As we embrace 2020, the editorial team of China Christian Daily has selected the top 10 Christian news stories of 2019 based on the number of views, keyword searches, shares, and prominence of articles. We hope this summary will bring you light for 2020 by looking back on the past year.
Here are the top 10 news items about Christianity in China in 2019.
1. The year 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Union Version.
The year 2019 marked the centenary of the publication of the Chinese Union Version Bible (CUV) which is the most widely used and most influential Bible version in the Chinese-speaking world.
The CUV Bible was published in 1919 and translated by members from many different Protestant denominations including Chauncey Goodrich and Calvin Wilson Mateer. The revisions were started in the early 1980s and completed in 2010.
Registered churches across China held various kinds of celebrations such as an exhibition of Bibles, Bible transcribing, and Bible memorization. Pastors in three-self churches led congregations to review the translation process of the CUV and reflect on its significance for the Chinese church.
On December 7 and 8, 2019, the national China Christian Council & Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC&TSPM) held a series of activities including a handwriting campaign attended by 100 Christians, an award ceremony for copied Bible scripts, a Sunday worship service, and a symposium.
It was the first time for a large percentage of believers to be aware of "Bible Day" in the Chinese church. It was rarely known that in the early 1990s, the second Sunday of December was designated as Bible Day by the CCC&TSPM.
2. Amity Printing produced 200 Million Bibles.
On November 11, 2019 was a historic moment for the church in China. The world's largest Bible printing press produced 200 million Bibles in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.
More than 200 registered Chinese church leaders, government leaders, and overseas guests joined in the celebration.
According to the announcement by Rev. Cao Shengjie, former president of CCC, the participants witnessed the production of the 200 millionth copy of the Bible. Amity Printing Company (APC) has produced 200 million copies in more than 130 languages, including 85.48 million for the Chinese church.
On that day, there was also an exhibition of the Chinese Bible as well as Bibles printed by APC. About 300 copies of different Bibles were on display, including important Catholic Bibles from the late Ming Dynasty and also Protestant Bibles.
APC also established two branches in Ethiopia and Kenya in 2015 and 2019, respectively, to better serve the overseas churches.
3. The translation of Romans 8:3 in the revision of Today's Chinese Version stirred a heated debate.
In May 2019, Today's Chinese Version (TCV) became a topic of conversation in WeChat friends' circles and group chats.
The immediate cause was the Chinese translation of Romans 8:3. Comparing it with the CUV translation, some Christians argued that there was an obvious problem that the incarnate Jesus Christ seemed to possess the same "sinful nature"or "original sin" as we sinners, something completely different from the doctrine that Jesus is fully divine and a fully sinless human. This translation caused a big wave...
Although the translators of TCV annotated this verse so that it could be paraphrased as "in sinful flesh similar to us", this version could not escape criticism and attack from a portion of Chinese believers. A theological debate ensued.
Despite the heavily critical opinion held by the majority, some Christians did understand the meaning of the CUV translation.
4. Notifications concerning the management of religion were released.
In January 2019, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a notice regarding the registration matters by legally designated persons for places of worship. According to the notice, qualified religious premises could be registered by legally designated persons effective April 1, 2019.
The policy also specified the requirements, procedures, and changes for the registration of legal persons as well as the duties of registration and management agencies.
As the revised regulations on religious affairs came into effect on Feb. 1, 2018, provincial-level religious regulations were published one after another, for Shanghai, Jiangxi, Gansu, Shandong, Zhejiang, Guizhou, Inner Mongolia, Hubei, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, and Anhui.
On December 30, 2019, the official WeChat account of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, "Weiyan Zongjiao", issued a message saying that on Nov. 20, the State Religious Affairs Bureau issued the Measures for the Administration of Religious Groups, Policy No. 13, which will be effective as of February 1, 2020.
Consisting of six chapters and 41 articles, the Measures apply to the organization of religious groups, the functions of religious groups, supervision and management, etc. The Measures specify that the religious affairs department of the people's government is the operational unit for a religious group and shall perform the functions of operational guidance and supervision and management of religious groups.
