2021 was deemed as being in the post-pandemic era after 2020, a year full of fantasy and authenticity due to the COVID-19 pandemic which would have a profound impact on the world and human history.
Registered churches or TSPM churches encountered sudden lockdowns and reopening from time to time according to local pandemic rebounds and de-escalations, while house churches were restricted from having large gatherings and instead met online. Easter and Christmas were celebrated in a low key fashion. The campaign for The Sinicization of Christianity remained ongoing in official churches. Church leaders were seeking new ways to renovate ecclesiology and to pastor their congregations during the strange period.
Natural disasters struck China’s Henan, Shanxi, and Sichuan Province. Christians in China came to aid the affected churches, believers, and residents with donations, supplies, and other daily services.
Specific laws and regulations on cyberspace in religion, religious institutions, and religious personnel were released. Live streaming seminars and workshops became popular within academia.
As we embrace 2022, the editorial team of China Christian Daily has selected the top 10 Christian news stories of 2021 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 2021. Read part 1 of CCD's top 5 news stories of the year here.
6. China tightened restrictions on Internet Christian content.
A clampdown campaign on Christianity within cyberspace was launched in late April as a batch of WeChat Christian accounts with titles concerning “Bible” or “gospel” were removed. Any search for keywords including “Christ,” “gospel,” and “fellowship” failed to get any Christianity-related public accounts. Christian sites whose names contain sensitive Christian keywords on WeChat, such as Gospel Times, Gospel TV, Gospel League, WeDevote Bible, and Old Gospel were permanently shut down.
In early June, some Christian public accounts on WeChat, mostly pertaining to Christian books and publishing, were banned. Many registered churches’ WeChat accounts followed, including Beijing Haidian Church, one of the official flagship churches in China.
Released by the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) on December 3, the "Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services" will come into effect on March 1, 2022. It says that online religious activities or content are not allowed to be organized, broadcast live, or recorded without permission.
7. New regulations on religious management were released.
The new regulations, titled “Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel”, was released on February 9 and came into effect on May 1. The rules define religious personnel’s rights and duties, regulate their behaviors, and clarify their relief channels.
Issued on May 1 and taking effect on September 1, “The Administrative Measures for Religious Institutions” contain 83 articles clarifying the nature and orientation of religious colleges, their establishment conditions and standards as well as operational principles and responsibilities of religious institutions and principals.
Several cities and counties announced financial rewards to people who report “illegal religious activities”. Whistle-blowers could earn from 500 to 1,000 yuan for reports about unqualified religious personnel, unauthorized donations, private house gatherings, or audio-visual products outside places of worship, etc.
In early December, Beijing hosted a national religious conference, summarizing the achievements of religious work. It "clarified the insistence of Sinicizing religion in China, and the perseverance of doing a good job in guiding ideology, strategic objectives, key tasks and policy measures for religious work in the new era".
8. CCC&TSPM continued to Sinicize Christianity.
Registered churches across China celebrated the centenary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) around July 1, the anniversary of the founding of CPC. TSPM churches held activities such as patriotic education, calligraphy exhibition, concert, and a national flag raising ceremony.
Guangzhou CC&TSPM sponsored a lecture series and forum on the Sinicization of Christianity, while Christians sang the scriptures along to a Chinese rhythm on the Chinese Bible Day, on the second Sunday (including Saturday) in December.
9. Christians were sentenced to years for selling audio Bible players.
In July, four Christians were sentenced to several years’ imprisonment for selling audio Bible players after the recent trial last December. Charged with “illegal business operations”, four Christian employees of Shenzhen’s “Tree of Life Technology Co., Ltd” were convicted of “committing illegal business operations”.
Fu Xuanjuan, the legal representative of the company which sold electronic Bible players that are popular among elderly rural Christians with weak vision, was said to be sentenced to six years with a fine of 200,000 yuan, according to an unidentified source. The other three faced a sentence ranging from one to three years in prison with financial penalties.
10. Studies and seminaries on Christianity sprang up in the academia.
Since the translation campaign of the main works of Martin Luther into Chinese started at the end of 2020, Paulos Huang, director of the Sino-European Center of Shanghai University, launched two serial lectures to explore the relationship between the religious reformer as well as social practice and the “Third Enlightenment”. Huang said that Luther was also a reformer of philosophical theory, ideological culture, who might play a role in the future “Third Enlightenment” in China which would be carried out in the Chinese language community after the first enlightenment movement of the May Fourth New Culture Movement started in 1919 and the second one after China’s reform and opening up in 1978.
In the 2021 Academic Annual Conference of the Chinese Sociological Association hosted in mid-July, scholars addressed the demographic features of the Chinese religious populations and reflected on the modern western cultural world through the works of Max Weber.
An academic symposium themed “Individuals, Organizations, and Cultures Spanning across China and the West” was held on September 25 in Shanghai. Many lectures touched upon the interaction between China and the West in relation to Christianity, while some reviewed the attempts to localize Christianity in China.
Christian scholar Ran Yunfei said in a lecture that he is researching Chinese biographies of foreign missionaries in China, which is often neglected. Another scholar called on the church to have the vision of being bold in becoming the Kingdom of God. Stories of two foreign missionaries who contributed to the deaf and the blind in China were reviewed.
Karen Luo, Ruth Wang, and Grace Zhi contributed to these reports