The Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) openly voices out its support for a repeatedly raided unregistered church in Beijing that is attended by a number of prominent writers and lawyers.
The Beijing Church of Ark was targeted by the local police on Jan. 8 and Jan. 15. It was charged of "illegal religious gathering" under the new State Council Regulations on Religious Affairs for the place of gathering was not registered, sources from a U.S.-based Chinese Christian persecution watchdog China Aid Association (CAA) said.
The renowned Chinese Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng, one of the attorneys that has helped the Beijing house church pastor Cai Zhuohua, was also among the congregation. Cai was charged for running "illegal business practices" and handed a prison sentence of three years last year after police found a large number of Bibles and religious materials in a church warehouse in September 2004.
A group of preachers from CHCA yesterday released a statement through CAA, saying that they were "shocked by, and worried about this event, and the recently occurred persecutions suffered by churches in Beijing and throughout the country."
CHCA insisted that the members of Beijing Church of Ark "abide by the Constitution and laws of China, and live in harmony and amity with neighbors." It thus called the Beijing police’s raid an "unlawful behavior violating citizens’ religious freedom." And it urged the Beijing police to "correct this mistake and earnestly carry out administration according to law."
In addition, the preachers of CHCA also firmly declare their statement of faith in face of the Chinese government’s escalated campaign against the urban house churches such as the Beijing Church of the Ark.
Under the existing religious affairs regulations in China, all religious groups are required to register places of worship. Spiritual activities in places of worship that have not registered may be considered illegal and participants can be punished. Also, nearly all local Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) officials require Protestant churches to affiliate with the (Protestant) Three-Self Patriotic Movement/Chinese Christian Council (TSPM/CCC).
However, according to the latest international religious freedom report published by the U.S. Department of State, many unregistered evangelical Protestant groups refuse to affiliate with the TSPM/CCC because they have theological differences with the TSPM/CCC. One of the teachings of the TSPM/CCC holds that all Protestant beliefs are compatible and that differences between Protestant denominations are irrelevant. As many Protestant groups disagree with this, they refuse to compromise and affiliate with the TSPM/CCC despite the risk of persecution.
In CHCA’s statement, the preachers of house churches stated, "As Chinese Christians, we only trust Jesus Christ, the one and only true God, and the Bible is the authority of our faith. We worship only God, not man."
Yet, they expressed the willingness to "submit ourselves to the authorities of the Chinese government" based on the teachings of Romans 13, and they pray that the government will "govern the country according to the love and justice of God."
In conclusion, CHCA appealed to all Chinese and universal churches to pray for China as saying, "We entreat God to absolve our sins and bestow the persecuted Christians with faith, wisdom and strength so we can become reinforced by our Lord. We beseech that God could renew the wills of those governing China so that China could become a society full of blessings, love and justice."
CHCA established on October 20, 2005, is asking its member churches in 17 provinces to hold prayer vigils for Beijing Church of the Ark and other persecuted churches.
The following is the full text of the statement:
"Statement of Chinese House Church Alliance on Police Raid of Beijing Church of Ark"
It was known that Beijing police illegally interfered with the regular gathering activities of Beijing Church of Ark on January 8 and January 15. We, a group of preachers of the Chinese Christian House Church, share the one Lord, one baptism, one faith, and one God with the brothers and sisters of Beijing Church of Ark, living together by the Holy Spirit and communicating with each other as disciples. We are shocked by, and worried about this event, and the recently occurred persecutions suffered by churches in Beijing and throughout the country. Hereby we express our intense concerns and issue the following opinions based on the belief in Jesus Christ and through prayers in the face of Him:
I. As Chinese Christians, we only trust Jesus Chris, the one and only true God, and the Bible is the authority of our faith. We worship only God, not man.
II. As stated in Chapter 13 of Romans of the Bible: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. …For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." Therefore, we submit ourselves to the authorities of the Chinese government and pray that they can govern the country according to the love and justice of God.
III. As far as we know, Beijing Church of Ark has conducted regular gatherings all along during the past two years or more since its founding. Its members abide by the Constitution and laws of China, and live in harmony and amity with neighbors. The activities of Church of Ark conform to Bible teachings and are legal gatherings.
IV. Chinese Christians, being the children of God and citizens of China, are endowed with the fundamental civil rights bestowed by God and safeguarded by the Constitution of China. One of the rights is the freedom of religious belief prescribed by Article 36 of the Constitution of China. This freedom shall not be restricted by the lower level laws and regulations of the State Council such as “Regulations Concerning Religious Affairs”, and other administrative rules and regulations. Hence registration or not shall not be cited as the excuse or foundation for curbing citizens’ religious freedom (including worshiping, gathering, praying and Bible studies, etc.).
V. We hold that the Beijing police’s raid of Church of Ark’s regular Sunday worship activities constituted unlawful behavior violating citizens’ religious freedom. We urge the Beijing police to correct this mistake and earnestly carry out administration according to law.
We appeal to brothers and sisters of Chinese and universal churches to continually pray for China. We entreat God to absolve our sins and bestow the persecuted Christians with faith, wisdom and strength so we can become reinforced by our Lord. We beseech that God could renew the wills of those governing China so that China could become a society full of blessings, love and justice.