Saturday, July 10, 2010

China Update: churches & government


One of the most vivid pictures to come out of the China earthquake of 2008, was the wreckage of the ancient Mianzhu Christian Church’s worship center.

The Mianzhu Church, originally built by missionaries in the 19th century, has now been rebuilt and instead of the 100-150 worshipers before the earthquake, they now welcome 1,000 in worship on a regular basis.

My wife was in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in 1984 and visited numbers of churches. She found them to be among the friendliest anywhere. Those same caring Christians and inquirers of the faith came to the aid of the Christians in Mianzhu.

The congregation put up a huge temporary worship center and the government granted them land on which to build a church. After the earthquake, the Chinese assigned each province a part of Sichuan to rebuild.

According to Kathy Call, founder of China Connection, “within the next year, in place of the old demolished church, there will be two churches and two congregations – one in the temporary church building and one being constructed on Gospel Road.” Last Easter 49 new members were baptized to add to the 158 baptized in Mianzhu last Christmas.

Back in the mid-1980s, as congregations were beginning to re-open and build new churches, Nanjing (where we spent most of our time in China) had two huge churches left over from missionary days (pre-1950). The two, St. Paul’s and Mochou Road, and a few house groups were all the former capital of China had. Nanjing now numbers 30 Protestant Christian churches. The largest seats 5,000 worshipers. Same story unrolls in many major cities, including the ancient capital city of Hangzhou and commercial Shanghai.

The road to regroup for Roman Catholics has not been easy, primarily because of their allegiance to a foreign Pope. It took five years for Beijing and Rome to agree on a new Catholic bishop’s ordination (Paul Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, Inner Mongolia).

The members of the Diocese of Hohhot is over 65,000. At Meng’s ordination were 21 priests, with three priest officially recognized by Rome. Such progress may seem slow to us, but it is of the kind that lasts. Slowly the bai-xing (Chinese people) are seeing that Christianity is not a “foreign power” to fear or ignore. They are putting down Chinese roots in Chinese soil, a rarity in the past 150 years of missionary toil (1800-1950).

Just as our churches are American, China wants Chinese churches, as do people of every country.

When my wife and returned to the States after 31 years, there was a very observable phenomenon that has grown into fact in recent years. China is rising from the ashes (since 1980) and our beloved country titters on a steep incline the opposite direction.

For example: The July 8th Viewpoints section of the San Angelo Standard-Times, by Bruce McLaren, writes of a dream that our railway system reclaim their former usefulness and days of glory.

America once had a great railway system. But we torn up the tracks or left them to rust while the new China was blanketing their land with fast trains. The Beijing Review reported last spring that China has three railways of approximately 200 miles an hour and seven that run 125 miles an hour. Eight more rail lines are in the process to be finished by 2015. The train from Beijing to Lhasa is a marvel of engineering.

Both church and state are doing well in spite of a dictatorship and limited freedoms. It is time the USA quit chanting “We’re number One” and reclaim what once was. Bring back the jobs, factories and overseas military bases and stop trying to police the world.