“Having settled into what was thought to be a ‘new normal’, it seems that the religious community in China (both Chinese and foreign) must now adjust to a ‘new, new normal’.” (Joann Pittman, ChinaSource Blog, May 2018). Though the facts of what Pittman wrote will be familiar to many who pray for China through Derek Prince Ministries - China, her analysis is very helpful.
The “new normal” to which Pittman refers is of course the new religious laws that came into force on February 1, 2018. As Pittman comments: “A close reading of the regulations would indicate that things are likely to get much tighter for religion in general, and for the unregistered churches, both Protestant and Catholic, in particular. The new regulations include many new provisions, as well as more enforcement mechanisms… (But) in China, there is often disconnect between stated policies and their implementation. As a result, since February 1, everyone has been waiting to see, in tangible terms, how they will impact religious life in China.”
The “new, new normal” refers to a significant change that took place after the new religious regulations became law. Pittman writes: “Just six weeks after they (the new laws) went into effect… the State Council announced that the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), the agency that wrote the regulations and is responsible for their implementation, is to be abolished. Management of religious affairs will be shifted to the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a Party organ whose mission is to make sure all segments and sectors of society remain loyal to the Chinese Communist Party.”
Pittman raised four questions which are well worth our prayer and consideration.
1. How does the mandate of the UFWD differ from that of SARA?
“Especially as it relates to Christianity, SARA’s mandate has been to keep the church small and to ‘solve’ the problem of the house church…. The mandate of the UFWD, on the other hand is to promote Party-State policies and make sure that all segments and sectors of society remain loyal to (or at least don’t challenge) the Party.” Early but individual evidence suggests the UFWD will focus much more on imposing Communist party doctrine into churches, even demanding that correct political statements be broadcast during church services to ensure atheistic party doctrine is relayed to Christians while they are meeting to worship God.
2. Are the religious regulations still relevant?
“Given the fact that SARA wrote them… it’s entirely possible that the demise of SARA has rendered (or will render) the regulations moot. It’s also possible that SARA will continue to exist… within the UFWD, and thus will still be able to carry the regulations forward.”
3. How will the religious associations like the CCC and TSPM interact with the UFWD?
The China Christian Council and the Three Self Patriotic Movement are the ‘official’ leaders of the Protestant church in China, set up by the party. “It is not known how the associations will interact with the UFWD.”
4. How will the churches, both registered and unregistered adapt to this new environment?
“The sources we spoke to expressed their belief that the churches will have to make adjustments as well… Some believe that churches that refrain from becoming too political, establish accountability structures, and provide social benefits will remain in good stead. Where activities are deemed threatening, however, the UFWD is likely to respond more quickly and harshly than SARA.”
***Rather than listing prayer points as we usually do, may we ask you to pray through each of the four questions that Pittman raises, asking the Lord to intervene in each area that His kingdom might continue to be established in China?
For the full article in English, please go to https://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/chinasource-blog-posts/a-new-new-normal
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