Put Down Roots and Build, Strengthen Ourselves, Move with the Times and Run the Church Well Work Report of the 7th National Christian Conference
Presented by Cao Shengjie
At the request of the 6th TSPM Standing Committee and the 4th CCC Standing Committee, this work report is submitted for consideration.
We, delegates from Protestant churches all over China, are joyfully gathered here in Beijing today. We are grateful for the past five years, for China's modernization and the return of Hong Kong and Macau to the motherland, for Beijing's successful bid to host the (2008) Olympics, for China's entry into the WTO, and with it, the first rank of nations. At the same time, we offer heartfelt praise to God for the fact that the Chinese Church, greatly blessed in Christ, is the recipient of deep love from God and the people.
In these five years, tremendous changes have taken place in the international arena, politics has become multipolar and the economy global, yet peace and development remain the themes of the times. Since 9/11 especially, the revulsion of people of every nation toward terrorism has been expressed in a demand for world peace.
During the past five years, with an exalted sense of responsibility and mission for China, Chinese Christians have joined with their fellow citizens in the task of modernization. In 1998, when China experienced unprecedented floods, we Chinese Christians joined with our compatriots to write a heroic chapter in our history. Among the delegates to our
Conference today are outstanding educators who focus on the moral formation of students, scientists who contribute to technological progress in China, and performers who make the glories of Chinese music known overseas. 1 he words and actions of Chinese Christians illustrate that we have been profoundly encouraged by the "three represents" of General Secretary Jiang Zemin, have actively echoed their strategy of "rule by virtue" and have contributed our strength to the wealth and prosperity of our nation.
Today, we are pleased by the high level of attention given to religious work by the Party and government. In an important statement at the national Party conference on religious work in December 2001, Secretary Jiang emphasized that religious work was related to promotion of the two civilizations, to strengthening ethnic unity, maintaining social stability and safeguarding the great enterprise of national security and unity. The statement supported religious circles in mobilizing all internal positive factors to serve the development and stability of society, redoubling encouragement for Chinese Christians and engendering a deep sense that they bear an important responsibility.
In these five years, the Chinese Church has been blessed by God with the prayers and hard work of colleagues and fellow Christians at every level of the TSPM and CCC. We have achieved solid results in promoting theological reconstruction and in every aspect of our work. Here, we send personal greetings in the Lord to all co-workers and believers in China and express our sincere gratitude to leaders at all levels and persons in every sector of society who have supported and helped us. At this time we remember especially those who have gone to rest from their labors in the Lord during these past five years: advisors to the TSPM and CCC Wang Shengyin and Ren Zhongxiang; Vice-Chair of the TSPM Li Shoubao; Vice-President of the CCC Cai Yuesheng; members of the Standing Committees of the TSPM and CCC Yang Taihua, Cheng Buyun, Xiong Boxiang, Cao Guanghua, Zheng Zhengguang; committee members of the TSPM and CCC Chen Dexin, Liu Baozhu, Long Kaihua and Hong Tiande. May God establish the work of their hands.
Looking back, we see that God's blessing and promise has been ever present with the Church in China. In what follows, I will report briefly on the work of the TSPM and CCC, and raise some requests and suggestions for that work in future.
1 Carry Out the Work before Us; Work as One to Run the Church Well
The 6th National Christian Council summed up the intent expressed by "run the Church well according to the three-self principle" as "four needs." These were: 1) The need to persist in maintaining our independence and keeping the initiative in our own hands; 2) The need for patriotic education; 3) The need to work hard to increase unity; and 4) The need to vigorously carry out the "three wells." And on the basis of carrying out these "four needs," "ten tasks" were formulated. Chief among these ten tasks were "strengthening the efforts of Christian Councils and Three-Self Committees at all levels to build themselves up," and "strengthening theological education and the development of theological thinking (theological reconstruction)." To this end, this TSPM/CCC summarized the experience of the TSPM on its 50th anniversary and made this, along with the active promotion of theological reconstruction, its point of entry in promoting construction and development of the Chinese Church.
