang in Shanghai, and Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, this kind of ethos is not hard to detect.

As early as the years of Phase 1, some of the rural church network had already caught the vision of world mission. However, it was during Phase 2 that this vision almost became a consensus of the house church movement. Significant Chinese initiatives were made to join the global church in world evangelization.

Phase 3: New Reality and New Possibilities (mid-2010s to present)

To the surprise of most China observers, the social environment of the church in China began to deteriorate in a rather drastic fashion around the mid-2010s. The mood of the general public increasingly turned nationalistic, and the authorities launched waves of crackdowns on the church and other religious communities. The church often found itself caught in the crossfire of heightened Sino-American conflicts. To make things even worse, the pandemic has turned out to be very disruptive of church life.

Internally the church faces no less serious challenges: raging theological divisions, the corrosive influence of materialism and consumerism, and so on. There are signs that the exponential church growth of earlier decades is over, and it is getting harder to evangelize in society. Due to mounting governmental pressure, Covid-19, and other reasons, a large number of foreign workers have left the field.  However, the Chinese church is still determined to be part of the global mission movement.

Not surprisingly the mood of church has turned much more sober and even gloomy. Many church leaders and believers have begun to realize that the church’s vulnerability is being exposed, and Christianity is being marginalized across society. As a result, a sort of soul-searching within the church is already underway, and questions are being asked: “What did we do wrong? “ “Were we overly optimistic ?” “How should we witness in a new social reality?” “Are the American denominationalism and Korean megachurch models really viable in the Chinese context?” “Is this the time for a radical change in the way we do church and mission?” “Is it time to bring back the spirit of suffering and martyrdom of the 1980s and even earlier decades?”

In fact, there are apparently ongoing attempts to help the church survive and move forward, and to think of church and its ministry in more indigenous terms. As large congregations are being particularly targeted and hurt, many churches have no choice but to return to a decentralized house church model literally. The old-fashioned house church appears to be making a come-back, and cell group ministry is becoming popular. The value and relevance of the indigenous network of house churches (Tuan Dui) are being re-appreciated. If physical worshiping becomes more difficult, is it possible to gather believers for online worship on a large scale, and to form a sort of online “megachurch?” This bold approach is certainly being explored by some.

All these new ideas and experiments are still emerging and evolving. But one thing seems clear: any imported church models and church planting programs have to be thoroughly contextualized in Chinese society in order to have any chance in the future. The current struggle and reflection of the church in China could well lead to the rise of a genuinely Chinese ecclesiology.

At this moment, the Chinese church is definitely at a low point. But I am confident that something positive will come out of all these raging negative dynamics—a more mature, prophetic, and contextualized church in China.   When I contemplate the Chinese church of the future, what historian Alan Kreider describes as “the patient ferment” in his influential study of the early church always come to my mind. (See The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider, Baker Academic, 2016) Could the church in China be a faithful minority living out its faith in Christ in a hostile world? Could it thus function as the “patient ferment” in that great country and around the globe? Let us wait and see.

CHEN Jing

CHEN Jing (pseudonym) is a theological educator teaching in North America and extensively involved in theological education for the church in China since the beginning of the 21st century.View Full Bio

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2. 

Church in China. Or Churches in China?

11th June 2021

By Joann Pittman Topic: Christianity in China

Last week I had an occasion to make a whirlwind road trip from the Twin Cities to Dallas (and back). It was a drive that took me through and across six states, pretty much all on one highway, Interstate 35, or what I like to call Middle America’s Main Street. One of the things I love about driving cross-country is the opportunity it affords to see the diversity of the country unfold, mile by mile. The land gradually changes. Architectural styles change. The accents and speech patterns gradually change. Being called “honey” or “sweetheart” by convenience store attendants is almost unheard of in Minnesota but is standard speech in Oklahoma.

Another change that I always find fascinating is the churches. Drive through any small or large town in Minnesota and there will be some variety of Lutheran church on nearly every corner. In the South that changes to some variety of Baptist church. In some parts of the country, I see denominational churches that I rarely see in Minnesota. Friends, Disciples of Christ, Nazarene, Four Square, are some that come to mind. So, when someone asks about the church in the United States, it’s probably best to stop and ask, which church?

In many ways, the same can be said of China. Here at ChinaSource we write a lot about the church in China; in many ways, that is what we do. But I have found myself increasingly asking myself “which church?” It is easy to have a simplistic view of churches in China, highlighting the two main categories: registered (Three-Self) and unregistered (house church). But that dichotomy belies the complexity of the expressions of Christianity in China. So, when talking about the “church in China,” what are we talking about?

Below is a partial list of overlapping descriptors that can be used when talking about churches in China. Please note that these categories are broad and that the list is not exhaustive.

Three-Self Church

These are churches that have legal standing in China due to the fact that

they are registered with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee.

Three-self churches can be found in most cities and towns in China.         

Urban House Churches

These tend to be made up of students and young professionals in the cities.

They tend to be independent.

Rural House Churches

These are found in the countryside and are often (but not always) affiliated

with large, nationwide networks.

Charismatic Churches

Many churches, particularly those affiliated with rural networks

are charismatic in both doctrine and practice, with an emphasis

on signs and 

wonders.

Reformed Churches

Many urban churches consider themselves to be theologically

reformed, with an emphasis on intellectualism and church polity.

Minority Churches

There are numerous churches among the various minority groups in China,

particularly in the Southwest.

Migrant Churches

During the past few decades, as millions of migrant workers have moved from

the rural areas into the cities, new congregations made up of

these migrant workers have sprung up. Integration with existing churches has

been difficult, as the cultural socio-economic gap between rural and urban

Chinese is vast.

Returnee Churches

Many Chinese have come to faith while living abroad. As they have returned,

churches have sprung up that specifically seek to meet some of their unique

needs.

International Churches

Many cities in China have international churches (usually called fellowships)

where expat Christians can gather for worship. Regulations do not permit

local Chinese to attend.

Catholic Churches

As is the case with Protestant churches, there are those that are

sanctioned by the government (so-called patriotic churches) and those

that are not (referred to as underground churches).

I offer this list, not to provide a full and complete picture of the diversity of churches in China. Instead, it is a reminder (to myself as much as anyone) that there is not simply the church in China, but there are churches in China.

End 

 

 

May 2021 UPDATE

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

May 2021

 

2 Updates

 

1. Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom—An Online Lecture.

2. The Increasing Role of the Laity.

 

 

1

Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom—An Online Lecture

 

10th June 2021

 

Dear Friend,

On Thursday, June 10 we are hosting an online lecture, titled 
“Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom: Reshaping the Conversation.”

The Christian theological conversation spans two millennia. Recently, however, more scholars have begun to recognize that, in the words of Andrew Walls, "the theological agenda is culturally induced; and the cross-cultural diffusion of Christian faith invariably makes creative theological activity a necessity." What does that look like in practice? Doesn't that lead to syncretism—a blending of theological ideas? Can't we just teach a pure gospel? 

In this lecture, Dr. Jesse Ciccotti will investigate theologizing in Chinese contexts by first discussing theology as an "idiomatic activity," that is, an activity by which Christian thought is expressed in ways that are natural to a cultural native. He will then highlight key Chinese cultural material in Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism and illustrate these with examples. He will close with a discussion of the relevance of cross-cultural theological creativity, as well as highlight its risks.

Jesse Ciccotti holds a PhD in Comparative Philosophy from Hong Kong Baptist University and an MA in Chinese Philosophy from Wuhan University. He and his family lived in China for 12 years.

