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Anglican pilgrims growing closer in the Holy Land

Posted on: July 21st, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Anglican pilgrims growing closer in the Holy Land

Posted By Archbishop Paul Kwong

21 July 2017

This blog is a bit overdue because I decided to wait until I came back to Hong Kong after the Anglican Communion Pilgrimage to the Holy Land before I blogged. The pilgrimage with a theme “Intentional Discipleship in a World of Difference” which took place on 24th June to 4th July, was directed by Archbishop Josiah, and led by Canons John Peterson and Iyad Qumri respectively.

Owing to the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China, I was forced to cut short the pilgrimage after spending the first five days there and returned to Hong Kong in time to attend the celebratory activities of the handover anniversary.

Even though I wish I could have stayed for the whole pilgrimage, it turned out that the five days were long enough for me to renew my spiritual life, to learn something new about the nativity story and other biblical narratives, and more importantly to befriend several pilgrims who came from different parts of the Communion, including, Africa, North America, Asia and Europe. This pilgrimage has helped the pilgrims from different provinces come closer together as we ate, learned, shared and worshipped together.

While I was in Jerusalem, I was humbled and honored to be installed by Archbishop Suheil in the Nebo Episcopal Canonry in St. George’s Cathedral as Episcopal Canon. Wishing you all a relaxing Summer.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 21st July, 2017

Campus chaplains meet to discuss common concerns

Posted on: July 21st, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Posted on: July 21, 2017

Chaplains pose with Anglican Foundation “Hope Bears.” (L-R) The Rev. Hilton Gomes, the Rev. Andrea Budgey, Canon Megan Collings-Moore, the Rev. Ruth Dantzer, the Rev. Lisa Chisholm-Smith, the Rev. Christopher Kelly and the Rev. Jean-Daniel Williams meet with Ryan Weston, the national church’s lead animator of public witness for social and ecological justice. Renison University College
Photo Credit: Renison University College

[Andre Forget, Anglican Journal] Anglican chaplains can be found on Canadian university campuses from Halifax to Victoria, and every year, they play a vital role in helping young adults adjust to the strains of navigating higher education. But many chaplains face a number of unique struggles of their own, and often lack the resources that might otherwise be found in traditional parish posts.

A chaplain’s work is more open-ended than that of parish priest, and most are asked to serve as counsellors or wellness advisors, sometimes for students who are not themselves Anglicans or Christians. Apart from working in an environment where they are called upon to counsel people with serious emotional and spiritual problems, chaplains often lack the peer support other priests have. Even the most remote priests get a chance to talk to other ministers at clergy meetings, but most dioceses (Huron being an exception) have only one university chaplain position.

Their ministry can also be precarious, and chaplains are often called on to justify the need for their work, or to help raise funds to cover it.  “It’s quite different [from parish ministry]. It’s distinct—it’s also a very stressful situation,” the Revd Eileen Scully, director of Faith, Worship, and Ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada, said in an interview. “They don’t have a national association or a regular chance to be with their own peers…[but] they are front-line workers.”

At a conference held recently at Renison University College in Waterloo, Ont., eight chaplains from schools across the country met to compare notes on the challenges they face and how they might better support each other.

Present were Canon Megan Collings Moore, of Renison College; the Revd Gary Thorne, of University of King’s College; the Revd Jean-Daniel Williams, of McGill University; the Revd Andrea Budgey, of Trinity College at the University of Toronto; the Revd Chris Kelly, of Huron College; the Revd Hilton Gomes, of Canterbury College at the University of Windsor; the Revd Lisa Chisholm-Smith, of Queen’s University; and Ruth Dantzer, of the University of Victoria.

Ryan Weston, the national church’s lead animator of public witness for social and ecological justice, attended the gathering to see where he and the chaplains might share overlapping concerns. The main issues discussed at the conference included the possibility of setting up a formal network for university chaplains, ideas for improving ministry and strategies for dealing with “huge, rising rates of serious mental health issues on campus,” said Collings-Moore, who helped organise the conference.

“We’re not social workers, but because so much of what we do is relationship-based, often we’re the first people students will trust as stuff happens, or starts to go downhill,” she said.

In addition to creating a network for peer support, the chaplains also think they could provide an important link between the national church and a demographic it sometimes has trouble connecting with: young adults. “We are the group in the church at the moment that deals with young adults,” said Collings-Moore. “And let’s be honest, most churches are not seeing a whole lot of that group.” Chaplains could play a useful role in communicating to General Synod what they are seeing among the students to whom they minister, she said.

