Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi Sentenced to Nine Years in Prison

Pastor Wang Yi in a sermon “Waiting Together for the Day of Redemption” preached on September 9, 2018 at Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China. | YouTube/ Wang Yi Sermon Clips

Pastor Wang Yi, head of one of China’s largest unregistered churches, has been sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of subversion of power and illegal business operations amid an uptick in religious persecution in China.

The pastor of the 5,000-member Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, was sentenced Monday, according to a statement from the Intermediate People’s Court of Chengdu Municipality.

As part of his sentence, the pastor will be deprived of his political rights for three years and $7,200 (50,000 renminbi) of his personal assets will be seized, according to the statement.

Facebook post from a group affiliated with the church said the embattled congregation praised God for the “faithful witness of our brother in Christ, whose reward is now great in Heaven.”

“May the Lord use pastor Wang Yi’s imprisonment to draw many to Himself and to bring glory to His name,” noted the post. “‘For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’ (2 Cor. 4:11).”

Early Rain Covenant Church was first raided during a Sunday evening service in December 2018 after authorities claimed it violated religious regulations because it was not registered with the government. Wang was detained along with his wife, Jiang Rong, and more than 100 members of his congregation.

China’s Communist Party requires that Protestants worship only in churches recognized and regulated by the officially sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Authorities ransacked and sealed the church’s properties, including offices, a kindergarten, a seminary, and a Bible college, and searched the homes of many of its members. Police also forced church members to sign a pledge not to attend the church again, and around half of the church’s original membership remain under close surveillance by police.

Most of Early Rain’s congregants were eventually released after a period of days or months, including Jiang. However, in November, a Chinese court sentenced another church leader, Qin Defu, to four years in prison for the charge of illegal business operations.

The New York Times notes that Wang had become known for taking high-profile positions on politically sensitive issues, including forced abortions and the massacre that crushed the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett