Here's the description from the website:
LEAP is a unique enrichment program designed to give religious leaders in the United States access to Chinese religious sites, leaders, and universities through a study tour program. LEAP also includes the opportunity for the participants to invite religious leaders from China to visit their communities or institutions on a return exchange. LEAP will offer two tours in 2015, one in the Spring for 10 persons, and another in the Fall for 10 persons.
Recently I contacted Dr. Fenggang Yang, the Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society by email to ask him for a bit more information about this program and what he's hoping to see accomplished.
CS: What is the rationale for having pastors come to China.
Dr. Yang: First, China's economy has grown to be the second largest in the world and China's GDP is likely to supersede US GDP around 2020. The number of economic exchanges between the US and China has greatly increased and many individuals and communities have been involved in the economic exchanges already. Christian leaders need to be equipped to speak meaningfully to their congregants who have had this economic frontier experiences.
Second, Chinese transnational businesses and migrant communities have increased in the US. Students from China comprise the largest international student body at many universities. American Christian leaders need to be better equipped for their ministries to these people as well.
Third, Christianity has been growing fast in China. If the growth continues at the current rate, China will become the largest Christian country in the world very soon. It would be enriching for American Christian leaders to learn about the experiences of Chinese Christians thriving as a religious minority under various restrictions. At the same time, Chinese Christian leaders need to learn from American Christian experiences as they are taking up more and more social and public responsibilities. The LEAP is for two-way exchange and mutual enrichment of American and Chinese religious leaders.
CS: How might relations between churches in US and in China, as well as perceptions of China among US Christians, be affected?
Dr. Yang: The LEAP is designed for exchanges between American and Chinese religious leaders at the grassroots level. Learning about the day-to-day life and social experiences in their local communities will help the participating leaders better understand the societies in the globalizing world, learn from each other's experiences and lessons in facing the challenges, and build bridges for possible collaborations for their ministries.
Through these efforts, we hope the LEAP will encourage, support and strengthen religious leaders in their capacities for excellence in ministry in a globalized world. This would help congregations be vibrant and well informed communities of faith, and strengthen the contributions that religious ideas, practices, values, and institutions make to the common good of our society.
Related article: Q. and A.: Yang Fenggang on the 'Oxford Consensus' and Public Trust in China (October 18, 2014, The New York Times Sinosphere Blog)
Photo Credit: Purdue University
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio