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The Truth About Bibles in China  

The Truth About Bibles in China

Please scroll down to watch a short video from China that is sure to touch your heart.

Dear Friends,

We hope the new decade has started well for you and it will be a fruitful year for your live as the kingdom of God spreads through you.

In 2019, by the grace of God we were able to print and distribute more than 1.1 million full Chinese Bibles to the house church Christians, which is an increase of 42.4% on the previous year, and the highest number since 2014. We thank the Lord for this, and we appreciate everyone who prayed and gave so that the believers in China can access God’s Word. In the present tense and oppressive environment in China, each copy of the Scriptures is a miracle.

We have been contacted by people seeking an explanation, because the Amity Press in China has been publicizing that they recently passed the milestone of printing 200 million Bibles inside China. Obviously if those claims are true then there would be little need for our project.

We would like to take a moment to explain the reality behind that extraordinary number. Some of you who have read our newsletters for years will already know, but for others this information will be brand new.

The Amity Press in China is by far the biggest printer on earth, secular or Christian. It’s a massive business making many millions of dollars profit each year.

Yes, they may have produced 200 million Bibles over the last 30 years, but what they and their partners The Bible Society deliberately fail to mention is that at least TWO-THIRDS are exported out of China. If you go to most Christian bookstores in your country to buy a Bible, chances are that it was printed in China by the Amity Press. Then print millions of Bibles each year in all kinds of languages: Spanish, French, Swahili, Korean, English, and dozens of others.

Therefore over the last 30 years perhaps 60 million Chinese Bibles printed by Amity Press were permitted to remain in China. However, they are ONLY available to registered Christians in Three-Self (government-approved) churches. The 60 million or more house church believers that we serve are strictly forbidden from getting a single crumb of them.

And by the way, the Communist Party has now slashed the quota they allow Amity to print domestically to about 1/3 of what it was a few years ago, so even the registered churches are facing a huge shortage of God’s Word.

Finally, instead of us writing more words, it is probably more effective to share the below short video (56 seconds), showing the reaction of Chinese house church Christians when they first received a shipment of Bibles. Although the video is not new, it sums up how precious God’s Word is to them, and why we feel so privileged to serve God’s people who are so desperate for His Word. Thank you for joining us in this strategic endeavor.

May our Heavenly Father continue to provide the Scriptures to all His children in China!

God bless you,
The team at Asia Harvest
www.asiaharvest.org

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Crackdown on Unregistered Churches

Police have detained dozens of leaders, congregation members and activists of one of China’s most prominent and influential Protestant “house” church in the latest government action against unregistered religious groups.

Police arrested Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church, hailed by Rev. Hong Yujie, a friend of Wang as “the bravest pastor in China”, in the city of Chengdu on Sunday, the day after Wang published a manifesto accusing the Communist Party of instituting “Caesar Worship” of Jinping and calling Chinese Christians to resist government regulations that contradict the Christian faith.

Remaining church members said Wang’s manifesto and his open criticism of China’s religious regulation likely prompted his and 100 of their fellow congregants’ arrests.

“President Jinping’s religious regulations and urged worship of the state are morally incompatible with the Christian faith and with all those who uphold freedom of the mind and thought,” Wang wrote in his manifesto, entitled “Meditations on the Religious War” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Teams of police and state security officials in the southwestern city of Chengdu came to the homes of leaders and members of the Early Rain Covenant Church on Dec. 9 and detained them, according to church announcements sent to members and passed to Reuters by churchgoers and activists.

“The time has come. O, Lord! Did you not establish this church for this very purpose?” the church said in one of its announcements. “We will wait for Thee, as one keeping vigil waits for daybreak.” 

Church leader Li Yingqiang said Early Rain would continue public services, despite the intensified crackdown on unregistered churches, as long as there remained some members of the congregation to engage in worship. Li said that other house churches in Chengdu have faced the raids with similar resolve. Some, like Zion Church pastored by Jin Mingri in Beijing, retreated from public scrutiny and divided into smaller house churches that worship in secret after authorities closed their building and arrested their leaders.

“Some house churches have to sacrifice,” Li said. “We are willing to do it.” More than 100 people are believed to have been detained, according to a church elder, who declined to be identified.

Neither the Chengdu nor national-level Public Security Bureau responded to faxed requests for comment.

Since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took office six years ago, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the ruling Communist Party. The Chinese regime requires that all places of worship register and submit to government oversight, but some churches have declined to register, for various reasons.

China began implementing new regulations on house churches, state-registered churches, and other houses of worship in February, requiring in part that they register with the state or risk being shut down. The regulations also subject these churches to heightened monitoring and surveillance from local communist authorities, to be implemented at the discretion of those authorities.

