China is a Top Producer of Bibles

PRC11DJ-8.jpgIn a counter-intuitive and ironic twist, China has become one of the world’s top producer of Bibles, producing 3.5 million annually. At the recent Christian Congress held in Beijing, the China Christian Council, the governing body of China’s Protestant Church released a report on the work of Bible production in China. The following article, originally published in the Christian Times, reports on the Congress.

The Ninth Chinese Christian Congress opened in Beijing on September 9 and lasted 3 days. The conference is organized by the Chinese Christian Church’s Council and takes place every five years.

The day the Congress opened, the Chinese Three Self Patriotic Movement Committee Chairperson, elder Fu Xianwei, gave a work report and reviewed the work of the last five years. Included in his report on the last 5 years, he stated that the Chinese Christian Church Council’s publishers printed 17.5 million Bibles, and in the past 30-plus years, the Chinese Christian Church Council’s publishers have printed over 62.17 million Bibles.

Over the past 5 years, publishers have produced a total of 150,000 minority language Bibles in 7 minority languages. They have successively published a Lisu Bible, an Eastern Lisu Bible, a Miao Bible, and a Korean minority Bible. Also published were a Korean minority Bible with a hymnal included, a Jingpo Bible, a Lahu Bible, and 19,000 Braille Bibles. These satisfied the need for Bibles of every minority and special needs group.

With regards to this, Xinhua News Agency’s website published a commentary stating that China is now publishing 3.5 million Bibles annually, making China one of the world’s top publishers of Bibles.

Since the Reform and Opening Up, China’s freedom of religion policies have been re-implemented. The Amity Council of the Chinese Christian Church Council and the United Bible Society established the Amity Printing Company, Ltd. in 1988. On November 8, 2010, Amity Printing Company held an event to celebrate the printing of 80 million Bibles, meaning that, at that time, China had already become one of the world’s largest publishers of Bibles. On November 8, 2012, Amity Printing Company published 100 million Bibles, and the director held a celebration. Also at that time, due to the Chinese Christian Church’s rapid development, there was still a great need for Bibles in Chinese churches.

Original article:中国已成全球发行圣经最多国家之一 需印刷更多释经类圣经

Photo source: United Bible Societies

China Opens its First Church for the Blind

4ccadb55dde1b1736a7e6548906d775fThis article, taken from the website kuanye, reports on the opening of a church for the blind in the city of Shenyang, in China’s northeastern Liaoning Province.

On September 21, 2012 Guangming Church, an affiliate of Shashan Church in Shenyang, officially opened China’s first church for the blind. Its vision is to establish a church aimed at serving the blind, a church without “blindness.”

Those invited to attend the church’s dedication ceremony included pastor Wu Mingfeng, chair and president of Shenyang’s Three Self Church and Chinese Christian Council, Pastor Lin of Shenyang’s Church for the Hearing and Speech Impaired and Brother Zhao, a representative of the Shenyang Society for the Blind. Additionally, members of the online blind community “The Light of God” as well as members of Shashan church were also on hand to participate in the event and experienced the unique love and compassion God has for the blind and thus light up the lives of the blind.

During the service Pastor Wu Mingfeng delivered a sermon in which he expressed congratulations on the founding of Guangming Church and gave glory to God. Pastor Wu also exhorted those in attendance that in whatever we do we must learn to first of all conduct ourselves rightly. As God has filled us with the Holy Spirit and truth, his desire is for us to become people set apart from the world. Furthermore, he stressed that in God we are more than equal to any task we may encounter.  Isaac did not suffer much because he was fully obedient before God. Therefore, we should grow in closeness to our Lord and in this way will surely inherit God’s blessings both spiritually and materially.

Pastor Lin of Shenyang’s Church for the Hearing and Speech Impaired said: “As a pastor working for the handicapped, I feel very honored to be here. It is obvious from the love and dedication of the pastors as well as the members of Shashan church that the blind community of Shenyang is truly blessed. I would also like to say a word to the handicapped brothers and sisters: The fact that our bodies have some flaws is not important. We have ears to listen, yet only when we open the ears of our hearts can we hear God’s word. Our physical deficiency is not an obstacle to following God, but rather a means that enables us to know God more deeply.” I am confident that the brothers and sisters of Guangming have already received the light of life. May Guangming become a blessing to Shenyang and all of China.”

The Shenyang Society for the Blind representative Brother Zhao also offered his congratulations in a speech saying: “The gospel has spread extensively among the blind community. Church services for the blind have grown from small meeting points to a Christian association, and now today they finally have their own church. During this process the diligence of pastors and laypersons alike has been evident as well as the continuous perseverance of the blind community. If a church has faith, there is nothing it cannot accomplish. Today is a perfect example. Love can be compared to a warm spring breeze, which blows open the closed heart. Love has reached out its hand of support and enabled all of us to move forward together. May the establishment of this church be a turning point helping all of us to love one another more.”