Following the lecture, there will be a Q&A time, plus time for further discussion in break-out rooms.

This event is part of a collaborative public lecture series, Exploring Christianity and Culture in China: Today and Yesterday, hosted by ChinaSource, the US-China Catholic Association, and the China Academic Consortium.

This event will be hosted on Zoom. A recording of the lecture will be posted to the ChinaSource website following the event.

Event details:
Date: Jun 10, 2021
Time: 7PM - 8:30PM (US CDT)


For more information and to register, go to 
“Christian Theology in a Chinese Idiom.”

If you have any questions, please contact events@chinasource.org.
 

We would love to have you join us.

The ChinaSource Team
____________________________________________________________________
2. 
The Increasing Role of the Laity
27th April 2021
 

The Increasing Role of the Laity

By: ChinaSource Team 

For decades, the church in China has relied on lay people to shoulder the brunt of grassroots ministry. Some would say this is an ideal situation in the church. Others would say that the phenomenon points to deeper problems within the Chinese church. To be sure, the pros and cons of the rise of laypeople are debated within the Chinese church. This article from Gospel Times sheds light on why there are so many lay people taking on ministry in the church.

Behind the Rise of Laypeople in the Church

A pastor has told me that current church structure is changing; laypeople are playing an increasingly prominent role to the extent of replacing the work of pastors in some areas. This new phenomenon in Chinese churches is a matter of concern.

From what I have experienced, this phenomenon is indeed becoming increasingly common, with many laypeople, excluding elders and deacons, holding important serving positions in the church and possessing a certain degree of teaching authority. They are no less knowledgeable than pastors and elders in theology and ministry experience. They have become an emerging force in the current church. So, what has caused this phenomenon to occur?

In Protestantism, an emphasis is placed on “the priesthood of all believers,” and on the personal relationship between God and believers directly in lieu of a relationship through the clergy. This has weakened the authority of the pastors to some extent.

During the special years in the history of Chinese churches, the established churches were hard pressed, and local churches (small “flocks”) of “congregational” colors became the choice of believers. Laypeople began to play a key role in the church and contributed to the survival and development of the church during this special time. This history has objectively sharpened laypeople and is an important reason for the “rise” of laypeople.

Certainly, the “rise” of lay people is closely related to the circumstances of Chinese churches. As we all know, “many sheep with few shepherds” is characteristic of Chinese churches, and the ratio of pastors to believers is very disproportionate; in some cases, only one pastor preaches to several thousand believers.

Having to cope with such pressure, pastors must delegate some of the work to laypeople. For instances, many church fellowships and Bible studies are led by laypeople because pastors simply do not have the energy to take on these ministries. This is an important factor in the growing voice of laypeople in the church.

Furthermore, greater accessibility in education and information has also narrowed the gap in theological knowledge between pastors and laypeople. Nowadays, many laypeople have received higher education and have learned theological knowledge from publications and the internet, and their understanding of the Bible is already as good as the pastors’, if not better.

For example, a pastor was given a set of theology books, then he passed them on to a brother after some time, asking for his help with some questions he had after reading. From this incident, we can see that some laypeople can achieve a certain level of theological knowledge through self-education.

Another factor to consider: many seminaries are now only getting mediocre students; those members who are willing to take up seminarian training are not too highly educated or academically inclined; they choose to study theology only because the church needs it.

Therefore, these seminarians cannot guarantee quality sermons when they take up teaching in church. Hence the increasing cases of lay members building up brothers and sisters through their sharing in Bible studies.

People prefer to listen to their small group leaders rather than the preaching of pastors. This has led to a stronger voice from laypeople.

A pastor even joked to two brothers who were well-grounded in the truth that “If there were more people like you in the church, we would lose our jobs.”

Among the laypeople, there are many social elites exerting some influence in academia, business, and entertainment, and their influence often spills over into the church.

For example, scholars can enrich the theological and cultural construction of the church; businessmen can provide funding for the church, and celebrities can draw much attention from other believers, and some of them can even sway value judgments.

These Christian elites have divided the teaching authority of the pastors to some extent and made a great impact on believers. They are a very important force among laypeople. The popularity of celebrity Huang’s concert in the Bird’s Nest shows that influence.

The rise of lay people in Chinese churches has become an indisputable fact. The pros and cons remain to be tested over time. However, it will certainly bring changes to traditional pastoral care and even theological construction, and this deserves deeper consideration by pastors, co-workers, scholars, etc.

Original Article:  (WeChat ID: gospeltimes)
Translated, edited and reposted with permission.

 

End

 

 

April 2021 UPDATE

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

April 2021

 

 

2 Updates

 

 

1. The Joy of the Resurrection

2. Chinese Christians Held in Secretive Brainwashing Camps: Sources

 

 

 

1. 

The Joy of the Resurrection

2nd April 2021

 

China Source Blog

Why Not Shout Together?

The Joy of the Resurrection

By: Barbara Kindschi 

 

In Chinese, Easter is “come back to life” day. This often brings a gasp to North American listeners—as if the name itself is a witness to the truth of Easter Sunday. But I found few in my circle of Chinese friends, colleagues, and students who made any connection. If the textbook holiday chapter had a decorated egg in it, I would elaborate a bit on other symbols of the holiday. Eggs as the start of life, new clothes, seeds bringing new plants, and a cross. I might draw a cross on the board and ask if anyone knew why this was on top of many church buildings worldwide. Some associated it with the Red Cross while there was always one who knew of “the god’s terrible death.” Further questions and discussions always took place later.

 

But come back to life he did! Our faith is futile if he didn’t. But his death came first. The joy of “coming back to life” day comes from the fact that it followed a death that appeared so final.

 

Spring illustrates death to life right before our eyes. Living with four seasons was a new experience for me when I came to Asia. My southern California childhood did not have distinct changes in weather through the year. But as I taught from Xinjiang to Heilongjiang spring appeared through my window each year. I saw the transformation of sticks and twigs into lush green bushes and trees. Flowers seemed to pop out of the ground and dusty brown paths on our campus were again covered with grass. My students, coming from farming communities, were often more familiar with the labor of sowing seeds than the joy of budding trees. But stories of a seed dying and creating something new didn’t need explaining. Some were intrigued with an account of a God who did the same and others came to personally know the one who came back to life.

 

This year I attended the funeral of a believing brother who had passed away with a shocking suddenness. At the service celebrating his life listeners were reminded that his soul was now home. It did not need to search for an allotted number of days for a place to settle, as locals would tell you. His God had long ago prepared a place for him and was welcoming him. His God had conquered death and come back to life.

 

New believers are the ultimate earthly illustration of life coming from death—in any country. We can all remember our own journeys to faith and those moments when the truth of what we had come to believe suddenly hit home. The pieces started to fit together. All was not clear and understood or even fathomable, even if our parents or a trusted friend had said so. It was simply eye opening and awesome. Hopefully these moments continue until heaven when we see face to face the one who came back to life.

 

One Sunday my closest Chinese friend and I were enjoying lunch and talking over that day’s lesson. It had centered on the celebration taking place during the Easter account. She was remembering what she knew of the first Passover and suddenly burst out—“He’s the Lamb! They always killed a lamb at that time! He died at that time. He’s the Lamb that died—but he came back to life!” Writing this does not do the moment justice. Perhaps you could try and envision a crowded restaurant and a young Chinese woman practically shouting—in English—to a gray-haired foreigner. Or you could shout with her, “He came back to life!”

