China-Sponsored Bible Exhibition in USA

Backed by Jimmy Carter, Billy Graham, Rick Warren

Denounced as “PR Campaign” by Chinese Dissident

China Economic Net reports on a Bible exhibition in Atlanta (link added):

…The exhibition in Atlanta, the second stop of a three-leg tour in the United States, provides an opportunity for the American public to get understanding of the development of Christianity in China in recent years.

…Rev. Dr. Cao Shengjie, president of China Christian Council, said that from 1980 to 2005, over 40 million copies of the Bible were published in China. During the exhibition, the art works by Christian artists and performance by China’s Lisu ethnic minority singers reflect the colorful life of the Church in China.

…Dr. David Sapp, the senior pastor of the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, said the exhibition, while displaying the Bible, also expresses the wishes of the Church in China to conduct friendly exchanges with foreign churches, and is of significance in deepening exchanges and cooperation between churches of the two countries.

Chinese news agency Xinhua adds further details:

…Entitled “A Lamp to My Feet, A Light to My Path — The Bible Ministry Exhibition of the Church in China,” the exhibition reflects the Bible ministry of Chinese churches in different stages, Chinese Christians’ devotion to the Bible, and their faith in God’s words.

“I have a special affinity for China,” former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said at the opening ceremony at the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.

…Ye Xiaowen, the director-general of China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs, said at the ceremony that as early as 27 years ago, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had mentioned during a meeting with Carter the two principles guiding religious affairs in China — to protect the freedom of religious belief and to maintain the independence and self-governance of churches in China.

The two principles, which are like the two sides of a coin, have been written into the Constitution of China, and have ensured a smooth and healthy development of the church in China, he said.

…Dr. David Sapp, the senior pastor of the Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, said the exhibition shows for the first time the real life of the Church in China to the outside world.

The news service of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship provides a bit of background (link added):

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is partnering with the China Christian Council (CCC) to bring an exhibition on the Bible in to three cities this spring and summer.

Originally showcased in August 2004 at an event in Hong Kong that drew more than 20,000 visitors, “A Lamp to my Feet, a Light to my Path” China Bible Ministry Exhibition will debut on American soil at the Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles, Calif., April 27 – May 4.

…The tour is the result of meetings in February and August 2005 between CCC representatives and Carter, evangelist Billy Graham, pastor and bestselling author Rick Warren and others.

Not all Christians are enthusiastic, though. ASSIST Ministries reports (link added):

According to China Aid Association (CAA), “Those who know well about the operation of Chinese government and its sanctioned religious organizations should acknowledge this exhibition is nothing but a PR campaign to cover up the religious persecution image in the US.”

“It’s rather ironic that Beijing House Church pastor Cai Zhuohua is serving for three years sentence in the Chinese prison for printing Bibles in China since last year, while the propaganda message of this Bible exhibition is that there is freedom to print Bibles in China,” said Rev. Bob Fu, President of CAA.

Fu added: “It’s a shame for the organizers to invite the top Communist Party religious persecutor like Mr. Ye Xiaowen and Ms. Cao Shengjie to spread lies to American people.”

CAA says that as the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) of China, Mr. Ye Xiaowen “is directly responsible for hundreds of arrests of House church pastors and other persecution cases to independent religious groups. Ms. Cao Shengjie is the leader of the Chinese Communist Party controlled organization with religious uniforms, which is called the China Christian Council (CCC).”

Rev Fu was in the news last year, when he demonstrated a Chinese electrical torture device at the U.N. Human Rights Commission plenary session in Geneva, Switzerland. After complaints about this from the Chinese delegation, Fu was removed from the premises and a complaint made against the NGO that had arranged for Fu’s appearance (see here).

Open Doors USA has also voiced misgivings, although less stridently – the Christian Post reports:

…not all Christians welcome the Bible exhibit, with some calling it propaganda by the communist Chinese government and others pointing out that there are unregistered “underground” churches because of lack of religious freedom.

…Johnny Li, Open Doors USA spokesman for China mission, questioned the real degree of religious freedom in China.

Li pointed out that although there has been a growth quantity-wise in Bible printing, the real situation is unknown because there are discrepancies in official figures of how many Christians there are according to the government and the true number.

…”Now in China, there are just around 16 million Christians, but a total of 40 million Bibles were claimed to be printed. It means that the Bible is actually overwhelming in China!” Li explained. He added that the Bibles could be worn out or lost in some natural disasters, but it is still not enough to explain the surplus. In addition, he said the Amity Press continued printing around 5 million Bibles last year.

“Therefore, for the real situation in Church in China, we will leave it for the readers to ponder because it is almost impossible to find an answer for such question,”

The situation of Cai Zhuohua, and Ye Xiaowen’s part in his imprisonment, was reported by Christian Today last November:

Three Christians in China have been sentenced to imprisonment for printing Bibles and other Christian writings without government authorisation.

…During the trial, the defendants were accused by the prosecution of illegally printing 200,000 copies of the Bible, though there was no mention of how many actual copies there were when the verdict was announced, Reuters reported.

Yet in July, a Hong Kong newspaper funded by Beijing, Ta Kung Pao, quoted China’s director of the state bureau of religious affairs, Ye Xiaowen, as saying Cai illegally printed 40 million Bibles and other Christian writings, according to Reuters. Furthermore, Ye accused Cai of illegally selling over two million copies of the Bible instead of giving them away for free.

…Ye asserted that the case is not religious persecution.

“Objectively speaking, religion is a point of penetration through which Western anti-China forces seek to Westernize and disintegrate China,” a Hong Kong newspaper quoted Ye as saying.

Further thoughts of Comrade Ye – a hardline atheist who has advised Chinese Communist Party members to quit the party if they get the religion bug (see here, scroll down) – can be seen here.

Cao Shengjie, meanwhile, is a controversial figure, seen by her detractors as a Communist stooge. According to Forum 18

The appointment of Cao Shengjie as CCC head and…was greeted with dismay both inside and outside of China, as a re-affirmation of political control of the hierarchy…Cao…is an eager propagator of Bishop Ding [Guangxun]‘s “theological reconstruction” which aims to, in Bishop Ding’s words, “weaken all those aspects within Christian faith which do not conform with the socialist society”.

On the other hand, one reviewer of David Aikman’s book Jesus in Beijing describes Aikman’s portrait of Shengjie as “malicious” (I discussed Aikman here). The Gospel Herald has an interview with Shengjie here.

2 Responses

  1. […] wretched Ye Xiaowen has featured on this blog previously, when I noted his part in the imprisonment of Cai Zhuohua, a Chinese house-church leader, for […]

  2. […] (unsurprising) denunciations of the Dalai Lama, and in 2006 Rev Bob Fu of the China Aid Association described him as “the top Communist Party religious persecutor” who “is directly responsible […]

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