Date: February 17, 2021
By Elizabeth Kendal
While the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) campaign to fully subjugate the Church in China has already begun, it is about to get a whole lot worse. Announced in November, approved on 8 January and published on 18 January, the CCP's new 'Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy' will come into force on 1 May 2021. To operate legally, religious clergy – i.e., those who 'engage in religious teaching activities' (Article 2) - will require a 'clergy card' showing they are registered in the national database of authorised clergy. Registration will be difficult to achieve and easy to lose. To achieve registration, clergy must be identified by an authorised CCP approved/registered religious group, and willing 'to support the leadership of the Communist Party of China [and] the socialist system ...' (Article 3).
Registered clergy will be obliged to operate under the 'supervision and management' of the CCP's Religious Affairs Department which will 'guide', monitor and 'file records' on all registered clergy (Articles 32-45). Furthermore, registered clergy and registered organisations will be obliged to monitor and report on each other (Articles 44 and 45). As occurs with 'social credit', a system of rewards and punishments will apply. As Bitter Winter notes (11 Feb): 'Compliant clergy [are] thus transformed into apparatchiks of the CCP, lured by rewards and terrorised by punishments. They will be called to "Sinicize" their religions and preach love for the CPP to their devotees. Not much will be left of genuine religion - which is precisely the aim of these and other previous measures.' Indeed, the new Administrative Measures raise the stakes considerably. For clergy (religious workers), as with churches, the choice is now between (1) compliance (serving the CCP), (2) open resistance (resulting in prison), or (3) secret resistance (moving ministry deep underground). It is highly likely that, within a few years, all China's resisting 'clergy' will be either suffering in prison or hidden underground. The CCP's plan is, that is much the same way that the cross is being eliminated from China's skyline, so too will the evangel be eliminated from the land.
One evangelist destined to fall foul of the new Administrative Measures is Brother Chen Wensheng of Hunan Province. Before he met the Lord Jesus, Chen spent ten years crippled by and enslaved to his drug addiction. His testimony is one of transformation, healing, liberty and redemption, all thanks to the Lord's amazing grace. Like the healed leaper of Mark 1:40-45, Chen cannot help but go out and speak of it. Armed with a cross and the Word of God, Brother Chen has been sharing the Good News on the streets of Hengyang ever since. According to China Aid Association (CAA 12 Feb), 'Hengyang police have transported Brother Chen to the local station so often that most Hengyang police officers and detention centre officials know him by name.' Compelled by joy and his evident spiritual gift, Brother Chen views every arrest as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with arresting officers and officials.
Brother Chen was arrested on 1 January, after which he spent 10 days in detention. Upon release Chen resumed his street witness, this time accompanied by his 84-year-old mother. The pair were arrested on 12 January and, though Chen's mother was subsequently released, Chen spent a further 15 days in detention, sharing the gospel at every opportunity. On 29 January (two days after Chen's release) a posse of officials visited Brother Chen at his home. In a meeting which lasted until midnight, the officials tried to persuade Chen to cease his street ministry, while Chen seized the opportunity to share the gospel with the officials. CAA reports that despite their threats, Chen has no plans to cease his evangelistic witness. 'Even if imprisoned,' he said, 'I have made up my mind to proclaim the gospel - even in prison.' Lord have mercy!
MAY GOD OUR FATHER, WHOSE GRACE IS SUFFICIENT,
- comfort and encourage all of China's faithful Christian leaders, teachers and evangelists; may the Holy Spirit guide each one personally, so each will know what the LORD and builder of the Church requires of them; may their faith be strengthened with unshakeable assurance that 'he who promised is faithful' (Hebrews 10:23).
PROMISE: 'I am with you always, to the end of the age' (Matthew 28:20).
'The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. "I know your tribulation ... Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days [i.e. a limited time] you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life".' (From Revelation 2:8-11 ESV)
- sustain and encourage Brother Chen Wensheng, a redeemed drug addict and humble evangelist who simply wants others to meet the Saviour who liberated and transformed him; may the self-defeating folly of removing such a man and silencing such a testimony be clear to all. We pray for awakening in Hengyang, a riverside city in need of Living Waters.
UPDATE to RLPB 584 (10 Feb 2021) on IRAN
When exiled Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi (34) presented himself to the prosecutor as requested, he was arrested. Now incarcerated in Chabahar prison, the long-persecuted, ever-faithful Firouzi has commenced a hunger strike. Before his arrest, he told his supporters that he was 'not afraid of being sent back to prison for telling the truth' about persecution and injustice. 'The power of Christ's love for us is such that no power can distract us from what we believe,' he said. 'They may be able to hurt us [physically], but they can't do damage to our souls.' This is brave speech from a man who knows exactly how much the regime can hurt him both physically and emotionally. The regime clearly wants to break him. Ebrahim Firouzi needs our prayers.