On January 8, China will downgrade COVID-19 from Class A infection to Class B infection, reopen its door to the outside, and remove anti-COVID measures at ports of entry for many imported things, as announced on December 26, 2022. This signifies a great shift in COVID-19 prevention policy during the past three years.
The year 2022 had seen ups and downs and mixed feelings for the church in China. While we recall the past year, a new era has come as we have the task of rebuilding.
As we begin 2023, the editorial team of China Christian Daily has selected the top 10 Christian news stories of 2022 based on the number of views, keyword searches, shares, and prominence of articles.
Below is part 2, Nos. 6-10 of CCD'S top 10 news stories of 2022. You can read part 1 of CCD's top 10 news stories here.
6. The 2022 Chinese Missionary Mobilization Conference, commemorating the 110th Anniversary of Charlotte Lottie Moon's Missionary Martyrdom in China
Conducted on September 22 to 24, The "2022 Chinese Missionary Mobilization Conference - Commemorating the 110th Anniversary of Charlotte Lottie Moon's Missionary Martyrdom in China'' was co-hosted by several overseas Chinese Christian organizations.
Sent to the North China Mission in Dengzhou, Shandong in 1873 as a single woman at the age of 33, Moon started out as a teacher in a missionary school. Through short mission trips with the missionaries’ wives, she recognized the village women’s eager interest in the gospel, who could be only reached by female missionaries. In 1885, she left Dengzhou for the countryside, going alone. Settling in Pingdu, Moon became the first American woman to attempt sustained independent life under genuinely Chinese conditions. In Pingdu, Moon visited women house by house, village by village on a donkey. During the war period, she withdrew all of her savings and gave the money to a famine fund. Due to starvation, her health continued to decline and she died on the voyage back to the U.S. on December 24, 1912. Her sacrifice moved the hearts of many.
The vision and goal of the conference was an inheritance of Moon’s slogans: “I would I had a thousand lives that I might give them to ... China!”; “Surely there can be no greater joy than that of saving souls.”
Well-known overseas Chinese scholars and pastors were invited as speakers, including Mr. Dr. Yeou-cherng Bor, Dr. Joshua Ting, Professor Lin Zhiping, and Dr. Evan Liu. Dr. Todd Lafferty from the Southern Baptist Convention shared reasons for failure in the mission field and nine patterns for successful mission work. Once-imprisoned Pastor Andrew Craig Brunson encouraged Chinese Christians to take up their calling to the Muslim world while sharing the mission in Turkey from his own experience.
Another international conference was also held virtually to honor the 110th anniversary of her death. Speakers from South Korea and the United States explored celebration of the missionary’s selfless service in the mission in China.
7. Mental health issues in the Post-COVID-19 era
In recent years, people tend to focus more on comprehensive health than elderly care and physical development of adolescents. People are increasingly concerned about mental health issues in the Post-COVID-19 era. Continuous lockdowns and restrictions, panic, and economic depression exerted a subtle influence on future daily life.
A report released by the World Health Organization in March showed that there was an increase of 25 percent in symptoms of depression and anxiety in 2020. Lu Lin, an academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences and an expert in psychiatry and clinical medicine, said that there was approximately one third of those who were isolated at home because of the pandemic during the past three years showed different degrees of depression, anxiety, insomnia, or stress reaction. More than ten percent of the group failed to fully recover and the psychological impact will last at least two decades.
In regard to the mental issues, churches and Christian organizations in Beijing, Guangdong, Fujian, and the eastern part provided psychological counseling services, training programs or launched psychological lectures to help believers and unbelievers deal with different kinds of mental problems. Visits to disadvantaged people were also carried out.
8. Caring for grassroots pastors is an unavoidable responsibility of churches in China today.
According to the data from the white paper entitled, China's Policies and Practices on Upholding Freedom of Religious Belief, there are more than 38 million Christians and about 57,000 clergy. In addition to the registered teaching staff, there are many non-government-approved grassroots pastors. The exact number remains unknown, but it is estimated that there are more than 60,000 or 70,000 grassroots pastors. Derived from the official data of 2014, the current number of Christians in China is between 23 million and 40 million, accounting for about 1.7% to 2.9% of China's total population. If we calculate based on 40 million Christians and 60,000 grassroots pastors, that means each pastor is ministering to 24,000 people. Even if we take various factors into account and reduce the number by half, the minimum number of people that one grassroots pastor ministers to exceeds 10,000. Compared to churches around the globe, the ration of 1:10,000 is shocking. This shows how great the burden is on the shoulders of grassroots pastors.
In addition to the burden of pastoral care, many grassroots pastors face financial difficulties. A stable income and life is often “not expected nor attainable” for them. Fortunately, the development of churches in China in recent decades has brought about an increase in correspondence courses and training resources. While high-quality resources are still lacking, pastors now have more opportunities for in-person or online training. It is easier for them to equip themselves through various channels today, compared to the hardship faced by the grassroots pastors in the 1980s and 1990s.
But all this time, most churches in China have paid little attention to caring for pastors. Churches frequently talk about "caring for the believers", "caring for the disadvantaged", and “caring for the society"... The one group that needs the most care, the grassroots pastors, is often overlooked.
Pastor D, who has served in grassroots churches for more than 20 years in the Central Plains, said, "We do have 'material needs.' 'Spiritual care' is needed as well but unavailable. Pastors are also in need of love and shepherding."
We must be more aware that caring for grassroots pastors is an unavoidable responsibility of churches in China today.
9. The Chinese Christian community was keen on social topics like the Xuzhou “chained” woman and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two public topics which aroused extensive attention and discussions among the Chinese Christian community was the Xuzhou chained woman incident and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the spring of 2022, a Chinese mother of eight who was chained to a hut in the cold weather caused outrage on the Internet. Thanks to the continuous efforts of numberless citizens, the local authorities had to renounce the previous announcement that dismissed the human trafficking claims and said the woman was legitimately married to a local with mental disabilities. Eventually, relevant people suspected of the crime and officials who handled the case with dereliction of duty were punished.
The Xuzhou chained woman incident can be considered as a landmark. The significance is more than social—although the reversal of the issue was credited to the consciousness and kindness of the countless ordinary people including many Christian groups—overall, we have to admit the church has only paid attention to its own affairs and ignored social justice for too long. It was time the church reviewed the piercing appeal of “the uneasy conscience of modern Fundamentalism”.
The sudden outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine surprised the world in February. Recovering from the shock, global thinkers started to conduct in-depth discussions one after another in the past months, and the Christian world has also started to reflect deeply on the shock. Different from the reaction to the chained woman issue, Chinese Christians presented distinct disagreements and divisions on the invasion.
A Christian writer commented, “This war is bound to profoundly change the world, and it has also severely challenged the broad Christian world because most of the soldiers on both sides are Christians (among them, most are Orthodox Christians), and Ukraine, in the blood pool of this war, was the area with the largest number of churches under the long-term jurisdiction of the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow. All the children of God have the responsibility to face this tragedy completely. The brothers and sisters are in a desperate situation of killing.”
10. Persecution: house churches and church schools banned and Christians sent to prison
As the religious environment continues to shrink in China, many house churches and church schools were shut down and a number of Chinese Christians and pastors were sent to prison.
Xi’an Abundant Church was officially banned by the Xi’an Municipal Bureau of Civil Affairs on August 19, said the local authorities.
Wenzhou Bowen Bible Institute and Wenzhou Bible Institute were considered “illegal social organizations” by the government and shut down on August 8, according to International Christian Concern.
Hao Zhiwei, a Protestant house church pastor, was sentenced to eight years after being charged with “fraud”, with regards to the handling of her church’s offerings. Refusing to join the state-run Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant churches in China, Hao was charged with “preaching the gospel without authorization and fraud for collecting church offerings”. Several Chinese pastors or elders were convicted on the charges of “fraud” in 2022.
Karen Luo and Ruth Wang contributed to these reports