Chinese Christians' new prosperity is a challenge: Gao Feng

"Coping with wealth needs to be learned," according to Rev. Gao Feng, president of the Shandong Christian Council. He spoke during a visit to the Kirchentag, the largest event of the Protestant church in Germany. Chinese Christians used to belong to the poorest social class; however, as a result of the rapid economic expansion in China, a lot of them have recently become rich. Their new prosperity came as an unprecedented challenge to the church in China, Rev. Gao pointed out. Although the Bible taught that wealth was a gift from God, individual Christians still had to learn to donate for social purposes and spend their money responsibly, according to Rev. Gao. Speaking out against widespread corruption and the widening gap between the rich and poor in China was the duty of Christians. The Chinese church was working to find a balance between rich and poor parishes, Rev. Gao said.

Rev. Gao Feng

About 1 percent of the 100 million people living in Shandong, Rev. Gao's home province, are Protestant Christians. Rev. Gao explained that his church is engaged in the fight for social justice and also, increasingly, for responsibility with regard to the environment and the use of natural resources.

Rev. Gao pointed out that especially the Protestant church is very attractive in China because important contributions in areas such as care for the sick, the elderly and the disabled have come from Christians. The Chinese theologian, who is a leading member of the China Christian Council (CCC), gave a speech on "The Christian message and economic growth in China" in front of pastors and parishioners in the German city of Hannover earlier this month. He is visiting Germany on invitation of EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, the umbrella organisation of German Protestant churches) and is a guest of honour at the Kirchentag church conference in Cologne.