Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Churches under restraint in China

New regulations further restrict house churches in China.
The Chinese government enacted new regulations this past week in a further attempt to control its growing Christian population, reported VOM contacts.

The pastors of some of China’s house churches face new reporting regulations, according to VOM workers. The pastors must provide police with weekly reports detailing their whereabouts and how many people attend their church meetings. If pastors leave their city, they must report their travel plans, and they are restricted to short trips. If the pastors fail to report and police are unable to contact them, they are arrested.

VOM workers say these regulations primarily target large house churches that organize under a specific name, advertise and meet publicly.

In early 2011, the Chinese government announced its goal of bringing House Church Movement (HCM) churches within the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) organization.

“Since the government knows that this goal is physically impossible to achieve—the TSPM only has enough pew space every Sunday for about 20 percent of the Christians in China—we can only assume that the government’s meaning is that they will start to force the HCM churches under government authority in some manner so that [house churches] can be totally controlled by the government,” said a VOM worker.

Though only the state-sanctioned TSPM churches are officially recognized by the government, Chinese Christians say three types of churches now exist in China: TSPM churches, registered churches and HCM churches.

The term “registered” refers to a new policy enacted about three years ago by the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB). The RAB told house churches they could obtain registration if their pastors completed a degree from a TSPM seminary. These registered HCM churches would also be required to report all of their activities to the government, essentially coming under government control. A VOM worker said he isn’t aware of any house churches that have registered.

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