It’s time for our annual look back at the most popular posts on our From the West Courtyard blog in 2016. Here is what you, our readers, particularly liked this past year:
Common sense would tell us that what stands at the core of Christianity is its theology, polity, and mission. But when we come to Christianity in China, it is Chinese Christianity’s social impact and its implications for issues such as human rights and China’s international relations, rather than its pastoral and theological developments and challenges, that have received disproportionately large attention in the Western press in the recent decades.
“Christians from around the world have met critical needs during a period of rapid growth and social transformation. Although few would argue that the foreign believer is no longer needed, the particular skills and characteristics desired today may be very different from past decades.”
After three years of wondering where Xi stands on the issue of religion, people of faith in China now have at least some sense of the Party’s current position. The specific implications, particularly for China’s Christians, remain to be seen but will likely take shape as these directives find their way into new regulations and possibly a new law on religion in the coming year.
On September 8, 2016, things came into sharper focus when the State Council released a deliberative draft of the new Regulations on Religious Affairs. Not an entirely new document, it is essentially a revision of the previous set of regulations last updated in 2005.
The regulations contain detailed mechanisms for registration, finances, oversight, and reporting, all of which will need to be implemented by the Ministry of Public Security and other government organs between now and the end of the year.
Enjoy your time in China. And remember that God has long been at work here in China—he did not just arrive with us but he can use us here.
If these measures were to be approved and implemented they have the potential impact of alienating China's sizeable Protestant Christian community, while also alienating millions of other religious believers in China.
These internal changes will affect the community’s response to the external ones. In what may appear to be an era of diminishing space for involvement and diminishing resources, much creativity is needed to discern the new opportunities inherent in this emerging environment.
It is revisions to this third document that are now being considered. Will the revised version be adopted? And if so, what will the impact be?
Since the Chinese church seems to have achieved, in large measure, the three-self ideal in terms of support, governance, and propagation, is Western input, by definition, no longer necessary? Since the Chinese church has seen its most dramatic growth in the absence of Western cross-cultural workers, it is hard to argue against that conclusion.
Clearly the changing legal environment in China, particularly as it relates to foreign workers and the local church is top-of-mind for you. As we move into a new year where we will see the implementation of these new laws and regulations, we will work hard to keep you informed.