The non-official house church movement in China has drawn wide support among Christian groups in the West. But some house churches have developed in ways that are of concern to Western Christians, particularly as some of these groups are setting up operations in the U.S., according to several reports.
The Ledger newspaper (Aug. 24) interviews Rev. Gik Se Tjiong, a retired Pentecostal pastor from Lakeland, Florida, who has traveled several times to China in order to correct what he considers heretical teachings and practices. The proliferation of unorthodox teachings is blamed on the lack of training among rapidly growing groups.
Chinese authorities as well as groups supporting the preaching of the Gospel to China have become extremely concerned by the rapid spread of a group called Eastern
Lightning (or Lightning from the East, Dongfang Shandian in Chinese, from the title of its first book. In a recent report on Christianity in Inner Mongolia (which is part of China), Compass Direct (August) reports that over the last year, 80 percent of the house churches in the Linhe area on the banks of the Yellow River in the western part of the region have been taken over by Lightning from the East. There have been reports of house churches defecting to Eastern Lightning in other areas of the country as well.
Consequently, Christian groups supporting missionary work in China have been launching a counter-offensive. “In response to the current crisis in China”, Thailand-based Asia’s Harvest plans to subsidize the printing of 200,000 copies of an “anti-cult training book” written by a Chinese pastor, so that believers “will not become victims of the Eastern Lightning.” The group is said to have been founded in China in 1989 and to claim that Jesus has already returned to earth as a 30-year-old Chinese woman. A group with strong apocalyptic beliefs, it is said to be especially successful in rural areas.
There are bizarre stories reported about the group by its opponents, including accusations that on several occasions it kidnapped house church leaders in order to convince them to join the group. The group has not only targeted house church members, but is also reported to have made attempts to convert Catholic clergy.Meanwhile, Eastern Lightning has set foot in the United States as well. In early spring of 2001, there were reports that some of its members had visited a number of Chinese churches in the San Francisco area, according to the non denominational Chinese Christian Mission.
“Riding on white clouds, the Messiah has returned”, proclaims its website. Its publishing house, Morning Star Publishing, is located in Bayside, N.Y.
(Compass Direct News Service, PO Box 27250, Santa Ana CA 92799; website: http://www.compassdirect.org/; Asia Harvest Head Office, P.O. Box 17, Chang Klan P.O., Chiang Mai 50101, Thailand; website: http://www.asiaharvest.org/; Chinese Christian Mission; website: http://www.ccmusa.org/; Morning Star Publishing, 48-35, 208th St., P.O. Box 610284, Bayside, NY 11361; website: http://godword.org)
— By RW contributing editor Jean-Francois Mayer