The degree to which churches are affected by these regulations depend largely on how local communist authorities choose to interpret the regulations in each region, though they have largely used the new laws to exert more control over churches, even banning children under the age of 18 from attending religious services in several regions. Communist authorities have used the regulations as tools to carry out Jinping’s vision of sinicizing religion in China — which is to force all religions in the country to submit to the authority and teachings of the Chinese Communist party.

Sunday’s raid, while indicative of Beijing’s waning tolerance for unregistered churches, was not the first time Wang and his followers have been arrested. Police arrested the pastor and some congregants earlier in 2018 for holding their annual service in remembrance of Tiananmen Square and the suppression of democracy in China.

Wang, however, remains undeterred from preaching against the injustices of Jinping’s administration. The Early Rain Church is one of the best known unregistered “house” churches in China. Wang, a former legal scholar, activist, and founder of Early Rain, was the first pastor to sign a public petition organized by Early Rain against those regulations.

Members of the church have been unable to contact Pastor Wang Yi, the church’s founder, or his wife, and church groups on the instant messaging platform WeChat also were blocked, the church said in an announcement. Reuters was unable to reach Wang for comment.

Beijing-based journalist Ian Johnson, who wrote about Wang and his congregation in his 2017 book, “The Souls of China,” said on Twitter that the crackdown was “really disturbing news.”

“I’m afraid this is part of a bigger crackdown on unregistered Christian churches as the government pushes its efforts to dominate society,” he wrote.

Police told Zhang Xianchi, 84, a well-known author and church member, not to visit the church, because it had been “outlawed” and that all its top leaders had been detained, according to an account from Zhang shared with Reuters by church members.

A video posted online by activists in China and overseas, which Reuters was unable to independently verify, showed a group of about a dozen plainclothes policemen taking church-goers away from a meeting. In the footage, police told a woman they were taking a man to the municipal public security bureau to be investigated, while a child cried in the background.

Churches across China have been under growing pressure to register since a new set of regulations to govern religious affairs came into effect in February and increased punishments for unofficial churches.

Despite ongoing arrests and torture of Chinese Christians after a raid on an independent church Sunday, the faithful are vowing not to bow to the Communist party “even if it means death.”

“I think a lesson we can learn from them is they continue to say that, ‘No matter what may come, we will continue to serve the Lord. We will continue to stand strong in our faith,’” said Gina Goh, Southeast Asia regional manager for International Christian Concern.

“Their pastor, a lot of elders, actually wrote letters to their congregation saying that, ‘We will not bend, even if it means jail, even if it means death. We will continue to preserve our faith,’” Goh told Baptist Press Tuesday.

Authorities reportedly blocked the social media accounts of Early Rain members and cut the phone line to the church as the raid got underway. One witness claimed that Chinese police had tracked down church members using the signals from their smart phones.

According to Goh, officials had beaten, tortured, and denied food and restroom accommodations to the Christian detainees. Some of the Christians were dragged along the ground, stepped on, bound to chairs, and had handfuls of hair pulled from their scalp, she reported.

Some of those arrested have been placed under house arrest while others have been set free. Officials told a number of the faithful to sign pledges that they would never attend services again.

“The police said our church is an illegal organization and we cannot attend any more gatherings from now on,” said member Zhang Guoqing after being released from detention.

Since the Sunday raids, arrests of church members at homes, workplaces, and on the streets have continued.

The latest crackdown on “illegal” churches that operate outside strict government control is another example of President Xi Jinping’s attempts to “Sinicize” religion, making all religious practice conform to the ideals and principles of Chinese communism.

In September, authorities interrupted services at some five churches in central, south, and southwest China, pulling down crosses, blocking entrances, disbanding worship, and harassing church members.

One elder of the Early Rain Covenant Church who was arrested early Tuesday wrote a letter before his arrest to other church members who were still at large.

“Beloved brothers and sisters, I am writing this letter in hiding,” he said. “May you all be filled with joy in the Gospel of Christ. May you welcome, filled with hope, the even heavier cross and more difficult lives that lie ahead of you. Christ is Lord. Grace is King. Bear the cross. Keep the faith.”

Goh said that the Chinese government is engaging in more overt persecution of Christians on a broader scale than in the past.

“This is not completely new, but for something that is this large-scale, it is new for sure,” Goh said. The goal of the Communist party is to force Christian churches into allegiance to the state-controlled Three-Self Church, whose congregations must display government flags, sing patriotic songs, and praise government leaders, Goh said.

Goh also said that officials had targeted the popular Autumn Rain Church to “serve as an example to smaller churches,” since in its several locations it comprises a membership of a thousand members or more.

In testimony at a U.S. Congressional hearing in Washington in late September, China Aid founder Bob Fu compared Chinese Communist Party (CCP) persecution under President Xi Jinping to the days of Mao Zedong.