___________________________________________________________________

 

2.

Chinese Christians Held in Secretive Brainwashing Camps: Sources

 

1st April 2021

Radio Free Asia

 

Authorities in China are detaining Christians in secretive, mobile "transformation" facilities to make them renounce their faith, RFA has
learned.

A member of a Christian "house church" in the southwestern province of Sichuan who asked to be identified by a pseudonym Li Yuese said he was held in a facility run by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s United Front Work Department, working in tandem with the state security police, for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.

"It was a mobile facility, that could just set up in some basement somewhere," Li said. "It was staffed by people from several different government departments."

"It had its own (CCP) political and legal affairs committee working group, and they mainly target Christians who are members of house churches," he said.

The Chinese Communist Party, which embraces atheism, exercises tight controls over any form of religious practice among its citizens.

State security police and religious affairs bureau officials frequently raid unofficial "house churches" that aren't members of the CCP-backed Three-Self Patriotic Association, although member churches have also been targeted at times.

The CCP under Xi Jinping regards Christianity as a dangerous foreign import, with party documents warning against the "infiltration of Western hostile forces" in the form of religion.

Li said he was held in a windowless room for nearly 10 months, during which time he was beaten, verbally abused and "mentally tortured" by staff, eventually resorting to self-harm by throwing himself against a wall.

His account is chillingly similar to those of former inmates of "transformation" camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

"They use really underhand methods," Li said.

"They threaten, insult and intimidate you. These were United Front officials, men, women, sometimes unidentified, usually in plain clothes. The police turn a blind eye to this," he said.

"You have to accept the statement they prepare for you," he said. "If you refuse, you will be seen as having a bad attitude and they will keep you in detention and keep on beating you."

Basement brainwashing sessions

Li said most of his fellow inmates were also people who had been released on bail during criminal detention for taking part in church-related activities.

Most hadn't done anything that could trigger any criminal prosecution, so police sent them to the "transformation" facilities instead, Li said.

"They were using brainwashing methods on those of us who were on bail from the detention center," he said. "It was in a secret location, in a basement."

"There were two plainclothes officers in my room, and a uniformed officer was in another room," Li said.

"There were no windows, no ventilation and no time allowed outside," he said. "I was given just two meals a day, which were brought to the room by a designated person."

Inmates who refused to "admit their mistakes" were held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods.

"There is no time limit for the brainwashing process," he said. "I don’t know the longest time anyone has been held there, but I was detained for eight or nine months."

"You can't see the sun, so you lose all no concept of time."

He said suicidal ideation and self-harm was commonplace.

"I couldn't sleep; after you've been in there a week, death starts to look better than staying there," Li said. "I bashed myself against the wall to self-harm."

"One time in there, I was groggy and was trying to open my eyes but I couldn't," he said. "Four or five of them grabbed me by the arms and legs and pinned me to the ground."

"They they injected me with some drug, and brought me back to consciousness."

Haunted by experience

Li said he was in very poor health on his release, with edema all over his body and a weight gain of 10 kilograms.

He remains haunted by the experience to this day, he told RFA.

Another Christian who asked to remain anonymous told RFA that similar facilities are being used across China, not just for Protestants, but also for members of the underground Catholic church, and of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, a target of authorities since 1999.

A lawyer surnamed Zhang from the northern province of Hebei said he had represented a number of former detainees, who are Catholics.

"I was asked to go to Baoding by underground Catholics in 2013," Zhang said. "These brainwashing places were similar to the ones used on the Falun Gong."

"I saw several of their priests at that time, and they told me what was happening there in Baoding."

"After the religious affairs officials had arrested the bishops and priests, they didn't pursue criminal charges -- they just disappeared them, sometimes for five, six or even 10 years at a stretch."

"Some were sent back home after five or six years, and that was how people learned about the brainwashing centers -- from their accounts," Zhang said.

Zhang said he suspects the "transformation" facilities have been running for a long time around China, and that the operations in Baoding were likely just the tip of the iceberg.

According to a report in the overseas magazine Bitter Winter in November 2020, which interviewed a former brainwashing victim, methods used in the centers vary from beatings to torture, including cold showers in sub-zero temperatures, and forcing inmates to carry large buckets of water around their necks.

China is home to an estimated 68 million Protestants, of whom 23 million worship in state-affiliated churches under the aegis of the Three-Self Patriotic Association, and some nine million Catholics, the majority of whom are in state-sponsored organizations.

* Reported by Li Nuo for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

 

End

 

 

 

March 2021 UPDATE

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

March 2021

 

 

1 Update

 

“Confucian Shame in Christian Thinking” by Jackson Wu Confirmation

 

24th March 2021

 

LECTURE - For Confucian thinkers, shame is an essential element required for moral development. This understanding is foreign to most Westerners. Yet, does shame have a place in Christian theology? Is it something to get rid of or might it have role in shaping our character? This webinar explores the diverse ways that honor and shame affect our moral decision making as well as Paul’s use of these ideas within his letters.

Q&A - Explore ideas with Jackson after the lecture wraps.

SPEAKER BIO - Jackson Wu (pseudonym) is theologian-in-residence for Mission One, having previously served in East Asia first as a church planter and then as a professor for Chinese pastors. He is the author of Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission. Jackson received his PhD in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

 

Webinar Speakers

Jackson Wu
Theologian in Residence @Mission One
Jackson Wu (pseudonym) is Theologian in Residence for Mission One, having previously served in East Asia first as a church planter and then as a professor for Chinese pastors. He is the author of Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission. Jackson received his PhD in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. 
Please click below link for more details:-
You can cancel your registration at any time.

 

 

End

 

 

 

February 2021 UPDATES

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

February 2021

 

 

3 Updates

 

           1. A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

           2. Time to pray for Protestants in China

           3. China’s Churches Celebrate Christmas 

 

 

 

1. 

A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

26th January 2021

 

China Source - China Church Voices

 

A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

By: ChinaSource Team

 

The following is a letter from the pastor of a church in Wuhan written to brothers and sisters in Christ. We originally published this letter almost one year ago today. And, yet around the world, we all continue to experience the severity of COVID-19. As we enter another year, this pastor’s call for all of us to be united in prayers, seems as pertinent today as it was then.

 

 

A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

Brothers and sisters, peace be upon you:

During these past days the Wuhan pneumonia [virus] has been at the center of my thoughts and life. [I am] always watching the latest news, and always thinking about how our family and the church should face this. 

As for family, I have gathered masks and foodstuffs and have ventured out of doors as little as possible. When venturing out in public I have worn a mask, but as for the rest, I have placed it in the Lord’s hands. 

As for the church, the safety of the congregation, a faithful witness, the possibility that members could contract the illness, have all become a great area of struggle. It is readily apparent that we are facing a test of our faith. 

The situation is so critical, yet [we are] trusting in the Lord’s promises, that his thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that he allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us. Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for those in this city who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ. 

First, we are to seek the peace of Christ to reign in their hearts (Hebrews 3:15). Christ has already given us his peace, but his peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33). Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and, with the world, would be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death. 

Why do only Christians have this peace? Because of sin, humans deserve the trials and tribulations that come upon them, Jehovah says: the wicked have no peace (Isaiah 48:22). We were all sinners, but Christ, because of faith, took our penalty and gave us his peace. Therefore Paul says, who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33). Christians may with the world face the same tribulations, but such tribulations are no longer punishment, but a new opportunity to grow nearer to the Almighty, to purify our souls, and an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.

