CHRISTIANS in China should be prepared to witness to their faith
regardless of opposition, but only with respect and gentleness, the
Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
In a sermon delivered on Sunday at the Moore Memorial Church,
also known as Muen Church, in Shanghai, Archbishop Welby preached
from 1 Peter, reminding the congregation of the call to be ready to
explain their faith to others.
"Peter was very clear that the heart of witness lay not in
aggressive shouting at people, or any other form of manipulation or
disruption, but in lives that were lived so clearly that people
would ask why the Christian lived in such a way."
In a carefully worded message, Archbishop Welby encouraged the
Church to speak out, and insisted that it should do so in a way
that was moderate, and driven by good works, not just words.
Chinese Christians should "live faithfully to Christ" in a way
that blessed their society, he said, but that was also obedient to
their leaders. This way the Church could "live in peace, and to
demonstrate to the world the reality of Jesus Christ".
He went on: "Are we each able to explain why we are Christians?
If someone asks, do we know what to say? Practise with a Christian
friend. Know what you need to say that is respectful, gracious, and
answers only what someone asks."
A number of Churches are officially recognised by the Chinese
authorities, but there continue to be tensions between many of the
Christian movements and the state.
In one province, more than 400 churches have been demolished by
the local government in what activists claim is a state-sanctioned
campaign of oppression. Last year, 3000 Christians in Wenzhou
formed a human shield in an attempt to prevent Communist Party
officials from removing their church's cross or knocking down the
building (News, 11 April
Archbishop Welby said that the New Testament word for "witness"
and "martyr" were the same, and he reminded the congregation that,
even today, in many places being a witness to Jesus meant
He also warned them against succumbing to the pressures of
Chinese society. "One of the things that strikes me about China is
how hard people work, and the pressure they are under," he said.
"Ambition is good, but it can become an idol that pushes Christ
from our lives."
Since the Cultural Revolution ended in China in the 1970s, the
Church in China has grown significantly; some reports suggest that
the country might even become the world's most "Christian"
Accurately gauging the numbers of Christians in China is
difficult, however, because numerous underground churches are not
recognised, and many Christians are unwilling to disclose their
One sociologist, Professor Fenggang Yang, from Purdue University
in the United States, estimated that the Church grew about seven
per cent a year from 1950 to 2010, when Pew Research Center
suggested that it stood at about five per cent of the population,
or about 68 million people.