WARC Head Visits Leaders of China’s Gov’t Recognized Churches

World Alliance of Reformed Churches Head Meets with leaders from China's government-recognized churches

The general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) met with leaders from China’s government-recognized church bodies during a five-day trip last week.

While visiting church leaders in the China Christian Council and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement on Apr. 22-27, the Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi spoke out in support of ecumenism, denouncing any denominationalism that hampers Christian unity.

“For the past 25 years the Chinese church has been striving to proclaim the gospel to its own people in a way that is meaningful to their setting and therefore both culturally and theologically relevant,” said Nyomi following his return.

“I was very touched by their sense of commitment and perseverance and their joy in the midst of struggle,” he added.

Nyomi said discussions with CCC President Rev. Cao Shengjie concerning WARC and its relations with the Chinese church were fruitful. He also said he was impressed by the leadership the president offered the church in China and by the social outreach of his church.

In a statement delivered by Nyomi at the Jinling Union Theological Seminary at Nanjing, the general secretary reflected on the post-denominational mindset of the China Christian Council, stating that the placing of exclusive value on a particular tradition at the expense of Christian unity is contrary to Reformed thinking.

“Any Reformed or Presbyterian church which exists to only promote its exclusive identity as an end in itself and is not aspiring to do anything, including crossing 10 seas, to promote Christian unity, is living in opposition to God’s word and to Reformed ethos,” Nyomi stated.

“These are not activities one can engage in with integrity if one is focused on exclusive denominationalism. Churches, even if they are identified with particular denominations, can be effective only if they move beyond the ideological confines of denominationalism and simply respond to their calling,” he added.

According to the International Religious Freedom Report released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of State, some groups disagree with the CCC/TSPM teachings that all Protestant beliefs are compatible and that differences between Protestant denominations are irrelevant.

Because of their theological differences with the CCC/TSPM, many unregistered evangelical Protestant groups refuse to affiliate with the them despite the fact that nearly all local officials of China’s Religious Affairs Bureaus (RAB) require Protestant churches to affiliate with the CCC/TSPM.

Several groups have also accused the CCC/TSPM of placing restrictions on the believers’ expression of faith and their participation in worship within the open churches. According to a report by the U.S. Center for World Mission, the government-recognized church bodies seek to control church life, worship, and, most importantly, witness in an attempt to fulfill the mandate given them by the Communist Party to organize and safeguard “normal religious activities.”

This mandate appeared in 1982 as part of a policy statement on religion known as Communist Party Document 19.