For example, she noted that from speaking with students in the lead-up to General Synod 2016, many were puzzled that the church continues to wrestle with the question of same-sex marriage. “There were some definite kind of…why is the church still discussing this, however many years later?” she said, referring to the fact that marriage has been a civil right for same-sex couples in Canada since 2005.

University chaplains may not necessarily need a formal vote at General Synod, Collings-Moore said, but they could provide an important role in voicing the grassroots concerns of students. “We don’t even have the means, at the moment, to have a table at General Synod.”

A formal network of Anglican university chaplains would help lay the foundation for this kind of representation, and to that end, Collings-Moore was elected convener of the developing national association of chaplains.

Setting up a formal structure is not as easy as it sounds, as both Collings-Moore and Scully acknowledged. No list exists of all Anglican chaplains in the country, and even determining the criteria for who is an “Anglican chaplain” is more complicated than it might seem.

Only Anglican-funded chaplains were invited to the conference. But many universities have ecumenical chaplains who are not funded through a denomination and some of these are Anglicans. Do they count as Anglican chaplains even if they aren’t funded by the church or explicitly hired to serve in an Anglican capacity? Or are Anglican chaplains only those who serve Anglican institutions?

The ecumenical nature of the work also raises other questions. Should chaplains from other denominations be invited to participate in a national organization, given how closely they often work in university contexts?

Scully said that this issue had come up in the planning for the conference. However, since Anglican chaplains must deal with distinctive questions that arise from Anglican theological concerns—for example, sacramental ministry and the use of proper liturgies in student services—it was thought that a purely Anglican meeting might be more helpful.

Despite the larger questions the group is asking about who should be included and how they should be reached, Collings-Moore said the group is determined to maintain contact. “We decided one of the big things we need is to stay in contact with each other, both virtually and probably every couple of years try to find a way to meet face to face.”


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 21st July 2017

Interfaith peace building for young Jewish, Muslim and Christian students

Posted on: July 20th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Posted on: July 20, 2017

Photo Credit: Peter Williams/WCC

[WCC] Students attending a three week course at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute near Geneva have learned about communication and peacebuilding,  with the hope of serving as peacemakers in their own contexts.  Young Jewish, Muslim and Christian students attended a workshop led by Marianne Ejdersten, director of Communication at the World Council of Churches (WCC). The students have earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Interreligious Studies, which is accredited by the University of Geneva.

Ms Ejdersten spoke about the pivotal role of communication in peacebuilding. “Communication for peace creates chances for people to consider and value nonviolent responses to potential and actual conflict. Communication for peace works because it reveals backgrounds and contexts, listens to all sides, exposes hidden agendas and highlights peace initiatives, regardless of religion, sex and gender,” she said.

With a fellowship of 348 member churches, communication for peace is crucial to the work of the WCC, she said. “We aim to be a catalyst for change – for a world with peace and justice at its heart. Through our platforms, we can make a difference to conflictual situations by telling positive stories that bring hope.”

During the workshop on communications, Ejdersten shared one of WCC’s most recent peace-building campaigns, Seek#JusticeandPeace in the Holy Land, that invites participants to meet 12 people with different backgrounds sharing their hopes for justice and peace in the Holy Land. “Resources are made available on our website to our members to use in their own contexts. The WCC has had a longstanding commitment for peace efforts and justice in the Holy Land since 1948, when the WCC formally founded.”

The students were keen to learn what makes a great peace communicator. “We are all peacemakers,” said Ejdersten. “Communication for peace is all about our attitude. The worst barriers to peace can be words and the way we tell our stories, in a way that we do not understand each other. To do communication for peace, you need to keep your eyes, ears and heart open, monitor what is happening, expect the unexpected, travel to unusual places and speak to those who are most affected by the situation,” she said.

Communication for peace calls for the involvement of all sides: a lesson reflected in a communiqué issued by the students on 13 July upon completion of their course. The communique reads, in part: “While recognising that dialogue requires much work and trust, we find the inclusion of each individual voice an invaluable part of the journey toward just peace.”


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Thursday 20th July, 2017

Ecumenical spirit permeates ELCIC National Convention as Anglicans and Lutherans mark 500th anniversary of Reformation

Posted on: July 20th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Cynthia Haines-Turner, Anglican representative to the National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), attends the 16th National Convention of the ELCIC in Winnipeg. Submitted photo

Ecumenical spirit permeates ELCIC National Convention as Anglicans and Lutherans mark 500th anniversary of Reformation

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Ecumenical partnerships were a major focus at the 16th Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as Anglicans joined their Lutheran full communion partners in commemorating 500 years since the onset of the Protestant Reformation.

