Christianity in China is being allowed more contact with foreign groups and sources as well finding a new embrace by public figures, reports theChristian Science Monitor (March 8).
Robert Marquand writes that a “a new official formula” is taking shape allowing for a “grudging acceptance of faith, including low-level experiments with religious exchange abroad — so long as Chinese believers profess loyalty and patriotism to the state.” While there are signs of an easing of restrictions on unofficial believers, there have also been new crackdowns on such activity.
But observers point to growing unease among those in the rigid hierarchical communist structure over how to deal with highly fluid and unofficial church movements — often Pentecostal or charismatic — that appear to be developing denominational forms. At the same time, there is a rising interest in Christianity among party officials and among prominent entertainers and musicians who are now professing their faith in public.
The official Chinese church has long opposed any foreign alliances or involvement, but that may be changing. Chinese ministers and theologians from overseas have been invited to speak at the unofficial house churches and local police have allowed the events to take place.
The traffic is also moving in the other direction, as Chinese Christians are sending missionaries into Asia and the Middle East, reports Christianity Today (April). A movement known as Back to Jerusalem has emerged after decades of underground existence, with some even viewing their persecution as Christians as preparation for carrying out such a missionary enterprise.
The goal is to send out 100,000 missionaries, particularly in the Islamic regions and the plan has the support of the several house church networks said to represent millions of believers. Already 1,500 cross-cultural missionaries have left China, usually as workers going abroad for business purposes.
(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188)