1 Fifty years of TSPM experience points the way for the Chinese Church.
On September 23, 2000 the TSPM/CCC opened a meeting in Beijing to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the TSPM. The two national bodies had prepared thoroughly for this meeting, clearly and conscientiously taking stock of the historical practice of the Chinese Christian TSPM over these 50 years. It was a significant work of connecting the present with what had gone before. In December 2002, the first "Seminar on the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Chinese Protestant Churches," held in Shanghai, looked back on and affirmed the movement at its beginnings: its exposure of the relationship of the western missionary movement with the imperialist aggressors, raising the anti-imperialist patriotic consciousness of the mass of Christians, and promoting the three-self path of self-government, self-support and self-propagation-the unshakable foundation stone of the TSPM. This common recognition laid the foundation for summing up the fruits and experience of the TSPM over 50 years. Celebratory activities were initiated by all Three-Self Committees and Christian Councils, 196 manuscripts were submitted by co-workers and believers taking part in a call for papers to mark the anniversary. With the passage by the Third Plenary of the Joint Standing Committees of this NCCC and a reading to the meeting of Love Country Love Church: Toward the New Century with One Heart 50 Years of the TSPM (hereafter: 50 Years), the 50 years of the TSPM were divided into three periods, and it was specially pointed out that, following the Second Plenary of the Joint Standing Committees of this NCCC (hereafter "the Jinan Meeting"), the TSPM had entered a new period of theological reconstruction.
In the course of the TSPM's 50-year history, we have become aware that: the core of the movement is to gain and protect the independence of the Chinese Church; the foundation of the TSPM is love country, love church; the guarantee of the TSPM is to increase unity and uphold the principle of mutual respect in matters of faith; and the goal of the TSPM is to run the church well. The active development and promotion of theological reconstruction is a deepening of the TSPM. The 50 Years report included a careful and detailed examination and consideration of the history of the TSPM and is an important document of both historical and current import. Taking history as its reference, it opens up the future, pointing the direction for the ongoing development of Chinese Christianity.
The Meeting to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the TSPM garnered the attention of all sectors in society. Members of the Standing Committee of the Political Department of the Party Central Committee and Chair of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Li Ruihuan attended and met with delegates. The Vice-Chair of the CPPCC and Head of the United Front Department Wang Zhaoguo gave a major speech at the plenary on behalf of the Party Central Committee and the State Council. Department Head Wang and Ye Xiaowen, Head of the Religious Affairs Bureau, in their remarks to the Third Plenary of this NCCC, both heartily affirmed the Chinese Christian policy of upholding its independence and self-government, as set out in 50 Years, and noted their belief that the TSPM was an example of the successful practice of the spirit of patriotism in the realm of Chinese Christianity.
2 Strive to Implement the Resolution of the Jinan Meeting: Promote Theological Reconstruction.
At the Jinan Meeting, the TSPM/CCC resolved to "Strengthen Theological Reconstruction." Following the meeting, with Bishop K.H. Ting's support, a Commission to Promote Theological Reconstruction was set up. The task of this Commission was to emphasize the unity of Chinese Christianity past and present, communicate the necessity of theological reconstruction, study the goals, principles, process and the formation of a common understanding of theological reconstruction and send personnel from the national levels of CCC and TSPM to take part in seminars and discussion of promotional methods conducted at the provincial and directly administered municipality level. The national TSPM and CCC have set up Study Seminars on Love Never Ends, Study Seminars on The Bible in Chinese Christianity and so on; have published five specialized compilations including On Theological Reconstruction (based on Love Never Ends), as well as a Chinese Christian Theological Reconstruction series, aimed at giving the work of theological reconstruction a solid impetus. The Commission on Women's Work and that on Rural Churches have also held seminars on the topic.
According to statistics, 26 provincial, autonomous region and directly-administered municipality level Three-Self Committees and Christian Councils have undertaken various types of study activities related to theological reconstruction. Some have published special pamphlets, some have held sessions to explain and communicate the idea in city and county churches. The recognition of the necessity for theological reconstruction on the part of the majority of pastoral workers taking part has been raised, their self-awareness is gradually increasing and there has been some positive response among young and middle-aged co-workers. Theological reconstruction has also garnered the support and commendation of intellectuals sympathetic to Christianity but outside the church. Some scholars feel theological reconstruction is "a high level expression of Chinese Christianity's adaptation to modern Chinese society."
It should be noted that the promotion of theological reconstruction is not equally developed throughout the Church. In some provinces, autonomous regions and directly administered municipalities, the response has been slower. There are several main reasons for this. Some leading church personnel are content with the current growth rate of the number of believers, and the development of the church's ministry, and are unable to promptly recognize the significance of theological reconstruction; some are unclear as to where to begin in joining this new work; and some still have a mental block and hesitate. To deal with these situations, the TSPM/CCC invited provincial level CC and TSM leaders to take part in a Study Session on the Work of Promoting Chinese Christian Theological Reconstruction. Through study, good results were achieved in terms of overall understanding and methods of promoting theological reconstruction.
