China: The CCP's War on Religion Heats Up


Date:  December 12, 2018

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strikes Chengdu's Early Rain Covenant Church 

- Elizabeth Kendal

Generally it is the case that when serious persecution flares, the persecuted 
will strategically retreat 'underground' and endeavour to continue their 
ministry in secret. This is a totally legitimate response, rooted in the 
premise that as 'sheep in the midst of wolves', we must be 'wise as serpents 
and innocent as doves' (Matthew 10:16 ESV).  Sometimes God calls individuals 
and even whole churches to resist the oppressor as did the apostles Peter and 
John in Acts 4:18-20. This too is a totally legitimate response which exposes 
evil by drawing it out into the light, albeit at the cost of one's own life 
or liberty. Both responses are legitimate; both are used by God. Each is a 
calling and should not cause division.  

Located in Chengdu, the capital city of China's south-western Sichuan 
Province, Early Rain Covenant Church has 'about 500 followers but their 
weekly gatherings spread across 12 meeting points around Chengdu, attracting 
more than 800 church-goers on a weekly basis'. Unregistered on principle, 
Early Rain Covenant Church is committed to open ministry, irrespective of 
circumstances. Undeterred by the escalating persecution or the new Religious 
Affairs Regulations [see Religious Liberty Monitoring (25 Jan 2018)],  Early 
Rain has continued to operate openly. It conducts unregistered worship 
services, prayer meetings and Bible studies, as well as running its 
unregistered Covenant Reformed School (which caters for some 40 primary 
school students) and Covenant Seminary (with some 100 students). It has also 
continued to evangelise openly in the street and publish sermons on-line. Its 
policy is best summed up in its 'Guide for Churches' (May 2018): 'The highest 
law of the Christian is the Bible. Any law that contradicts the Bible we will 
disobey by non-violent methods.' As you might imagine, Early Rain church 
poses a serious problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  

Some 200 Early Rain members were arrested in a crackdown in May. While all 
were released within 24 hours, the church was put on notice, warned that if 
it refused to comply with CCP regulations then it would be closed down by the 
end of the year. Alarmed by the escalating persecution, Early Rain church 
leaders organised a petition. Entitled, A Joint Statement by Pastors: A 
Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith, the petition was published 
on-line on 30 August with 198 signatures; top of the list was Early Rain's 
Pastor Wang Yi (45, a former legal scholar). By 5 September the list had 
grown to 439 signatures, leading observers to question if this might mark 'a 
significant moment in the country's Church and State relations'. Then, on 
Saturday 8 December - with persecution soaring to levels unseen in decades - 
Pastor Wang Yi published a 7300-word manifesto on social media entitled 
'Meditations on the Religious War', in which he condemns the CCP, likens 
President Xi to Caesar and Pharaoh, and urges Christians to embrace civil 

On Sunday 9 December Chinese police fanned out across the city of Chengdu. At 
around 6pm they snatched the church's cameraman off the street outside the 
church. Then, in co-ordinated lightning raids throughout the night, they 
broke into the homes and workplaces of Early Rain members. By 9pm the 
church's phone line had been cut and members' social media channels were 
blocked. Police pressured members to sign a document agreeing to never again 
visit Early Rain Covenant Church, which it labelled an 'evil cult'. More than 
100 members and key church leaders, including Pastor Wang Yi and his wife 
Jiang Rong, were arrested for refusing to sign. Assistant deacon Zhang 
Guoqing is one of two church members released on Monday morning. He is 
essentially under house arrest, watched around the clock by 'security 
personnel' posted in his home.   

Elder Li Yingqiang, who ditched his phone and fled when he heard the police 
were coming, was the sole Early Rain church elder to escape arrest that 
night. He spoke to World Magazine's June Cheng: 'Pray that God would give us 
the courage and the strength to deal with this persecution,' he said. 'That 
those [in detention] would be a good witness, and that the church members 
wouldn't compromise, but instead ... they would know God is real and that He 
will protect them.' China Aid (CAA) reports that Elder Li Yingqiang was 
subsequently arrested on 11 December. As CAA founder Bob Fu notes, 'Many 
house churches have been closed this year in China's harshest religious 
suppression in decades.' [That includes Beijing's 1600-strong Zion Church; 
see RLPB 474 (26 Sep).] Fu believes the attack on 'Early Rain Covenant Church 
represents a major escalation of religious persecution in China'.  


* the Holy Spirit will be powerfully and palpably present with all Early Rain 
members arrested in recent days; may they be sustained by God's presence, 
assured of God's love, filled with God's wisdom and gifted with God's words.  

'You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness 
before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious 
how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be 
given to you in that hour.  For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of 
your Father speaking through you.' (Matthew 10: 18-20 ESV)

* God in mercy will restrain cruel and angry hands, and in grace use the 
witness of believers to bring conviction of sin, liberating truth and the 
light of life into China's dark and secret places.  

* all China's anxious, fearful, incarcerated and 'disappeared' believers will 
experience the sustaining reality of God's 'everlasting arms', especially 
over the coming Christmas season ... remembering in particular the severely 
persecuted (tortured) and 'disappeared' Christian lawyer, our brother, Gao 

'There is none like God, O Jeshurun [Israel], who rides through the heavens 
to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is 
your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.' (Deut 33:27 

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