“The CCP’s policies and principles for the management of religious affairs are returning to those evident in Mao’s era,” Fu said.

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The Church in China Today

The religious climate in China, especially for Christians, may be messy but it’s not beyond understanding. Here is a course, The Church in China Today, which offers a comprehensive overview of the church in China, ranging from a historical understanding of how far the church has come, to the struggles it endures in present day, to common misconceptions about the state of the church.

“The Church in China Today? Isn’t Christianity illegal there?”  Maybe this has been your reaction to hearing about the church in China or maybe you’ve heard others react this way. As with many things in China, the answer is “yes and no” but the part that is an absolute “yes” is that Christianity in China is growing.

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping, demanded to meet privately with several senior Chinese house church leaders. Although the content of their discussions was kept strictly confidential, the results were soon evident, as waves of persecution broke out against the house churches throughout China.

In Shandong’s Qingdao City, the police visited a local house church leader and told him, “We know all about your meetings. We have been instructed to close you down, but we will continue to let you meet if you give us all the weekly offerings you collect in your church!”

The house church leader rejected the attempted extortion, and the church broke up into numerous small groups, allowing them to gather discreetly and without disturbance from the corrupt local authorities.

In 2017 and 2018, many pastors and evangelists have been arrested and interrogated, while others have been bundled into vans or taken from their homes and sent to one of China’s notorious secret “black jails”—unofficial places where the government’s perceived enemies are taken and tortured mercilessly.

A letter received in late 2018 presented a sobering summary of the conditions:

“The government now requires that all churches be controlled by the Communist Party. They must even display the national flag to show their loyalty. Some large churches have been asked to hand over their offerings to the police. When the pastors refuse to do so, they are ordered to disband their congregations. The crackdown has been spreading and we expect tough times ahead. 

The government is once again trying to squeeze the life out of the Church. There are new laws prohibiting any religious activities without government approval—even holding Bible studies of more than ten people in homes. We need to conduct trainings with fewer participants. 

Things here are like in Mao’s day! We never thought we would return to such a time. The younger generation of believers have never experienced severe persecution, and they are shaken. Please pray they will patiently endure, and their faith will be tested and found to be like pure gold.”

The Church in China has been blessed with powerful revivals, and from the ruins of ashes, floods, famines and wars has arisen a shining and holy Bride of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has gained much glory from His disciples, where today an estimated 100 million plus people confess Christ as Lord and Savior.

While the current leaders of China appear determined to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors by again trying to destroy God’s children, let us pray that the persecution will again result in revival and continual rapid growth in China.

The greatest need of Christians in China continues to be Bibles. Those in rural areas struggle to access God’s Word, and the large numbers of new believers has seen the size of the need far outstrip the supply. The need for Bibles is greater than ever, with an increasing number of believers in China unable to access Bibles due to government restrictions and persecution.

From the early days when we hauled heavy bags and suitcases of Bibles across borders we now put “Bibles on USB Drives.” Pray that each of these life-changing USB drives will find their way to many who are searching for the truth, and that they would be gripped and convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit as they read the Scriptures for the first time.

It may be hard for some people to really picture the hunger for God’s Word that exists in China. We need to press on even when the Word of God is been marginalized, cast aside or banned from the public domain by the Government.

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How Many Christians Are In China?

Re-posted from Asia Harvest Ministry

 How Many Christians Are In China?

For centuries, people have been curious to know how many Christians live in China. When Marco Polo made his famous journey to China 700 years ago, he documented the existence of Nestorian churches and monasteries in various places, to the fascination of the people of Europe. Since his return the question of how many followers of Jesus Christ are in the world’s most populous nation has fascinated many mission researchers and believers around the world.

In recent years there has been heated debate and widely varying estimates of the size of the Body of Christ in China. Now, after more than a decade of research, we present the most comprehensive study ever conducted into the number of Christians in all 2,371 cities and counties, within all 33 provinces and regions of China. Estimates are provided for all believers — Protestants belonging to the registered Three-Self churches as well as house churches, and for registered and underground Catholic believers.

The statistics in this study are backed by more than 2,000 sources of information, all footnoted within our tables. We intend to update this study regularly as new information comes to light, and we welcome readers to update or comment on our data by contacting us (full confidentiality is assured).

Before you access our statistical data on Christians in each location in China, we strongly recommend you read our summary below which explains the background and methodology employed in our study, as well as comments on previous surveys of Christians in China. Without first gaining this understanding, the statistics is largely meaningless. After reading the summary a link will take you to the statistical tables.

“Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.” Proverbs 18:17 NLT

Since I started traveling in China in the 1980s, I have found that Christians all around the world are eager to know how many believers there are there. Many people are aware that God is doing a remarkable work in the world’s most populous country, but little research has been done to put a figure on this phenomenon. In recent decades, simply estimating the number of Christians in China has become controversial. Wildly divergent figures have been published, ranging from 20 million to 230 million.

In this article, I have attempted to summarize the history of various estimates for the number of Christians in China. I examine some of the strengths and weaknesses of several of the better-known estimates of recent years, and explain the difficulties that attend this kind of research in China’s present political environment.

Only God Knows 

The first thing anyone attempting to put a number on the church in China should do, I believe, is to issue a disclaimer. I would like to state at the outset, quite simply, that only God knows how many Christians there are, for “God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’” 2 Timothy 2:19. While we can speculate about how many followers of Christ there are in China, I strongly advise the reader to disregard any figure that claims a high degree of precision. Quite simply, it is not possible to conduct an accurate nationwide survey of Christians in the present climate, and those who are looking for unquestionable, proven facts will be disappointed. I believe that the best anyone can do at the moment is offer an honest assessment based on the knowledge we do have, and give a frank account of the methodology they have used to come to their conclusions.

Challenges to Christian Research in China Today

There are several major challenges facing anyone who wishes to research the number of Christians in China today. Most of these relate to the house churches rather than the registered Protestant and Catholic churches. Obviously it has proven easier to enumerate the number of adherents within the legal churches in China than those among the unregistered house church networks. Political and social factors unique to China complicate attempts to gather accurate information on the church there.

I have included the children of believing parents in this study. In Asian societies, it is common for the whole family to practice one religion—it is practically unheard of for Muslim parents to have Christian children or for Christian parents to have Buddhist children, and so on. My survey include estimates for Protestants in both the Three-Self Church and the house churches and for members of both the CPA and the underground Catholic churches.

A Summary of Past Surveys

Many surveys have been conducted since 1920 in an attempt to establish how many Christians there are in China. In the following pages, I would like to summarize some of the most significant ones. Please click on the below links to read summaries, comments and critique of some of the better-known surveys:

1920 – The China Continuation Committee’s 2.3 Million
1992 – Jonathan Chao’s 75 Million
1997 – Amity News Service’s 13.5 Million
2001 – Operation World’s 91 Million
2006 – Tony Lambert’s 60 Million
2006 – Ye Xiaowen’s 130 Million
2007 – Werner Bürklin’s 39 Million

Methodology

In the later following statistics tables, I give my own estimates of the number of Christians in China. My interest in this subject started over 20 years ago, and I have been collecting data since. My survey provides figures for Christians of every description, in four main categories: the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the Protestant house churches, the Catholic Patriotic Association, and the Catholic house churches. I supply statistics for all 2,370 cities and counties in every province, municipality, and autonomous region of China.

I have gathered this information from a wide variety of sources. First, more than 2,000 published sources have been noted in the tables, including a multitude of books, journals, magazine articles and internet reports that I have been collating for years. Second, my coworkers and I have also conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with house church leaders from many different groups, responsible for work in practically every part of China. We have found that while some house church networks do not keep statistics on their congregations, other large networks do keep detailed records about numbers of fellowships and believers, which we have had the great privilege to access.

Ground Zero 

Before I started entering data into my statistics tables, I decided to begin with this assumption that in any given place in the country there are no Christians at all unless I have a figure from a documented source or can make an intelligent estimate of their number based on information gathered from Christian leaders in China. In other words, I wanted to put aside all per-conceptions and expectations, input the information I had and see what the totals came to the end.

I hope that readers will acknowledge that my findings, though imperfect, have been reached with the sincere intention to draw as accurate a picture as possible of the Chinese church. You may not agree with my conclusions, but I hope you will sense that this survey has been conducted without any ulterior motive or hidden agenda. Ironically, some people who previewed my figures were exasperated to find that they were so high, while others were upset because they were “too low”.

These statistics tables will be updated regularly as new information comes to hand. Although I have gone to every length to make this survey as complete as it can be, I acknowledge nonetheless that, owing to the difficulties of conducting such a survey in China today — not the least of which is the sheer size of the country — there is a margin of error of 20 percent. If errors are indeed found, I suspect that generally it will prove to be the case that my estimates were too low.

I am glad to receive feedback and input from anyone with knowledge about Christians in any part of China. I can be contacted by letter or email via the Asia Harvest website. All communications will be kept in strict confidence.

A Note about Security

Some people may ask whether it is appropriate to publish any estimates for the true number of Christians in China, if such information might lead to more persecution from the authorities. It is important to note the following points:

(a) None of the information provided in these tables will be new to the government. It has clearly already thoroughly researched the spread of Christianity in every part of the country, as is shown by Ye Xiaowen’s announcement in 2006 that there were then 130 million Christians in China. In December 2009 the national newspaper China Daily interviewed scholar Liu Peng who has spent years researching religion for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Liu claimed the “house churches…have at least 50 million followers nationwide.” This figure is consistent with our research.

(b) The tables contain more than 2,000 references from numerous published sources, including various books and articles by Tony Lambert, Tianfeng, Amity News Service, and several Catholic publications. On the whole, I am merely collating information that is already in the public domain.

(c) I have consulted various house church leaders in China and all of them were content that this information should be published, as long as the survey focuses on statistics and avoids specific information such as the names and locations of Christian leaders, as it has. In fact, church leaders very glad for this study—albeit disappointed that my total figure came out lower than they expected.

Putting the Chinese Church into a Proper Perspective 

We have seen that estimates for the number of Christians in China vary widely and that the issue is sometimes clouded by the personal prejudices of those conducting the survey. It is important to note, however, that even the lowest estimates confirm a tremendous growth rate for the church in China. It is generally agreed that there were 750,000 Protestant believers in the country in 1949, and so even if there are just 30 million now it would represent a 40-fold increase in the nearly six decades of Communist rule. This is extraordinary and should be the cause of much rejoicing and thanks to God. There are very few countries on earth that could claim a similar explosion of faith over a similar length of time.

All discussion of how many Christians there are in China should be tempered by the realization that more than 90 percent of its present population face a Christ less eternity. Hundreds of millions of individuals have yet to hear the gospel. House church leaders in China often tell me how ashamed and burdened they feel that so many of their countrymen and women have yet to know Jesus Christ. This awareness motivates them to do whatever it takes to preach the gospel to every ethnic group and in every city, town and village—to every individual—in China, and to do whatever necessary to see Christ exalted throughout the land.

May we, too, have such a heart for the lost whenever we are tempted to bicker about how many Christians there are in China! God has done, and continues to do, an incredible thing in that country. May we humbly give thanks to him, and recognize that we are living in the days prophesied by the Prophet Habakkuk:

“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5, NIV

Statistical Tables

Thank you for reading this summary. Here is the full 26-page pdf article How Many Christians are There in China?

Please feel free to share this message with any concerned believers, or post it on social media etc.

Until All have Heard of Jesus,
The team at Asia Harvest
www.asiaharvest.org

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China Bans Children from Church

In one of its more drastic moves to date, China’s ruling Communist Party has issued notices warning Christian parents not to take their children to church or they “will be dealt with severely.”

In their latest attack on Christianity, authorities have told more than a hundred Christian churches that children are now forbidden from attending church services and joining Christian groups. The latest move may respond in part to a new study from the University of Shanghai, which found that more than 60 percent of students are interested in learning more about Christianity and that young catechumens in official and underground Christian communities have been steadily increasing in number.

In August, communist officials issued notices to over a hundred churches in Wenzhou, within the largely Christian Zhejiang province, informing Christians that children are no longer permitted to enter any church. The notices stated that minors attempting to enter a church would be turned away at the door, even if accompanied by their parents.

Along with students, school teachers have also been banned from attending church. The Yonglin district instructed schools that “the higher authorities strictly forbid all secondary and primary school teachers, students and toddlers to join Catholic or Protestant churches.”

Chinese authorities have justified their action by alleging that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.”

“Minors receiving religious education and formation too early in churches would seriously affect the normal implementation of the education system,” the Ouhai district’s notice declared.

Authorities further warned church leaders that government inspectors will “launch open and undercover investigations” on Sundays in both state-sanctioned churches and underground communities to enforce the ban.

“There have also been attacks on Sunday school,” a pastor told the Vision Times. “It is very serious… This is very disrespectful to human rights, and we are firmly opposed… We really don’t know why authorities are doing this.”

The new norms not only forbid children from attending church service, but also prohibit minors from joining any Christian group, taking part in any religious activities or listening to sermons. The Communist authorities have also ruled that Christians may no longer run summer camps for children.

The new measures are part and parcel of China’s draconian policy on religion, and against Christianity in particular.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report (IRFP) released in August, the Chinese Communist government “physically abused, detained, arrested, tortured, sentenced to prison, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups” throughout 2016.

The abuse of people of faith in their religious practice included members of unregistered Christian churches (also known as “house churches”), the State Department’s annual report added.

The IRPF noted that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to exert absolute control over religious activities in the country. “Only religious groups belonging to one of the five state-sanctioned ‘patriotic religious associations’ (Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant) were permitted to register with the government and officially permitted to hold worship services,” the report stated.

This means that any religious group that does not submit to state control, such as the Roman Catholic Church or Christian “house churches,” has no official status in the country and is subject to regular sanctions and arbitrary harassment.