3 Continue to expand overseas exchanges while protecting the nation's sovereignty and interests.
Statistics show that from 1997 to the end of 2001, the CCC national office received 261 groups, a total of 3,301 persons, from churches and individuals from various countries and regions. One-hundred-twelve visiting delegations were sent out from our Church, for a total of 295 persons, in order to strengthen friendship with the church worldwide.
In these five years, the international political situation has changed dramatically. In overseas relationships, the national offices have stressed beginning with national interests, advocating justice, calling for peace and actively introducing the situation of religious freedom which Chinese Christians enjoy. In 1998, for example, persons from American religious circles visited China at Jiang Zemin's invitation and the TSPM/CCC took part in receiving them, enabling American people and Christians to better understand the real situation of Chinese Christians. In 2000, CCC President Wenzao Han and Vice-President Cao Shengjie represented Chinese Christians in a delegation of Chinese religious leaders at the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the UN in New York, where they expressed the desire for peace of Chinese Christians and the efforts they have made towards it, while at the same time criticizing the attacks on religious issues in China by anti-China forces in the West.
In September 2000, the CCC/TSPM published the timely "Declaration against the Vatican's History-Distorting Canonization of So-called 'Saints"' in response to the warping of history and the despicable actions of the Vatican in this act of canonization. In response to wanton western defilement of China's human rights using Falun Gong as a pretext, in 2001, leading personnel of the TSPM/CCC led multiple delegations to the US, Switzerland, etc., meeting widely with overseas church people and organizations to clarify the facts. In April 2001, the CCC/TSPM published an Open Letter on Falun Gong, and some co-workers took part in activities of the Anti-Heresy Association, aimed at western anti-China forces using religion and human rights issues to attack China. In July 2001, the Statement on Taiwan was published, expressing Chinese Christians' firm opposition to Taiwan independence and their strong desire for national unity.
4 Begin concrete work on the "ten tasks."
For five years, the national offices have been strengthening ties with local TSMs and CCs and aiding in the practical solution of problems. Since 1997, for example, the national TSPM and CCC have organized Seminars in Self-Propagation; Workshops in Strengthening Self-Construction; Symposium on Work for Provincial TSM/CC Leadership; etc. Leaders of the TSPM/CCC have also visited local churches throughout the country and held symposiums with provincial level secretaries-general and general secretaries in the eastern, northern and western parts of the country respectively to share about work in those places and to promote theological reconstruction.
The 12 Commissions set up by the outgoing TSPM/ CCC have also initiated a good deal of work. The Commission to Promote Self-Support, in the course of managing the Fund for Church Construction Aid, has conscientiously set up methods of dispersal and operating rules, stressing support of churches in poverty-stricken areas in the central and western areas and in ethnic minority areas. According to statistics, at the end of 2001 , this Fund had contributed funds and materials to churches in the amount of 678.5 million yuan to 119 churches and meeting points in 18 provinces. Adding stipends given to 599 seminary graduates and emergency aid, the total expenditure comes to 833.882 million yuan. The Commission on Rural Churches, based on a survey of lay training classes at the grass roots, revised the Draft Curriculum for Lay Church Worker Training, as well as holding a Symposium on Lay Training Classes in the Chinese Church in 1998 with targeted discussion on how to improve this training in rural churches.
In the past five years, the TSPM/CCC, has supported the efforts of local churches in their own upbuilding, and used a variety of methods for training personnel suitable for the church in these times. In 2001, the TSPM/CCC commissioned Nanjing Union Theological Seminary to run the first two-year Continuing Education Classes for Chinese Pastors. Thirty young and middle-aged co-workers from provincial and municipal churches were enrolled in the course, whose aim is the practical and theoretical formation of pastors who will be the mainstay of the Chinese Church. The Commission on Theological Education has also held sharing sessions on hermeneutics, Bible and systematic theology, and supported Nanjing Union Theological Seminary in bringing its assessment process to an early conclusion. In 2001, on the basis of need and in line with government regulations, Nanjing Seminary invited foreign professors to lecture in Bible. Seminaries including Nanjing Seminary and Yanjing Seminary have organized lectures and seminars, or held classes and produced course materials on theological reconstruction to promote consideration of the theoretical aspects of the subject. To improve the pedagogical conditions of each seminary and school, the Commission has offered aid for library and teaching materials.
