Chinese Church Voices

Christianity in Guangdong – an Interview

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This is the third section of an article on the "Fuyinmen" (Gospel Door) website titled "Christianity Brings Western Medicine to Guangdong Province." The first two sections can be found in the previous two posts. In this third section, the reporter conducts an interview with Protestant church officials from Guangdong Province concerning the historical development of the Church in the province.

The Path of the Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement

Dialogue participants:

Guangdong Province Christian Three-self Patriotic Committee Chairperson Chen Shunpeng

Guangdong Province Christian Council Chairperson Pastor Ming Liang

Guangzhou City Christian Three-self Patriotic Committee Chairperson Pastor Hao Feng

Guangzhou City Christian Council Chairperson Pastor Enoch Chen

Reporter: In the history of the spread of Christianity, where does Guangdong fall?

Ming Liang: Guangdong was the first stop in the journey of Christianity entering China. A lot of good things began in Guangdong. In the late Qing Dynasty, when North China was experiencing numerous wars, people were plunged into an abyss of misery. But in the South, people like Liu Kunyi and Zhang Zhidong initiated the "Southeast Mutual Protection Movement." The positive impact of Christianity on South China was hardly touched. At the beginning of the 20th century, Christianity in Guangdong had already spread over a large area, extending north to the North River, south to Hainan, west towards to Yang River, and east towards the Swatow district. So, it could be said that Guangdong enjoyed great natural advantages.

Chen Shunpeng: From the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, many missionaries entered China. In Guangdong, the footprints of missionaries extended to every county. By 1919, there may have been more than 60,000 Christians; the Pearl River Delta and the West River Basin became the most dynamic areas of Protestant activities. Hakka churches were often seen at the Swatow region and East River – Mei River Basin.

Reporter: Several decades after Western religion entered China, some people with vision began an indigenous movement to contextualize it, hoping to integrate the church and Chinese culture. Can you tell us a little about this process?

Chen Shunpeng: In order to change the negative perception that the world had of Christianity, early on, in the 1820s and 1830s, Chinese Christians said they wanted to cast off their dependence on foreign countries and establish an indigenous Chinese church. Before the establishment of "New China," Guangdong had 920 Protestant churches, spread throughout the entire province.

Ming Liang: In the 1950s, Guangdong Christians and Christians from the entire country started the "self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation movement, which became known as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement." This marked a break-off of any relations with churches in other countries, causing Chinese Christians to cast off the negative aspects of "Western religion." They created a church managed by Chinese Christians, and the unification of different denominations, thus truly becoming an independent, self-governing church.

Enoch Chen: Right after separating itself from overseas churches, the Chinese church mainly relied on property and donations from believers from before Liberation (in 1949) in order to maintain normal religious activities. Because of this, the scope of the church did wither a bit. In order to "digest" the extra pastors leftover from the withering of the church, the church opened a few farms and factories in order to provide them with a reliable source of income. These cannot compare with today.

Hao Feng: After the Cultural Revolution, with the beginning of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world, church activities gradually resumed. Guangzhou's Dongshan Church was the first church in the province to resume religious services. In September 1986, the Guangdong Union Theological Seminary, which had been closed for many years, resumed operation within the Dongshan Church.Reporter: How can Christianity help society become more harmonious?

Chen Shunpeng: In establishing a harmonious society, the main responsibility of church leaders and pastors is to unite the strength of the believers, solidify the hearts of the Christians, and lead them, unified, to serve the motherland and her people.

Ming Liang: The rise of Christianity does not only mean that the number of believers is increasing, but that their lives show forth the Source of Life in which they believe. Only this kind of life can change other people, strengthen society, enrich culture, and enlighten the nation.

Source: Gospel Door

Image source: by Toto Lee, via Flickr

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