Since 1999, the U.S. State Department has designated China as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

We mustpray” for those in China who fight against “religious persecution” as the government attempts to erase any knowledge of the “one true God” of the universe.

China bans children from attending church services
Chinese authorities ban children going to churches
China bans children teachers from churches

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Church Control by Communist Party

Controlled by Communist Party 01

As Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to “tighten” the Communist Party’s grip on “religious practice,” more and more Christians are “opting” out of the official, state-recognized church and “heading” underground.

Some six million Catholics have “refused” to join churches recognized by the Communist Party and have opted to worship in “house churches,” where they can remain “loyal” to the Vatican.

Father Dong Baolu, an underground Chinese priest, celebrates “Mass” in these so-called house churches in order to worship God in “freedom and independence” from state control.

For Dong, a church controlled by the Communist Party is no church at all. According to Dong, the Party “says we have religious freedom, but they only allow us to be free within a circle they drew.”

“They want to lead us. But those who don’t believe in God cannot lead us,” he said.

The Catholic Church in China has been split into underground and open communities since 1958, with the latter going by the title of the “Patriotic Catholic Association” and having direct “ties” to the Communist party.

A Vatican document of 1988 “barred” Roman Catholics from participating in the “sacraments” of the Patriotic Church, since the association “had broken all relationships with the pope” and would be “under the direct control of the government.”

Father Dong fears that a “thaw” in relations between Beijing and the Vatican could “compromise” that freedom.

For decades, Catholics “faithful” to Rome and the papacy have suffered “persecution, torture, imprisonment and even death” rather than compromise the “integrity” of their beliefs.

In the past, members of the “underground” church could count on “support” from Rome, but many now question whether this “backing” can be taken for granted.

“It’s possible that Rome may betray us,” said Father Dong. “If this happens, I will resign. I won’t join a Church which is controlled by the Communist Party.”

Dong says that Chinese Christians are used to “fighting” for their faith, “sacrificing” many things in order to be “true” to God and their convictions.

“We are suffering like Jesus on the cross. We fight for religious freedom and follow the Gospel – but we are not supported by either Rome or China.”

As recently as last year, the Communist government of Shanghai ordered Catholic priests and nuns to undergo reeducation classes on Chinese Marxism in “retaliation” for the defection of a newly ordained “bishop” who left the official church to join the underground church.

Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin “embarrassed” Shanghai when he abruptly quit the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in 2012, “snubbing” the Communist party in allegiance to Rome.

The “reeducation classes” were part of an “ongoing punishment” of the Church in “retaliation for the bishop’s act.”

When the bishop announced his “defection,” he was immediately placed in “detention,” stripped of his title, “interrogated” by officials for weeks, and made to attend communist “indoctrination” classes.

Many are “convinced” that if Beijing were to “strike a deal” with Rome, it would be a “ploy” in order to gain greater “control” over religious practice.

Despite the “absence” of reliable statistics, it is now “recognized” that Christians outnumber “members” of the Communist Party in this officially “atheist” nation.

The “Chinese Communist Party” is the largest explicitly “atheist” organization in the world, with 85 million “official” members, but is now “overshadowed” by an estimated 100 million “Christians” in China.

Many of these “operate” outside the direct “control” of Beijing.

Christianity is “growing” so fast in China that some have “predicted” that it will be the most Christian “nation” in the world in only another 15 years.

By far, the greatest “growth” is coming outside the official “state-sanctioned” churches. Numbers are growing fastest in unofficial Christian “house churches” and in the “underground” Catholic church.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of “Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.”

Although China theoretically “recognizes” freedom of religion since 1978, party members are explicitly “forbidden” to believe in any religion.

In 2011, Zhu Weiqun, executive vice minister of the “United Front Work Department,” wrote: “Party members shall not believe in religion, which is a principle to be unswervingly adhered to.”

Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken “critic” of the Communist Party, fears a “rapprochement” between the Vatican and the Chinese government, especially one where Beijing were allowed to “propose” candidates for new Chinese bishops.

“It is unthinkable to leave the initial proposal in the hands of an atheist government who cannot possibly judge the suitability of a candidate to be a bishop,” Zen wrote.

Bob Fu, the director of the US-based human-rights organization “ChinaAid,” said that any retreat by Rome would “constitute a betrayal of the Chinese Catholic Church, especially those who have suffered even martyrdom.”

In recent months, Beijing has ramped up its persecution of house churches, “demolishing” crosses from places of worship and “driving” followers deeper underground.

“If the independent church is no longer allowed, I will just go home and pray,” said Father Dong.  “There is only one road for us Catholics.”

