About The United Methodist China Program
China's economic, political and cultural re-emergence on to the world stage is evident for all to see. Churches in China are flourishing, too.
Christians have found their place in Chinese society, living out Christ's gospel in worship, social service ministries, and new and relevant theologies. The church is developing a truly Chinese identity and these are exciting times to be in partnership, sharing with and learning from Christians in China as they creatively engage with society and the global church community.
The United Methodist China Program continues to facilitate deeper understanding and mutual partnership between the people of China, the United States and the international community.
The program developed from a long-standing interest in and concern for China as a people and nation. Begun in the late 1960s, the United Methodist China Program kept alive an interest in China even though Sino-American relations had been severed. In 1979 the United States established full diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China ending our virtual isolation of it. This watershed event marked the beginning of new relations with Christians in China. Chinese Christians called for a reappraisal of the past unequal relationships as they bore witness to the gospel through Christian communities that were, and remain, self-governing, self-supporting, and self-evangelising.
As early as 1984, General Conference, the quadrennial United Methodist legislative assembly, stated, "The United Methodist Church affirms the selfhood of, respects the autonomy of, and reaffirms our readiness to hear and interact with the church in the People's Republic of China as together we shape future relationship based on mutuality" (United States Church-China Church Relations, adopted 1984). Much has happened in the life of China and the church since then: China's economy is a global phenomenon and post-denominational Christianity among the fastest growing in the world with 50 new church congregations emerging every month, according to the China Christian Council.
In 2007, religion was mentioned for the first time in the Chinese Communist Party's revised constitution. China's top leaders have called on religious individuals and communities to take an active and pro-active part in the development of society. Hailed a breakthrough in being fully accepted by society, Christians in China feel this is the fruit of nurturing self-reliance and Chinese identity within the Church of Jesus Christ universal. Celebrating with Christians in China this growing confidence, the 2008 General Conference has affirmed once again, "The United Methodist Church recognizes the necessity for China to continue its economic and social development and urges U.S. cooperation to that end within the context of Chinese independence and selfhood." (United States-China Political Relations, amended and re-adopted 2008).
Resources Offered by the Program
For those seeking greater understanding and relationship with churches in China, The United Methodist China Program (TUMCP) offers a range of resources to help improve the understanding between China and ourselves. A special emphasis is placed on the relevance of Christian faith to all dimensions of society-both China's and our own. This is done through:
- Education: planning and developing educational programs and consultations, recommending resources on Christianity and religion in China and on China's history, culture and contemporary issues.
- Cooperation and Assistance: cooperating with the China Christian Council (CCC) in response to its initiatives. For example enabling theological students sent by the CCC to obtain post-graduate degrees in specialised ministry so they may return to China to teach subjects like pastoral counselling in theological seminaries there. TUMCP supports the creative and varied programs of the Amity Foundation, an independent Chinese social service organization. Amity was initiated by Christians in China as a way to live Christ's gospel in society through programs in health, education, rural development relief and rehabilitation.
- International Exchanges: assisting and supporting mutual exchange between developing nations and China. For example sponsoring acupuncturists from the Philippines to learn advanced methods from Chinese practitioners, a theological educator from Myanmar to visit urban and rural seminaries, and agricultural specialists from the Africa continent to visit similar programs in rural China.
- Ecumenical Partnerships: joining with national and international church-related bodies which support projects and research that lead to understanding and action. The United Methodist China Program supports Church World Service which sends teachers of English to China at the request of the Amity Foundation. TUMCP is a member of the Amity Foundation-World Council of Churches Roundtable and participates in the denominational North American Asia-Pacific Forum.
- Resources and resourcing: helping people to maximize their China experience and to reflect upon it. TUMCP accompanies and resources exposures to China and prepares articles for publications like New World Outlook, Response, and the Global Ministries website, while providing useful information and travel suggestions for visitors. China Program has written widely for ecumenical mission studies on China and Hongkong.
Photo: The Sunday morning worship has ended and Christians leave, carry the Gospel of Christ with them in faith and deeds throughout the week.