Easter Vigil at a Catholic church in Shanghai in March. Aly Song/Reuters
A group of Chinese pastors have signed a statement denouncing the government’s efforts to restrict Christianity and vowing to “bear all losses” for the sake of the Gospel as persecution escalates in the officially atheist country.
The St. Charles Institute reports that this month, a group of 344 pastors (with the list growing every day) have signed a public joint statement which they titled “A Declaration of the Christian Faith.”
“We are a group of Chinese Christians, chosen by the Most High God to be His humble servants, serving as pastors for Christian churches throughout various towns and cities,” the letter begins
“We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the one true and living Triune God is the Creator of the universe, of the world, and of all people. All men should worship God and not any man or thing. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that all men, from national leaders to beggars and prisoners, have sinned. They will die once and then be judged in righteousness. Apart from the grace and redemption of God, all men would eternally perish. We believe and are obligated to teach the world that the crucified and risen Jesus is the only Head of the global church, the sole Savior of all mankind, and the everlasting Ruler and supreme Judge of the universe. To all who repent and believe in Him, God will give eternal life and an eternal Kingdom.”
The statement also makes four points addressing the Chinese government’s continued crackdown on Christian churches.
Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God.
Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith.
Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government’s authority to govern society and human conduct.
For this reason, we believe and are obligated to teach all believers that all true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church.
In the statement, the pastors say they are prepared to bear all losses – “even the loss of our freedom and our lives,” for the sake of the Gospel.
“But under no circumstances will we lead our churches to join a religious organization controlled by the government, to register with the religious administration department, or to accept any kind of affiliation,” the pastors say. “We also will not accept any ‘ban’ or ‘fine’ imposed on our churches due to our faith.”
Since the official “Regulations on Religious Affairs” came into effect on February 1, 2018, Christians have experienced increased persecution at the hands of the Communist government. Authorities have demolished hundreds of Protestant churches, knocked crosses off steeples, evicted congregations, and imprisoned pastors.
Oftentimes, the crosses are replaced with objects expressing loyalty to the officially atheist Communist Party such as the Chinese flag, photos of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and pictures of former Communist Party leader Mao Zedong. The government has also banned online sales of the Bible in efforts to “Sinicise” religion.
Under Chinese law, religious followers are only allowed to worship in congregations registered with authorities. However, millions of believers belong to illegal house churches that ignore government restrictions.
In an August op-ed for The New York Times, Chinese student Derek Lam asked Christians worldwide to pray for the persecuted faithful as they seek “to find light amid the sea of darkness descending upon us.”
“Judging by recent events, the party is very close to completing its mission of bringing Christianity under its thumb,” he wrote. “Although there is nothing I would love more than to become a pastor and preach the gospel in Hong Kong, I will never do so if it means making Jesus subservient to Xi Jinping.”