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Christians on China's Mainland

New expressions of church music is evident in an increasing number of worship songsThe United Methodist China Program celebrates the Gospel's capacity to be at home in all cultures and environments. It respects the autonomy of Protestant churches in China and recognizes that, with God's guidance, Christians in China are shaping a bold new witness within a post-denominational context. It relies on partners within China to help define new ways forward which meet both critical needs and enhance deeper understandings.

Protestant Christianity in China is guided by a three-self policy of self-support, self-government, and self-evangelization. This three-self principle has helped Christianity to be embraced by ordinary Chinese, firmly rooted in Chinese soil, and has helped make churches in China among some of the fastest growing Christian communities in the world today.

There are faithful and vibrant Christian communities in all of China's provinces and autonomous regions. New expressions of music articulate faith in a Chinese context. Christian youth engage in environmental service projects and young adult worship services are packed with university students searching to fill a spiritual void. The church is expanding into all sectors of society with social service ministries like church-run kindergartens, medical clinics, HIV/AIDS training programs, and homes for the elderly. The Chinese government has formally recognized that religious believers play an important role in the development of China's civil society. There is now in China a place for the leaven of Christian and other religious contribution.

The question facing Christians in China today is no longer 'whither the church', but what faithful role is it playing in a society that is changing so rapidly. Opening ourselves to Chinese culture and to Chinese Christian response in liturgy, theology, and polity, encourages our own deeper encounter with the living Christ. Two main organizations which United Methodists are in partnership with are the China Christian Council and the Amity Foundation.

These four women are Chinese seminary students.The China Christian Council was established in 1980 by Christian leaders in China to oversee administrative, spiritual, and ecclesiastical matters of China's Protestant communities. These include theological education, lay training, women's ministries, church administration and finance, international relations, and the printing and distribution of the Bible and Christian literature.

Nearly 60 million copies of the Bible have been printed in China since 1987 and delivered to 70 Bible distribution points on the mainland where they are met by special Bible vans which take orders to churches in almost all provinces in China.

There are 18 theological seminaries related to the China Christian Council which have graduated over 5,000 students who have gone on to take their place as pastors, lay workers, teachers and preachers. Each year hundreds of lay training courses help to raise the Biblical knowledge of new believers and help equip volunteers to engage in outreach ministries, worship and evangelism.

Amity's rural development initiatives include terraced farming to encourage sustainable agricultural practices within rural communities.The Amity Foundation is an independent voluntary social service organization that was created in 1985 on the initiative of Protestant Christian leaders in China in response to China's social and economic reforms. Today, the Amity Foundation remains a key way to express Gospel imperatives in Chinese society through social concern. Amity's programs empower individual and community lives through projects in education, social service, blindness prevention, poverty alleviation, heath care, rural development, relief and rehabilitation in all most all provinces in the People's Republic.

Some of Amity's initiatives that the General Board of Global Ministries has helped to support are micro-finance programs for rural women; church-run HIV/AIDS education programs; training township doctors in cataract surgery; training and development in special education needs; biogas and fresh water rural development projects and bilingual education for deaf children, to name a few. The Amity Home for Blessings cares for 15 adults with special needs and has begun a local bakery project, where bread is both baked and sold by the Home's residents. Amity's support for the children of prisoners means that nearly 200 children were clothed, fed and sheltered at the Dongzhou Children's Village in Shaanxi which was begun by a former mayor who saw and responded to this critical need.

Amity's printing press, the Amity Printing Company, has been giving priority to the printing of Bibles and Christian literature in China since it was founded in 1987 and is one of the best printers of the Bible in the world, according to the United Bible Societies.

Churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Post denominationalism is unique to churches on China's mainland. The China Christian Council and churches within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China practice a Policy of Three-Mutuals: mutual non-subordination, mutual non-interference, and mutual respect. As a result, the autonomous Methodist Church, Hongkong continues to serve the people of Hongkong in witness, word and deed. The General Board of Global Ministries relates in partnership with three main Hong Kong church organizations: the Methodist Church, Hong Kong; the Hong Kong Council of the Church of Christ in China; and to the Hong Kong Christian Council. It maintains cordial relations with others.

Global Ministries also sustains relationships with the Methodist Church, Republic of China (Taiwan). While the Methodist Church in Taiwan may be small in number with approximately three dozen local churches, its commitment to evangelism, education and social outreach, ensure a holistic, Christ-centered ministry. In 2005, in response to the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina to the southern United States, the Methodist Church in Taiwan sent $20,000 to Global Ministries to assist in relief work. Church leaders from Taiwan's Methodist Church have also been guests of the China Christian Council within China's mainland.

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Photos:
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New expressions of church music is evident in an increasing number of worship songs, choruses and groups within China's many Christian churches.
Middle - Students at provincial theological seminaries usually study in a year-long course that provides grounding in Old and New Testament theology, sermon construction, church administration, and church music. The China Christian Council is pouring heart and soul into providing sound training for clergy and professional church workers.
Bottom - Amity's rural development initiatives include terraced farming and biogas projects as a means encourage sustainable agricultural practices within rural communities.