Nineteen Chinese pastors have joined together to send a remarkable petition to the National People’s Congress on behalf of one of Beijing’s largest underground churches. The Shouwang church is the most recent target of Communist authorities’ crackdown on the unauthorized house church movement that now numbers some 50–70 million Chinese Christians.
The Shouwang church began in a home but has grown to 1,000 members in recent years, with many well-educated and affluent congregants. Forced out of rented meeting space in 2009, the church bought its own property—only to be denied access by the government. Ousted from rental space once again this spring, the congregation has sought to meet outdoors. But their worship services have been disrupted, and hundreds were detained by police on Easter Sunday. Pastor Jin Tianming and other church leaders are under house arrest to prevent them from leading services.
As The New York Times noted, the crisis is “stirring up the tens of millions of Chinese believers who have come to place more faith in Christianity than in the atheist Communist Party.” That has led to the bold petition—which the Times reports was drafted by Xie Moshan and Li Tianen, “patriarchs of the house church movement, who have each spent more than a decade in Chinese prisons.”