In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions

Christianity is booming in China, propelling it toward becoming the world’s largest Christian nation. But as religion grows, it spurs a government crackdown.

The Gate of Chongyi Christian Church, Hangzhou Zhejiang province. Source: Simon Wade / Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

The Gate of Chongyi Christian Church, Hangzhou Zhejiang province. Source: Simon Wade / Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor

HANGZHOU, CHINA — There’s nothing secret about Chongyi Church, one of the largest in China. Its lighted steeple and giant cross penetrate the night sky of Hangzhou, the capital of coastal Zhejiang Province. Nearly everything at the church is conspicuously open: the front gate, the front door, the sanctuary, the people, the clergy. Chinese or not, you are welcome seven days a week. No layers of security guards or police exist. Walk right in. Join up. People are nice; they give you water, chat. Do you have spiritual needs? Visit their offices, 9 to 5.

For China, it is a stunning feeling. Most of the society exists behind closed doors and is tough, driven, material, hierarchical. The country values wealth, power, and secrecy – not to mention that both government and schools officially, at least, promote atheism.

Yet Chongyi looks and feels like any evangelical megachurch in Seattle or San Jose. There are big screens, speakers blaring upbeat music, coffee bars. The choir is a huge swaying wash of white and red robes. Chongyi seats 5,000 people and holds multiple services on Sunday.

“Some Sundays we are full,” says Zhou Lianmei, the pastor’s wife. “We also have 1,600 volunteers.” Read more…..