The Church in China seeks to promote mutual understanding with Churches in Global South Provinces: Elder Fu Xuanwei

Elder Fu Xuanwei, Chairman of the National Committee of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) of China Christian Church, gave an interview at the recent Global South Conference held in Singapore, April 2010. AnglicanTV and Global South Anglican News jointly hosted the interview.  (Photo: Elder Fu flanked by Abp Kolini of Rwanda and Abp John Chew of Singapore)

1.     Before you came to Singapore, what were your expectations?

I came here at the invitation of Archbishop John Chew to participate in this conference. I hoped that through participation I could meet some old friends and make many more new friends. Particularly, Archbishop John Chew told me that there were many archbishops from African churches coming here. I thought it was a good opportunity for me to share with the African bishops about our church ministries and how we run our church. Also, I want to learn something from the church leaders who attended this conference, through their good experience and good witness from spreading the gospel. I hope to share and to learn something and to establish our relationships, friendships and fellowships between the church in China and the African churches. This will be good for the development of the church in China.

I am aware that both our churches are facing some similar issues, problems and challenges. We need to sit down to dialogue with each other to resolve these issues. The purpose that I came to attend this conference is to get some useful and helpful message for me so that I can run the Chinese church well. At the same time I would like the archbishops and bishops of Global South to gain awareness and to understand the situation of the Chinese church.

2.     What ideas or message will you take back to the Chinese church?

I think there are two main messages. The first is that all the participants agree that the church has a special and common responsibility in the situation of globalization. For example, the church plays an active role in society, for example in loving our neighbours according to Jesus Christ’s teaching. The church must care and support for the people who need help.  I learnt that some church leaders shared their experiences, which are a very good witness. The church in Egypt opened their doors to receive refugees from Sudan, and the Sudanese church helped to promote friendship between peoples. The church has to bear good witness and bear the responsibility to be the salt and light of the world. Only this kind of church is blessed, is powerful and truly reflects love.

The second message is that we should co-operate with each other and have mutual understanding to develop our ministries together. I learnt from many addresses in the Conference that our church needs to share resources and common experiences to learn from each other and meet each other’s needs.  Only when we do this can the church spread the gospel well. I appreciate greatly many archbishops’ and bishops’ sharing on mutual respect, and on this foundation of mutual respect we can know the different needs of the church and do something to support and co-operate with each other.

These were the two main messages which I would take back to share with my colleagues.

3.     In your opening address you mentioned there was scope for learning between Chinese churches and the rest of the world. Can you elaborate on how this can happen?

We can share on how we can pastor our churches well. For example, one bishop asked how we can do the gospel work in the context of a multi-religious situation. This is a very important question. China is a country with many different religions, so how Christians can propagate in this context is very important and we should learn from their experience. I also know that in Singapore there are ten different religions. They have very good relations in each other and they live in harmony. This is very helpful for us; we can learn something from how the ten religions live in harmony.

Also, one bishop in his address mentioned how we can offer pastoral care for professionals like doctors, teachers and businessman. The Chinese church today is growing, and members have very different professions. How can we provide good pastoral care for them? That is also one topic for us that I would like to discuss with him.

As the Chinese church develops very fast and the membership increases, our ministries will increase broadly. As this happens we will have more space to work with the Global South church.

4.     How can the Global South churches help the church in China?

The first step is to promote our mutual understanding. Our churches in different countries all have our different cultural backgrounds, traditions, situations, and contexts. It is important to promote mutual respect first. I am glad to hear that some African bishops are saying they need to be self-supporting in propagating the gospel. We can share and talk about this kind of topics.

I would also like to take this opportunity to invite the leaders of the Global South to visit the Chinese church.. We can have more sharing and understanding with each other.

5.     Some people have criticized this 'Three-Self' principle. What is your response to them?

Authority for the Chinese church should be in the hands of the Chinese Christians and the Three – Self Principle is good for the development and growth of the Chinese church. I have learnt from the African leaders the need for self-support and self-reliance.

The purpose of this Self-Patriotic movement is that we are building up our church in our own context, and in an independent way, but it doesn’t mean self-isolation from the ecumenical church. In the Bible, we can see that whenever Paul planted a church, he let the church be run by local elders, allowing them to be independent. From history we learn the lesson that only the local Christians can run a local church that is sustainable.

6.     Now that the Chinese church has grown, how can the Chinese church bless the world?

The Chinese church hopes to have more sharing with the church ecumenical on many topics, like how to run the church well and to offer pastoral care. The purpose for me to come here is to learn and to listen to other countries’ churches experiences to be helpful to both the Chinese and the ecumenical church.

The Chinese church does not have enough pastoral personnel, but our church has developed very quickly. The contribution the Chinese church can give is in sharing how we run our church, as we run it well. We can also share on how we do evangelism, and how we attract more and more people in China to come and hear the Gospel.  This can be the contribution of the Chinese church to the church as a whole.