Episcopal leader meets with China’s Puppet “Christian” Three-Self Movement
PHOTO: Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Minister Wang Zuo’an of the State Administration for Religious Affairs and their staffs posed for a photograph on at SARA’s headquarters following a meeting in Beijing. Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service
By David W. Virtue, DD
March 13, 2017
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry met with government, church leaders in Beijing and Shanghai recently and pronounced that he was there to “build friendships” and “strengthen relationships” with Chinese leaders, even though Episcopal presence in China is virtually non-existent. It was Curry’s first official visit as Presiding Bishop and Primate to that region.
He visited China at the invitation of the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). He attended meetings in Beijing and Shanghai, where he met with the minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), the Chinese government agency that oversees religious practice, and CCC/TSPM leaders, including Elder Fu Xianwei.
According to Minister Wang Zuo’an, the country maintains “religious harmony” and has no history of religious conflict because politics and religion have been kept separate, and no one religion has been “more powerful” than another.
Which doesn’t explain why Chinese militia regularly invade Christian churches, tearing down crosses from atop church buildings and scattering the faithful in many directions. (Scattering does have the effect of making new converts, however.)
The Chinese government continues to make heavy-handed moves to rein in Chinese Christians. In the name of maintaining “safety and beauty,” the CCP has bulldozed churches and torn down crosses—all painted red as reminders of the blood shed by the faithful when Mao Zedong’s troops tried to erase their faith from China almost 50 years ago. Those who speak out against the CCP’s decisions are arrested and placed in black jails.
Just recently, China kicked out Korean missionaries in ‘unprecedented’ numbers (somewhere between 30 to 70), citing a problem with their visas, telling them to leave. One human rights activist and pastor told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that most were on tourist or student visas.
"Chinese authorities raided the homes of the missionaries, “[It] was very exceptional,” one anonymous source told the Financial Times. “The missionaries were keeping a low profile. In the past, most missionaries were given a month to leave since their activities in China were not harming the country. This time, it was different.”
Furthermore, China has banned retired Communist Party members from believing in a religion or practicing religious activities, according to a state media report.
China has an estimated 100 million (some estimates have it as high as 130 million) mostly evangelical Christians and they are not part of the Three-Self Movement, which they view as little more than a puppet front for the atheist regime.
A leader of the CCC, the Protestant Christian church, said between 400,000 and 500,000 new believers are baptized annually; there are approximately 60,000 congregations served by 57,000 pastors (an average of one pastor per 700 members) and 200,000 lay leaders. In recent years, the church has attracted professionals, doctors and lawyers, which has led to a demand for higher quality pastoral care.
In a country of 1.4 billion people, the number of Protestant Christians has grown an average 10 percent annually in China since 1979. Though Chinese Christians are “post-denomination,” they still identify as Protestants and Roman Catholics, the latter of which, the government’s Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, not the pope, is the supreme authority.
As of 2012, in China there are 53,000 (now 57,000) Three-Self churches and meeting places and 21 Three-Self theological seminaries. In the same year, Catholicism has 6,300 churches, 116 active dioceses, of which 97 are under the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church, 74 Chinese Patriotic bishops and 40 Roman Catholic unofficial bishops, 2,150 Chinese Patriotic priests and 1,500 Roman Catholic priests, 22 major and minor Chinese Patriotic seminaries and 10 Roman Catholic unofficial seminaries.
The vast bulk of Christians in China belong to the Underground or House Church movement.
The deeper truth is this. Three Self churches are the 57,000+ churches in China that belong to the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM).
The three ‘Self’s are Self-governance, Self-support, Self-propagation, and respectively reject foreigners' influence on the church leadership, foreign financing and foreign missionaries, while “Patriotic” indicates the church's loyalty to China.
The three rejections have kept the divisive Western denominationalism out of China and thus aren't necessarily bad on their own. What is bad is that the Three-Self Patriotic Movement tries to restrict, control and twist the Christianity of the Bible.
Consider some of the rules governing the Three-Self churches:
• The Communist Party is the head of the church in China (Three-Self churches report to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which reports to the State Administration for Religious Affairs, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party).
• The Communist Party decides how many people can be baptized per year.
• The Communist Party has the final decision on who can preach and what can be preached.
• Preaching should focus on the social rules and the social benefits of Christianity.
• Preaching about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the Second Coming of Jesus is forbidden.
• Preaching against religions that deny the deity of Jesus is forbidden.
• Preaching that atheist communist heroes went to hell is forbidden; good communists go to heaven
• Preaching against abortion is forbidden.
• Gathering to worship outside Three-Self churches and official "meeting points" is forbidden.
• Preachers cannot preach at a Three-Self church other than the one to which they were assigned.
• Evangelizing or giving out tracts is forbidden.
• Importing Bibles is forbidden, even if they are given away for free.
• Printing Bibles is forbidden, even if they are given away for free. (China printed some 4 million Bibles last year).
• Government officials cannot be Christian.
• Teachers cannot be Christian.
• Soldiers cannot be Christian.
• Police officers cannot be Christian.
• Children and teenagers cannot be Christian.
Despite all this, China is on course to becoming the world's most Christian nation within 15 years, at about the same time The Episcopal Church will be on its last legs.
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