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NCCCUSA/CWSW Host China Christian Council Delegation 

            March 30, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – Dr. Han Wenzao, President of the China Christian Council, today (March 30) updated data on the growth of the church in China and described the urgent need for church leadership development at all levels.  He spoke at a luncheon hosted by the National Council of Churches and its humanitarian assistance ministry, Church World Service. 

            He and his delegation came to the United States March 18 by invitation of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and will return home April 6.  Dr. Han, successor to Bishop K.H. Ting, said China’s Protestant Christians number 14 million, “twenty times as many as in 1949,” whereas China’s population has grown only three-fold over that period.  There are 13,000 churches and an additional 25,000 “meeting points,” 18 theological seminaries and Bible schools, and 26 million Bibles have been printed since 1980 – 23 million by the Amity Printing Company and three million by the secular press. 

            The Amity Foundation, established in 1985 by Chinese Christians, has projects in 29 of China’s 32 provinces including an international corps of teachers of English. 

            But there are “too few pastors, too few,” Dr. Han emphasized – with only 2,000 ordained, although an additional body of elders and preachers can celebrate communion.  Describing leadership training and development as one of two major challenges facing the church in China.   “We want to train theologians, seminary teachers, Christian artists and musicians, people who know church management.  We need more young colleagues who can speak English.  Without this, we can hardly maintain international ecumenical relations.” 

            The other major challenge, he said, is “to encourage and strengthen theological thinking.”  Dr. Han also asked the NCC to send another delegation to China; the last was in 1998.  “It’s time,” he said. 

            The Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, CWS Executive Director, hosted the luncheon, and commented on the dramatic church growth he witnessed in China from his first visit in 1978 to his return in 1996 when, “if the China Christian Council hadn’t reserved seats for us in church, we wouldn’t have had seats.  The churches were packed.” 

Special NCC luncheon guests included Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and a frequent visitor to China who in 1981 “helped sweep some of the churches” that had been used as factories and warehouses and “saw Bishop K.H. Ting start a seminary with three students.” 

Rabbi Schneier hailed the China Christian Council “for all you’ve done in service to God and humanity”  He commented on the significant timing of the delegation’s visit, as Congress debates U.S.-China relations issues including trade and normalization of relations. 

“The religious communities of the United States and China can serve both our peoples because the people-to-people contacts are what matters,” he said.  “We recommend ‘Joint Ventures of Understanding’ and your visit today is an important one.”  He urged additional exchanges of religious leaders and theological students. 

            The Rev. Dr. Randy Nugent, General Secretary of the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries, also thanked the China Christian Council for its faithfulness and said U.S. and Chinese religious communities have an important voice to bring on a wide range of political, theological and practical issues in and between their nations. 

            After lunch, the five delegation members split briefly for visits to Jewish Theological Seminary and The Riverside Church gift shop.  Their New York City itinerary also includes official visits to the Episcopal Church, Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ-Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Methodist Church and the Chinatown United Methodist Church (for Sunday service); a lunch at the Scholars Garden on Staten Island, and tickets to the Broadway play “Phantom of the Opera.”   

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