A house church pastor ordered by officers in China's central Hubei province to cease her "illegal" ministry work has vowed to defy government orders, telling authorities, "I believe in Jesus Christ. I don't believe in you."
China Aid reports that recently, Zion Church pastors Xu Shizhen and Xu Yuqing received a warning from the local religious affairs bureau after preaching in public and handing out fans, teacups, and pamphlets with Christian messages on them in Guihua Square and Train Station Square.
The officers claimed that because the church was not officially registered with the country and the "religious activities" took place outside of approved venues, they were illegal.
However, Xu Shizhen told a ChinaAid reporter that she has no intention of stopping her ministry.
"The government doesn't allow me to spread the Gospel," she said. "I've been doing missionary work for 38 years in Xianning. I established the local churches. They said that my current church was not registered, and that we could not do that. (On Aug. 23) they visited twice, at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. They told me that [this method of spreading the Gospel] violated the Regulation on Religious Affairs, because I wasn't registered. They also said that the certifications that could prove my clerical status had expired."
Previously, Xu Shizhen served as pastor of Hongqiao Church, once an official Three-Self church in the area. However, in April 2012, authorities seized the building after church members had raised hundreds of thousands of yuan to build it. The officers smashed their donation box and changed the locks to keep church members out.
"I left [the official church] after I established Hongqiao Church," Xu Shizhen said. "[The officer] asked me why I refused to accept the inspection of the bureau, and I told him that it was because they had evicted me from the Three-Self Church."
The pastor said she told officials, "'I founded so many churches, yet you threw me out. I believe in Jesus Christ. I don't believe in you.'"
Registered congregations, also known as Three Self Churches, are government-approved and adhere to a strict set of rules laid out by the Communist party. Among other rules, Three Self Church specifically forbids its members from "brainwashing" teenagers with religious beliefs and bringing children to religious activities.
Unregistered, sometimes called underground or house churches operate outside government control, and are thus technically "illegal." In some areas, local governments have shut down unregistered churches, citing such regulations.
Currently, China is ranked 39th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most persecution.