Nearly 50 Chinese House Churches Praying Weekly for Shouwang Church

Thursday, May 12, 2011

China Aid Association

(Beijing – May 12, 2011) In a sign of the growing potential for a large-scale church-state clash, nearly 50 mainland Chinese house churches have now publicly pledged to fast and pray weekly for Shouwang Church, which has been the focus of a government crackdown over its insistence on holding worship services at meeting sites of its own choosing.

The Beijing Ministerial Prayer Fellowship, in its sixth report since Shouwang Church tried to hold its first Sunday worship service outdoors, listed 44 churches and two fellowship groups that have signed a prayer roster for a once-a-week day of prayer and fasting for Shouwang Church. The number of participating churches has grown each week from the original 14 on April 13, three days after Shouwang’s first attempt to hold a Sunday worship service outdoors.

The 1,000 member church said it had no choice but to meet outdoors after being evicted from its leased meeting space. In recent years, it has repeatedly been evicted from leased premises by landlords under government pressure not to provide the unregistered – and therefore illegal – church with a place to meet. When Shouwang purchased an entire floor of an office building and paid for it with more than $4 million in cash, authorities pressured the seller to refuse to turn over the keys.

The church’s insistence on holding Sunday worship services in a space large enough for all its members rather than breaking up into smaller groups and arguing that this was a religious freedom issue has won it supporters from across China and around the world.

On Wednesday, 17 house church pastors released a joint petition to the National People’s Congress calling for an investigation into the events leading up to Shouwang’s decision that it had no choice but to try to worship outdoors and for a review of the constitutionality of China’s current rules governing religious affairs.

The petition was the first-ever such move by China’s house church movement, which until recent years was more commonly referred to as the underground church. Coupled with the public pledges by nearly 50 house church congregations to pray for Shouwang, the move demonstrates the newly emboldened attitude of China’s house church Christians.

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