Top 10 Christian News Stories in China in 2016

China Christian Daily recently posted a list of the most popular news stories from the China Christian Times. Some may be surprising.

China Christian Daily's Top 10 News Stories about Christians and Christianity in China, and 2016 Year in Review

10. Public Church: New Churches Dedicated across China

Numerous new churches were opened and dedicated across China, including what is said to be China’s largest church in Dating, NE China. Twenty-nine new churches were dedicated in other places such as Shenzhen, Henan, Jiangsu, Shenyang, Guangxi, and Fujian. However, cultural conflict still exists between Christianity and local traditional culture. In Qufu, Shandong, the hometown of Confucius and the birthplace of Confucianism, some believe that since it is a “holy city” for Chinese people, building a church there would be a rewriting of history. Thus, there has been opposition to building a church there. Those in opposition are concerned about Chinese cultural sovereignty and wealth.

9. Religious Law: State Council Issues Draft Revision to Regulations on Religious Affairs.

Much was written in September about the draft revision to the Regulations on Religious Affairs, the main policy document that spells out how religion is to be managed in China. The new revised draft has more than 9600 characters and the contents consist of nine parts: general provisions, religious bodies, religious schools and universities, sites for religious activities, religious personnel, religious property, legal liability, and supplementary provisions. In response to the published revisions, many religious leaders posted their suggestions.

8. Overseas connections: Over 100 pastors participated in GProCongress—Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers.

The Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers (The GProCongress) was held in Bangkok from June 16 to 22. It was attended by 3000 local pastors, 112 pastors from other countries, and 100 pastors from China. Several representatives of the Chinese church gave speeches in an evening plenary on June 21. Rev. Zhang Heng from Beijing spoke first, saying that the number of Chinese Christians has grown from 700,000 to over a hundred million in the past 60 years. Meanwhile, he said, China is facing numerous challenges. These include churches going public and mission training. He called for international prayer for the church in China. 

7. Discussions on the Role of Christianity in China’s Urbanization. 

China's rapid urbanization has brought about economic growth as well as scientific and technological progress. However, a series of conflicts and social problems have arisen during this process. These include the destruction of the environment, the lack of personal beliefs, and the collapse of traditional values. This has led to discussions about the role of Christianity in China’s urbanization.

6. A Dilemma: the Rural Churches and Seminary Graduates

The rural church is an important issue in Chinese Christianity. Urbanization has led to the planting of more churches in Chinese cities. However, most churches in China are still in rural areas. We cannot afford to ignore the needs of the believers in these churches. More people migrating to the cities means fewer people in the rural areas. This means fewer members in rural churches. There is a need—a shortage of pastors. But those who go out for seminary training are often rejected when they return. This is the great dilemma that both the rural church and seminary graduates are facing.

5. Among Christians: Big Debates Show Doctrinal Tension among Chinese Christians.

Mel Gibson’s latest film Hacksaw Ridge has not only been popular among Chinese Christians; it has also triggered a debate. The bone of contention centers around the non-orthodox beliefs of the character Desmond Doss. There is praise and criticism; there are discussions of theology and ethics. One We-Chat commentator noted that “the debate shows that Chinese Christians are increasingly engaged in wide-ranging and in-depth discussions of public issues.” Those in the Reformed tradition insist that faith must be in alignment with doctrine. Those in the evangelical tradition stress the importance of living out Jesus’ love to God and to people. These are the two main sides of the debate, showing the tension between Christians of these two theological dimensions in China.

4. “So simple minded to be deceived.” Analysis and Reflection of False Testimony

The story of Canaan Xiu publicly confessing his lie about "evangelizing former Premier Wen Jiabao" was a difficult story for those who are simple-minded and love testimonies. In response, a CCD contributor wrote an article titled “Why Are Chinese Christians So Easily Deceived?” He wrote that “the spread of false testimonies has brought shame upon the church and ruined the reputation of Christians. Many non-Christians now believe that telling lies is a common characteristic of Christians. The false testimony also prevented people from believing God. This is something we should think about. We also owe those kind people an apology.”

3. Discussions on the Great Leap Forward of Evangelism of China

Along with economic development, the rising power of churches in China has given rise to the idea that China will be a large missionary-sending nation. Churches outside of China look forward to Chinese churches taking on more responsibility, and some domestic churches have adopted global missions as a central task. Are churches in China ready for all of this?

2. Religious Crowdfunding by Non-Religious Groups to Be Banned on WeChat

WeChat, China's most used messaging app announced in late December that the official accounts of non-religious groups or unregistered religious venues for religious activities will be prohibited from launching any religious crowd-funding activities.  This ban grew out of a public issue where a middle-class father, who claimed to be a Christian, started a crowd-funding campaign for his 5-year old daughter that became a hot topic among both Christians and non-Christians. Luo Er, a former Editor-in-Chief of a lifestyle magazine in Shenzhen, Guangdong, posted an article with the title "Jesus, Stop Forcing Me to Be Your Enemy" on Sept. 13, 2016, expressing sorrow about his beloved 5-year-old daughter's leukemia. This heart-breaking post went viral among believers and even non-believers after a marketing company helped promote the article. In a matter of days, it was forwarded millions of times and garnered more than two million yuan in donations.  The public issue stirred up trouble because Christians who were embroiled in the discussion for the journal talked about Jesus and the Bible. 

1. Seminars and Discussions on “Sinicization of Christianity”

The International Seminar on "Sinicization of Christianity in China" was held in Beijing on Nov. 20th, 2015. The seminar was sponsored by the World Religion Research Institution of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Chinese Religion Society, the CCC/TSPM of Beijing, and the Christianity Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Original article: 基督时报•2016中国基督教十大新闻 (Christian Times)
Translation by China Christian Daily (edited and reposted with permission)

Image credit: Zhu Shi Kou Christian Church, Beijing, China, by V.T. Polywoda, via Flickr