NEW YORK- American Christians in New York have showed warm welcome and appreciation to the China Bible Ministry Exhibition sponsored by the Church in China, as the last show was launched Monday.
Held at the landmark Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the Exhibition has attracted many American Christians. For most of the churchgoers or visitors to the Church, the Exhibition happens to be their very first encounter with Chinese Christianity. However, among the visitors, there are also many pastors or scholars who have involved in China ministries and therefore showed great encouragement for such unprecedented and historical exhibition.
Bishop Richard Shimpfkys from the St. George Episcopal Church in New York- the largest multicultural church in the region and one of the oldest Episcopal Church in the U.S.- commented the Exhibition was "wonderful".
"I think it’s very important for the Exhibition to be held in the U.S. so that we can see and some of the misconceptions we have about the religion in China can be corrected, such as ‘the Chinese people are deprived of the Bible’ and ‘the Bible in China is not the real Bible’," said Shimpfkys.
Shimpfkys highly recommended that his church members to come to visit the Exhibition. While religious freedom in China is one of the hot issues surrounding the Exhibition, he believes that "there is a lot more religious freedom in China than we in the United States think."
Darrel L. Whiteman, member of the Broad of Trustee of the American Bible Society and vice-chairperson of the Mission Society, who has experienced in going to China and studied about the "Back to Jerusalem" Movement, was also encouraged by the Exhibition.
In the midst of negative comments for the Exhibition from the evangelicals and persecution watchdogs, pinpointing it being "propaganda" to cover up the religious persecution image in the U.S., Whiteman firmly said "no" to such idea.
Even though Whiteman does aware of the existence of persecution against Christians in China and he had been in contact with some of the victims from house churches, he suggested that persecution and bible printing are two totally different issues. Moreover, the exhibition is truly showing something that happens in China.
"I want to see the representation of how the Bible has been used in Chinese culture. There are more than enough number of bibles that has been printed, but how people read it and understand it, and how it affects their lives everyday," said Whiteman.
As a mission expert, Whiteman spoke of the relationship between culture and spread of the Gospel, especially in the case of China: "…you have to understand the difference between the Chinese culture and the Gospel, the Gospel and American culture. They are not the same, they are very different. But the problem is when we take Christianity from one culture to another, we want to take it in the same way that we understood in our own culture."
In the beginning of Christianity in China, there was a very common phrase "one more Christian, one less Chinese." Many Chinese people misunderstood that one has to be westernized to become a Christian. However, Chinese appeared to have a great discovery, after all foreign missionaries were kicked out from China since the Communist Party took over China in 1949. In 1989, it was found that the number of Christians in China have actually grown tremendously since the missionaries left the country.
"We, in the West, thought that the Church in China would die and would disappear, because we were not there… But what happened? The Chinese discovered that they can become a Christian, but they can remain Chinese," said Whiteman.
Understanding this historical background, Whiteman therefore believes that the China Bible Exhibition can help him learn "how Chinese understands the bible and how it changes their lives", allowing him to explore the spread of Christianity in China in relation to its culture.
Whiteman expressed his appreciation for the faith in Chinese Christians, especially the way that they prayed. Their persistence and steadfastness in faith is something that the American church should learn from. The Chinese can also teach the American churches the value of suffering.
As the church-planting and evangelizing have been doing well by the Chinese on their own, Bible printing would be something that Americans may help, Whiteman suggested.
Shimpfkys has also echoed Whiteman’s idea. In order to help the Church in China, to support the publication of the Bible is probably the first thing that American churches can do. The other thing is to not interfere, but to let the church in China to grow as God wanted it to grow, he added.