Upon the invitation by scholastic organizations and secular groups in Hong Kong, influential Beijing-based author Yu Jie and Sichuan-based scholar Wang Yi recently gave a series of lectures from the perspectives as a Christian and intellectuals in public sphere on the development of house churches in mainland and its influence on China’s society’s transformation.
House Churches Going Public Has Become an Unstoppable Fact
Yu Jie said that while the date when the house churches become legalize is still unforeseeable, their going public has become an unstoppable fact; Christians are both citizens of heaven and of earth, and they learn a democratic life in church; Christianity provide positive values during this key moments of China’s society’s transformation.
Meanwhile, Wang Yi counted the grace that the house churches have experienced in the last 60 years; despite facing a high pressure policy, the number of believers still increased by a hundred fold.
In addition, he gave an analysis on the focus points and trends on the current church-state conflicts, Christianity’s influence in the public and the plight of house churches, and the influence that house churches going public have on the democratic transformation.
Referring to examples of some influential house churches from their respective areas of Beijing and Sichuan, like Beijing Watchtower Church, Ark Church, Chengdu Qiuyu Church, etc., the two speakers spoke of the situation of how many recently emerging house churches in the cities are courageously going public despite government’s restrictions, showing how the persecution from the officials ironically pushed them onto the process of going public, through lawsuits, having worship services on the streets.
Yu Jie said that Beijing’s largest house church Watchtower Church has sought for registration in the last years, but never succeeded and continued to receive different forms of harassments. In the last week, under pressure the landlord of the place where Watchtower Church rented for gatherings discontinued their lease agreement, which forced them to hold Sunday service outdoors under snow fall in front of the entrance gate of Haiden Park in Beijing.
Although they do not have a legal status, many emerging house churches in the cities are courageously taking the footsteps of going public, such as renting office spaces for gatherings; establishing church publications, websites; connect and partner with overseas churches and ministries; at Christmas, Easter, connect ten or more house churches to hold a large-scale gathering and evangelism conference; participate in disaster relief efforts such as last year’s Sichuan earthquake.
House Church Becoming Public, Pushing for Social Justice and Welfare
Yu Jie and Wang Yi pointed out that in recent years many intellectuals in the public with Christian faith has been pushing for social justice following their faith, using public actions to disseminate religious beliefs, which propagates the house churches going public become a natural trend.
“Intellectuals with Christian identity in the public are attracting more and more attention,” said the Beijing-based Chinese author. “Christian’s influences are not restricted to within the churches, but these people are speaking out, crying out for religious freedom and the more prevalent problem of social justice, living out their Christian faith and values in public events and lives.”
Regarding the influence of house churches going public towards China’s society’s transformation, Yu Jie believes that the respect and tolerance for human rights in Christian doctrines can be useful in resolving conflicts in China’s changing society.
This series of lectures was requested by Hong Kong Chung Chi College Center of the Study of Religion and Chinese Society, Chung Chi College Chaplaincy, and Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture. Other topics discussed through the series of seminars centered on the topics of the legalization of house churches and their going public.
Reporter Luke Leung translated the article.