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In China, gov’t-run church applies pressure
John Evans, Baptist Press
June 21, 2011
3 MIN READ TIME

In China, gov’t-run church applies pressure

In China, gov’t-run church applies pressure
John Evans, Baptist Press
June 21, 2011

BEIJING — Members

of a persecuted church in China

are under pressure from an unexpected source: self-proclaimed Christians.

Shouwang Church,

a large, illegal house church in Beijing,

is enduring its 11th week of government persecution over its repeated attempts

to hold outdoor worship services in a public square. The government pressured

the church out of its rented building earlier this year.

On Sunday, June 12, Chinese authorities rounded up 14 church members attempting

to meet and brought them to police stations for questioning. But this

interrogation, and that of the previous Sunday, brought a disturbing new twist,

according to the religious freedom monitoring organization ChinaAid. In

addition to police and government interrogators, the Shouwang

Church members faced

representatives of China’s

government-approved church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

“(I)n the past two Sundays, Three-Self church personnel showed up at many

police stations to persuade, ‘educate’ and even rebuke the imprisoned brothers

and sisters in an attempt to get them to leave Shouwang Church and join one of

the Three-Self churches or to ask us to unconditionally abandon our outdoor

worship,” said a Shouwang Church announcement posted by ChinaAid.

ChinaAid also quoted a Shouwang Church

member who wrote that interrogators even tried to raise theological issues by

discussing whether the church’s actions were biblical.

“This surprised me greatly,” the Shouwang member wrote. “Perhaps this will be

their approach from now on.”

In China, only

churches officially registered as part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are

considered legal. But registration places churches under the yoke of government

regulations that restrict things like evangelism, Sunday School and baptizing

teens and children.

Furthermore, says ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, the Three-Self

Patriotic Movement is run by government-appointed leaders, many of whom are

Communist Party members.

“(It) is nothing but a political organization with a religious uniform,” Fu

said.

Shouwang Church

has suffered for defying the government’s demands. Members attempting to gather

for outdoor worship have been arrested for nine straight weeks: 160 the first

week, about 50 the second week, approximately 40 the third week, about 30 the

fourth week, 13 the fifth week, 20 the sixth week, 25 the seventh week, at

least 20 the eighth week, and 14 the ninth week. It is not yet known how many

were arrested Sunday, June 19. Most of the church’s 1,000 members are now under

weekend house arrest, and all of its leaders have been confined to their homes

for weeks. Some members have even lost their jobs or been evicted from their

homes due to government pressure on employers and landlords.

“Even though we get tired, our God is a God who ‘neither sleeps nor slumbers’

and ‘gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak,’” the

church said. “In this race, may we not look at our weakness and fatigue but

rather keep our eyes always on the Lord Jesus Christ who is the author and

finisher of our faith, believing that whatever perfect work He has begun will,

at his appointed time, surely bear fruit.”

Shouwang Church

says that, no matter what persecution it faces, it will only exalt Jesus as

Lord.

“A half-century ago, these attempts came to nothing with those of the older

generation who chose imprisonment rather than give up their principles; we

believe that today these attempts will also come to nothing with our generation

of Christian believers.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Evans is a freelance writer.)