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Official church in China shows continuing growth

BEIJING (BP)–The Chinese government’s Protestant church continues to expand, having increased the number of church buildings from 7,000 to 12,000 and distributed 10 million Bibles during the past five years.

Church organizations throughout the country reported these signs of growth and an increase in the number of meeting points from 20,000 to 25,000 during the Sixth National Chinese Christian Conference convening in Beijing Dec. 28-Jan. 3, according to a news service related to the conference.

The conference is the highest decision-making body for Protestant Christians in China. It usually meets every five years and elects the China Christian Council and the committee that oversees the Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement. This year the conference drew 299 delegates.

The three-self movement is China’s way to keep its church culturally Chinese and is the champion of its aim to shed foreign influence and be self-propagating, self-governing and self-supporting.

The Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board works with the China Christian Council, the Chinese government’s official body for churches and ministries in China.

Mimi Moore, a teacher assigned by the Foreign Mission Board to Hefei in Anhui Province, attests to the growth of the church in China. On Dec. 16, she witnessed the baptism of 1,400 people at the church where she worships, which draws 5,000 believers each Sunday.

The East Asia China Ministry of the Foreign Mission Board has just received permission to bring 11,600 books into China. They will be distributed by the China Christian Council to the 3,000 pastors who graduated from seminary from 1949 to 1996. Each will receive the discipleship manual, “Experiencing God,” and its leader’s guide, plus four other reference books.

The China Christian Council operates 17 seminaries and training schools, several for minority groups. Four were opened during the past five years. The council runs 45 Bible distribution points throughout the country, even supplying Bibles to home meetings that do not relate to it.

The council’s constitution — approved by the conference — states its aim is “to unite all Chinese Christians … under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with one heart and unity of purpose, and in compliance with the Scriptures, the Three-Self Patriotic Principles, the national Church Order and the national situation, laws, regulations and policies, in order to run the church well.”

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