5. The urban church saw a revival of Pentecostalism.
In recent years, there has been a significant percentage increase amongst new generation house church Christians who choose Pentecostalism. The primary reason is that Charismatic churches can provide them an opportunity to release their social pressure.
Pentecostalism in China grew rapidly in the rural areas in the early 1980s. With the development of urban churches in the 21st century, the Charismatic movement has seen revival in the cities and has appealed to the upper and middle classes, to intellectuals, and to young and middle-aged people.
The main reasons are as follows: the diverse forms can satisfy the needs of different urban groups; the emphasis on interpersonal relationships results in caring believers; Christians are willing to follow charismatic leaders; and its openness and tolerance are easily accepted by society.
6. The Korean cult "New Heaven and Earth" was rampant.
On Mother's Day which was celebrated on May 12, 2019, members of the Korean cult Shincheonji, translated "New Heaven and New Earth", were madly seducing and trapping Christians into become their members.
On May 16, Gospel Church and Xinqu Church in Pudong New Area of Shanghai issued a notice saying that the Shincheonji cult was rampant near local churches in the district and the cult's followers were found to be passing out leaflets in front of churches. It added that well-informed sources had said that the cult's members had infiltrated a few churches. The announcement also said that some believers who didn't know the truth "helped" the cult pass out the leaftlets. Later, All Saints Church in Huangpu District released a similar reminder.
Apart from being in Shanghai, the cult was also active in Quanzhou, Fujian province. Since April 29, Fujian Quannan Church had daily warned its congregation against the cult through its official WeChat account. It claimed that some believers have been seduced to become the cult's "core". What is worse, "dooped" believers had "stolen" other people into participating in "training programs" that had been held in different places from time to time.
The organization also spread its influence through the Internet on two popular social media platforms, QQ and WeChat.
According to an article published by the China Anti-Cult website (www.chinafxj.cn), at the end of November 2018, it was said that the rampant activities of the cult resulted from its 2019 goal that there had to be 100,000 new members attending the graduation ceremony conducted at its Korean headquarters by the end of 2019. The headquarters assigned a mission to its Chinese branch that the average number of new Chinese members in each of some large cities and provinces should be above 5,000 and that they would meet the founder, Man Hee Lee, and attend the commencement.
7. "Rural religious fervor" was highlighted in the 2019 Conference on the Study of Christianity.
On October 19-20, 2019, the Conference on the Study of Christianity and the Chinese Symposium on the Study of Christianity was held in Beijing. A discussion centered around the topic of "rural western religious fervor".
Professor Lu Yunfeng of the Department of Sociology of Beijing University referred to an analysis based on the China Family Tracking Survey (CFTS), which reflected on the "rural western religious fervor". The analysis looked at the composition of rural religions, the social demographic characteristics of rural believers, the comparison between rural Buddhism and Christianity, and the comparison of rural religious status in Henan and Guangdong provinces. When comparing the rural regions of Guangdong and Henan, the former was dominated by Buddhism, the latter divided between Christianity and Buddhism, and the western religious fervor in rural areas was only a local phenomenon.
Professor Lu argued, "The current 'religious fervor' may just be a kind of reigniting and more detailed study is needed in the case of rural religions."
The conclusion was that the term "rural religious fervor" itself needed to be reconsidered, and that the so-called "religious fervor" was related to the decline of religion in the late 1970s. So far, China claimed that the proportion of the population with religious beliefs was only a few percent, and that religion still remained on the margins of society.
8. Across the country the three-self churches marked the 70th anniversary of the P.R.C.
From the beginning to the end of 2019, official churches across China hosted a series of celebrations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the P.R.C. The activities included blood donation drives, free clinics, calligraphy and painting exhibitions, praise and worship meetings, and tours to martyrs' memorial halls.
On September 7, Dalian Yuguang Street Church, which has a one-hundred-year history, held a calligraphy and painting exhibition, as well as a competition about the Bible and traditional culture. These activities were in conjunction with celebrating the 70th birthday of the People's Republic of China.