By the end of 2001, the TSPM/CCC had printed a cumulative total of 28 million Bibles, as well as facing page Chinese-English bilingual Bibles and Study Bibles, and study aids put together by Chinese pastors. In addition, 55 devotional works and Bible study aids were published for a total of 2.5 million copies (1.2 million copies of new works; 1.3 million copies of reprints). In the area of sacred music, The New Hymnal was printed in a bilingual Chinese-English version. Other music publications included Hymns for Christmas and VCDs like Chinese Christians Praise. The TSPM/ CCC also took an active role in revamping the editorial policy and layout of the church monthly Tian Feng, so that it might better satisfy the needs of a developing church.
The past five years have also shown us that many inadequacies and areas for improvement remain in our work.
Chinese society, politics, economy and culture have changed tremendously and at breath-taking speed over these five years; the transformation is unmistakable. Though the TSPM/CCC has called for Chinese Christianity to adapt to Chinese socialist society, there has been little research into actual results, and we are as yet unable to do a timely stocktaking and give concrete guidance to the churches. It is clear that the perspective, planning and guiding aspects of the work are all inadequate, and worrying problems abound in all the churches. For example, in some churches the local leadership has a very shallow understanding of the selfhood and independence of the church, and is unable to uphold the three-self principle; in some areas denominationalism has resurfaced and is affecting unity; some local leaders in the TSM/CC do not follow the Chinese Church Order, but act summarily; in some churches no provision is made for regular election of new leadership; and some churches have been affected by corruption. Though the TSPM/CCC have done some investigation of, these problems, an oversight mechanism is lacking, and this is something we must deal conscientiously with in our work from now on.
2 Be "Rooted and Built Up," Strong and In Step with the Times
We stand at the start of the 21st century. If our Chinese Church is to keep up with the times, be "rooted and built up in him and established in the faith" (Col. 2: 7) and enable the church to build itself up in step with our rapidly developing nation, we must see clearly the tasks ahead, and we can do this only by linking our direction of "making the church well run according to the three-self principle" closely to the opportunities and challenges of the times.
The National Conference on Religious Work stressed that religious freedom is "a basic right of citizens," and "an expression of respect and protection for human rights," and further, pointed out the long-term nature of religion, its mass character and its special complexity, and stressed that religious work on its part should be understood as structured and regularized. All this shows that there is a theoretical basis for the government's respect for and protection of its citizens' religious freedom. From now on the policy of religious freedom will be implemented more conscientiously and in a more holistic way, and religious affairs managed according to the law. We will also undertake to assist the government in implementing the policy of religious freedom and in protecting the legal rights and interests of Chinese Christianity. This will guarantee the important external conditions for the healthy development of Chinese Christianity. Following China's entry into the WTO, Chinese Christianity, as one important channel of people-to-people friendship, will necessarily have even greater exchanges and contacts with Christianity around the globe, sharing experiences and increasing understanding. This is also beneficial to the healthy development of Chinese Christianity.
Yet the international situation is highly volatile. Terrorism, ethnic strife and religious extremism have drawn the attention of people all over the world. The 9/11 incident has made it all the more clear to us that religious questions are often entangled with international struggles and clashes. And Christianity is also facing a new and complicated situation and new problems both at home and internationally. Forces overseas use Christianity to undertake politically-motivated "Westernization" and "division" within China: they vainly hope to control Chinese Christianity in order to set up power bases for themselves in China to achieve their own ends of harming and overthrowing our political authority. Such efforts have never ceased; in fact, with increasing openness in China, they have intensified. A number of Christian groups overseas long ago laid their plans to gather strength to re-enter China. It is their vain hope to change our direction of "running the church well according to the three-self principle" and we must be vigilant against them.
In an ever-changing situation, Chinese Christians must grasp opportunities and welcome challenges; the crux lies in how we renew our consciousness and strengthen self-construction. We must seek the guidance of the Spirit, understand the times and, relying on God's power and might, be rooted and built up in him. We must be strengthened in order to resist infiltration by outside forces and build up the body of Christ. If we are unable to establish the Church in China in the excellent environment we now have, the responsibility for its destruction by such outside forces of evil will lie with ourselves.
