In an ominous development reported by the China Aid Association (CAA), a U.S.-based group that advocates for Chinese Christians, authorities allegedly have labeled the house church movement a “cult.”
Citing secret information “from more than one reliable source” inside
Chinese security officials “have been notified to collect information about house churches throughout the country and turn these reports in to their superiors,” it said. “A long ‘blacklist’ of church leaders and influential believers reportedly has been drawn up.”
The TSPM’s name derives from the doctrine that the church should resist outside influences through promotion the three “selfs” of self-governance, self-support and self-propagation.
Christian groups working among Chinese Christians attribute reluctance to register with the state-sanctioned body, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last September, largely to theological concerns. While many TSPM members are sincere believers, they say, leaders like the TSPM’s leading theologian, Bishop Ting Kuang-hsun, have promoted the notion that loyalty to the state should take precedence over belief in Christ.
The U.S. State Department and some religious freedom monitoring groups in recent years reported an apparent softening in
In its most recent report on international religious freedom, for instance, the State Department cited some cases of serious harassment and prosecutions of house church believers in some parts of
The report pointed out that since 2005 SARA has publicly acknowledged that groups of relatives or friends have the right to meet at home for worship, prayer and Bible study without registering with the government, although it added that respect for that policy was uneven across local, county and provincial levels.
CAA on Tuesday also alluded to the apparently improving trend, saying the government in recent years “stepped back from its previous hostility toward and adamant opposition to the house church movement, leading many Christians in
It said the new anti-house church drive “harks back to the previous era of hostilities and often brutal government persecution” which drove millions of believers underground.
The founder and president of the Midland, Texas-based CAA, Bob Fu, was himself a house-church pastor who faced harassment and detention before he and his wife moved as refugees to the
CAA said that the new Politburo directive gave “specious” reasons why the house church movement should be regarded as a cult, including advocacy and promotion of “the Christianization of China,” of unity among all churches in
“The labeling of Chinese house churches as a cult could have serious implications and represents a major step backwards in the thawing of relations in recent years between the
It recalled how the government had turned public opinion in
Falun Gong sources cited by the State Department estimate that at least 6,000 practitioners have been sentenced to prison terms since the 1999 cult ruling while more than 100,000 practitioners had been sentenced to terms in “reform through labor” camps.
The reported move against house church Christians comes at a time
Those listed as staying away are