Christians Targeted

Harassment of Christians is rising in China, as indicated by the recent detention of a well-known house-church leader and the expulsion of an American businessman for “illegal missionary work.”

Samuel Lam (Lin Xiangao), pastor of a 1,300-member unregistered congregation in the southern port of Guangzhou, was seized by police last February, held for one day, and ordered to stop his ministry. Authorities also interrogated several church staff members and impounded Bibles, hymnals, and sound equipment, according to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Church Research Center.

In early March, John Cragin, an American involved in a private joint venture business in Tianjin, was expelled for allegedly conducting missionary work under the guise of teaching English classes. Cragin had lived in China for several years as a management consultant.

Several weeks before Cragin’s expulsion, an official Communist party document labeled foreign Christian teachers and professionals working in China “wolves in sheep’s clothing” and urged authorities to “identify and watch closely” Westerners. Observers say Communist authorities have intensified their crackdown since the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Church-State Thaw

The government of Cuba recently allowed two “firsts” for the church in that country. A team of 11 Hispanic Southern Baptists from six U.S. states conducted evangelistic services in 38 churches with “no restrictions whatsoever,” according to Daniel Sotelo, president of the National Hispanic Southern Baptist Fellowship. About half of the team members were native Cubans. It was the first time in more than 30 years authorities have allowed such an open campaign.

Another indication of improving relations with the state was the February broadcast on national television news of a church service, as reported by Keston College, a London-based monitor of religious rights.

Homosexual Study Criticized

A discussion paper prepared for the House of Bishops of the Church of England calls for the blessing of homosexual marriages and encourages gay priests to declare their sexual orientation openly. The report, which has not been officially released but was leaked to the press, has provoked strong reaction from the church’s evangelicals.

According to a Religious News Service report, David Holloway, a leader of the church’s evangelical wing, demanded at a February meeting reinforcement of a 1987 synod resolution condemning homosexuality as sinful and called for assurance that the report’s recommendations would not become official policy.

Archbishop Robert Runcie has refused to release the study, which he said was “purely advisory” and “not a church policy statement.” Though pressed by evangelicals, he also has refused to endorse or condemn the report.

Rights For Jews, Protestants

The government of Spain has granted Jews and Protestants the same status and rights as Roman Catholics. The accord essentially ratifies a 1978 constitution that guarantees “freedom of ideology, religion and worship” in the country, which is more than 80 percent Roman Catholic. An estimated 15,000 Jews and 60,000 active Protestants live in Spain.

Under the 36-year dictatorship of Francisco Franco, tolerance of non-Catholics was nominal. But since Franco’s death, the influence of the Catholic church has declined. Recent surveys indicate as little as 10 percent of the population regularly attend the Catholic church.

Under the new accord, Jews and Protestants will be entitled to their own religious instruction in public institutions where Catholic worship is still compulsory; will be able to negotiate with employers the observance of religious holidays; and will be eligible for income-tax deductions for church contributions.

Briefly Noted

Established: “Permanent official contacts” between the Vatican and the Soviet Union. The exchange of ambassadors is the first since 1923 and increases the likelihood of a papal visit to the Soviet Union.

Announced: The resignation of Robert Runcie, archbishop of Canterbury, as leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, effective next January 31.

Grown: The overseas churches of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, to more than 2 million members. Over 3,000 new churches were added during the past decade, spurred by rapid growth in the Philippines, Latin America, and Africa.

Planned: A congress on Christian evangelism in Moscow next October. Some 150 representatives from Soviet Christian groups met with Tom Houston, international director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, to ask the committee’s assistance in organizing the conference.

Returned: To Vysoke Myto Baptist Church in Prague, Czechoslovakia, a Billy Graham film that authorities confiscated 21 years ago. Baptist officials decided to exercise the “new freedoms” granted churches in their country and asked the state Ministry of Culture for the film. Nine days later it was found and returned.

Correction: Jonathan Chao has not resigned as head of the Chinese Church Research Center, as reported in CT, March 19, 1990, p. 53. He continues as its director.

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