How are we to run the church well, while being rooted and built up, strengthened and in step with the times in the present situation? Let me enumerate four needs:
1 We must deepen our understanding of the adaptation of Christianity to socialist society.
The issue of religion's adaptation to socialist society raised by General Secretary Jiang illustrates that the nation fully affirms, and moreover, hopes, that religion can play a positive role in socialist society. On this earth, Christians are first of all citizens. Our basic interests are one with those of our people: the faith and doctrines of Christianity are not in contradiction to the goal of building a civilized, democratic and rich modernized nation. Adaptation to socialist society has never meant changing our faith, it has simply required of us that we, like the whole Chinese people, love our country, uphold the socialist system, uphold the leadership of the Communist Party, and observe the laws and regulations and the guiding policies of the nation. Religious activities must follow and serve the highest interests of the nation and the whole interests of its people: this is a government requirement for all social groups-there is nothing special about it, and we naturally comply.
As for Christians, we must recognize that adaptation to socialist society is necessary for our own existence and development. We believe that Christianity is the truth revealed by God and that the Church was born following the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. No matter whether we look at the New Testament or at the historical development of the Church, the Spirit of God has never ceased to guide God's people, through all the different eras of history, applying appropriate measures, even bold reforms, to move the Church forward.
Acts 15 tells of the Jerusalem meeting, "For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us (the apostles)," that the Gentiles who came to believe in the Lord did not have to be circumcised or keep the laws of Moses, and this enabled Christianity to go into the whole world. In the 16''' century Luther responded to historical developments by raising the need for reform in the Church that then ruled the whole of Europe, and a Protestant Church separate from the Catholic Church at Rome was born. After Liberation in China, Christians initiated the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, expressing their support for new China. Carrying out Three-Self was also a way of adapting to new China. Without this movement, Chinese Christianity could not have developed as it has today. Paul said, "Only let us hold fast to what we have attained" (Phil. 3: 16). Development never ceases through time; under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must unceasingly adjust our own step if we are to enable the Gospel to be widely preached and the Church to be established.
If Chinese Christianity is to adapt to socialist society today, four points are important:
First, rights entail duties. We Christians are all concerned to enjoy the right to freedom of religious belief. In the same way, then, we must try to live out the slogan "a good Christian is a good citizen," and fulfill the duties of a good citizen. There are already many good models of this among Christians. We hope Christians everywhere will do even more to play a positive role in society.
Second, patriotism must be law-abiding. Religious faith is a private matter and the State has never intervened; but religious activities cannot but be closely related to State and society. We must strengthen education in the law, raise consciousness of being law-abiding, conscientiously consider the interests of nation and people and hold activities within the bounds of the Constitution and regulations. We neither can nor should, in the name of religious freedom, cast off the legal oversight of the government.
Third, we must strive to maintain the unity between "believer" and "unbeliever". Christians are a tiny proportion of the Chinese population. The State guarantees us freedom of religion and we must also respect that others have the freedom not to believe or to believe in another religion. This affects the image of Christianity in China and our relations with the majority of people. A Church which cannot gain the goodwill of the majority of people cannot easily build itself up.
Fourth, genuine adaptation is not expressed only in patriotic behavior, but must be reflected in thought and understanding, including patriotic awakening and bringing theological thinking in line with social progress.
2 Of all that is important for running the Church well according to the three-self principle, theological reconstruction is most important.
Like churches throughout the world, the Chinese Church is built up on the foundation of Jesus Christ as preached by the Apostles. As Paul said, "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11 ).
The Church exists in a specific time, nation and society. The Church in every country develops its theology in that time and that place, to guide the Church in building itself up on this foundation. The theological reconstruction the Chinese Church is undertaking at present must bring together the essence and culture of China in describing the basic faith, moral principles and standards of Christianity, in order that we may preach the Gospel better, help believers lead healthy and uplifting spiritual lives, run the church well according to the three-self principle, and enable Christianity to adapt to socialist society.
Propagation of the gospel is the church's unchangeable mission, but how to correctly and effectively spread the gospel in these present times is inseparably linked to theology. Jesus' way of eternal life can be life-transforming for human beings, enabling them to cast off sin and gain new life and values. If we base the demands of the gospel only upon a foundation of material poverty, ignorance and social hopelessness, or if we overemphasize its utilitarian content signs and wonders and banishment of ill fortune though we might quickly attract a lot of attention and people into the church, there would be no foundation, and this state of things could not last long.
