The delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is visiting China from January 7 to 16, 2018, starting a series of celebrations of the international inter-church organization's 70th anniversary.
Headed by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the team included WCC Asia president Dr Sang Chang and Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar, WCC programme executive for Interreligious Dialogue.
According to WCC official website, before the tour to China, Rev.Tveit emphasized the significance of this visit - "It's a historic journey in many ways, and comes as a follow up to the meeting of the Executive Committee in 2016. I am eager to meet more representatives from churches, particularly students and youth who represent the church of the future."
"As we begin the year of the WCC's 70th Anniversary in China, we show that the WCC is a living fellowship with a rich legacy now active and open for the calling of the ecumenical movement in the 21st century." He added.
Rev. Tveit expressed the expectation for this visit that they "aimed at an even stronger cooperation from the worldwide fellowship with the church here."
The visit started last Sunday with a sermon preached by Rev. Tveit in Beijing Chongwenmen Church, one of the oldest Protestant churches in China built by the American Methodist Church in 1870.
He focused on the theme of "Jesus Christ, the Joy of the World", bringing a greeting from the fellowship with 348 member churches across the globe.
Rev. Tveit said, "The first word about Jesus Christ was a word about joy. It is indeed a joy to visit you here in Beijing in this season of Christmas, when we celebrate this joy. In the world of today we need messages and values that can unite us as human beings in a sustainable way across all borders... The joy of Christmas is at the heart of the work and the call of the World Council of Churches as we now, in this time of Christmas, and here, in Beijing, China, begin our celebration of the 70th anniversary of the WCC."
He also mentioned the roles of the Chinese church in China. "We continue sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with all the people. Among the very good news in the family of the World Council of Churches has been the news about the life and the growth of the church in China. Your faithful Christian witness, during and after very difficult times for your church, has given hope to many in the world."
He talked about the part of churches in China in protecting children and preserving peace in the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Colombia. "The joy of Christmas is a word to all who live without peace. In these days you live with the risk of war in your neighbor countries in the Korean Peninsula. The people of Korea have been in our prayers and our attention for a long time and particularly the last months. As a World Council of Churches, we share their fear and their faith in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. This year we will also give special attention to the peoples of Latin-America and their needs for peace, particularly in Colombia."
On January 9, 2018, the delegation visited the CCC&TSPM and met the leadership and students at the East China Theological Seminary. The CCC&TSPM reported that Rev. Gao Feng, president of the CCC, reviewed the interaction between the WCC and the CCC&TSPM since the CCC became one of WCC's members in February 1991.
Rev. Tveit claimed the WCC sought ways to carry out cooperation and services and to promote ministries based on shared belief. As divisions eroded the church history due to cultural and political factors, the organization was committed to pursuing unity, justice, peace, and love. He expected to gain more understanding of the experiences of the Chinese church in the post-denomination era and the challenges it faces from the trip.
Rev. Xu Xiaohong, vice-chairman and secretary of the TSPM, said that churches in China were concerned with training for preachers in ethnic minority churches, rural church development, poverty, and church personnel cultivation, hoping for support from Christian institutes including the WCC.
Rev. Tveit showed a willingness to continue to give China theological education support, inviting the CCC&TSPM to join in the WCC's social service ministries related to the Chinese church.
The delegation will travel to Xi'an and visit Shaanxi Bible School and Jing Xin Church. After that, they will be back in Beijing and Dr Sang Chang will preach in Gangwashi Church on Jan. 14. They will also meet with religious leaders in China and representatives from the State Administration for Religious Affairs.
- Translated by Karen Luo