Today in Shashan Church God has lit the first fire. Through this fire, may He establish more churches for the blind and bring the light of the gospel into more lives within the blind community. May our Lord greatly bless Shashan’s Guangming Church for the Blind.

Original article (and image source): 中国第一间盲人礼拜堂在沈阳成立

How to Make the Church Chinese? Three Perspectives

The full title of this article is “How to Make the Church Chinese: Perspectives from the Religious, Academic, and Political Spheres” and is posted on the website of the China Christian Council/Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM). Originally published in the official China Nationalities News, it examines the question of how “Chinese” the church is in China. While most Chinese Christians would likely agree that today’s church is already Chinese both in character and leadership, many in the larger society have yet to acknowledge Christianity as genuinely a Chinese religion. The process of “Sinicization,” this writer argues, involves not only Christians themselves, but also China’s intellectual and political elites.

Since the article was published in a government newspaper, and has been re-posted on the CCC/TSPM site, it is obviously from an ‘official’ perspective. Articles like this provide an interesting window into Chinese political discourse, or what we in the west might call “politically correct” language. Whether one agrees or not, it is important to be familiar with this kind of discourse.

What does it mean for the church to be Chinese? Talking about this issue in the future tense is just a matter of opinion and will certainly result in different and uncertain views, some of which may even be ridiculous. But if we start from a historical point of view, the answer to this question becomes clearer. From specific experiences we can reach a general theory. Actually, since Christianity was brought to China and spread among Chinese people using the Chinese language, the process of the “Sincization” of Christianity has already begun. To continue this process, whether at present or in the future, we have to consider historical resources. More importantly, creating a truly Chinese church is by no means simply an issue for the Christian community. It has been in history and still now is a process that involves interaction between the Christian community, Chinese society and the Chinese government. Therefore, we must view this procedure from a religious, academic and political perspective.

First of all, the Christian community is naturally the protagonist for making the church Chinese. Ever since Christianity was introduced into China, but especially during the 20th century with internal and external difficulties pressing the country, a visionary group of Chinese believers and theologians started exploring the indigenization and localization of Christianity in China with the objective of making the church Chinese.  Among those people were earlier believers and theologians such as Yu Cuozhen, Zhang Yijing, Wu Leichuan, Zhao Zichen, Xie fuya. More recently, Wu Yaozong and Ding Guangxun have been engaged in this endeavor. In a broader view, western religious figures such as Miner Bates were also concerned about and explored this issue and tried to look for cultural and ideological resources in Chinese traditional culture to help the spread of Christianity. In fact, in addition to the theological discussion of making the Church Chinese, Chinese believers made many adaptations concerning doctrine, church services, organizational forms, worship music and church architecture. In some places, there was even a tendency to view Christianity as a Chinese folk religion. If we get a clear understanding of the thoughts and practices that have occurred in the process of making the church Chinese and measure their level and impact, Chinese believers will have a clearer understanding as to the ideal way of making the church Chinese, and where we are in this process and what efforts should we take now.

Secondly, non-Christian groups in China, especially the secular intellectuals are also crucial in the process of making the church Chinese. Ever since Christianity was introduced to China, Chinese intellectuals have been debating the issue of “Chinese vs. foreign.” First they were concerned with maintaining Confucian Orthodoxy and later criticized Christianity using science and Marxism. Sometimes, those debates and criticism contained the flavor of national justice and revolution. Similar examinations of criticisms of religion will not cease in the future. However, in the process of “east meeting west,” new religious beliefs were encountered and a growing number of Chinese intellectuals started to make misleading and exaggerated distortions concerning Christianity and its political influence among Chinese intellectuals. During the late Qing Dynasty, earlier envoys such as Zheng Jize and Xue Fucheng reflected on the traditional views held about Christianity after they witnessed the real condition overseas. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao tried to imitate the West by suggesting that Confucianism be declared the national religion. Zhang Zhidong wrote in China’s Only Hope that if national governance were to be successfully implemented, the Christian religion would be another religion in China just like Buddhism and Daoism and therefore it should not be attacked. Even when the anti-Christian movement was at its peak, intellectuals like Tian Han still advocated an objective view of Christianity. Nowadays, Chinese intellectuals should be even more rational about Christianity and play an active role in making Chinese culture more vigorous and diversified by pushing forward the process of making the Church Chinese.

Lastly, the political circle should also be an important force to promote the “Sinicization” of Christianity. From a historical point of view, very early on, especially after the Republican era, there was much cooperation between the church and the government on issues such as culture, education, medical care and the anti-Japanese struggle. Church-state relations generally moved in the direction of tension to relaxation. As the ruling party, the Communist Party explicitly pointed out in its religious policy that it would guide religions to adapt to a socialist society. In fact, since the government is the main institution responsible for the social adaptation of Christianity and leading the church to contribute to this adaptation, the government should play a guiding role in making the church Chinese. This includes, analyzing the history of church-state interactions and summarizing its gains and losses, keeping pace with the times and promoting an innovative system of providing political and policy support and an impetus for adapting Christianity to a socialist society.

