The exemplary tale of a venerable house church in Xiamen, Fujian, whose glorious existence was brutally terminated by the CCP.
by Massimo Introvigne
Xiamen, in the province of Fujian, has been historically an important center for the spread of Christianity in China. It was one of the Treaty Ports where Christianity was first preached, and has a long Christian history. Pastor Yang Huaide (1868-1946) had, in turn, a key role in this process. He was the first pastor of Xiagang Church, a Presbyterian community affiliated with the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the London Missionary Society. Yang Huaide began his service as a pastor in Xiagang Church in the year 1900, and passed away in 1946, after serving the church for 42 years.
After Yang’s death, one offshoot of Xiagang Church was Xunsiding Church. The 1950s were a difficult time for Christian churches in China. Xiagang Church had to close and meetings continued in private homes. Later, Xunsiding Church was established. Among its evangelists were Pastor Yang Huaide’s grandchildren, Ms. Yang Xinfei (1928-2011) and Mr. Yang Yuanzhang (1931-2011). They both ended up in jail, the first for 16 years and the second for 6. After the Cultural Revolution, they were released and started again gathering church members. In 1977, they resumed the church’s Sunday service at No.5 Xunsiding Lane.
Yang Xinfei became a well-known preacher in China. She was persecuted for her stubborn refusal to join the government-controlled Three-Self Church. Her experience was featured in the well-known documentary, The Cross.
Yang Xinfei was also well-known as a musician. From a very early age, she showed musical talent, and she performed from the early age of 3. She spent much time in voice training, and in learning to play piano professionally. She attended the prestigious Shanghai Conservatoire of Music, from where she graduated with honors at the top of her class in 1953. However, Yang turned her back to a glittering musical career and obeyed what she perceived as God’s call to fulltime evangelism. She died on July 23, 2011, at age 83.
For several decades, Xunsiding Church has kept its original faith. A sign on the church in Xiamen read, “We are a group of people redeemed by God, who strive to preach the gospel for the sake of God’s kingdom and to live out the life of the gospel. We follow in the traditions of house churches, including hallowing Christ as the Head, paying attention to the Bible, prayer, and spiritual life. We emphasize worship, teachings, and comprehensive service of the kingdom. We follow the leadership mode where the elders take charge in the church, and choose the means of fellowship and shepherding in small groups. We are practicing our great mission by church planting and training church planter.”
As Bitter Winter reported, after such a long service Xunsiding Church was finally closed down by the CCP in 2019. On May 19, Yang Xibo, the current pastor of Xunsiding Church and a well-known theologian who has studied in Singapore, received an administrative penalty notice issued by the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau of Xiamen city’s Siming district. On the same day, devotees attending the church’s Sunday service were harassed by the authorities of Xiamen city.
Pastor Yang Xibo filed an appeal the next day, requesting the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Bureau to hold a hearing, which was organized at 10 a.m. on May 31 in Siming district, but the church’s appeal was rejected. That evening, police officers surrounded the church, prohibited anyone from entering, and officially shut down the church.
The sad story of Xunsiding Church confirms that, under Xi Jinping, a process has started aimed at eliminating the gray market of the independent house churches, who lived a precarious existence between the red market of government-controlled communities affiliated with the Three Self Churches and the black market of the Christian movements proscribed as xie jiao. House churches in the gray market are offered a draconian alternative: either they join the Three-Self Church or they will be shut down and persecuted as xie jiao. Unfortunately, all signs indicate that Xunsiding Church will not be the last historical house church to be closed down by the CCP.