9. The Chinese church was under restrictions: cross removals, church demolitions and amalgamations, a prohibition of Sunday school and illegal religious publications, and escalated surveillance.
In February 2019, several churches in northern Jiangsu sent a message saying that their crosses had been removed from the church's rooftop.
A local pastor said that the choirs in some local churches were told to sing the national anthem in Sunday services. In another instance, some local churches were required to display sign saying that "minors were forbidden to enter the church building".
On February 21, 2019, a source said that a cross on a church in Yancheng, Jiangsu province was forcibly removed and put inside the church. The cross removal campaign also spread to Xuzhou and Lianyungang, Jiangsu. Sources revealed that more than one third of the churches in Henan and Jiangsu were shut down or amalgamated.
Many house churches in Henan were forced to gather privately or be registered. Some official gatherings were shut down and some that were not, were told to place national flags in the church, sing the national anthem, and have policies explained.
In Inner Mongolia, minors were not permitted to enter religious activity venues, including Christian churches and other religious temples. However, church services and gatherings were not affected in the province.
According to Nanjing's Mochou Lu Church, on Feb. 22, 2019, local government officials from Nanjing came to examine published books at the church. The team did so to protect legal publications and eradicate illegally published ones.The similar situation also happened in some key religious premises of Zhenjiang, Jiangsu.
Supervision and monitoring inside the church were increased through facial recognition, electronic identification card check, and camera surveillance.
The churches in Huaiyin District, Huaian, Jiangsu province were forced to install cameras. A local co-worker said that cameras had to be set up when officials investigated the local churches in March.
In a church in Simenkan where the British missionary Samuel Pollard had preached for decades, people needed to have their identification cards recognized before entering the church.
On October 6, biometric devices had been set up inside Muyang Church in Huangshi, a historic city in China's central Hubei Province. Believers had to queue in line to have their fingerprints and faces recognized before being permitted to attend the service.
Some social media platforms were closed. Some We media including WeChat frauded money by many posts about the testimonies of charity ministries, volunteers, and for poor pastors.
On July 9, more faith-related WeChat accounts had been blocked, including the official accounts of registered church such as Hangzhou Chongyi Church, Beijing Chongwenmen Church, and Nanjing Mochou Lu Church.
The accounts entitled, "Liangyou Zhiyin", "Christ's Testimony", "Sunday School", "In Faith to Read" and "Wheat's Story Time" suffered the same fate.
In early September, Ningbo International Church and a Christian video company "7G" transferred to other WeChat accounts. Since then, "7G" has been unable to update its content and was then shut down in late November on WeChat.
In November, the official websites of Nanjing Mochou Lu Church, Suzhou Shishan Church, and Hangzhou CC&TSPM could not be accessed. Earlier, the websites of Jiangsu Theological Seminary, Beijing CC&TSPM, and Fengtai Gospel Site were closed for quite a long time.
10. 30 churches were ruined during an explosion in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province.
Almost 30 churches had various degrees of damage due to an explosion in Xiangshui County, Yancheng, Jiangsu Province. With the main area of 4,065 square meters (1 acre), Wangshang Church suffered damages estimated at 2 million yuan. Haian Church needed to be reconstructed. Christians were unable to gather at the ones that were badly damaged. Many Christians volunteered to go to hospitals and help the victims.
The blast occurred at the Tianjiayi Chemical Company in Xiangshui County, Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, on March 21, 2019, killing 78 people.
Twelve believers were injured. Staff from Wangshang Church went to visit injured Christians, told them that God had shown mercy to them and that the government would deal with matters properly.
According to a worker of the Xiangshui county church, an elderly believer was working with his two colleagues on a construction site that was separated only by a wall from the Tianjiayi Chemical Plant where the blast occurred. After the blast, because of being surrounded by a dense fog, they were unable to see any possible way of escape. Crying for the Lord's guidance, they eventually ran from the scene with injuries.
A sister had three broken ribs, but she, haunted by the experience, thanked God for saving her life rather than complain about why she had to go through the misery.