Chinese Christianity unique, says world church head

By staff writers
November 16, 2006

Chinese Christianity unique, says world church head

-16/11/06

The unique contribution of Chinese Christians to the ecumenical movement was highlighted yesterday in Shanghai by World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, at the beginning of a 15-22 November 2006 visit to China.

"Without the involvement of the Chinese church in the ecumenical movement and the WCC in particular, we would be a much poorer fellowship. This is because you represent something unique that is very much needed in the ecumenical movement today. As a post-denominational church, you are in a class of your own, and we want to learn more from you," Dr Kobia, who is aMethodist from Kenya, declared.

"In the past, the Chinese Church was called a foreign religion. Since the 1950s, however, we have adopted the 'three-self' principle of self-support, self-government and self-propagation. But this does not mean we want to be self-isolated" said the Rev Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council (CCC), in welcoming the WCC's delegation.

In his remarks, Dr Kobia praised the involvement of the Chinese church in the ecumenical movement long before the WCC was founded, recalling that the president of Nanjing Seminary, C. Y. Cheng, spoke at the epoch-making international Edinburgh mission conference in 1910. Also, one of the first WCC presidents elected in 1948 at the founding Amsterdam assembly was J. C. Chao.

"Though the Chinese culture is renowned for its ancient history, now when we think about Chinese Christians, we think about the future, because more and more Christians are realizing that if we are to live the prayer of Jesus Christ that all should be one, then we need to be post-denominational in character," he stated.

Presbyter Ji Jianhong, chairperson of the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, expressed appreciation for Kobia's "recognition of the Three-Self principle that characterizes the way Christians relate in China".

"It is not anything Chinese Christians found through their own abilities, but rather we believe this way of being in fellowship with one another was given to us as a gift of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is now for us to be obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we go forward together, working towards the unity which is the gift of being one in Christ while also recognizing our diversity," Ji Jianhong said.

Thirty-five distinguished leaders and staff of the CCC and the TSPM participated at the festive reception and dinner offered to the WCC delegation by the CCC and the TSPM at their new headquarters at the historic "Red Brick" Holy Trinity Church on Shanghai's Jinjiang Road.

Official Catholic and Protestant churches are recognised by the government in China, but as separate religions. There are also many thousands of unregistered churches.

The Chinese government has moved to a position of welcoming the moral contribution of religions to a fast-growing and often economically ruthless society. But it often clamps down hard on 'unofficial' religious expression.

As with the recent visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, the WCC will be under pressure to ensure that it raises appropriate concerns about religious freedom and civic rights, as well as affirming the work of CCC churches.

Chinese Christianity unique, says world church head

-16/11/06

The unique contribution of Chinese Christians to the ecumenical movement was highlighted yesterday in Shanghai by World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, at the beginning of a 15-22 November 2006 visit to China.

"Without the involvement of the Chinese church in the ecumenical movement and the WCC in particular, we would be a much poorer fellowship. This is because you represent something unique that is very much needed in the ecumenical movement today. As a post-denominational church, you are in a class of your own, and we want to learn more from you," Dr Kobia, who is aMethodist from Kenya, declared.

"In the past, the Chinese Church was called a foreign religion. Since the 1950s, however, we have adopted the 'three-self' principle of self-support, self-government and self-propagation. But this does not mean we want to be self-isolated" said the Rev Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council (CCC), in welcoming the WCC's delegation.

In his remarks, Dr Kobia praised the involvement of the Chinese church in the ecumenical movement long before the WCC was founded, recalling that the president of Nanjing Seminary, C. Y. Cheng, spoke at the epoch-making international Edinburgh mission conference in 1910. Also, one of the first WCC presidents elected in 1948 at the founding Amsterdam assembly was J. C. Chao.

"Though the Chinese culture is renowned for its ancient history, now when we think about Chinese Christians, we think about the future, because more and more Christians are realizing that if we are to live the prayer of Jesus Christ that all should be one, then we need to be post-denominational in character," he stated.

Presbyter Ji Jianhong, chairperson of the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, expressed appreciation for Kobia's "recognition of the Three-Self principle that characterizes the way Christians relate in China".

"It is not anything Chinese Christians found through their own abilities, but rather we believe this way of being in fellowship with one another was given to us as a gift of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is now for us to be obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we go forward together, working towards the unity which is the gift of being one in Christ while also recognizing our diversity," Ji Jianhong said.

Thirty-five distinguished leaders and staff of the CCC and the TSPM participated at the festive reception and dinner offered to the WCC delegation by the CCC and the TSPM at their new headquarters at the historic "Red Brick" Holy Trinity Church on Shanghai's Jinjiang Road.

Official Catholic and Protestant churches are recognised by the government in China, but as separate religions. There are also many thousands of unregistered churches.

The Chinese government has moved to a position of welcoming the moral contribution of religions to a fast-growing and often economically ruthless society. But it often clamps down hard on 'unofficial' religious expression.

As with the recent visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, the WCC will be under pressure to ensure that it raises appropriate concerns about religious freedom and civic rights, as well as affirming the work of CCC churches.

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