Members of the Anglican Church of Canada who attended the National Convention, which took place in Winnipeg from July 6-8, included Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz as well as Cynthia Haines-Turner, Anglican representative on the ELCIC National Church Council (NCC).

“It was amazing … Everybody left feeling really great,” Haines-Turner said, noting the many ecumenical guests and general outward focus that reflected the vision of the Lutherans to be a church “in mission for others”.

“The whole convention was just that focus, being in mission for others … It was really a spirit-filled convention, and that seemed to be everybody’s response as they were leaving.”

Pastor Susan Climo of the Church of the Holy Spirit of Peace, an Anglican-Lutheran congregation in Mississauga, Ont., said the gathering was “very uplifting, very encouraging, perhaps even more so this time than in some conventions past … There was a very hopeful feeling about the event.”

In a statement ripe with parallels to ongoing debate in the Anglican Church of Canada over proposed changes to the marriage canon, Climo added, “I think that having gone through some fairly difficult gatherings where we were dealing with some hard issues relating to human sexuality … and come through that—still not necessarily all agreeing, but recognizing that there’s far more that unites us—we were able to sort of turn a page and start to look towards other important issues that face the church and the wider community.”

Ecumenical panel

One of the convention highlights was an ecumenical panel speaking on the significance of the Reformation commemoration.

In addition to the Primate, speakers included:

  • Moderator Jordan Cantwell from the United Church of Canada;
  • Kathryn Johnson, director of ecumenical and inter-religious relations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
  • Executive Director Willard Metzger of the Mennonite Church Canada;
  • Moderator Peter Bush of the Presbyterian Church of Canada;
  • Archbishop Richard Gagnon from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; and
  • Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, an Anglican who attended the convention in her capacity as president of the Canadian Council of Churches.

“The Lutherans had decided some years ago internationally that they would make that [anniversary of the Reformation] an ecumenical commemoration—that they didn’t want it be sort of Lutheran triumphalism, ‘rah rah Martin Luther’, but rather recognized that this was an event that affected the whole church,” Barnett-Cowan said.

During the panel, speakers touched on the fact that many Christian denominations, such as those in the Orthodox tradition, do not talk of a “Reformation”, but rather a process of “renewal”, and of the need for all churches to be renewed by the work of the spirit.

“Just by having this particular commemoration in this way, it invited everyone to be part of thinking about what the church needs to be to be whole and well and in a good place,” Barnett-Cowan said.

Pastor Jeffrey Smith of All Saints Lutheran Anglican Church—a newly merged congregation in Guelph, Ont. that unites the former St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. David and St. Patrick’s Anglican Church—called the ecumenical panel “exceptional”.

“In all the years I’ve been in ministry, I don’t remember a panel to that extent,” said Smith.

“Just to gain their insights—wow,” he added. “I was blown away.”

Primate’s greetings

The most visible moment for Anglicans at the convention was the address by Archbishop Fred Hiltz offering greetings on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Since the Waterloo Declaration in 2001 established the full communion relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC, Archbishop Hiltz said, that partnership has “borne fruit beyond our imagining, both nationally and locally.”

The Primate emphasized the “strong and steadfast of leadership” of ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson and the collegial relationship between the two church leaders. “Not only is Susan a treasure within your own church,” he said, “but she is held in high regard within ours.”

Archbishop Hiltz praised the ELCIC for its work at the convention towards establishing guidelines for interfaith dialogue—particularly its resolution for the ELCIC to reach out to Muslims—and its gestures of reconciliation towards Indigenous peoples, reflecting the 94 Calls to Action made by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He thanked the ELCIC and United Church of Canada for their presence throughout the Anglican Church of Canada’s difficult deliberations over a proposed amendment to change the marriage canon allowing for same-sex marriage—reminding Anglicans, he said, that “there is life beyond this debate”.

Reiterating the “difficult” decision to postpone the joint assembly between the Anglican and Lutheran churches that was originally scheduled for 2019 in Vancouver, the Primate said that he and Bishop Johnson were glad to call for a joint assembly in 2022.

“Though that decision to postpone was hard and disappointing and I think disheartening for some, I do believe that the capacity to even engage such a conversation is a sign of the maturity of our relationship as churches in full communion, and our respect for the very nature of full communion.”

Full communion partnership—and friendships

In his address, Archbishop Hiltz pointed to All Saints Church in Guelph as an example of the merged Anglican-Lutheran parishes that have become increasingly prevalent, praising the work of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission in establishing a working group to examine the polity of each church with respect to such joint parishes.

The deepening bonds between the two churches were visible throughout the convention, from the affectionate description of Archbishop Hiltz by ELCIC members as “our Fred” to friendships between Anglicans and Lutherans at all levels.

“It was good again to renew the friendship and the work and bonds that we have together … and just to talk about our two traditions,” said Pastor Smith of All Saints, who sat with Anglican representative Haines-Turner as fellow members of the NCC.

For her part, Haines-Turner—who introduced a motion on interfaith relationships with NCC member Marc Jerry—exemplified the sense of unity that prevails among many Anglicans and Lutherans.

“So much of the time when I’m with the Lutherans, I don’t feel like I’m ‘the Anglican’. I feel like this is my church too … I think it’s a sign of the richness and the naturalness of the relationship between the two churches that when I’m here, I just feel like one of the crowd.”


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, July 20, 2017

General Synod appoints animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations

Posted on: July 18th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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The Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman

The Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman (B.Th., M.Rel., Ph.D) will begin new work with General Synod as Animator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Working closely with the Primate’s Office, and as part of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Team, Dr. Sharman will work out of Edmonton. He is a priest in the Diocese of Edmonton who understands the heart of his vocation as “that of a bridge builder across division and difference”.

The Rev. Dr. Sharman completed his graduate and doctoral studies through Wycliffe College and the University of St. Michael’s College at the Toronto School of Theology, where he specialized in theologies of Church as they relate to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

For the past five years, Scott has served as Interfaith Chaplain to the University of Alberta, and Ecumenical Officer in the Diocese of Edmonton. This has led him into active involvement in a wide variety of ecumenical and interfaith initiatives and organizations. He is also a member of the faculty at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, where he teaches in the areas of Church History and Anglican Studies.

As someone who has ecumenical and interfaith expertise and experience in the academic, activist, local, and national contexts, he hopes this position as Animator of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations will enable him “to serve as a coordinating link between what is happening at the grassroots in these areas across the country with the priorities and plans of the Anglican Church of Canada at the national and international levels”.

Dr. Sharman will take up his new role on September 1, 2017.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, July 18, 2017

First ever meeting of Mexico’s ordained women

Posted on: July 17th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Posted on: July 17, 2017

Ordained women from all five dioceses in the Anglican Church of Mexico, with special guests Bishop Griselda Delgado of Cuba,and Revd Glenda McQueen (TEC)
Photo Credit: The Revd Glenda McQueen

Three quarters of the current women priests and deacons in the Anglican Church of Mexico have held a gathering to celebrate the ministry of ordained women in the Province. It brought together 18 out of the Province’s 25 ordained women for their first such meeting.  It took place in the city of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos and consisted of prayer, education sessions, fellowship and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

Special guests included the Rt. Revd Griselda Delgado, Bishop of Cuba and first female diocesan bishop in Latin America and the Revd Glenda McQueen, Episcopal Church Staff Officer for Latin American and the Caribbean.

A spokeswoman, Revd Sally Hernandez said: “The presence of our guests gave us the opportunity to hear about the experiences of ordained women in other parts of the Anglican Communion.  We thank God for this opportunity and for all the moments that we were able to share our personal experiences of life and ministry. It was truly an event full of joy, hope, learning and spiritual growth. The programme was truly good, thanks to our shared theological reflection, personal and ministry experiences, and  of our own spiritual journeys.”

Revd Sally added: “We thank the Primate of the Anglican Church of Mexico, The Most Revd Francisco Moreno and all our Bishops, for their continuing support to ordained women in our Province.  We also thank all donors who made this experience possible, and also those who kept us in their prayers and expressed their good wishes to us on the occasion of this first gathering of ordained women of the Anglican Church of Mexico.”


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Monday 17th July, 2017

USPG appeals for funds to stop child slavery in India

Posted on: July 17th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS) on July 14, 2017

Seventeen-year-old Daya was courted by a young man who then persuaded her to elope. But Daya’s dreams of a happy future ended when she realized she had been tricked into bonded labour, forced to work long hours at a biscuit factory, and was then abused in the evenings.

Thousands of children and young people in India, especially girls, are being trafficked every year. Typically, they are tricked into fake marriages or bonded labour, or else they are simply drugged and abducted.

