Some Chinese house church leaders sharply criticized the well-known Luis Palau, calling the remarks he made in Beijing last week "irresponsible and misleading."
During a press conference in Beijing on Nov. 19, Palau urged house church Christians to register their churches under the Communist Party of China (CPC) to "receive greater freedom and blessings from the government."
Palau added that China has changed since the Cultural Revolution and drew a comparison saying that registering with China is similar to registering in the U.S. and Argentina, his native country, which need to pay taxes and receive tax returns.
President of the China Aid Association (CAA) Rev. Bob Fu commented on Palau's remarks in a statement released on Nov. 24 saying, "While we understand Rev. Palau's passion and eagerness to get into China’s 'charity market,' we can't agree with his overall assessment and prescription regarding the situations of the Chinese Church."
"To equate the church registration requirement by the IRS in the USA for tax purposes to forced registration under the Communist Party's Religious Affairs Bureau for controlling purposes is total misleading," Fu continued, adding that Palau's remarks would have been "more convincing" if he had said them in the "open" Tiananmen Square rather than the state-sanctioned church.
The Chairman of Chinese House Church Alliance (CHCA) pastor Zhang Mingxuan, who, according to CAA, was arrested several times for his faith, commented on Palau’s remark, "today, you don't get arrested unless you break the law," and cited the case of Beijing church pastor Cai Zhuohua.
Pastor Cai was sentenced to three years in prison on Nov. 8 for printing Bibles and Christian literature. His business was considered "illegal" since it was not registered under the government who controls the distribution of Bibles and other religious materials. The government alleged that Pastor Cai was distributing the materials for a profit but Cai's lawyer said that he was distributing the materials for free.
Zhang said, "We demand the Rev. Palau to retract his irresponsible remarks which deeply hurt the feelings of hundreds of house church prisoners and their families." In the statement on Thurs., CAA said Zhang was kidnapped by Chinese security agents at the Beijing Train Station a day before Palau’s press conference.
Dr. Tim Robnett, President of the Luis Palau International Ministry, who worked with Palau for 15 years, said that Palau's purpose for the trip was to promote religious freedom through a diplomatic approach.
"Luis is trying to help all sides of the issue," Robnett said. "[He] is a person who is not afraid when it comes to talking about the issues, but ultimately it is about how we can engage and promote greater religious freedom and what we can do to change the situation."
Meanwhile, there were some Christians who appreciated Palau's concern for Christians in China, but said that "genuine religious freedom" can not be "achieved simply by registration."
"What Chinese Christians really need is not such kind of naïve ideas or even simple-minded actions as to hope to 'promote greater religious freedom through diplomatic means,'" Ray Jian, a Christian scholar who ministers to a house church in Beijing said to CAA. "Instead, humble hearts and prayerful love are much more appreciated than simply teaching what Chinese Christians should do."