The pastor of a house church in Taiyuan city in China and five female church members were arrested after authorities raided a Bible study on Dec. 30. While the women were released the next day, Xuncheng Church pastor An Yankui was sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.
“Please pray for [Pastor An] and his church as they take up their crosses for Christ,” said a post on the Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) Facebook page. Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), whose members have faced extensive persecution themselves, planted Xuncheng Church in 2008 in the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi province.
Pastor of Taiyuan Church Arrested a Second Time
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Pastor An and several Xuncheng Church members were holding a Bible study Wednesday in the pastor’s home when nearly 40 officials interrupted them. In addition to arresting five women and the pastor, authorities seized the church’s choir robes and books. They did not arrest Pastor An’s wife, Yao Conya, so that she could be free to look after her children. Authorities held the women for about a day and released them around midnight on New Year’s Eve. Pastor An, however, will be detained for 15 days.
This is not the first time that officials have targeted Xuncheng Church or Pastor An Yankui. The pastor and his wife were among seven people arrested on Nov. 15 when Chinese authorities raided a Sunday morning service at Xuncheng Church. You can see footage of that raid below.
— 土豆妈 (@Tudou522525) November 15, 2020
According to ChinaAid, officials said that they interrupted the worship service because members were not wearing masks. ICC reported that after police stopped the service, Pastor An Yanqui requested that they wait until the service was over and that authorities complied. After worship concluded, officials questioned those present about whether the church was state-approved and whether Pastor An was licensed by the state. Authorities also issued the church a disbandment notice, took people’s personal information, and confiscated choir robes, hymnals, cell phones, and Bibles.
Officials conducted the raid around 9 a.m. After arresting and interrogating the seven church members, they held them until around 9:30 p.m. The believers who had not been arrested stayed at the church, waiting and praying until the detainees were released. Police reportedly did not have the appropriate legal documents, such as an arrest warrant, for their actions.
Xuncheng Church has close ties with ERCC, which is located in Chengdu city in Sichuan province. Pastor An graduated from ERCC’s seminary and was a preacher at the church before becoming the pastor at Xuncheng. Early Rain Covenant Church has faced quite a lot of persecution itself at the hands of the Chinese government, persecution that ramped up in December 2018 when authorities arrested 100 ERCC members, including the church’s pastor, Wang Yi.
Pastor Wang has since been sentenced to nine years in prison, and ERCC elder Qin Derfu has been sentenced to four years in prison. Authorities continue to surveil and harass other church members and leaders. Police threatened two ERCC members on Christmas Eve, and over the past several weeks they have been successfully pressuring church members’ landlords to evict them.
ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Gina Goh, commented on the November raid on Xuncheng Church, saying,
In this day and age, where any religion in China has to submit itself to the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President Xi Jinping, it is no longer a surprise that a house church is seen as an enemy of the state and clamped down upon. China’s blindness to its violation of religious freedom needs to be continuously exposed so that Beijing knows it cannot get away with performing these evil acts.