In summary, the trend of making the church Chinese is an indisputable fact which also has been noticed by western scholars. Church history scholar Daniel Bays, who is devoted to the study of church history in China, has commented, “Among the post-western Christian countries, I think the Chinese church, rooted in its rich culture and history, will contribute a lot of new things to church history.” Perhaps in a way that is similar to what happened during the “Sincization” of Buddhism, the religious, academic and political powers will all play very important roles in the “Sinicization” of Christianity. However, it is doubtless that history will not simply repeat itself. In the age of globalization, with highly developed ideologies, cultures, science and technology and intricate domestic and international situations, the “Sinicization” of Christianity today will face new problems and more challenges.

2012-04-17《中国民族报》

Image source: Daily Travel Photos

Christianity in Guangdong – an Interview

This is the third section of an article on the “Fuyinmen” (Gospel Door) website titled “Christianity Brings Western Medicine to Guangdong Province.” The first two sections can be found in the previous two posts. In this third section, the reporter conducts an interview with Protestant church officials from Guangdong Province concerning the historical development of the Church in the province.

The Path of the Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement

Dialogue participants:

Guangdong Province Christian Three-self Patriotic Committee Chairperson Chen Shunpeng

Guangdong Province Christian Council Chairperson Pastor Ming Liang

Guangzhou City Christian Three-self Patriotic Committee Chairperson Pastor Hao Feng

Guangzhou City Christian Council Chairperson Pastor Enoch Chen

Reporter: In the history of the spread of Christianity, where does Guangdong fall?

Ming Liang: Guangdong was the first stop in the journey of Christianity entering China.  A lot of good things began in Guangdong. In the late Qing Dynasty, when North China was experiencing numerous wars, people were plunged into an abyss of misery. But in the South, people like Liu Kunyi and Zhang Zhidong initiated the “Southeast Mutual Protection Movement.” The positive impact of Christianity on South China was hardly touched. At the beginning of the 20th century, Christianity in Guangdong had already spread over a large area, extending north to the North River, south to Hainan, west towards to Yang River, and east towards the Swatow district. So, it could be said that Guangdong enjoyed great natural advantages.

Chen Shunpeng: From the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, many missionaries entered China. In Guangdong, the footprints of missionaries extended to every county. By 1919, there may have been more than 60,000 Christians; the Pearl River Delta and the West River Basin became the most dynamic areas of Protestant activities. Hakka churches were often seen at the Swatow region and East River – Mei River Basin.

Reporter: Several decades after Western religion entered China, some people with vision began an indigenous movement to contextualize it, hoping to integrate the church and Chinese culture. Can you tell us a little about this process?

Chen Shunpeng: In order to change the negative perception that the world had of Christianity, early on, in the 1820s and 1830s, Chinese Christians said they wanted to cast off their dependence on foreign countries and establish an indigenous Chinese church. Before the establishment of “New China,” Guangdong had 920 Protestant churches, spread throughout the entire province.

Ming Liang: In the 1950s, Guangdong Christians and Christians from the entire country started the “self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation movement,” which became known as the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement.” This marked a break-off of any relations with churches in other countries, causing Chinese Christians to cast off the negative aspects of “Western religion.” They created a church managed by Chinese Christians, and the unification of different denominations, thus truly becoming an independent, self-governing church.

Enoch Chen: Right after separating itself from overseas churches, the Chinese church mainly relied on property and donations from believers from before Liberation (in 1949) in order to maintain normal religious activities. Because of this, the scope of the church did wither a bit. In order to “digest” the extra pastors leftover from the withering of the church, the church opened a few farms and factories in order to provide them with a reliable source of income. These cannot compare with today.

Hao Feng: After the Cultural Revolution, with the beginning of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world, church activities gradually resumed. Guangzhou’s Dongshan Church was the first church in the province to resume religious services. In September 1986, the Guangdong Union Theological Seminary, which had been closed for many years, resumed operation within the Dongshan Church.

Reporter: How can Christianity help society become more harmonious?

Chen Shunpeng: In establishing a harmonious society, the main responsibility of church leaders and pastors is to unite the strength of the believers, solidify the hearts of the Christians, and lead them, unified, to serve the motherland and her people.

Ming Liang: The rise of Christianity does not only mean that the number of believers is increasing, but that their lives show forth the Source of Life in which they believe.  Only this kind of life can change other people, strengthen society, enrich culture, and enlighten the nation.

Source: Gospel Door

Image source: Travel China Guide