Xiaoling Zhu, area executive for Global Ministries, Sharon Watkins and Geoffrey Black, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, at China Christian Council Offices in front of wood carving of life of Christ.
We spent the morning with the China Christian Council, one of our primary mission partners in China. The CCC was formed in 1980 when the church was getting back on its feet following the Cultural Revolution. As the national church structure, it is a service organization for all Protestant Christians in China.
The CCC has work the areas of medical service including special services for persons with HIV-AIDS, elderly care, special needs ministries, disaster preparedness and relief, and education with emphasis on helping orphans and single-parent families.
They also have an extensive publishing ministry including 3.5 million Bibles per year.
This includes 70 different versions and editions of Bibles published – for example: large print for elderly and small Bibles for the young; braille Bibles and also Bibles in ten minority group languages. They are now in the process of translating five other minority group language Bibles. The CCC also works hard to prepare ministers for a church that is rapidly outgrowing the capacity of the country’s seminaries to provide leadership. In particular they seek to send promising ministers to Hong Kong and the West for masters and doctoral degrees and for short term and Sabbatical study. It’s an impressive program of support.
One of my great interests in visiting the Church in China – and one of their great sources of pride – is that they are intentionally post-denominational. As early as 1950, Chinese Christians formed the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” in order to help Christianity get away from its reputation as a “foreign” religion. The three-self movement was for self-governance, self-support, self propagation. By the late ’50’s Chinese Christians were worshipping in union services.
Today it is estimated that more than 53,000 church buildings are open for public worship in China with more than 20 million believers, 70% are in rural areas. Some 70,000 groups of Protestant Christians meet in private homes. Since 1980, more than 8,000 seminarians have completed their training.
I’m hoping to learn how “post-denominational” life is organized in China to see what we can learn. (Watkins is pictured with, left to right, General Minister and President Geoffrey Black, Watkins, Rev. Gao Feng, President, CCC, Principal, Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and Rev. Kan Baoping, General Secretary, CCC; taken at Holy Trinity Church, Shanghai.)