China Church Heads Boast of Bible Ministry Growth

ATLANTA – Two of the top officials of the China Christian Council (CCC) gave keynote addresses at the Regional Council of Churches of Atlanta’s (RCCATL) annual prayer breakfast on Saturday, proudly explaining the great developments and expansion of China’s Bible Ministry.

Held across the street from the Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Church in China, the prayer breakfast at the Cathedral of St Philip drew some 250 people, mainly from the surrounding areas, for a “hearty southern breakfast” followed by a keynote address by CCC’s president, the Rev. Cao Shengjie.

“In 2006 we have printed 40 million copies of the Bible. We just thank God for that. It’s not just Bible in Union version but Bible in other minority languages,” said Cao. “We have brought minorities and they will sing hymns. I introduce the exhibition and invite you to come to the exhibition.”

Cao’s speech followed that of the Rev. Shen Cheng En, CCC’s current vice president and the executive secretary of the first Bible printing commission in China formed in March 1980. Shen recalled how the commission had resumed Bible printing after the sensitive period following the Cultural Revolution.

“The main theme of the [first Three-Self Patriotic Movement meeting of the Standing Committee] was rehabilitation of the church work, reopening the churches and reopening of the seminary. The participants of the meeting focused on the reprinting of the Bible,” said Shen.

Shen noted that the commission decided to print 50,000 copies of the Scripture during the first reprinting and set apart 10,000 of the 50,000 copies for the New Testament only. The explanation being that the New Testament will take “much less time” to print and at the same time more people can receive the Bible with the same amount of paper.

“In October 1980, during the second meeting of the Standing Committee, all the delegates received a copy of the Bible as souvenirs. Many of them broke into tears,” Shen recalled.

Furthermore, the CCC vice president noted that Bibles were first published in traditional Chinese which the young people could not read. The commission had to “start from zero” as they prepared for the new edition of the Bible written in simplified Chinese with modern punctuation and written horizontally. Translation and printing of the modern version Bibles was done with the help of churches in Shanghai and the United Bible Societies (UBS) Asia-Pacific Region.

Following Shen’s explanation of the history of Bible printing in China, the CCC president stepped up to the podium.

Cao, a third–generation Chinese Christian, spoke about the current developments of Bible Ministry in China.

“Since 1979, the church has reopened. Now we enjoy religious freedom and more and more new churches are built,” said Cao. She cited statistics to support the statement, saying that there are more than 16 million Protestant Christians in China, over 55,000 Christian churches and meeting places, 18 seminaries, and the largest church has 5,000-seat capacity.

“The church is growing very fast in China and more young people are willing to come to church,” said Cao. “The church that I serve in Shanghai, each year we get 200-300 baptisms.”

Cao said the reason for the growth is God’s grace and the success of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement – the government-recognized “patriotic” Christian organization founded in 1954. “Three-Self” churches uphold the principle of self-governance, self-support and self-propagation of the Gospel.

“The essence of that is to build a real Chinese church. At this moment, no one will say you are a foreign church, but we are a church in China that is run by Chinese Christians,” said Cao. The CCC president said that before many Chinese had viewed Christianity as a western religion run by foreign missionaries.

Cao joyfully highlighted that presently many people in China are beginning to realize that religion can “help people do good,” although most Chinese know nothing about Christianity. She also added that Christian witness is therefore very important.

She also noted that there is no denomination in China and although there are still differences in style of worship, interpretation of the Bible, and ways of baptism and communion, for example.

“We have the principle: seeking the common ground and keeping the differences,” said Cao. “We have common ground that we are all Christians, children of God and we are under one baptism. But still we do have differences. So we must respect each other.”

Many evangelicals have criticized the CCC and TSPM for misleading people in the West with reports such as Cao’s and Shen’s, believing that some millions of house church Christians are under persecution. Some have even refused to recognize CCC/TSPM as part of the Christian body because it is allegedly used by the Chinese Communist Party to control religious affairs for its political agenda.

Furthermore, reports claim that the State does not only interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, but in some parts of China, government officials continue to control, monitor and restrain the activities of all religious communities including “house church” Protestants and “underground” Roman Catholics. Moreover, prominent religious leaders and adherents alike continue to suffer from confinement, torture, disappearances, imprisonment, and subjection to other forms of ill treatment due to their religious beliefs, according to a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

On May 3, USCIRF again recommended to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that China be designated as a country of particular concern (CPC) – a status given to countries for ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

Since 1999, the Commission has recommended China to be designated as a CPC.

China is also listed on Open Doors World’s Watch List as number ten for worst Christian persecution along with countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.