In other words, when disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love. And, as Paul firmly believed, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? . . .  in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roman. 8:35-39).

Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ. These words are so comforting for us, we have already become one body with Christ. We have a part in his sufferings, and we have a part in his glory, all of Christ’s is ours, and our all is Christ’s. Therefore, Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this city; the pestilence cannot harm us. If we die in the pestilence, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter into his glory.

Thus, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God. Our Lord Jesus through faith experienced an incomparable suffering of death, yet God raised him from the dead, and sat him at his right hand.  (Acts 2:32-36)

If in reading these truths you still have no peace, I encourage you to diligently read the above cited scripture and call on the Lord to give you insight until the peace of Christ reigns in your heart. You must know, that this is not just an observable disaster, but even more it is a spiritual struggle. You should first wage a battle for your heart, and secondarily battle for the soul of this city. 

We earnestly hope that you would know that not a sparrow falls without the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29). With so many souls facing pestilence, can it be outside God’s will? All that we are experiencing, is it not like Abraham facing Sodom, and Jonah facing Nineveh?

If God, because of a righteous man withheld judgment on Sodom, or because of 120,000 who didn’t know their left hand from their right, withheld destruction, what of the city of Wuhan in which we live?  We are clearly the righteous in this city, far more than a single righteous person there are thousands and thousands of us. Yet, may we like Lot be grieved over all those in this city (1 Peter 2:7), and like Abraham who earnestly prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33). You see, Jonah with difficulty proclaimed the gospel to Nineveh, and Nineveh repented and was saved. We are this city’s Abraham and Jonah. We must pray for God’s mercy upon this city, and bring peace upon this city through our prayers and testimony. 

I believe this is the command of God calling those of us living in Wuhan. We are to seek peace for this city, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people of Wuhan! And we can through online networks guide and comfort our friends and loved ones with the gospel, reminding them that our lives are not in our own hands, and to entrust their lives to God who is faithful and true. 

The past few days I have received many inquiries from foreign pastors. They and the whole church are concerned for this city, even more for us; and confronting this epidemic, seek to serve the city with us. 

Thus, I especially ask them to turn their eyes upon Jesus. And do not be concerned with my welfare, nor be agitated or fearful, but pray in the name of Jesus. Good hearted people are through their actions serving this city, especially the medical personnel who are risking their own lives. If they can take on such worldly responsibilities, how can we not more readily take on spiritual responsibilities!

If you do not feel a responsibility to pray, ask the Lord for a loving soul, an earnestly prayerful heart; if you are not crying, ask the Lord for tears. Because we surely know that only through the hope of the Lord’s mercy will this city be saved. 

A Wuhan Pastor

This letter was passed on to us for distribution by a friend of ChinaSource. Join us in praying for all those affected by this crisis, especially for our brothers and sisters in and around Wuhan. 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

2.

Time to pray for Protestants in China

13th January 2021

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

Time to pray for Protestants in China

Chinese Protestantism is facing a serious risk of a generational crisis

By: Michel Chambon

Once again, the week of prayer for Christian unity is back. Once again, I would like to turn the spotlight on Chinese Christians. It is true that many of them do not know much about this joint initiative of the World Council of Churches and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Yet, with divisions among them being multiple and deep, prayers are much needed.

Catholics around the world are aware of how political tensions have deeply divided Chinese Catholicism. Yet the week of prayer for Christian unity invites us to turn our attention toward non-Catholic Christians.

This year the theme of the week is “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.” It was selected by the monastic and ecumenical Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland in relation to John 15:1-17. In this section of the Gospel, Jesus invites us to contemplate how God the gardener trims his vine to make it bear even more fruit.

Guided by this theme, we need to look at the young branches growing out of Chinese Protestant communities. To identify some of the difficulties they are facing and inform our prayers for unity, I would like to shed light on what I call a generational crisis.

Over the past decades, Chinese Protestantism has evolved quickly. On one hand, it went through steady growth. Millions of new believers have joined Protestant churches. But this rapid development is now gone, and Chinese Protestantism is transitioning to a new stage of its history.

On the other hand, the state administration is increasing its anti-religious policies and new restrictions are forcing churches to adjust their functioning. Furthermore, internal migration has deeply reshaped the sociocultural landscape of the country. These various aspects have multiple consequences for Chinese Protestantism.

First, Protestant communities that have decided to collaborate with the state tend to evolve under the leadership of senior pastors who are in their 50s and 60s today. Many of these pastors came to faith during the 1980s, got training in theology and led their communities for years. This generation of senior leaders have the considerable experience that allows them to navigate the internal tensions of their congregation as well as the pressure of state officials.

However, many have been unable or unwilling to prepare a new generation of leaders who could effectively take over. In the coming years, Chinese Protestantism is facing a serious risk of a generational crisis.

How is that possible? Indeed, registered churches are mostly made of and overseen by local Christians. Their senior pastors are from the local community. Yet, in a country where younger people have moved out of their hometowns to find jobs in big cities, younger Protestants are mostly within unregistered churches.

In many ways, the division between official and unregistered Chinese Protestantism is generational, and it is fueled by migration. This is especially true within large cities. There, the average age of churchgoers joining official churches is much higher than that of those joining unregistered churches. And this is also true among pastors. Unregistered networks operate under the leadership of younger leaders.

Similar contrasts can be found about geographical origins. Official churches tend to attract Christians from the surrounding region. Unregistered networks attract “outsiders” — younger students and professionals who come from far away.

Furthermore, the rapid growth of Chinese Protestantism has brought many senior pastors overseeing official churches to establish rather strict authority. This leadership model bears its advantages and disadvantages. As we say in Chinese, a mountain cannot host two tigers. At official churches, younger and promising ministers often face pressure from senior pastors to leave. They are implicitly pushed out to protect the cohesion of the congregation. Thus, in many well-established Protestant churches, leadership is carefully monopolized by senior pastors.

Official schools of theology

Another factor causing tensions comes from official schools of theology. The state requires that Protestant leaders go through theological training at state-sanctioned schools of theology. Although those institutions have gained in strength and academic quality, state control and administrative requirements are making the functioning of those schools increasingly complicated. Recruitment of students and professors is heavily bureaucratic.

In some parts of the country, the state requires that all forms of Christian traditions study at the same school. With this imposed coexistence, theological differences are difficult to address and professors tend to avoid sensitive subjects. Teaching about the trinity, the sacraments and the Bible becomes complicated. And this is a slippery slope.

Not surprisingly, young ministers from official churches are becoming increasingly skeptical toward state-sanctioned training. They feel like they waste their time at school. At church, they feel the generational gap with average churchgoers and the conditional support of their senior pastors. Submission and obedience are the key.

In this context, many promising candidates elope. Some go abroad to access better schools of theology. Yet they know that without state-approved training they will never be allowed to take the leadership of their home congregations. Others simply join unregistered communities. Without any supervising regulations, these underground networks of smaller and warmer communities offer more room for pastoral initiative and leadership.

The conjunction of all these difficulties creates what I call a generational crisis. Younger Protestant leaders may find themselves unable to prepare for the tasks needed of them. In the coming years, without a younger generation of ministers able to assert real leadership, Chinese official Protestantism may find itself in crisis.

Some may consider this as good news. Certain observers with deep anti-Chinese state feelings believe that the collapse of established churches would free Chinese Protestantism from communism and favor its spiritual and numeral growth.