We must use correct theology to lead believers in their pilgrimage for growth in their spiritual lives. This should be expressed in the life of the Church, and at the same time expressed in the life of society. "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2: 17). "...the only thing that counts is faith working through love" (Gal. 5:6). An abundant spiritual life cannot be lived apart from an ethical one, even less can it become an irrational "enthusiasm," lest it lead to the dangers of extremism. A Church in which faith and reason interact, where faith and action are one, where grace and truth are found in one body, is built up on the foundation stone of Jesus Christ and not upon sand. It is solid and will not collapse.
If we want to run the church well according to the three-self principle, theological reconstruction is the theoretical foundation of the "four needs" for doing so. If we wish to trod the path of independence and self-government boldly and with a sense of righteousness, make clear the relationship between the church's particularity and its universality, the church must make care for society and support for good behavior its responsibility and must affirm the nature of the church as lampstand here on earth. We must resolve the present and multiple problems that exist in the church: such phenomena as the desire for greater personal power. We must revere Christ's position as head of the Church. All these things are closely tied to a correct theological understanding. Thus theological reconstruction is the basic requirement for building up the Church at present.
In the course of promoting theological reconstruction, we have come to see that we must separate basic faith from theology where appropriate. Theological reconstruction in no way changes basic faith; rather its role is to protect and guarantee our basic faith. The promotion of theological reconstruction can both witness to Chinese Christians' maintaining a pure faith, and have a lively intellectual witness; it is beneficial both to Chinese Christians' unity founded upon a common faith, and to a witness that is appropriate to the times.
In the promotion of theological reconstruction, it is necessary to note the following factors: that it be founded upon the Bible; that it is part of the continuity of the historical traditions of our basic faith; that we begin from our church's experience of following the three-self path; that we seek to unite with the special characteristics of progressive Chinese culture. We must study our forebears' theological knowledge and fruits, but we cannot be constrained by any particular theological system; nor can we imitate the ancients or western views. We want only thinking which is in line with biblical truth, of benefit to running the church well according to the three-self principle and able to help Chinese Christianity adapt to socialist society. Such thinking we encourage and spread. In the course of our discussions, theological viewpoints which are tinged with colonial consciousness, which offend our national essence, which are not appropriate to the development of the times, will naturally be scrutinized and adjusted.
Theological reconstruction has become the central task of our church today in its being rooted and built up in Christ, and it will play a guiding role in the overall building up of Christianity. We expect that the fruits of theological reconstruction will raise the quality of faith of Christian believers in general, and enable Chinese Christianity to increase not only in "years" but in "wisdom" (see Luke 2: 52).
3 Under the principle of independence, develop overseas exchanges while firmly resisting infiltration.
" Independence" is the core of the Three-Self Movement, the central principle we must hold to in building up the Church.
In the midst of "economic globalization," some see a "global village," and view talk of "national authority" and "independence" as meaningless. This is a completely mistaken view. The facts show that in the economic realm, "globalization" has not eliminated the difference between rich nations and poor nations, or the gulf between strong nations and weak nations. National borders remain and the contradictions among national and ethnic interests are sharper than ever.
There is in Christianity a theological view that "the universal Church is one family", this is speaking of the spiritual side of the church. We believe that, throughout time, all who call upon the Lord's name belong to the spiritual fellowship that is the Church; they are brothers and sisters in Christ. But this is not to suggest that there are no differences in the church on earth based on national, ethnic or cultural background. The Bible never sanctioned a situation in which the church of one nation controls the church in another nation. The painful history of Christianity in China teaches us, and even more, alerts us, that we cannot abandon the three-self principle and return to the old path of being dominated by foreign countries.
Now that our nation is more open, we are willing to increase contacts with all church organizations and individuals who respect the authority of our nation and our Church, who meet us on an equal footing and who are friendly to us, who, on a basis of legality, openness and friendship initiate exchanges and share with us in the Lord's work. We also wish to increase understanding and contacts with churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan and with overseas Chinese churches on a foundation of "one country, two systems," "the three-mutuals principle," and "upholding national unity."
But vigilance is required: presently foreign forces making use of Christianity to infiltrate China have found new methods and there is no end to the tactics they employ. They are stealthy and invidious. Under the guise of "evangelism" they send in people to undertake secret activities; in the content of their preaching, they create total opposition between "believers and unbelievers," encouraging and even organizing believers to flaunt government authority. Another tactic makes use of channels outside the church, using persons with legal status to undertake secret activities. China wants to attract foreign investment and some overseas forces establish a base for religious activities through investment. China wants to open up and develop its western regions, so others set their sights on the northwest, claiming to be following in the footsteps left by former missionaries. Still others use scholarly research to spread their opposition to Christianity's three-self path. And there are some who penetrate three-self churches, mostly using contributions to pave their way, creating a dependence in those churches on foreign sources, making these existing churches into their own base to injure "self-government" and "self-support" and go on to use sermons, training, illicitly published materials, video, the internet, etc., to harm "self-propagation," driving a wedge between believers and the rest of the Chinese people. As openness is broadened, our duty to oppose westernization and division must be even firmer, unwavering, upholding our principle of running the church independently ourselves. We must pay special attention that we not make "self-support" into "they-support" out of a desire for funds from outside, thus dissipating the fruits of Three-Self amassed over so many years.
4 Stress rural and grassroots church work; firmly resist heresy in Christian guise.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of heretical activities under the banner of Christianity. The disastrous results of Falun Gong-death and suffering-have been condemned by the whole society. The government has outlawed them according to the law to protect the people from their harm.
Christianity is firmly opposed to Falun Gong. But heresies waving the flag of Christianity have fooled many Christians with serious results. For example, sect, the government has explicitly banned, such as the Shouters, the Disciples, the Established Kings, the Lord God Sect and I: astern Lightning, have been active in many provinces. Some believers have been taken in and have become pillars of these groups It is characteristic of these heresies that they make use of the Bible, using chapters out of context to create their heresy. Their leaders set themselves up as gods to be revered by their followers; they set up secret organizations, tightly controlled at every level, disseminate anti government, anti society views; they have control over believers, banning rational thinking; they are morally corrupt and law-breaking For example, Eastern Lightning says that Jesus will come again as a woman; the leaders of Established King and the Lord God sects both style themselves gods, which not only allows them to amass money, but to lure young women to "dedicate" themselves to their lust. In 2000, some dozen hapless believers, listening to some heresy or other, cut off all dealings with the world for long periods and nearly died as a result. In the face of such shocking incidents, we cannot turn a blind eye, but must adopt an attitude of high responsibility to God, the nation and the Church, resolve to oppose heresy and, with all our strength, rescue believers who have fallen under their spell.
At present these heresies are mainly active in rural areas and small towns, because rural Christians' educational level is lower and they lack a correct understanding of Christian truth; there is also a serious lack in rural villages of pastors with theological training. These serious facts tell us that if we do not pay attention to rural church work, and strive to raise the quality of believers there, the future of all Christianity in China will be affected.
3 Grasp Opportunities to Build Up Chinese Christianity in the New Century
In line with the demands outlined above, we would like to raise a number of priorities for our future work in the hope that our co-workers and fellow Christians will, with one heart and mind, truly establish the body of Christ, so that "The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former" (Hag. 2:9).
1 Resolutely promote theological reconstruction.
To continue to deepen theological reconstruction, the TSPM/CCC must grasp the draft "Outline for the Development of Chinese Christian Theological Reconstruction"; cooperating with local CCs and TSMs, seminaries and bible schools in initiating study activities on theological reconstruction; organizing specialists to carry out case studies of the subject and raise the theoretical level.
In addition to continuing forums in Tian Feng and the Nanjing Theological Review, which serve to mobilize opinion, the TSPM and CCC must continue the Chinese Christian Theological Reconstruction Series, publishing the fruits of exploration of pastors and co-workers.
The TSPM and CCC must actively organize, plan and publish books and materials helpful to the building up of Chinese Christianity, to satisfy the demands of theological research, theological education, evangelism and guidance for believers' healthy spiritual lives. They must tap their potential to set up an effective national distribution system.
The TSPM and CCC must promptly assess activities related to theological reconstruction held at Nanjing and Yanjing seminaries, gradually extending these to other theological education institutions, so that these can truly serve as bases for theological reconstruction.
2 Strengthen the construction of the CCC/TSPM at the national, regional and local level.
The TSPM/CCC should rally its personnel and funds to make the two bodies' organizational framework more rational, rigorous and effective; establish connections, promote unity, service and cooperation, exercising a guiding function for local CCs and TSMs. It should strengthen its oversight and continually improve its system of meetings, finances, auditing, personnel, etc. Incidents and individuals who seriously offend against the Chinese Church Order should be exposed in Tian Feng and in the CC/TSPM News, as a way of nipping evil in the bud.
