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Chinese Official Church Leaders Visits Graduate Theological Union

SAN FRANCISCO - The Chinese official church leaders have been visiting churches, theological seminaries and Christian leaders in San Francisco since their arrival in San Francisco last Saturday.
( [email protected] ) May 10, 2006 12:12 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO - The Chinese official church leaders have been visiting churches, theological seminaries and Christian leaders in San Francisco since their arrival in San Francisco last Saturday.

The top Chinese delegation includes the president of China Christian Council (CCC) Rev. Cao Shengjie; vice-president of CCC and president of the Fujian Provincial Christian Council Rev. Lin Zhihua; CCC executive associate general secretary and chief director of the Overseas Relations Department of CCC/TSPM Chen Meilin and others. The renowned San Francisco Theological Seminary has provided the reception for them during their stay in San Francisco.

Tuesday, the entire delegation has attended a meeting with the president of Graduate Theological Union (GTU) Dr. James Donahue and the other faculty heads at the Flora Lamson Hewette Library of GTU in Berkeley. The president first gave a short speech to welcome them and explained how the scholarship program offered by GTU to Mainland Chinese Christians has help raise the level of theological education in China. Rev Cao then expressed gratitude to the support of GTU for China.

Lin Hong, who is a professor at the national seminary of the Church in China Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, is currently a PhD student of GTU through the scholarship program. She has already been pursuing her study for three years in the U.S., and the cross-cultural experience has allowed her to learn English. She has even become the translator for the visit yesterday.

Lin is a successful case that Mainland Chinese scholars are educated overseas and bring back theological resources that are very limited in China in the current stage.

A gift exchange ceremony was held afterwards, leaders of GTU and CCC/TSPM are both very pleased with the partnership and will continue to develop more opportunities.

"The visit has helped enhance the relationship between the West and the East in terms of theological training," commented Chen Meilin, chief director of the Overseas Relations Department of CCC/TSPM and CCC executive associate general secretary.

The one-hour visit closed with a brief tour in the library.

GTU is a consortium of interdependent theological schools and affiliated centers of nine different denominations, including American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW), Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Dominican School of Philosophy & Theology, Franciscan School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pacific School of Religion, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and Starr King School for the Ministry. The Union has been known for its comparatively liberal theological viewpoints.

The Chinese delegation has a 30-minute Q&A session with the students and teachers of Presbyterian-based San Francisco Theological Seminary on Monday morning as well.

According to Rev. James Shum, senior pastor of the Chinese Presbyterian Church of Oakland, who is part of the San Francisco Bay Area Planning Committee for the Chinese delegation, in San Francisco, the CCC/TSPM leaders are not as welcomed as they are in Los Angeles or Southern California as a whole. Shum explained that is probably due to the stronger presence of evangelicals in Northern California. Most of them tend to have a clear-cut stance in their relationship with official Church in China and insist in supporting the house church movement.

Today, the Chinese delegation will visit a few churches in San Francisco Bay Area that has historical significance. One of the churches will be the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown founded in 1853, for it is known as the first Asian Church in North America. Another one will be the Chinese Presbyterian Church of Oakland, which is the first Chinese church in East Bay.

The Chinese official church leaders will stay in San Francisco until Thursday morning and will head to Atlanta to prepare for the second China Bible Ministry Exhibition in the U.S.