I think this assumption is shortsighted. First, it is unfair to pretend that official churches have corrupted and unworthy faith. Their commitment to the Lord is often remarkable. Second, nothing indicates that Chinese religious movements that are entirely underground are doing well today. While it was the case in the 1980s and 1990s, the state has since found very harsh tools to suppress them efficiently. In the current situation of the People’s Republic of China, no one should wish Chinese Christians to fully go underground.

Following the view of many scholars, I believe that the dynamic relationships between official and unregistered Protestant communities benefit the Protestant Church in China. First, structural separations among Protestants do not bear the same religious meaning as they do among Catholics. Second, those differentiations allow a high level of theological and spiritual diversity. They also weaken state control and makes church structures more flexible. In other words, a collapse of official churches due to a generation crisis cannot benefit Chinese Protestantism.

In conclusion, no matter how things will unfold, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit will find a way to support Chinese Protestants. But history has shown that things can always get worse. Therefore, in this week of prayer for Christian unity, Catholics around the world should pray for the physical security and spiritual growth of Chinese Protestant communities. These brothers and sisters need to find a way to nurture young branches growing out of official churches. Their well-being will benefit the whole body of Christ.

* Michel Chambon is a French Catholic theologian and anthropologist. Twitter: @MichelChambon. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

3.

China’s Churches Celebrate Christmas 

5th January, 2021

China Source - China Church Voices

 

China’s Churches Celebrate Christmas

By ChinaSource Team

Christmas was muted in parts of China this year. In this article, China Christian Daily shares an in-depth look into what Christmas celebrations looked like in Beijing this year. Although most churches canceled services, this reporter was able to attend one abbreviated service, albeit under heavy precautionary measures.

 

Christmas Under Pandemic:

Churches in Beijing Cancel Carol Services or Restrict the Number of Participants

December 24 and 25 are the days when the universal church celebrates Christmas and commemorates the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. However, many Christian churches in Beijing have stopped worshipping on site due to the pandemic, and some churches have conducted online carol services instead. I had the honor to participate in a Christmas Eve worship service at one of the churches.

Around two o’clock in the afternoon on Thursday, I inquired about the services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of Beijing Christian Gangwashi Church, Chongwenmen Church and Fengtai Church through a platform called “Beijing Religious Places Reservation.” I wanted to make a reservation for one of them.

To my surprise, I found that one of the churches had no reservation information. After checking, I learnt that they had started to issue admission tickets in front of the church gate as early as half a month ago and there had been no online reservations. However, that church had canceled its activities altogether for December 24 due to the new pandemic outbreak. The other church was fully booked and the third one had tickets available for the last evening service from 11 pm to midnight. There were only four tickets remaining so my friends and I made a reservation quickly. On Christmas Eve, there were four worship sessions at the church, each of which was strictly limited in number with about 280 people in the main sanctuary.

After dinner, my friends and I went to the church by subway and walked in the cold wind for nearly 20 minutes after getting off the subway. Although it was cold, our hearts were happy and we looked forward to the service arranged by the church. As we arrived at the church gate we found the main entrance closed. The security guard instructed us to take a detour. We had to complete a number of steps before entering the church building: checking the Beijing Health Code, registering personal information and allowing personal tracking, taking our temperature, showing our reservation number, storing our bags (both large and small bags), facial recognition for checking temperature again, going through a security check, and applying hand sanitizer for disinfection. After completing all of the steps, we were welcomed by the church attendants, who handed each of us a package “Peace Fruit.”

During the security check process, we heard an old man yelling, “From where do I enter? I’m totally confused.” In a word, none of the steps to enter the site could be omitted.

After entering the church, we were instructed to sit down one meter away from each other. We were required to wear masks throughout the one-hour worship. I have a hobby of taking photos, but when I picked up my phone and was about to take a photo, I was immediately reminded that I was not allowed to take pictures and post them on WeChat Moments. We were also surprised to find that even the cell phone signal was blocked.

As the service started, the pastor gave a sermon about “peace,” which lasted only five minutes, but there was still a brief call for those who might seek Jesus. They prayed for the visitors who came to the church for the first time. The main feature of the worship service was the performance by a choir. Choir members stood on stage wearing masks to sing and their voices were sometimes low and sometimes high with duets. The accompanying instruments were the piano and violin. The service was also broadcast live for those participating online.

After the service was over, we needed to leave by a special passage and then we took our backpacks after going out of the gate. After nearly an hour of worship, believers were still chatting with each other, but they were unable to see each other’s faces completely because of their masks. However, I found the service touching. When I sang about the Savior’s incarnation and when I prayed for a place to greet the Lord along with my singing, when the holy music of universal joy and hallelujah sounded, although they could not be together, I could feel the joy and touch of the believers of the universal church celebrating the Savior’s birth together.

I have participated in Christmas activities many times in churches in Beijing. Recalling the past, Christmas was particularly lively every year. One year, I took my friend to Chongwenmen Church. Because we were late, we could only sit in the side chapel; it wasn’t so wonderful to watch the service projected on a screen.

In another year, I went to Gangwashi Church, but there were too many participants for the event and some of them had started queuing outside the church three or four hours in advance to get into the main chapel to have a view of the main stage. I didn’t even go in the side chapel, so I had to watch the big screen in the churchyard, shivering from the cold while singing Christmas hymns. Luckily someone left early so I could enter the side chapel to enjoy the heating.

The church I went to last night was the same. In previous years, not only were the main and side chapels full but also many people stood in the aisles on both sides of the main building. The service was wonderful including Christmas dramas, recitations, singing and dancing, music, and even Sunday school children’s performances. Christmas dramas are often a reconstruction of the scene of Jesus born in Bethlehem. There was no place in the inn, so Mary had to give birth in the stable, and the baby was put in the manger after being born. Shepherds in the wild rushed to the scene, and the three wise men also worshipped the infant.

After arriving home and ready to rest, I saw a message from the Fengtai Church WeChat official account. It said that because of the pandemic, the Fengtai Church was not able to hold the Christmas celebration on the evening of December 25. The message asked for understanding and support from brothers and sisters.

On December 24, Haidian Church issued a notice on its official website saying that due to the recent new cases of infection in Beijing, beginning on December 24, Haidian Church would suspend public gatherings and small group activities, and the resumption time would be announced separately. “Please understand and actively cooperate with your brothers and sisters, and continue to do a good job in pandemic prevention and control. Let us continue to pray for the early end of the pandemic.”

On the same day, the official website of Gangwashi Church also sent a similar message.

Due to the pandemic and redecoration work, Yanjing Theological Seminary has been closed to the public. Brothers and sisters are invited to attend Christmas and Sunday services online.

On the afternoon of December 24, Beijing held its 190th regular press conference on pandemic prevention and control, giving information about the latest situation of pandemic prevention and control. Beginning at midnight on December 23 to 4:00pm on December 24, there were two new asymptomatic cases in Beijing, and there were no new confirmed cases or suspected cases in China.

After the on-site gathering was canceled, Haidian Church, Chongwenmen Church and Yanjing Theological Seminary all provided live online worship during Christmas.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, churches in Beijing stopped public gatherings since the end of January 2020. Despite a notice that gatherings could resume on June 14th, they were temporarily cancelled again due to a new outbreak, and public gatherings did not resume until early August. At that time, I went to Chongwenmen Church and used its reservation system. When I entered the Church, I went through health code and the appointment number, temperature measurement, disinfection, and security check. When I attended the church, I was seated at a strict distance of one meter. When the service was over I left immediately and did not stay. Churches in Beijing generally have thousands of people. After strictly limiting the number of people, each church has increased the number of worship sessions and provided online live broadcast or playback to meet the worship needs of believers.

2020 is about to pass. In this year, COVID-19 suddenly spread all over the world. According to the World Health Organization, as of 18:09 on the 24th Central European Time (1: 09 on the 25th Beijing time), the number of confirmed cases worldwide increased by 662,825 from the previous day reaching 77,530,799 cases. The number of deaths increased by 13,061 reaching 1,724,904.

The pandemic situation has also changed the way of worship in Chinese churches. All churches have actively explored how to provide online worship, and we watch and help each other together without losing confidence and hope during these difficult times.

Original Article: Christmas Under Pandemic: Churches in Beijing Cancel Carol Services or Restrict the Number of Participants by China Christian Daily
Edited and reposted with permission.

 

END

 

January 2021 UPDATES

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

January 2021

 

 

2 Updates

 

1.Chinese Christmas and its Swaddling Clothes

2. China shuts down some 100 Protestant churches

 

 

1.

Chinese Christmas and its Swaddling Clothes

 

14th December 2020

Once again, Chinese Christians and non-Christians are decorating their streets, shops and churches with Christmas decorations. The typical red hats, Santa faces and glittering trees are multiplying over the public sphere. Despite efforts by some Chinese authorities to limit the popularity of this supposedly Western festival, Christmas continues to overflow religious circles and to entertain a wide range of Chinese citizens.

 

 

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

 

Chinese Christmas and its swaddling clothes

 

Christmas decorations unveil the incarnation of Christ in contemporary China

 

By: Michel Chambon

 

Once again, Chinese Christians and non-Christians are decorating their streets, shops and churches with Christmas decorations. The typical red hats, Santa faces and glittering trees are multiplying over the public sphere. Despite efforts by some Chinese authorities to limit the popularity of this supposedly Western festival, Christmas continues to overflow religious circles and to entertain a wide range of Chinese citizens.

 

In China, Christmas encapsulates many things. It is as much about peace, joy and romance as it is about consumerism, modernity and the West. Wild and polymorphous, its popularized forms escape from any state or clerical controls. Christmas has fallen into the public domain. Thus, year after year, a Chinese Christmas war continues to occur over its significance and meaning.

 

Yet, for Christian observers, one paradox must be highlighted. While many Chinese Catholics and Protestants claim that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ, the materiality of their churches gives a more complex account. Although Catholic churches always set up a nativity scene in their sanctuary, all Chinese churches host numerous Santas, blinking trees and jumping deer as well. In China, these not-so-Christian decorations are everywhere in Catholic and Protestant places of worship.

 

As I theorize in my new book,  Making Christ Present in China , Christians cannot be reduced to their ephemeral words and ideas. Christians are also sensible bodies relying on material objects. They exist and act through a whole set of objects that allow and challenge them to do so. Their life and their statements of faith emerge from concrete bodies fed by distinct cuisines and wrapped into real clothes.

 

In the case of Christmas ornaments, Christians and their objects say more than a mere statement of faith about Jesus. If the not-so-Christian decorations quietly irrigate the discourses of devoted Christians, they also reveal three important things.

 

First, their very presence reminds us that Christmas is a thick and rich material phenomenon that roots our senses into culturally informed practices. In 21st century China, Christmas is part of the Chinese culture. Through a set of specific colors, smells and sounds, Jesus cohabits with smiling Santa, white sleds and red balls. Thus, Chinese Christmas is not first encountered as an idea or a creed. It is a material experience and bodily initiation introducing everyone to something rather undetermined and mix in nature.

 

Second, Chinese Christians — Catholics and Protestants — are not so distant from their fellow citizens. The secular decorations of their churches speak of the contemporary culture that Chinese Christians share with non-Christians. Throughout this material continuum, Chinese churches and capitalist malls speak to each other. The apparent messiness of Chinese Christian decorations might not be what religious and political leaders would like. They may transgress top-down categorizations and modern oppositions between religious and secular spaces. Chinese Christians do not stand in a pure and pious bubble apart from their sociocultural environment. Polysemic Santa is welcomed at their churches just like Merry Christmas is shared by hundreds of millions of Chinese.

 

Third, these eclectic decorations continue to rejoice, stimulate and question those who contemplate them. With them and because of them, Christian sanctuaries remain polymorphic and open to a variety of sensibilities. Their Chinese Christmas cannot be reduced to a monolithic message. It exceeds any reassuring discourses, knowledge and unidimensional truth. In other words, those objects enlarge the scope of the sanctuary. With Santa and his deer, Christian places of worship are not an exclusivist cult with narrow teachings owned by a pastor; they remain a space of questioning hospitality. “Who do you say I am?”

 

Therefore, before these long chains of objects that allow us to physically access a taste of Christmas without reducing it to a single and abstract message, one may question discourses against materialism. In many circles, either Catholic or Protestant, rather undefined materialism is easily presented as evil. It is as if caring for the materiality of our existences would deny our filial relation to the Heavenly Father. Discourses against materialism, however, take the risk to look down upon the real world that God has not only created but also assumed in his intimate nature. The flesh of Christ is not a mere decoration or a medium: it is Him, the true image of God.

 

In my book, I show that the revelation of Christ becomes tangible through the continuous dialogue that people manage with material objects. Their relation to the Christian God is not an abstract knowledge transmitted from brain to brain, nor a set of values defined by their religious communities and discussed by scholars. It is a collective discernment and embodiment in which the whole creation participates. In the dialectic occurring between humans and the material world, the Triune God emerges as a possible other who reconcile everything. Thus, Christianity is as much a materiality as a spirituality.

 

Chinese Christmas decorations work as a window of this Christianity as materiality. Like the senisus fidei fidelium tells the true faith with more accuracy than what magisterial teaching may state, ornaments give flesh and spirit to a festive event, the coming of Christ. With vividness and multiplicity, Christmas decorations unveil the incarnation of Christ in contemporary China. Unafraid of ambiguities and diversity, they manifest the ongoing creation that God and His son are performing in the People’s Republic of China.

 

* Michel Chambon is a French Catholic theologian and anthropologist. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

____________________________________________________________________________

2. 

China shuts down some 100 Protestant churches

 

11th December 2020

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

 

China shuts down some 100 Protestant churches

 

Officials rejected the registration certificates saying the government can revoke them anytime

 

UCA News reporter, China

 

Government officials in eastern China have raided and shut down close to 100 protestant churches as part of the escalating crackdown on Christians in the communist nation.

 

Officials in four cities of Anhui province have closed down 99 churches and prayer venues this year, exploiting a range of pretexts including poverty eradication and prevention of Covid-19 epidemic, reported Bitter Winter, a magazine that covers human rights and liberty in China.

 

At least 43 churches were closed in Suzhou, while 24 in Huaibei, 20 in Fuyang, and 16 in Xuancheng, the magazine said.

 

The officials cited a host of violations to close down the churches, such as "disobeying the government" and "being too close to a school." Not having a license or the building being dilapidated were among violations, the quoted.

 

Some were also accused of organizing illegal gatherings" posing the risk of spreading infectious diseases like Covid-19.

 

Local Christians said most closed down churches were registered with the local authority. They also had the certificate of registration.

 

Officials dismissed the certificate shown by protesting Christians, saying the documents were not valid anymore.