The TSPM and CCC,and TSMs and CCs at all levels, must lay the highest stress upon the thinking and moral formation of personnel, encourage loyalty and service and a spirit of strict self-discipline, openness to regulation, and of serving the grassroots church better.
3 Support and assist the construction of grassroots churches.
The TSPM and CCC must provide effective resources for lay training in rural churches by way of personnel, funding and teaching materials. The continuing opening up of literacy and Bible-reading classes for believers in the rural church, classes and all sorts of activities in general cultural and scientific knowledge should be promoted to raise rural Christians' understanding of the faith and their educational level. TSMs and CCs at all levels should stress and care for the upbuilding of the rural grassroots church, where a church pastors meeting points under its care, so that the churches can lead the meeting points and guidance be strengthened Seminaries and Bible Schools should train theological students to serve in rural and poor areas, to raise the ability to resist heresy; and show more concern for them in their work and help them.
4 Strengthen Chinese Christianity's Contacts and Communication with Overseas Groups.
The TSPM/CCC must adopt effective measures to expand its overseas contacts, print publicity materials and set up a Tian Feng website. TSPM/CCC should initiate its own contacts with theological scholars and church leaders from overseas churches, introducing theological reconstruction and all aspects of the ministry of the Church in China, sharing experiences of each in theological study, theological education and other aspects of ministry.
5 Accelerate Training of Church Personnel.
The TSPM/CCC should accelerate the training of personnel in theology, church management, Christian literature and publication, foreign languages, etc, adopting all effective means and measures, so that we can establish a contingent of qualified personnel within a set time.
TSPM/CCC should strengthen Nanjing Union Theological Seminary in the areas of theological study, pedagogy and training suitable theological students, working to achieve a higher standard. Other seminaries and Bible schools should become increasingly regularized, clarify their training goals, and raise their level in staff and funding. TSPM/ CCC will continue to ask Nanjing Seminary to run continuing education courses for serving pastors. Qualified institutions should gradually establish further in-house training and enrichment courses for staff and continuing education for pastoral workers at the grass roots, to improve the system of professional training of personnel in the Chinese churches.
TSPM/CCC should continue to stress overseas study for students. In addition to gradual improvement in the selection system, major courses of study for students going abroad should be determined according to the concrete needs of the Chinese Church in a planned manner with goals in mind.
6 Continue to care for society and serve the masses, bearing excellent witness to Christ.
The TSPM/CCC calls upon Chinese Christians to do their utmost to develop Christian ethics and morals. As heirs to the fine moral tradition of China, they should strive to fully implement the draft guidelines for moral construction of citizens and bear good witness in their workplaces.
TSPM/CCC asks Chinese Christians to hold in unceasing prayer world peace, protection of the environment, halting the spread of drug use, HIV/AIDS and other dangers to humanity, and by whatever means, to take part in activities to benefit these causes.
The two national organizations and churches at all levels should serve society well, care for the weak and take part in suitable charitable activities according to local conditions, serving society with all their hearts and minds, to benefit the people.
Delegates, God has brought the Chinese Church into the new millennium. Our eyes are blessed because we have seen so many new things evolving. The whole world is watching us to see how we will witness to God in these times.
Our own people are also watching us to see how we will play a positive role in building spiritual civilization and promoting from above and take up what the believers of the whole church have entrusted to us. Let us be rooted and built up in Him, strengthened, and moving forward with the times. May we then better adapt to socialist society, make new contributions to our nation, society and people for the opening up of Chinese Christianity's tomorrow and strive to run the Chinese Church of the new century well according to the three-self principle.
Delegates, God has brought the Chinese Church into the new millennium. Our eyes are blessed because we have seen so many new things evolving. We are an independent church, determining our own path and building ourselves up within our nation's reformed and open socialist society. We are in an unprecedented situation, the like of which we have not seen before. This is a special blessing God has given to Chinese Christians. Concerned Christians around the world are watching us, to see how we will develop our own theology, how we will witness to God in these times. Our own people are also watching us to see how we will play a positive role in building spiritual civilization and promoting social morality. Our task is unusually formidable. We firmly believe that God guides us in all this and we go boldly forward. Let us together follow the vision by which God calls us to Him from above and take up what the believers of the whole church have entrusted to us. Let us be rooted and built up in Him, strengthened, and moving forward with the times. May we then better adapt to socialist society, make new contributions to our nation, society and people for the opening up of Chinese Christianity's tomorrow and strive to run the Chinese Church of the new century well according to the three-self principle.