Preachers of state-approved churches pressured to replace God with communist ideology. Those who disobey are accused of disloyalty to the regime and are fired.
by An Xin
In August, a Three-Self church in the northeastern province of Liaoning suspended one of its preachers, a graduate from the Alliance Bible Seminary in Hong Kong, because she opposed the remarks of a pastor who spoke unfavorably about Taiwan’s leaders in front of her congregation. Her words were reported to authorities, and she was deemed “anti-Party and anti-government.”
Members of the church told Bitter Winter that four days after she made the comments, officials from the local State Security Bureau came to speak with the preacher, in particular, about her views on Hong Kong and Taiwan. She was also asked whether she recently had any dealings with house churches and Hong Kong Christians or publicly remarked about Hong Kong and the “riots” there.
Pressured by the government, the church’s management committee issued a notice, punishing the preacher with suspension. According to local sources, the preacher has left the locality of the church.
The text of the verdict reads: “[The preacher] made remarks on a sensitive topic, causing trouble for the government and the Church. At the government’s request, this person, who has associations with the Alliance Bible Seminary, has been suspended. She will not receive wages during the period of suspension and spiritual cultivation.”
“Political stance” has now become the primary criterion for assessing the clergy in state-run churches. Since last year, local governments throughout China started applying Communist Party membership standards to screen preachers to form a group of “red” clergy that is loyal to the ideals of communism and unquestionably follows Xi Jinping’s religion “sinicization” policy.
“As long as you obey the government, it doesn’t matter whether you understand the Bible or not; even if you talk nonsense, you’ll still pass. If the government doesn’t approve you, no matter how well you speak or how much you understand the Bible, it will be for naught,” said a preacher from Jiujiang city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi who took part in an assessment last year but failed to obtain a preaching certificate.
A member of the local two National Christian Councils in Xinxiang city in the central province of Henan was dismissed in August because he was unwilling to incorporate traditional Chinese culture, speak about traditional Chinese festivals (such as the Qingming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, National Day), and include other similar content into his sermons as required by the government. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the CCP’s policy to “sinicize” Christianity.
In October 2018, a 48-year-old Three-Self church preacher in Dongying city’s Hekou district in the eastern province of Shandong had his preaching duties suspended because he opposed in his sermons the government’s intervention in church elections.
“Right now, the direct persecution isn’t that scary since everyone can see what is happening. The scariest is spiritual confusion,” a co-worker at a local Three-Self church said worriedly. “Sermons given in Three-Self church have degenerated in nature. People are unconsciously indoctrinated with fallacious arguments, concocted by the CCP. Believers are gradually ‘sinicized.’”
Last year, 119 Three-Self Church staff in the northeastern province of Jilin were let go. One of the reasons for their dismissals was “suspicion of being related to foreign infiltration.”
“In the past, we prayed for the Christianization of China. Now, the government is demanding us to pray for the ‘sinicization’ of Christianity,” said the person in charge of a Three-Self church in Henan’s Yanshi city.