Will Chinese House Churches Survive the Latest Government Crackdown?

January 7, 2020

In an article published recently in Christianity Today, Fenggang Yang writes that China’s crackdown in late December on one of Beijing’s largest house churches, “marked the beginning of a new campaign by the Chinese Communist party-state to eliminate all jiating [house] churches in China.” Yang is a scholar with the Religious Freedom Institute’s Freedom of Religious Institutions in Society Project, which focuses on the extent to which the freedom of religious congregations and other religious organizations are respected and protected in various countries around the world.

Chinese authorities are not targeting only high-profile house churches but “have now begun zeroing in on the lesser known but numerous jiating churches throughout China,” said Yang.

Offering some historical perspective on these religious congregations, Yang writes:

Jiating churches have undergone several phases of development, beginning as underground bodies, snowballing from private gatherings in homes to congregations of hundreds, and pivoting from passive avoidance of the authorities to actively seeking registration with the government. With the exception of the Cultural Revolution, when all religious institutions were eradicated, jiating churches have generally stood independent from and parallel to the officially sanctioned “Three-Self Patriotic Movement.”

The organizations of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement form the state-authorized Protestant church in China. Yang characterizes the present phase of Beijing’s efforts against churches that remain outside of that Movement as follows:

Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, militant atheism has prevailed as national policy. Following the pronouncement of the revised Regulations of Religious Affairs in 2018, the party-state has implemented the fiercest campaign against jiating churches since the 1980s.

While Yang points to a number of reasons why China’s latest campaign against jiating churches will ultimately be counter-productive, the challenges these congregations will continue to endure in the near-term will be immense.

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