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Christianity grows in China

posted by Wei Zhu

Over at The Telegraph, Tom Phillips writes about the rapid growth of Christianity in China. The end of the Cultural Revolution has seen religiosity grow rapidly among the Chinese population; The Immanent Frame contributor Fenggang Yang calculates that China will become the most numerous Christian nation by 2030. Reporting from a newly built megachruch in Liushi, Zhejiang, Phillips talks about the change and growth in its Christian congregation over the last 50 years:

It was founded in 1886 after William Edward Soothill, a Yorkshire-born missionary and future Oxford University professor, began evangelising local communities.

But by the late 1950s, as the region was engulfed by Mao’s violent anti-Christian campaigns, it was forced to close.

Liushi remained shut throughout the decade of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, as places of worship were destroyed across the country.

Since it reopened in 1978 its congregation has gone from strength to strength as part of China’s officially sanctioned Christian church – along with thousands of others that have accepted Communist Party oversight in return for being allowed to worship.

Today it has 2,600 regular churchgoers and holds up to 70 baptisms each year, according to Shi Xiaoli, its 27-year-old preacher. The parish’s revival reached a crescendo last year with the opening of its new 1,500ft mega-church, reputedly the biggest in mainland China.

“Our old church was small and hard to find,” said Ms Shi. “There wasn’t room in the old building for all the followers, especially at Christmas and at Easter. The new one is big and eye-catching.”

The Liushi church is not alone. From Yunnan province in China’s balmy southwest to Liaoning in its industrial northeast, congregations are booming and more Chinese are thought to attend Sunday services each week than do Christians across the whole of Europe.

This comes on the heels of a recent informal Foreign Policy study of Sina Weibo (China’s microblogging platform) that indicated searches for “God” or “Jesus” far outnumbered those for “Mao Zedong” or “Xi Jinping.” Read the full Telegraph article here. Read our discussion on the state of religion in China, as well as a historical survey of religion in China.

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One Response to “Christianity grows in China”

  1. avatar Emily Chambers says:

    I find it fascinating to study church-state relations in China, given the country’s century long history of cracking down on religion. CCP policies tend to be very strict in regards to freedom of religion, and some people note that they often report skewed statistics on their number of religious people in the country.

    I recently wrote a paper about Chinese secularism and found that between 1997 and 2006, the number of Christians was reported to have increased from fourteen million to twenty-one million people. More specifically, the number of Protestants increased by 60 percent and the number of Catholics increased by 25 percent. Even though in terms of percentage, the number of Christians may seem small, the massive population means that there are huge numbers of followers. In fact, there are more Catholics in China than there are in Ireland, and on any given Sunday, there are more Chinese Protestants in church than there are in all of Europe. I eventually came to the conclusion that China is not a secular nation, due to the country’s rich history of deeply engrained religious concepts in its culture and values.

    To see that Christianity is in fact growing in China due to its proselytizing nature and relatively loose government control gives me hope for more freedom of religion in China in the future.

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