Happily, Daya’s plight came to the attention of the Church of North India’s Anti-Human Trafficking Programme, supported by United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG), and she is now back home and safe with her family in North Dinajpur…

By the time you have finished reading this article, it is likely that another child in India will have been trafficked…[Human trafficking] is a crisis that goes largely under the radar because the victims mostly belong to India’s marginalized scheduled castes (such as the Dalits). These people have been called refugees in their own land due to their lack of rights, including access to education and job opportunities. In this context, it is little wonder that young people are vulnerable to the schemes of traffickers, who use them for slave labour and sexual exploitation.

The Church of North India, with support from USPG, is determined to help. The Anti-Human Trafficking Programme is raising awareness in schools and villages, and providing livelihood training so there is less need for people to travel in search of employment. The church sees the programme as a vital expression of its commitment to be the hands and feet of Christ in the communities it serves.


 Anglican Journal News, July 14, 2017

Ian Johnson: The return of religion in China

Posted on: July 14th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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Five religions are officially recognized in China, including the traditional religions of Taoism and Buddhism. Photo courtesy of Ian Johnson


All but destroyed during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, religious life — including Christianity — is once again on the rise in China, says the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The Souls of China.’

After years of suppression, religious life in China is growing, and is in many ways a response to that nation’s growing prosperity, says Ian Johnson.

“Since the 1980s, as China has gotten wealthier, religion has only grown,” Johnson said. “It’s almost as if people need something else to believe in.”

From 1966 to 1976, during Communist Party Chair Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, religion in China was violently suppressed, with hundreds of thousands of temples, mosques and churches seized or destroyed. Though Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, and Protestant and Catholic Christianity were later allowed to continue, most government leaders assumed that religion would eventually die out.

But instead, religious life has grown since the 1980s, said Johnson, the author of “The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao.” (link is external)

“There’s one person I quote in the book who said, ‘We used to think we were unhappy because we were poor. Now a lot of us aren’t poor anymore, but we’re still unhappy, and we realize there’s something missing.’”

For many Chinese, what is missing is spiritual life, Johnson said.

“People are turning to all of the five religions, but especially growing fast is Protestant Christianity and traditional Chinese religions like Buddhism,” he said.

Ian Johnson

An author and reporter for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and other publications, Johnson focuses on society, religion and history. He was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won in 2001 for his coverage of China. “The Souls of China” describes China’s religious revival and the country’s search for values.

He was at Duke earlier this year to discuss his book with the Duke Asian/Pacific Studies Institute. He also spoke with Faith & Leadership. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: You say that religion has been overlooked in how we think about China and yet is critical to understanding that country. How so?

If you think of America, for example, no one can understand it or its politics if you didn’t know a bit of the history of the Puritans, or the faith and role of Southern Baptists. By the same token, religion historically has played and still plays a big role in Chinese society and how it is organized.

In the late 19th century, there was a big reaction against traditional religion in China. It was seen as superstitious and holding China back, and incompatible with being a modern nation. The old system was destroyed in the late 19th and early 20th century. Since then, China has been looking for something to replace it.

For a while, they had communism, but that collapsed during the Mao period. By the late 1970s, after so many famines and so much persecution, nobody believed in communism anymore. Since then, Chinese society has been adrift, with no shared moral values or ideas about how to hold society together.

But every society needs something like that. That’s the problem in China today, and it’s a big issue.

Q: Give us a historical overview of religion in China. Before Mao, China was virtually a religious state, a mingling of culture and religion.

The emperor was almost a quasi-divine figure, and officials got legitimacy through participating in religious rituals and rites. Temples in China were kind of like a cathedral and a city hall in medieval Europe.

The temples were run by committees of local gentry, the same people who would raise the militia or build new irrigation systems or roads. There were no city halls, so people tended to meet and congregate in temples. They were powerful places. When reformers tried to change Chinese society in the late 19th century, they went after power where it lay, in this traditional system of ruling China.

There was also a feeling that traditional Chinese religion was backward, and there was a big movement even in the late 19th century to convert temples to schools. They had this idea that they needed to catch up to the West in science, technology and education.

Some religion was OK; Western countries were heavily Christian. But they thought their own religions were the problem. That started this wave of anti-religious persecution that went throughout the 20th century.

Q: And under Mao, it all came to a head?

Yes. When the Communists took power in 1949, they were the most radical of the groups that wanted to change China. There had been others before that were skeptical of traditional religion, but the Communists really pushed all this through. It culminated from 1966 to 1976 with the Cultural Revolution, when hundreds and hundreds of thousands of temples, mosques and churches were closed. Pretty much all public religious life ended, and Mao was the only god who was allowed.

