China's Gov't-Approved Church Will Help House Churches

( [email protected] ) Oct 31, 2008 08:33 AM EDT

On Oct. 22, 12 member-delegation of TSPM and China Christian Council held a seminar titled "Chinese Church - New Leaders, New Challenges" with some 200 Hong Kong Church leaders on their first visit to Hong Kong and Macau Oct. 19-26 since assuming the national leadership of their church organizations in January.

According to Episcopal Life Online (ELO), National Three-Self Patriotic Movement Chairperson Elder Fu Xianwei said, "For those house churches without registration, we will try our best to be with them, to recognize them and to help them, so long as they have an orthodox faith, don't stray from the truth and don't follow heretics."

As the leader of the delegation, Fu said that CCC/TSPM was willing to help house churches by, for example, providing them with Bibles, and also desired to work with them in building the Chinese Protestant church.

The officially sanctioned Chinese Protestant church estimates there are at least 18 million Protestants in China, but some analysts estimate there are up to 80 million Chinese Christians who worship outside of the state-approved churches.

Fu pointed out that there are lack of pastors and preachers, and theological training is inadequate. As more people in China migrate from the rural villages to the urban areas, pastors in cities face greater challenges in their services.

Addressing the issue of registration, some church leaders say that there is a debate on the "third way", which is whether all Protestant communities seeking registration need to do so within the framework of the CCC/TSPM.

At a conference on religion and social sciences at Beijing University held on October 8, Yu Jian Rong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that it is time to consider whether to recognize the legitimate status of house churches, and let them register separately from the CCC/TSPM, which describe themselves as post-denominational, according to ELO.

Yu said that some house churches in China are already in the process of seeking government registration outside the CCC/TSPM.