Thursday, April 14, 2011

April 13, 2011 Rev. Liu on the nature of outdoor services of “house churches” in China
In a recent article published online, Rev. Tong-Su Liu distinguishes churches being forced to worship outside their legally rented indoor spaces in China from “Jasmine Revolution” attempts in the country.
Rev. Liu, minister of Californian-based Mountain View Chinese Christian Church, follows with deeply concerned over the situation faced by “house churches” in China.

Liu says, people tent to relate the churches’ recent outdoor services to political protesting attempts, because of their similar external forms and partially overlaps in time. They are both held in the public areas, both facing the government crackdown, with some people detained. Beijing Shouwang Christian Church, for instance, had to give their Sunday service on a business building platform on April 10, 2011. The authority had deprived of their indoor worshiping space, while blocking their use of their purchased property. The police charged the worshiping people. A pastor couple and 169 believers were taken into custody. All the other church leaders were house confined from the previous day. It sounds similar to what has happened to protesting attempts taking place in major Chinese cities. Some media have even taken for granted that the Church’s outdoor service was of political purpose.
“But similarity does not mean identity,” Liu said. The churches’ outdoor worships are of completely different nature.
Liu defines “churches’ outdoor services” as “some house churches in China, being driven out of their indoor worshiping space by the authority, have no choice but to worship in outdoor public areas such as parks and streets.” The minister listed a few such incidents taking place during the last couple of years:
    In June 2009, the Blessings of Autumn Rain Church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, was stripped of their legally rented indoor space, the church had to worship in a park.
    Soon after that, the Golden Lampstand Church in Shanghai had to worship by the street, due to being driven by the government out of the building where they worshiped.
    In November 2009, the authority unreasonably closed down the place where the All-Nations Alliance Church in Shanghai met. The believers had to worship outdoor as a result.
    One week after, the Beijing Shouwang Christian Church was forced to worship in a park in heavy snow, because the landlord under compultion of the authority discontinued its renting agreement. Upon this, the believers pooled over 27 million RMB and bought their own property. With the government’s hindrance, they can not get entrance and worship in their purchased space. It was the reason why they had to do outdoor service again on April 10.
    In May 2010, the same story was reported by the Liangren Church in Guangzhou, they had to do their Sunday worship in a park.

Liu concluded that the only purpose of the outdoor services is to practice the Bible’s teaching, “not neglecting to meet together” and maintain the believers’ duty and rights to worship God, even when being forced out of their worshiping places. Its heavenly and spiritual nature stands far from that of the wordly “jasmine revolution” or all other political movements, although the police cracked down on both.
Mr. Liu, who used to be a Yale Law School scholar, explains that the Chinese government bases its persecutions of house churches on by-laws that violating China’s Constitution itself. The regulations dispossess the citizens’ freedom of association and of religious belief endued by the Constitution. The reason for these and some other unconstitutional by-laws being able to stand there, Liu says, is due to a lack of constitutional control system in the country.
Since the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, the government has insisted to put church under its control. Churches who believe Jesus Christ is their only head and refuse the government control have experienced severe persecutions. Most of the churches have to go underground, becoming so-called “house churches”. Attendants of these churches are multiplying during last three decades. But the government seems to stick to its old policies, repressing churches without their approval. House churches with larger congregations have proved to be main targets of persecutions.
As long as the Chinese government keeps trying to repress house churches by depriving their places of worship, the phenomenon of outdoor worship will never come to an end and crackdowns on such service will continue. We know the devil is “allowed to make war on the saints” before he is finally prevailed. But the saints in ordeals need our prayers and support, because we are of one body of Jesus, Rev. Liu said.  

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