He was almost worshipped like a god. People went on pilgrimages to Beijing to see him and carried the Little Red Book like it was the Bible. Young people would go see Mao, and they would faint and become hysterical, like Beatlemania.

The Cultural Revolution ended with his death in 1976, and people began to realize that communism had been a disaster. China is communist only in name now.

Q: What has happened after Mao? What are we talking about when we talk about religion in China today?

Out of the old system, five groups formed. The official religions of China are Taoism, which is the only indigenous religion in China; Buddhism, which has been in China for a long time and came from India; Islam, which came to China quite a long time ago; then, for administrative purposes, Christianity is split into Protestantism and Catholicism.

Nothing else is allowed, which means the vast majority of traditional folk religions were declared to be superstitious and destroyed.

After the Cultural Revolution, they brought back the five religions. But the rulers at the time, Deng Xiaoping and others, saw religion as a relic of the old society. They thought it would be a mistake to destroy it, but they thought it would go away. Nobody thought it would take off. They thought it would disappear as old people died off, but the opposite happened, and religion began to pick up.

Since the 1980s, as China has gotten wealthier, religion has only grown. It’s almost as if people need something else to believe in. There is nothing to believe in, in China. There’s no state religion. The only thing the government has allowed in the past 40 years has been prosperity, getting rich. The slogan since the 1980s has been “To get rich is glorious.” But that is not adequate. Nobody can live on materialism alone.

There’s one person I quote in the book who said, “We used to think we were unhappy because we were poor. Now a lot of us aren’t poor anymore, but we’re still unhappy, and we realize there’s something missing.”

For a lot of people in China, what’s missing is spiritual life. People are turning to all of the five religions, but especially growing fast is Protestant Christianity and traditional Chinese religions like Buddhism.

Q: What about the current leader of China, Xi Jinping? What’s his stance on religion in China?

As a Communist Party official, Xi Jinping is supposed to be atheist, and he probably is. But as early as the 1980s, during his first assignment as a young official, he forged an alliance with a famous Buddhist monk for a couple of reasons.

One, his father was a Communist Party official who had a reputation for being somewhat sympathetic to religion. He worked with a lot of religious groups in western China when he was running Communist guerrilla movements and decided that religion wasn’t necessarily incompatible with communism, as long as it didn’t challenge the party. The elder Xi was in charge of religious work in the early 1980s and wrote the document that allowed religion to come back. When his son became a county chief, he took a lenient position toward religion and forged an alliance with this abbot.

They rebuilt a very famous Buddhist temple. Later, when he was getting promoted through the ranks, he sent his officials to go look at this county and said, “This is the way it ought to be done.”

I think the reason the party is doing this is that they realize there is this moral malaise in society. People are unhappy. It’s probably the biggest complaint you hear from Chinese people, beyond minor daily complaints and stuff like that — the sense that society has no moral compass. Anything goes; there are no minimal moral standards. Anything to get ahead is OK.

Articles circulate on Chinese media about how somebody gets run over by a car and nobody stops to help, because nobody can be bothered. Or the food isn’t safe to eat and drink. There were tainted milk and infant formula scandals. It’s this feeling that you can’t trust anything.

Political scientists talk about social trust. You need to have social trust. You need to trust that when you go into the store, the food isn’t poisoned; otherwise, you’re not going to buy it. So it’s a basic premise of capitalism. This is why Xi Jinping and other leaders are not entirely opposed to religion in China growing.

Q: And you write that they are more favorably disposed to Buddhism but much less so to Christianity.

Yes. I think they feel that Buddhism and other traditional faiths, including Taoism, are more compatible with Chinese tradition. Also, they have this idea — I think it’s mistaken — that these religions won’t challenge the state so much.

The leaders are interested in personal piety and moral values that are helpful to society. I think they feel less comfortable with Christianity because there’s still the perception that Christianity is a foreign religion, even though Christianity has had a presence in China for about 400 years. More importantly, they feel that Christianity is still influenced by foreigners, and it has a social justice component that they don’t like.

Some churches are involved in relatively innocuous programs, like homeless shelters or orphanages, but some are more politically engaged. There was a big movement of lawyers who took on human rights cases, and about 25 percent of these lawyers were Protestants. Only about 5 percent of Chinese are Protestant, so that’s disproportionately high. Clearly, people are inspired in some way by the social gospel to get involved in cases of persecution.

