On Oct. 10, five house church pastors and volunteers from Beijing who have been invited to join an international Christian conference held in South Africa were barred from leaving the country. Four passports were confiscated. That day, Beijing Shouwang Church held a prayer meeting for those who will try to participate and released on their website a detailed explanation on why China church leaders were barred. California-based Rev. Liu Tong-su expressed through The Gospel Herald to overseas Chinese pastors and believers to pray for this situation.
Five Were Barred, Four Passports Confiscated
Abraham Liu Guan, 36, is Shouwang Church elder who tried to leave Sunday for the meeting with six others, but was barred from leaving the country, described the situation through an interview with Hong Kong Ming Pao. He and four others arrived at the airport at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. After retrieving their board passes, they tried to go through customs, he said, but when the border inspectors saw information about the Lausanne Congress on the visas in the passports, they refused to let them go through. Shortly after, five or six officers from the Domestic Security Protection Squad from Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (members of Ministry of Public Security) arrived. With them were some people from Bureau of Religion and people from district agencies and neighborhood committees who seized the luggage of the believers. He was sent home at about 6 o’clock in the evening.
According to Liu Guan, the police officers were polite and there were no conflicts between the two sides. At least four passports were confiscated, and would be held until October 25th, which is when the conference in Cape Town, South Africa, would have concluded. He said to Ming Pao Hong Kong that authorities should no longer regard Christianity as a “tool of imperialists in their aggression.” Instead, they should see that it can positively influence social justice. Liu hopes for better communication with the authorities in the future concerning Christianity.
Church of China Leaders Joining Lausanne – Religious and Political Problems
After this event of blockage, Beijing Shouwang Church posted their stance on their website and gave their analysis on the reason and cause. The statement said that border guards, religious bureaus, and government-sanctioned Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Church of China misunderstood that China’s church representatives were politically motivated and tearing the Church of China.
From a Religious Viewpoint
Lausanne China organizers realized through Lausanne International that TSPM have expressed their hope to attend the conference and have a chance to speak during “Night of Asia”, one of the special programs that will be held throughout the ten-day gathering, through various overseas Channels; however, TSPM couldn’t sign the “Lausanne Covenant”, a widely-recognized document by the evangelical churches that all participants of the conference must sign.
Despite this fact, Lausanne organizers have invited the TSPM as observers of the conference, but they’ve rejected this type of status. This August, TSPM have officially expressed to Lausanne organizers their regrets toward “this method of separating the Church of China”, and, therefore, they, the church of China, will not attend Lausanne Conference, according to Shouwang’s statement.
Shouwang’s statement further pointed out that it is TSPM’s sole responsibility for not being able to sign the “Lausanne Covenant”; TSPM’s requirements that the church must have a fixed amount of land, a specified location, and the congregation must not exceed a certain amount of members, and the pastor must hold a sermon certificate and preach in designated churches in designated areas is in conflict with the Great Commission of Jesus Christ – “Preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth, and making disciples of all nations”.
“Until today, they still regard the mission work of missionaries as an imperialist tool, thus for them to participate in a world-class mission conference itself is an irony.”
From the Political Viewpoint
The church revealed that recently the national security bureau and religious bureau have pressured those who were invited to join Lausanne. The authorities said that the problem is not with Lausanne or the China’s church leaders, but it is because anti-China powers are using Lausanne Conference, and even pointed out specifically which organization are controlling China’s participation.
“Lausanne International has directly connected with China pastoral workers to organize for this gathering, and their direct communications with the Church of China have always gone very smoothly.” More importantly, “The mentality of thinking the participants as being used by anti-China powers is a cold-war understanding of religion. If the government doesn’t deal with the religious affairs according to the time, do not allow religion, especially Christianity, to become ‘de-sensitive’, then, there would only be more problems in the relationships between church and state, which would be disadvantageous to building a harmonious relationship between the two entities.”
Rev. Tongsu Liu Urged Oversea Chinese Christians to Intercede in Prayers
California-based Rev. Tongsu Liu urged the overseas Chinese pastors and believers to intercede for them in prayers. He said, “I, personally, urge all oversea churches to pray for the Church of China and the Chinese government, hoping that this (going to South Africa to participate in Lausanne Conference) won’t cause a big problem.” As the majority of the China’s church leaders will be departing for Lausanne this week, Liu hopes that every church can keep this matter in their prayers.
Beijing Shouwang Church also expressed the urgent need for all churches and members of the body to pray for China Church leaders’ trip to Lausanne Conference.