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China Refutes Distortions about Christianity

An official with China's Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement has refuted the argument made by some people in the West in their wrongful attack against China's system and practice of Christianity.

He said these Westerners regard China's Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement as an organization established by the government to control the development of Christianity.

"This (argument) totally twists the facts, and is a kind of malicious distortion," the official said.

The movement, which advocates self-administration, self-support and self-propagation among the Protestant churches in China, is a patriotic movement formed spontaneously by Chinese Christians who sought to defend themselves against the invasion and bullying of colonialists and imperialists in the early days, according to the official.

The official cited a series of facts to show a number of foreign missionaries had made use of religion to serve the interest of colonialism and imperialism.

In the 19th century, British missionary Robert Morrison and German missionary Karl Friedrich Gutzlaff had, at separate times, worked in the East-India Company and participated in selling opium to the Chinese people.

John Robert Morrison, the son of Robert Morrison, and Karl Friedrich Gutzlaff took part in the Opium War, the invasion of China which was launched by Britain in 1840, and took part in the drafting and signing of the unequal "Nanking Treaty," which forced China to cede Hong Kong.

American missionaries Peter Parker and Elijah Brielgman were involved in the drafting and signing of the unequal "Wangxia Treaty" between China and the United States in 1844.

During the Second Opium War, missionaries Samuel Wells Williams and William Alexander Parson Martin were responsible for the "Sino-American Tianjin Treaty," and they covertly inserted into the treaty a so-called "leniency" clause which said that Chinese believers in Christ, like foreign believers, were not constrained by China's laws.

In 1890, when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded China, American missionary Fredrich Brown collected information and acted as a guide for the forces, leading the allies to overtake Beijing. For his efforts, he received a commendation from the commander of the allied forces.

The official said in the 100 years after the Opium War, colonialists and imperialists used religion as a cover for their thirst for power.

In that period, before the founding of New China in 1949, China was the recipient of the most money and missionaries from the Western Mission Board. But the number of Christians in the country was only about 700,000, according to the official.

This is because the Chinese people detested the suppression of colonialists and imperialists, disapproved of unequal treaties, and viewed Christianity under the protection of the treaties as a "foreign religion," he said.

Some patriotic and upright Christians long ago aspired to separate China's Christianity from the control of the Western Mission Board, launching the independent Christian movement around the beginning of the 20th century and advocating the establishment of a church by Chinese Christians.

Chinese Christians were greatly encouraged by the founding of the New China in 1949, which demonstrated that the Chinese people could stand on their own, he official said.

The All-China Federation of Young Men's Christian Association, backed by 1,577 religious leaders, openly publicized the "Three-Self Declaration" together with 40 church leaders, signifying that Chinese Christians were in support of the new China.

The declaration advocated self-administration, self-support and self-propagation, meaning that the Christian organizations were to be run by Chinese Christians themselves, their funds to be raised by Chinese Christians independently, and the preaching duties in China to be undertaken by Chinese Christians on their own.

In just less than four years, more than 400,000 Christians, or two thirds of the nation's total, signed the document.

The Three-Self Patriotic Movement is absolutely a voluntary movement of Chinese Christians, the official said.

According to the official in charge of the movement, Christianity has become a Chinese-run religion because of the 40-year Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

The movement is very conducive to the growth of Chinese Christianity, and first and foremost, it has removed any obstacles on the way to the development of Christianity in China, he said.

There are currently ten million Christians in China, more than 14 times the number in 1949. One important reason for this is that the Three-Self Patriotic Movement has changed the situation of the churches in China, and they are no longer "foreign churches" under the control of foreigners.

Secondly, the official said, the movement has greatly improved Chinese Christians' sense of responsibility for their own churches, he said.

To date, there are some 12,000 churches and about 25,000 sites of congregation in China. According to the statistics of the 1990s, more than 600 churches are built annually. The period between 1992 and 1996 saw the publication and circulation of nearly ten million Bibles. More than eight million copies of the Psalms have been published by the Chinese Christian Association in 1983.

Thirdly, he said, a united mass is observed in Chinese Christianity. As they got rid of the shackles of foreign mission board, Chinese Christians increased their understanding and respect of each other in the course of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

This is in line with the Bible's teaching that all churches should "unite as one," he said.

Fourthly, Christians are on good terms with the broad masses of people. Christians are part of the Chinese citizenry, and their mottos "Love the country, love the church, glorify the God and benefit the people" and "a Christian should be a good citizen" have become common philosophical tenets of the majority of Christians.

During 1992 and 1994, some 20,000 Christians were selected as advanced individuals and become witnesses of the Gospel in socialist China, he said.

The official said that the Three-Self Patriotic Movement has won the approval and support of the majority of the Christians in China, the respect of the people, and the sympathy and appreciation of many overseas friends.

He quoted the Archbishop of Canterbury as saying in 1987 that the Chinese were working hard for a better future, and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement was aimed at ensuring that Christianity will play a positive role in it. the archbishop expressed his hope that no one shall jeopardize the movement.

In addition, he stressed that each country's churches should worship Christ in their own language, and absorb nutrition from their own cultural traditions.

The religious reform in Britain in the 16th century was a fight for the independence and autonomy of the Church of England, and resulted in the establishment of Anglicanism, he added, pointing out that this was Britain's version of a Three-Self Movement.

In 1983, the National Council of the Churches of the Christ in the United States of America passed a statement about China, saying that it is based on purpose of spreading the Gospel that the Chinese Christians wish to expurgate the label of "foreign religions" from their belief and organizations.

The statement said that overseas Christians should respect the efforts made by Chinese Christians among their own people, and should not try to restore the type of missionary work that prevailed in the past.

The official pointed out that some people in the West try to revive colonialism and imperialism which made use of region to cover their aggression of China, and still want to use religion as a political tool against socialist China.

A few of them, recklessly attack the Chinese Church which sticks to the Three-Self Principle, distort the facts, tell lies and even create stories to deceive overseas Christians, the official added.

He said that Chinese Christian organizations and believers are firmly against such actions.


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