There’s also perhaps a personal reason. When Xi Jinping was party secretary of Zhejiang province in southern China, there was a clash between church members and the police. The police went in to close down an illegal underground church. But the church members mobilized hundreds of people who came and surrounded the police, who retreated.

The guy who was the head of the police then is now the party secretary of Zhejiang, and Xi is now head of China. They both probably feel that Christians are troublemakers.

Between 2014 and 2016, there was a campaign to remove crosses on top of church steeples in this province. You can’t prove it, but it was payback — “I was the police chief. You humiliated my police. Now, all your crosses are coming down.”

They didn’t close any churches. They took the crosses off 1,500 churches, but only one church was demolished. The other 1,499 were left, and they’re still there.

Q: What does Protestant Christianity look like in China?

After the Communists took over in 1949, they set up the five religious groups, including one Protestant, one Catholic. In the case of Catholics, they cut all ties to the Vatican; they set up a Chinese Catholic Church. And in the case of Protestants, they got rid of all denominations and said, “OK, you’re all Protestants now. There are no more Episcopalians or Baptists or whatever.”

The official Protestant churches have about 20 million members, according to government figures. But according to every other objective source, at least double that number are in nonregistered churches. This could be churches as small as a living room, where a dozen or two dozen people get together to pray, to big churches, like one I wrote about in my book. It has about 500 members and rents half a floor of an office building. They have two big services and started another church in another part of town. They have a seminary, a kindergarten and a bookstore.

These churches are not registered, so officially they’re illegal. But the government has decided that it’s not worth it to take them on, because tens of millions of people would be affected. These are growing quickly, but they don’t have church buildings. They’re not allowed to build a church.

Q: What are the numbers for all five major religions?

There are 23 million Muslims in China, defined by ethnicity. There are 10 ethnic groups that are Muslim, and if you add them up, it’s 23 million, but that assumes they are all practicing Muslims.

There are officially 6 million Catholics, up from 3 million in 1949. Unofficially, people say there are double that number, so I’d say it would be 12 million Catholics, about 1 percent of the population.

Then the Protestant groups were 1 million in 1949. Today, at the high end, some people say there are 100 million, which I don’t think is credible. A better number is more like 50 million. If you add the 50 million Protestants and roughly 10 million Catholics, you get 60 million Christians.

And Buddhists and Taoists — there are no memberships, but you’re talking about a few hundred million in the other groups.

Altogether, that’s 300 to 400 million worshippers in China out of 1.4 billion people. It’s maybe a quarter of the population, which isn’t huge, but you have to look at where it was before. It was completely obliterated, so it’s coming back and growing all the time.

Q: How will it play out? Will religion continue to grow? Are the leaders hoping it can be useful in creating a more just society?

For sure. The government hopes that it can work like that. That’s why they support some of the traditional religious practices.

The problem is, religion is a double-edged sword. Every ruler wants to manipulate religion for their own use. They think religion will support them. But religion usually ends up being a lot more complicated. Religion is something very close to people’s hearts, and it’s harder to control than rulers imagine.

All the religions in China, whether Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Taoism, have this idea of a higher form of morality that transcends any government’s program. It creates in people’s minds this idea of justice.

They use this word in Chinese, “tian,” which means “heaven,” but it’s this idea of justice coming from heaven. So justice, righteousness, upright living come from heaven. It’s universal. Everybody has the right to justice.

That’s higher than any government program, so it’s a potential challenge in the long run for the party. Religion helps create independent expectations of morality and justice that they can hold the government accountable to.

That’s a macro view. The smaller, micro view of potential problems is that when you start supporting one religion over another — and I think they are trying to support the traditional religions over Christianity and Islam — it can create tensions, and people feel aggrieved.

China is an authoritarian state. We tend to think China will never change and will always be an authoritarian state. But there’s no saying that that will be true. If economic growth weakens, the party loses legitimacy, it’s harder to control society. Religious tensions could rise up.

In Chinese history, there were a lot of uprisings, rebellions, protests, that were religiously based. I’m just grabbing out of a hat, but that’s the long-term risk that the government faces. In the short term, the story is pretty much of growth.

Q: What are the lessons for the church in America? What would you want Christians in the U.S. to know about Christianity in China, and more broadly, religion in China?

We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is persecution in China, but we shouldn’t be fixated on that. Overall, the story of Christianity in China over the past decades has been rapid growth.

