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Anglican Head Begins Two-Week China Tour

The spiritual head of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion is having his 'first direct encounter with China' this week, which he began by delivering a sermon to an invitation-only congregation o
( [email protected] ) Oct 10, 2006 10:42 AM EDT

The spiritual head of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion is having his "first direct encounter with China" this week, which he began by delivering a sermon to an invitation-only congregation of 300 people in Shanghai.

At the Moore Memorial Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told worshippers that "peace was only possible through the power and harmony of God."

The Anglican head’s visit, which commenced Sunday, has been planned with the intention "to provide a deeper understanding of the Christian communities in China and the varied context in which it is developing," according to the Archbishop’s office. The spiritual journey follows visits to China by previous leaders of the Church of England, including the visit by late Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie in 1983 and and Dr William's predecessor George Carey in 1994.

The Archbishop's office said that there would be opportunities in the latest visit "to engage with religious leaders, academics, local and national government officials, NGOs and business leaders."

"The Archbishop's key concerns are to engage with the church in China and its changing context, the challenges posed by development and accelerated economic activity, the environmental agenda in the region and the debate about constructing a ‘harmonious society’ in China and the contribution of religion within this process," the office reported.

After a tour of Shanghai, Williams will visit four other cities during his two-week stay in China.

Dr and Mrs Williams have been accompanied by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev David Urquhart, who recently became the Archbishop's Episcopal link with China.

The visit is being jointly hosted by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement/China Christian Council and the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), and the Archbishop is set to meet leaders of other registered religions in China.

In addition to visiting a range of initiatives and institutions, Dr Williams is scheduled to deliver three main sermons in Shanghai, Wuhan and Beijing. In addition, the Archbishop will also deliver lectures and take part in discussions at various academic institutions.

He is also expected to meet businessmen and leaders from other registered religions in China, including the Chinese Catholic Church.

The Chinese communist regime only allows Christians to worship in state-sanctioned churches which come under strict government supervision. These "official" churches have an estimated membership of about 16 million.

However, it is estimated that millions of other practicing Christians operate in unofficial "house churches."

After Shanghai, the Archbishop will head further inland, covering five cities in total before the visit’s end on October 23.