Presiding Bishop, China Christian Council exchange expressions of friendship
Expressions of friendship and hopes for close collaboration in the future marked the visit between Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the China Christian Council (CCC) on November 13.
"We really treasure the long-term friendship of the Episcopal Church and the church in China," said the Rev. Cao Shengjie, CCC president. "When you visit, the friendship and cooperation of our churches is enhanced."
"It will promote our relationship between the China church and churches in the U.S.," noted Presbyter Ji Jianhong, chairperson for the national committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches in China (TSPM) and executive vice president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.
The honored guest of the CCC, Jefferts Schori is making her first visit to mainland China.
The work of the church in China "is a gift for the church around the world," the Presiding Bishop said during her visit to the CCC national headquarters. This work, she continued, "will bear fruit and is something that all of us will learn from."
The church in China
Cao spoke about the importance of church in the post-denominational society. While current efforts center on the opening of churches and theological schools, Cao also noted with pride that 43 million copies of the Bible have been printed between 1980 and 2006 by CCC/TSPM and the Amity Printing Company. "We thank God for that," she said.
Included in the work of the church is a strong social service aspect, currently focusing on children with autism, seniors, healthcare, and disaster relief.
Noting challenges in a country where the church is growing rapidly, Cao cited the needs for pastors and theological education. At the moment, there are 18 seminaries and Bible schools in China. Cao added that 75% of Christians are women, among whom are 400 ordained pastors.
Later, Cao addressed other challenges for the church such as external groups that "want to develop their own interest in China, their own agendas."
The church in Shanghai
The Rev. Hua Yaozeng, vice chairperson of the national committee of TSPM and president of the Shanghai CCC, reported there are 200,000 Protestant Christians in this city of 17 million in 167 local churches with 58 ministers, "many young."
"In these churches we encourage volunteers in church ministry," Hua said. "We have more than 200 lay volunteer workers to support church ministry."
Presbyter Fu Xianwei, associate general secretary of the national committee of TSPM and chairperson of the Shanghai Committee of TSPM, said foreign language services have been initiated as a result of the influx of immigrants from Korea, United States and Southeast Asia. "We have a special concern for their spiritual life," he said.
The Presiding Bishop's visit began with a tour of Holy Trinity Cathedral, undergoing major renovation in downtown Shanghai. The reconstruction of Holy Trinity, built in 1869 as an Anglican church, is expected to be completed in two years. "What a treasure you have," the Presiding Bishop remarked.
At the conclusion of the session, Jefferts Schori told the delegation, "I hope we will have more opportunities for some conversation."
The CCC and representatives presented the Presiding Bishop with a jade chalice. In turn, Jefferts Schori presented her host group with a framed print of the Native American Good Shepherd.
Also meeting with the Presiding Bishop were: the Rev. Deng Fucum, residential vice chairperson of the national committee of TSPM; the Rev. Hua Yaozeng, vice chairperson of the national committee of TSPM and president of the Shanghai CCC; the Rev. Su. Deci, vice president of CCC and president of East China Theological Seminary; the Rev. Mea Kangjun, executive associate general secretary of national committee of TSPM, chief editor of Tian Feng; Chen Meilin, executive associate general secretary of CCC and director of overseas relations department of CCC/RSPM; the Rev. Xu Xiaohong, associate general secretary of National Committee of TSPM and director of publication department of CCC/TPSM; the Rev. Xiao Sheng, secreaty of Presbyter Ji Jianhong and staff of overseas relations department of CCC/TPSM; and the Rev. Guo Feng, pastor of churches in Shanghai and translator.
Traveling with the Presiding Bishop are the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director of Peace and Justice ministries; Peter Ng, partnership officer for Asia and the Pacific; and the Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop.
The delegation will proceed from China to peace meetings in North and South Korea.