China doesn’t want to suppress Christianity – just control it
China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years
For China’s Communist Party, Jesus is a political enemy, which is why it wants to crush Christians

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China Churches

China Churches 05China on course to become “world’s most Christian nation” within 15 years
By: Tom Phillips, Liushi, Zhejiang Province

The number of Christians in Communist China is “growing so steadily” that it by 2030 it could have more “churchgoers” than America.

It is said to be China’s biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshipers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – “not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.”

The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a “206ft (36 meter) crucifix” that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a “miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church”.

The £8 million building is also one of the most “visible” symbols of Communist China’s breakneck “conversion” as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi’s altar in the lead up to Holy Week.

“If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime,” she added.

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an “atheist” country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek “meaning and spiritual” comfort that neither “communism nor capitalism” seem to have supplied.

Christian “congregations” in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of “Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.”

“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

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Liushi Church, Liushi, Zhejiang Province, China

Like many Chinese churches, the church in the town of Liushi, 200 miles south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province, has had a turbulent history.

It was founded in 1886 after William Edward Soothill, a Yorkshire-born missionary and future Oxford University professor, began evangelizing local communities.

But by the late 1950s, as the region was engulfed by Mao’s violent anti-Christian campaigns, it was forced to close.

Liushi remained shut throughout the decade of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, as places of worship were destroyed across the country.

Since it reopened in 1978 its congregation has gone from strength to strength as part of China’s officially sanctioned Christian church – along with thousands of others that have accepted Communist Party oversight in return for being allowed to worship.

Today it has 2,600 regular churchgoers and holds up to 70 baptisms each year, according to Shi Xiaoli, its 27-year-old preacher.

The parish’s revival reached a crescendo last year with the opening of its new 1,500ft mega-church, reputedly the biggest in mainland China.

“Our old church was small and hard to find,” said Ms Shi. “There wasn’t room in the old building for all the followers, especially at Christmas and at Easter. The new one is big and eye-catching.”

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The Liushi church is not alone. From Yunnan province in China’s balmy southwest to Liaoning in its industrial northeast, congregations are booming and more Chinese are thought to attend Sunday services each week than do Christians across the whole of Europe.

A recent study found that online searches for the words “Christian Congregation” and “Jesus” far outnumbered those for “The Communist Party” and “Xi Jinping”, China’s president.

Among China’s Protestants are also many millions who worship at illegal underground “house churches”, which hold unsupervised services – often in people’s homes – in an attempt to evade the prying eyes of the Communist Party.

Such churches are mostly behind China’s embryonic missionary movement – a reversal of roles after the country was for centuries the target of foreign missionaries. Now it is starting to send its own missionaries abroad, notably into North Korea, in search of souls.

“We want to help and it is easier for us than for British, South Korean or American missionaries,” said one underground church leader in north China who asked not to be named.

The new spread of Christianity has the Communist Party scratching its head.

“The child suddenly grew up and the parents don’t know how to deal with the adult,” the preacher, who is from China’s illegal house-church movement, said.

Some officials argue that religious groups can provide social services the government cannot, while simultaneously helping reverse a growing moral crisis in a land where cash, not Communism, has now become king.

They appear to agree with David Cameron, the British prime minister, who said last week that Christianity could help boost Britain’s “spiritual, physical and moral” state.

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Ms Shi, Liushi’s preacher, who is careful to describe her church as “patriotic”, said: “We have two motivations: one is our gospel mission and the other is serving society. Christianity can also play a role in maintaining peace and stability in society. Without God, people can do as they please.”

Yet others within China’s leadership worry about how the religious landscape might shape its political future, and its possible impact on the Communist Party’s grip on power, despite the clause in the country’s 1982 constitution that guarantees citizens the right to engage in “normal religious activities”.

As a result, a close watch is still kept on churchgoers, and preachers are routinely monitored to ensure their sermons do not diverge from what the Party considers acceptable.

In Liushi church a closed circuit television camera hangs from the ceiling, directly in front of the lectern.

“They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way. They want to train people to practice in a Communist way,” said the house-church preacher, who said state churches often shunned potentially subversive sections of the Bible. The Old Testament book in which the exiled Daniel refuses to obey orders to worship the king rather than his own god is seen as “very dangerous”, the preacher added.

Such fears may not be entirely unwarranted. Christians’ growing power was on show earlier this month when thousands flocked to defend a church in Wenzhou, a city known as the “Jerusalem of the East”, after government threats to demolish it. Faced with the congregation’s very public show of resistance, officials appear to have backed away from their plans, negotiating a compromise with church leaders.

“They do not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there,” said the church leader. “The number of Christians is growing – they cannot fight it. They do not want the 70 million Christians to be their enemy.”

