Chinese Government Closes Churches Before Christmas

A week after a prominent pastor in China released his viral letter on faithful disobedience amid a government raid on his church, Communist authorities once again shut down worshipers from Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church—one of the most prominent unregistered churches in the country—as well as Guangzhou’s Rongguili Church, one of its first underground Christian communities.

On Sunday, 60 police and religious affairs officials interrupted weekly gatherings at Rongguili, ultimately closing the church, seizing materials, and taking cell phones from attendees, Asia News reported.

“Halfway through the children’s Bible class, we heard the footsteps of dozens of police and officials stomping up the stairs,” one member said, according to the South China Morning Post.

“They read out law enforcement notices declaring our venue was an illegal gathering [that had engaged in] illegal publishing and illegal fundraising and confiscated all Bibles.”

The Protestant congregation, which now draws more than 5,000 people to worship each week, was founded in the 1970s by the late pastor Samuel Lamb; it represents one of the few churches in China dating back to before the Cultural Revolution.

Ahead of Christmas, Chinese authorities have continued their ongoing crackdown on underground Protestant churches, which do not belong to the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement and are illegal under Communist rule. The activity has spurred further concern by US officials and American Christians.

The previous Sunday, December 9, officials shut down Early Rain Covenant Church, arresting more than a dozen Christians, including pastor Wang Yi. After he was detained, the church released Yi’s statement explaining and defending his nonviolent resistance to China’s “evil” and “wicked” rulers.

“I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church,” he concluded. “This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.”

Prior to his arrest, he insisted that, in the event of government interference, the church continue to gather. With their church locked and guarded by police, 50 to 60 people gathered for worship outside this week, only to once again be halted and arrested by officials. World magazine reported from China:

A group of about 50 or 60 Early Rain members held a service in a nearby riverside park, singing hymns, praying, and reciting the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death? That I am not my own but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Three of Early Rain’s church plants have also suffered persecution over the past week, World wrote. One lost access to their building, one preacher was detained, and another was put under house arrest.

At least 10 Early Rain leaders remain in custody, according to news updates. Those that have been released relayed accounts of being shackled, starved, and tortured while in detention.

“Lord, look at the injustice done against your children,” read a prayer request from Early Rain, shared by the ministry China Aid. “This country is trampling on the dignity of your children, but these children are the apple of your eye. You will heal these wounds with your loving hands and teach us, in the midst of this suffering, the love of God and the endurance of Christ. Lord, come quickly!”

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Source: Christianity Today