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    Chinese pastor closes house church rather than register with government


    One of China’s best-known Christian leaders has closed his house church in response to pressure to register with government authorities. Alan Yuan informed the 100 members of his Beijing house church on Aug. 6 that he would no longer continue to hold meetings.

    Yuan told Compass Direct news service that he was “theologically unwilling” to register his church.

    Yuan, 82, said, “I have not registered now for the same reason I did not join the Three Self church in the 1950s — because politics and religion should not mix.” Yuan said he had been pressured by the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) to register, and explained, “To register means the RAB and the Three Self church would have control over us. Since neither agency has any believers, we cannot yoke with nonbelievers.”

    Yuan added that it was “practically impossible” for his church to meet the three conditions for registration. A registered church must have a specific place of worship, but Yuan’s church meets in various places. There must be an approved pastor, and Yuan insisted, “I am not the pastor of this church, we are all pastors.” Finally, all financial transactions within the church must be reported to the RAB; Yuan said, “We have no finances in this group. No one receives money from anywhere, and we pay no one.” He concluded, “We do not constitute a church that can register under these conditions.”

    Yuan was jailed for 22 years for his refusal to join the Three Self church. In December 1995 the Chinese government instructed the RAB to ask every religious group that is meeting without official government sanction to obtain that sanction by registering. For a Protestant church like Yuan’s, registering would mean coming under the supervision of the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which is China’s official Protestant church.

    A senior RAB official told Compass Direct, “If they register and come under a TSPM church with an evangelical pastor, they are likely to be left alone. But if their local TSPM church does not have evangelical leadership, they could be seriously interfered with, even closed down or have their pastor replaced.”

    — E.P. News

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