Things are tense right now for the Chinese Church. The government, under President Xi Jinping, seems to have it out for the church this year in particular. Despite the danger, some 344 pastors have exposed themselves to greater risk by signing a statement on religious freedom.
“For the sake of the Gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives,” the statement reads.
The Chinese Church Pens Statement of Faith (and Defiance)
“A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith” does not mince words nor does it attempt to save the Chinese government’s “face.” The writers of the statement make no qualms calling out the recent attacks against the church. The statement reads:
In September, 2017, the State Council issued the new “Regulations on the Administration of Religious Affairs” and began implementing these regulations in February, 2018. Ever since then, Christian churches across China have suffered varying degrees of persecution, contempt, and misunderstanding from government departments during public worship and religious practices, including various administrative measures that attempt to alter and distort the Christian faith. Some of these violent actions are unprecedented since the end of the Cultural Revolution. These include demolishing crosses on church buildings, violently removing expressions of faith like crosses and couplets hanging on Christians’ homes, forcing and threatening churches to join religious organizations controlled by the government, forcing churches to hang the national flag or to sing secular songs praising the State and political parties, banning the children of Christians from entering churches and receiving religious education, and depriving churches and believers of the right to gather freely.
The writers go on to call these violent actions against the church an infringement on the “human freedoms of religion and conscience and violate the universal rule of law.”
While the writers want to call out persecution from the government, they also want to share the good news of Jesus Christ. In a bold reference to President Xi Jinping, the statement declares “all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned.” The good news, though, is that “at any time, anyone can repent from any sin, turn to Christ, fear God, obtain eternal life, and bring great blessing from God upon his family and country.”
Specifically, the writers of the statement wish to convey four convictions they hold to the authorities and Chinese society in general. These points are summarized below:
1. Christian churches believe the Bible is the Word of God – The church is committed to adhering to the Bible as the source for “righteousness, ethics and salvation.” If any laws or directives of man go against the Word of God, the church is prepared to “obey God rather than man.”
2. Christian churches are ready to suffer, just as their ancestors did – The writers insist that when the church refuses to obey “evil laws,” it is not out of resentment, hostility or a political agenda, rather from “the demands of the gospel and from a love for Chinese society.”
3. Christian churches will obey the authorities God has appointed – The churches believe that the authority of the government is from God, and that “as long as the government does not overstep the boundaries of secular power laid out in the Bible and does not interfere with or violate anything related to faith or the soul, Christians are obligated to respect the authorities.” They are willing, however, to “suffer all external losses brought about by unfair law enforcement.” Additionally, they are willing to give up “all our earthly rights” for the love of their fellow citizens.
4. Christian churches must hold to the principle of separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the head of the church – The churches are willing to accept “lawful oversight” by civil administrators as other social organizations do. However, they are unwilling to register with the religious administration department or subject themselves to bans or fines imposed by the government due to their faith.
The statement covers a lot of ground, but its message is simple: We’ve had enough of the government’s interference with our faith.
The Chinese Church’s Struggles That Prompted the Statement
Anyone familiar with the Chinese Church knows the struggle for religious freedom has been long, arduous and unresolved. These past couple years, though, the church has suffered tremendously.