I think it also shows that in all countries around the world, materialism isn’t the answer. People in all societies are searching for a life that’s more meaningful, some kind of a moral life. Nobody wants to think, “That’s it. The BMW, the Mercedes — that’s all there is.”

Some prosperity gospel is popular in China, but bigger than that are the basic ideas of Christianity. That’s what is attractive to people. It’s not, “Believe in Jesus — get rich.” It’s rather, “Believe in Jesus because it gives your life meaning and because these are eternal truths that will answer a lot of questions, even in your society.”


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership, July 11, 2017

Reflections of the Anglican Pilgrimage Conference for seminarians and clergy

Posted on: July 13th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Reflections of the Anglican Pilgrimage Conference for seminarians and clergy

Posted By Seipati Mohutsiwa

12 July 2017

It is often difficult for one to imagine a world outside one’s own experiences. One tends to depend on pre-conceived ideas to inform the imagination. What then do we imagine the Anglican Communion to be? Seminarians and those in their early years of ordained ministry came together in Canterbury from across the Anglican Communion to partake in a conference where various experiences were shared.

In the early days of our two weeks together, we realised that perhaps the Church is far reaching than we could have thought. This could be easily picked up as we introduced ourselves and the countries from which we come from. Although the physical distance that divides us is great, we shared so much that brought us together. Daily, we became mindful of God, the Church and one another as we prayed together and for each other at the daily offices, shared the Holy Communion, and learnt to worship in each other’s languages. We shared the excitement of exploring Christian history, the Canterbury cathedral and taking a short trip to London to meet Archbishop Justin and Anglican Communion Office Team.

Things got interesting as the facilitators of the conference kept us engaged in dialogue with one another. Some stories were hard to hear as some of us discovered the pain that many ministers bear just to be Christian witnesses in the Anglican Communion. Issues like reconciliation and forgiveness, cultural norms such as the caste system, poverty, the place of women and children in society and the church, Christian persecution and political dissuasion.

Perhaps sharing our experiences was one of the key purposes of this conference. We learnt to listen to one another, therefore we acquired ideas that gave us a bigger picture of what we had imagined the Anglican Church to be. In Mark’s gospel, we are reminded to love one another, as we do self. This conference gave us the opportunity to recognise each other and where we are, and love each other as together we are a part of the Anglican Communion.

Seipati Mohutsiwa is currently a Seminarian doing my final year of study at the College of Transfiguration in South Africa.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Thursday 13th July, 2017

Survey participants request more resources for joint Anglican/ Old Catholic worship

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Posted on: July 11, 2017

Brochure launch: ‘Anglicans and Old Catholics together in Europe’

Anglicans and Old Catholics meeting in Germany have been examining the results of a survey conducted across five European countries. Members of the Anglican–Old Catholic International Co-ordinating Council (AOCICC) received the results of a survey entitled ‘Belonging together in Europe’ commissioned by the Council in 2015.  The Council said it  was encouraged by the 106 responses from five countries.

The survey reflected a high level of awareness of the relationship of full communion between Anglicans and Old Catholics, with respondents requesting more resources for joint worship services.  The survey illustrated the varied ways in which the churches are engaging with each other, especially in areas where congregations from both churches are present in the same place.  The results also indicated a desire for a more strategic approach to mutual engagement in service, witness and mission. The Council agreed to send out the results of the survey to all respondents and participating churches and invite their comments for consideration at next year’s meeting.

Bonn _AOCICC_riverside

In the light of the many requests of survey respondents for more information about each other’s churches, the Council said it was “providential” that it had planned the launch of the brochure ‘Anglicans and Old Catholics together in Europe’ in the context of this year’s meeting. The launch took place at the Hotel Königshof in Bonn overlooking the Rhine. It was in this historic location that the text of the Bonn Agreement between the Anglicans and Old Catholics was signed on 2 July 1931. The brochure seeks to provide an introduction, in a fresh and attractive way, to the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches in Europe.

Suffragan in the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, Bishop David Hamid, has reflected on the Bonn meeting in his blog:

At the request of the recent meeting of Anglican and Old Catholic Bishops on mainland Europe, the Council also reflected on the issues of child abuse and safeguarding. The Council recognised “the centrality and importance of safeguarding in both communions” whilst noting the differences in the structure and procedures of each national church policy: “The interchangeability of ministers is a significant area where the churches are obliged to exchange information and to take the utmost care in ensuring consistency in their policies and procedures.”

The Council issued a Communique in English and German.


Anglican Communion News Service,  Daily update from the ACNS on Tuesday 11th July, 2017