The underground leader church leader said many government officials viewed religion as “a sickness” that needed curing, and Prof Yang agreed there was a potential threat.

The Communist Party was “still not sure if Christianity would become an opposition political force” and feared it could be used by “Western forces to overthrow the Communist political system”, he said.

Churches were likely to face an increasingly “intense” struggle over coming decade as the Communist Party sought to stifle Christianity’s rise, he predicted.

“There are people in the government who are trying to control the church. I think they are making the last attempt to do that.”

China Churches 01

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House Churches

House Churches 02House Churches
Excerpts from How China plans to wipe out House Churches

Incidents of persecution of Christians rose by about 42 percent last year compared with 2011, according to the report by human rights group China Aid.

Many of these incidents involved groups of Christians. In total, the number of individual persecuted Christians rose by roughly 14 percent and total individual detentions increased by nearly 12 percent.

China Aid said overall total persecution in six categories was about 13 percent worse than in 2011 — though China Aid termed its statistics just “the tip of the iceberg.”

At least 132 incidents of persecution affecting 4,919 Christians — 442 of whom were clergy — were reported in the country last year, according to China Aid’s annual report. The Texas-based group tracked detention of at least 1,441 Christians, the sentencing of nine of them, and the abuse (verbal, mental and physical, including beatings and torture) of 37 Christians.

The recent appointment of Xi Jinping as the new leader of China’s Communist Party has made no difference in treatment of Christians, said a member of the Shouwang Church in Beijing, a congregation authorities have harassed for more than two years.

The continued rise of persecution is not the only dynamic raising serious concerns; authorities have targeted unregistered house churches in a planned manner….In 2008 and 2009, officials “targeted house church leaders and churches in urban areas,” China Aid notes.

In 2010, they “attacked Christian human rights lawyers groups and using abuse, torture and mafia tactics.”

House Churches 01

The focus in 2011 was on increasing the intensity of attacks against Christians and house churches.

In 2012, a new three-phase approach was adopted to wipe out unregistered house churches, which the government saw as a hostile group of dissenters, and force them to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church system.

In the first phase, from January 2012 to June, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) secretly investigated house churches across the country and created files on them, the report says.

This was followed by a wave of crackdowns on house churches, which has continued into 2013, as part of the second phase. The second phase will also entail strongly encouraging unregistered churches to become part of the TSPM at which point they would become known as “house gatherings,” with the government banning the term “house churches.”

Some house churches have registered with authorities to avoid arrests and harassment, but most do not as they object to the beliefs and controls of some TPSM leaders. Barriers to evangelical churches registering with the TSPM include theological differences, adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members, and government control of sermon content.

The number of Protestant house-church Christians has been estimated at between 45 million and 60 million.

House Churches 04

The third phase is expected to begin from 2015 through to 2025, when the government would shut down house churches that do not comply with the requirement to join the TSPM, according to a joint-memo issued in September 2011 by SARA and the ministries of public security and civil affairs, the report says.

With this objective in mind, authorities in 2012 stepped up long-time tactics of banning and sealing churches, pressuring churches to join the official Three-Self structure, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students, the report points out.

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Chinese Baptism

Chinese Baptism 02Baptism is “risky” business for “believers” in China.

It is only “legal” for Christians to be baptized by a church “registered” with the Government, and in some parts of the country, only on Christmas and Easter.

When “house church” baptism services are “discovered,” police are often called … then come the “questions, arrests” and sometimes churches are “shut down.”

So, local believers have to be “tricky, sneaky” and “scheming” to baptize.

I recently heard the story that new believers “love” to celebrate Easter with a “baptism” service in a primitive concrete “pond” filled with luke warm water in a “public” place.

Since the risk of “discovery” is great one must be “stealth.”

When most people think of “stealthy,” they think, “move quickly and quietly; don’t draw attention to yourself.”

But these Chinese believers toke the “exact” opposite approach. Their “stealth” baptism service took “well” over an hour, including a lot of noise, laughter, splashing and waves.

The first “objective” was to get all of the other people at the public pool to “adjust” to the believers’ presence so they would “pay” less attention.

Chinese Baptism 04

Next, the house church “started” to play several “competitive” games. When they felt the other people were “acclimated,” they quickly congregate to one “side” of the pool.

Several believers then line up “shoulder-to-shoulder” and create a “visual” barrier between the other people. Two leaders stood behind the barrier “facing” each other. Then, one at a time, the new believers were “baptized” between the leaders.

Chinese Baptism 01

When the house church was finished and members were toweling off at the side of the pool, a curious man approached them.

He asked, “What a fun game you played. Were winners punishing the losers by drowning them under water?”

The believers laughed and one replied, “The Good News is that there are no losers among us. We are all winners.”

Chinese Baptism 03

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