Churches in China Prepare To Welcome the World
by Diane Allen
July 9, 2008--Christians in China are busily preparing to welcome the world as China hosts the 29th Summer Olympic Games, August 8-24, 2008. The China Christian Council and Beijing churches are making available nearly 100,000 free bilingual Gospels, New Testaments, and complete Bible editions. They will be distributed within the Olympic Village and in churches throughout Beijing and other Olympic venue cities.
Individual churches have improved simultaneous interpretation facilities. Christians within the Beijing church community have responded to the call to train as Olympic chapel volunteers.
China has the largest number of Internet users in the world. The China Christian Council has tapped into this resource and established a special Olympic Prayer Chain page on its official website. The Prayer Chain encourages "a great network of Christians to ask for prayer, blessings, and peace on the Beijing Olympic Games," according to the website.
Christians from all over China are posting prayers for a successful, peaceful, and Spirit-filled Olympics. The China Christian Council guides the administrative, spiritual, and ecclesiastical affairs of China's growing Protestant church community.
Unique Olympic-Edition Bibles
Fifty thousand copies of a special Olympic Chinese-English edition of the Four Gospels are already being made available to churches in Beijing. The Beijing Organizing Committee has especially allowed the China Christian Council to use the official Beijing Olympic logo free of charge for the edition's cover.
The Four Gospels edition will also be distributed in the Olympic Village and at other Olympic sites and churches in Shenyang, Tianjin, Qingdao, and Qinhuangdao, said the Rev. Xu Xiaohong, who is in charge of Bible printing and Christian publications for the China Christian Council.
In addition, the Beijing Christian Council has commissioned 30,000 bilingual editions of the New Testament and 10,000 copies of the entire Bible, also for free distribution. According to the Rev. Qi Tieying, vice-principal of Yanjing Theological Seminary, each of these editions contains a list of churches in Beijing and times of worship services.
A joint-venture with the United Bible Societies (UBS), the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing printed the Gospels, New Testaments, and Bibles. Amity Printing is a division of the Amity Foundation, a long-standing Global Ministries partner and Chinese social service organization.
Christians in China formed Amity to make Christian presence in social services more widely known to the Chinese people. Its printing press, established in 1987, gives priority to the printing of the Bible and Christian literature.
UBS has called the Amity Printing Company one of the best printers of the Bible in the world. In total, Amity has printed and distributed nearly 55,000 copies of the Bible in China through a network of 70 Bible-distribution centers organized by the China Christian Council.
Olympic Chapel Volunteers
Beijing churches have come together to provide volunteers for the Olympic Village chapel. Volunteers must be deeply committed Christians and have a good knowledge of English, one of the main languages used for communication in such a multicultural setting.
Ms. Wang Qiong, a student and native of Shaanxi province, is one of several Protestant chapel volunteers from Yanjing Theological Seminary in Beijing. "There are nine students and six teachers from Yanjing Seminary who will be part of the chapel volunteer system," said Ms. Wang, who comes from a Christian family.
Ms. Wang's work will be challenging. Chapel volunteers will:
Yanjing Seminary is one of 18 theological seminaries and Bible colleges sponsored by the China Christian Council. It is in geographic proximity to the Olympic Village and stadium in north-central Beijing.
Individual Beijing churches are excited to greet visitors from all over the world. "There are 20 large churches in Beijing municipality ready to receive Olympic visitors," said the Rev. Yu Xinli, Chair of the Beijing Christian Council.
Beijing's Chaoyang, Fengtai, and Haidian churches each seat more than 1,000 people. Churches are rearranging their courtyards in anticipation of the need for overflow space.
Christian English-language majors are learning how to simultaneously translate, ready to volunteers their services. For the past two years, the YM/YWCA in Beijing and other Olympic venue cities have been offering English-language classes for shopkeepers and taxi drivers.
Places of Worship Listed on the Beijing Olympic Website
Welcoming the world to China through the Olympic Games also means welcoming religious faiths other than Christianity. The official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has dedicated several pages to "Places of Worship in Beijing," which include Buddhist and Daoist temples, mosques, as well as Protestant churches and Catholic cathedrals.
United Methodists can be proud that the Chongwenmen Protestant Church is listed on the website. Built in 1904 by the then Methodist Episcopal Church, the former Asbury Methodist Church was later renamed Chongwenmen, which is the district where it is located. It carries on as one of Beijing's most established and well-known Protestant churches.
Since the early 1950s church structure in China is post-denominational. While there are no longer overseas denominations in China, there are thriving, vibrant and growing Christian churches throughout the People's Republic of China.
Christianity in Beijing
According to Rev. Yu, Beijing municipality has 20 churches and over 700 meeting points--places of worship under the guidance of local churches. Approximately 50 ordained clergy and dozens of lay workers in the capital municipality nurture 60,000 baptized Christians and thousands more "seekers," those showing interest in Christianity but not yet ready to commit their lives to Christ. Several church-run ministries range from kindergartens, homes for the elderly, and church-run medical clinics attached to churches as outreach ministries.
Within mainland China there are an estimated 20 million protestant Christians and 12 to 15 million Catholics, according to the statistics of the China Christian Council and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Diane Allen is a GBGM missionary assigned as China Program Associate to the United Methodist China Program. She can be supported through Advance #10163Z.
Date posted: Jul 10, 2008