 

"The state can annul the certificate because it had issued it," one official declared.

 

Last year, officials shut down some 70 Protestant Churches and prayer venues in Lianyungang and Suqian cities in Jiangsu province.

 

Officials have also decided to demolish or repurpose the venues to prevent congregations from resuming gatherings in those two cities.

 

Crackdown on Christians in Communist and officially atheist China is widespread. It has intensified under the rule of President Xi Jinping since 2013.

 

President Xi is believed to be the first supreme Chinese leader to target religions for a well-devised political policy of "Sinicization of religions."

 

According to Thomas Harvey, the author of the book, The Sinicization of Religion in China, the policy wants indigenization of religious faiths, practices, and rituals in Chinese culture and society.

 

The policy has ideological, legal, and bureaucratic implications, and it requires religious institutions and leaders to embrace state-mandated socialism and leadership of the Chinese Community Party.

 

END

 

 

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

January 2021

 

 

3 Updates

 

           1. A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

           2. Time to pray for Protestants in China

           3. China’s Churches Celebrate Christmas

 

 

 

1. 

A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

26th January 2021

 

 

 

 

 

By ChinaSource Team on Jan 26, 2021 12:10 am

The following is a letter from the pastor of a church in Wuhan written to brothers and sisters in Christ. We originally published this letter almost one year ago today. And, yet around the world, we all continue to experience the severity of COVID-19. As we enter another year, this pastor’s call for all of us to be united in prayers, seems as pertinent today as it was then.

A Letter from a Wuhan Pastor

Brothers and sisters, peace be upon you:

During these past days the Wuhan pneumonia [virus] has been at the center of my thoughts and life. [I am] always watching the latest news, and always thinking about how our family and the church should face this. 

As for family, I have gathered masks and foodstuffs and have ventured out of doors as little as possible. When venturing out in public I have worn a mask, but as for the rest, I have placed it in the Lord’s hands. 

As for the church, the safety of the congregation, a faithful witness, the possibility that members could contract the illness, have all become a great area of struggle. It is readily apparent that we are facing a test of our faith. 

The situation is so critical, yet [we are] trusting in the Lord’s promises, that his thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil (Jeremiah. 29:11), and that he allows for a time of testing, not to destroy us, but to establish us. Therefore, Christians are not only to suffer with the people of this city, but we have a responsibility to pray for those in this city who are fearful, and to bring to them the peace of Christ. 

First, we are to seek the peace of Christ to reign in their hearts (Hebrews 3:15). Christ has already given us his peace, but his peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things (John 14:27, 16:33). Otherwise we have not believed in the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15), and, with the world, would be terrified of pestilence, and lose hope in the face of death. 

Why do only Christians have this peace? Because of sin, humans deserve the trials and tribulations that come upon them, Jehovah says: the wicked have no peace (Isaiah 48:22). We were all sinners, but Christ, because of faith, took our penalty and gave us his peace. Therefore Paul says, who can bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33). Christians may with the world face the same tribulations, but such tribulations are no longer punishment, but a new opportunity to grow nearer to the Almighty, to purify our souls, and an opportunity to proclaim the gospel.

In other words, when disaster strikes us, it is but a form of God’s love. And, as Paul firmly believed, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger or sword? . . .  in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roman. 8:35-39).

Spoken for today, Wuhan’s pestilence cannot separate us from the love of Christ; this love is in our Lord Jesus Christ. These words are so comforting for us, we have already become one body with Christ. We have a part in his sufferings, and we have a part in his glory, all of Christ’s is ours, and our all is Christ’s. Therefore, Christ is with us as we face the pestilence in this city; the pestilence cannot harm us. If we die in the pestilence, it is an opportunity to witness to Christ, and even more to enter into his glory.

Thus, my brothers and sisters, I encourage you to be strong in Christ’s love. If we more deeply experience death in this pestilence, understanding the gospel, we may more deeply experience Christ’s love, and grow ever nearer to God. Our Lord Jesus through faith experienced an incomparable suffering of death, yet God raised him from the dead, and sat him at his right hand.  (Acts 2:32-36)

If in reading these truths you still have no peace, I encourage you to diligently read the above cited scripture and call on the Lord to give you insight until the peace of Christ reigns in your heart. You must know, that this is not just an observable disaster, but even more it is a spiritual struggle. You should first wage a battle for your heart, and secondarily battle for the soul of this city. 

We earnestly hope that you would know that not a sparrow falls without the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29). With so many souls facing pestilence, can it be outside God’s will? All that we are experiencing, is it not like Abraham facing Sodom, and Jonah facing Nineveh?

If God, because of a righteous man withheld judgment on Sodom, or because of 120,000 who didn’t know their left hand from their right, withheld destruction, what of the city of Wuhan in which we live?  We are clearly the righteous in this city, far more than a single righteous person there are thousands and thousands of us. Yet, may we like Lot be grieved over all those in this city (1 Peter 2:7), and like Abraham who earnestly prayed for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33). You see, Jonah with difficulty proclaimed the gospel to Nineveh, and Nineveh repented and was saved. We are this city’s Abraham and Jonah. We must pray for God’s mercy upon this city, and bring peace upon this city through our prayers and testimony. 

I believe this is the command of God calling those of us living in Wuhan. We are to seek peace for this city, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people of Wuhan! And we can through online networks guide and comfort our friends and loved ones with the gospel, reminding them that our lives are not in our own hands, and to entrust their lives to God who is faithful and true. 

The past few days I have received many inquiries from foreign pastors. They and the whole church are concerned for this city, even more for us; and confronting this epidemic, seek to serve the city with us. 

Thus, I especially ask them to turn their eyes upon Jesus. And do not be concerned with my welfare, nor be agitated or fearful, but pray in the name of Jesus. Good hearted people are through their actions serving this city, especially the medical personnel who are risking their own lives. If they can take on such worldly responsibilities, how can we not more readily take on spiritual responsibilities!

If you do not feel a responsibility to pray, ask the Lord for a loving soul, an earnestly prayerful heart; if you are not crying, ask the Lord for tears. Because we surely know that only through the hope of the Lord’s mercy will this city be saved. 

A Wuhan Pastor
January 23, 2020

This letter was passed on to us for distribution by a friend of ChinaSource. Join us in praying for all those affected by this crisis, especially for our brothers and sisters in and around Wuhan.

 

November 2020 UPDATES

 

PROTESTANT CHURCH UPDATE

November 2020

 

 

2 Updates

 

        1.What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

       2. Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be             sold in China

    

 

 

1.

       What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

                                    

14th November 2020

 

South China Morning Post

 

What the Christian evangelical grip on America means for China and the world

 

Nurtured by Donald Trump, the Christian radical right – with its doomsday prophecies – threatens to bring civil war, deepen US rivalry with China and upend international relations and governance

 

By: Peter T. C. Chang

 

For US President Donald Trump’s conservative Christian ?supporters, Justice Amy Barrett’s swift ascension to the Supreme Court marked a momentous victory?. In August, the president had told his supporters at a rally that “we move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem”, and “That’s for the evangelicals.”

 

The alliance between Trump and the pietistic evangelicals is as odd as it is alarming, with far-reaching consequences for America and the world, including US-China rivalry.

 

The risk lies within the Christian apocalyptic world view. Some evangelicals believe they can and should expedite events to bring about the end of the world, culminating in an epic Armageddon battle of good vs evil that will usher in the kingdom of God. The Jerusalem move was important because it was one step towards heralding the second coming of Christ.

 

Many, including America’s founding fathers, were averse to Christianity’s supernatural revelations. Thomas Jefferson’s Bible is famously rid of references to miracles. But to protect religious freedom, Jefferson instituted a wall of separation between church and state, securing a private sphere for divergent beliefs.

 

This allows the governance of a public space free from theological interference. Over time, Americans began to rally around a new creed centred on civic virtues such as liberty and dignity, in what sociologist Robert Bellah calls American “civil religion”.

 

But this ethos began to unravel in the second half of the 20th century as the United States entered a protracted culture war. Among the contested issues, abortion is the most polarising?.

 

Since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Christians have waged a long and bitter battle to overturn Roe vs Wade. They felt besieged by a liberal establishment that seemed intent on subverting their Christian way of life.

 

The religious right’s embrace of Trump underscores the depth of their despair. The milieu has become so secularised that the sacred must be salvaged at all cost, even if it takes a flawed – and possibly – non-believer. For embattled evangelicals, to save Christian America, the end justifies the means.

 

Trump did not disappoint. Aside from the Supreme Court, he has packed the federal benches with Christian conservatives. But these conservative wins are unlikely to end the culture war. The US is deeply polarised and its unique experimentation with civil religion could lead to civil war.

 

This is not just an American saga – the impact of the conservative Christian resurgence extends into the international arena. The evangelical imprint on US foreign policy began in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan startlingly called out the Soviet Union as the “evil empire”.

 

In response to the September 11 attack, George W. Bush launched a “war on terror” against the “axis of evil”. More recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others have cast China as an “atheist” empire eroding the core values of the US-led free world.

 

To be sure, America’s presumption to global leadership and sense of exceptionalism were sowed at its birth. Despite a disdain for supernaturalism, the founding fathers retained their conviction in Christian divine providence.

 

America’s manifest destiny, they extolled, is to be a city upon the hill, a beacon of democracy. When the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union’s collapse, political scientist Francis Fukuyama triumphantly declared liberal democracy the apex of political progress and the “end of history”.

 

Herein lies the crux of the US-China stand-off. In rebuffing liberal democracy, China is seen as subverting a divinely ordained world order and affronting a divinely anointed US global leadership. But the evangelicals set this superpower tussle within a wider theological narrative.

 

As the “chosen nation”, America is commissioned to evangelise the world in preparation for a new heaven and Earth. Thus any challenge to US supremacy, to wit China, is deemed as thwarting the advent of the kingdom of God.

 

In contrast, America’s founding fathers, despite their conviction in divine providence, had the sensibility to limit US exceptionalism to the earthly domain.

 

Herein lies the danger of the evangelicals’ sway on the Trump administration. Christian eschatology (concerning the ultimate destiny of humanity) is as bewildering as it is unnerving. The pandora’s box of theological dogmas and religious impulses could defy and upend the norms of international relations and global governance.

 

Some Christian fundamentalists, for instance, are certain the world has entered a period of great tribulation. Amid a raging pandemic, crippled economy, and worsening social upheaval, beleaguered evangelicals see signs of the “last days”.

 

The end is nigh and the faithful must gird for the final cosmic battle of Armageddon when God will obliterate his enemies. In the QAnon universe, apocalyptic nihilists are using “scorched-earth” violence to hasten the Messiah’s return.

 

These doomsday prophecies and their effect on Americans’ views and politics can only aggravate already tense US-China rivalries and volatile global geopolitics.

 

America’s founding fathers envisioned a liberal, democratised world, a utopia on Earth, marking the buoyant “end of history”. For Christian fundamentalists, the ultimate lies in the heavenly, and to cross over to the other side, history must first meet a fiery end.

 

Compounding the peril of Christian apocalypses is Trump’s narcissism. The self-proclaimed “chosen one” has shown little moral inhibition in his insatiable quest for self-grandeur and raw power. The alliance between Trump and his God-fearing supporters is disruptive for America and disquieting for the world.

 

This alliance will end when Trump exits the White House. But the Christian right’s web of influence has infiltrated the American body polity and is likely to remain a potent force. The unsettling impact of Christian evangelicals on America and US-China rivalry will outlive Trump’s presidency.

 

Religion can be a spring of inspiration but it has also proven in much of history to be a source of tragedy. This is especially so when we surrender our rational faculties on the altar of unbridled faith. When this happens to the upper echelons of a nuclear-armed superpower, the consequences could prove dreadful.

 

* Peter T. C. Chang is based at the Institute of China Studies, University of Malaya. He is trained in the field of comparative philosophy and religion. His current research project looks at China's soft power and its impact on the Sino-Malaysia relationship specifically and the wider world generally.

___________________________________________________________

 

2.

    Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be sold in China

 

                                13th November 2020

UCA News - www.ucanews.com

 

Churches shut, demolished and ordered to be sold in China

 

Churches are eradicated to ensure there are more Chinese Communist Party members than believers

 

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong

 

More than 70 Protestant churches and venues were shut and ordered to be rented out or sold in the cities of Lianyungang and Suqian in Jiangsu province of east-central China last year.

 

Officials have also decided to demolish or repurpose the venues with an aim to prevent congregations from resuming gatherings, according to Bitter Winter, an online magazine focusing on religious liberty and human rights in China.

 

Officials in Bailu town in Lianyungang’s Guannan county told directors of the local Three-Self Church during a meeting in August that the empty churches must be rented out or sold. In August, one of the churches, which was closed in June last year, was rented out and another one was sold.

 

“The government is eradicating churches,” a church director lamented.

 

Even before the August meeting, some church venues had been sold, including the July 26 sale of Chenzhuang Church for about US$3,000.

 

“We didn’t have a chance to save our church,” said a congregation member.

 

After the shutdown, authorities converted Three-Self Church in Suqian city’s Shuyang county into a memorial hall for China’s revolutionary heroes.

 

As part of the conversion, workers hired by the government removed its cross and a pillar with a signboard “God loves the world” on June 5. It was replaced by another signboard reading “Huaihai District’s Military and Political Auditorium,” a resident told Bitter Winter.

 

“The church will now be used to teach the young generation about China’s revolutionary spirit,” announced a village official.

 

The official explained why three branches of the Three-Self Church have been demolished.

 

“People of faith outnumber Chinese Communist Party members, and the party is not winning people’s hearts,” the official explained. “The government fears that this will bring instability. Churches are eradicated to ensure that there are more CCP members than believers.”

 

Officials in Xiayi county in Henan province ordered demolition of a former Three-Self Church venue on Oct. 21 and decided to replace it with a clinic. The church was shut down last year and used as a clothing factory.

 

The government crackdown has also targeted house churches. In April, authorities in Guangxin district in Shangrao city of Jiangxi province closed down a church venue for “organizing illegal gatherings.” The venue was converted into state-sponsored Civilization Practice Station for New Era the next month.

 

Since then, the faithful have been holding gatherings in their homes.

 

Another local church was forced to be used for a processing factory and officials continued to check to prevent the return of members.

 

End

October 2020 UPDATES

July 2020 UPDATE

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December '19 UPDATES

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December '14 UPDATES

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February '14 Updates

PROTESTAN CHURCH UPDATE 02-14.pdf
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December '13 Updates

November '13 Updates

September '13 Updates

July 2013 Updates

Early June 2013

Protestant Church Updates: April 2013

Protestant Church Updates March 2013

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