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Exhibit on the use of the bible in China
viewed as a sign of God's reconciling power


By Tan Yingzi (China Daily) and NCC News

Washington, September 29, 2011 An exhibit here celebrating the history of the bible in China has garnered high praise from religious leaders in the United States.

"Speaking for the National Council of Churches, which itself has a distinguished history of bible translation, I want to affirm that this exhibition is a blessing to the churches in this country," said the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

"For one thing, it vividly demonstrates the vitality of the church in China -- and that should be a source of encouragement to Christians everywhere," Kinnamon said.


"But this exhibition is also a blessing because it points us toward the foundation of our own witness, service and worship -- namely the bible."

The exhibit, titled "A Lamp to My Feet, A Light to My Path", aimed to give an overall understanding of how the Bible was brought into China.

The event at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church in Washington is organized by the China Christian Council (CCC) and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China. The exhibit will be in Washington September 28 - October 2.

 

From Washington, the exhibit travels to First United Methodist Churchy at the Chicago Temple in Chicago, October 12-16; to Northwest Bible Church in Dallas, October 30-November 3; and to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Library in Charlotte, N.C., November 8-19.
 

Kinnamon said he prayed the exhibition will be a challenge to all Christians and persons of faith.

"Our experience here in the United States shows that it is very possible to have lots of bibles in our homes but still not read them," he said.

"May this exhibition be an encouragement for Christians in this country to teach and study God's word. And may it deepen even further the relationship between Chinese Christians and American Christians, that we might be a sign of God's reconciling power in a world that so desperately needs it."

Kinnamon also expressed appreciation for the NCC's "long history of positive relationship" with the Three-Self Movement and the China Christian Council. In a memorandum of understanding in 2009, "we gratefully acknowledged that the love of God has made us members together of Christ's one body."


Forty-two panels of texts and photos along with 350 individual displays including Bibles, paintings, handicraft and models give an account of Christian ministries in China.

Organizers said they hope to inform American Christians about Chinese Christians.

The exhibit as a whole focuses on how the Bible was translated, published and distributed in China. A group of Chinese Christian artists discuss the traditional Chinese culture and the significance of Christianity in China.

The event was held in Hong Kong in 2004; in Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York in 2006; and finally to Germany in 2007. It is now returning to the states with stops in Washington DC, Chicago, Dallas and Charlotte.

"The Bible connects our churches," said Wang Zuo'an, minister of China's State Administration for Religious Affairs, at the opening ceremony of the exhibit on Wednesday.

"I hope more American friends can visit this exhibition and through this window of opportunity, learn more about the development of the church in China, the piety of Chinese Christians and hopefully, it will lead to greater interest in finding more truth about a colorful China," he said.

Christianity has a long history in China. Chinese people reportedly first became aware of the Bible in the early Tang Dynasty when a missionary, Olopen, came to China in 635 AD.

Currently, over 56 million copies of the Bible were printed in China by 2010, according to the CCC. China officially recognizes five religions -Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism.

Wang Zuo'an said that there is still a lack of information about religion in China and that many foreigners are not informed about how religion is conducted in China.


"It will take time to know more about China but we should go out and make efforts to let others understand us," he said Wednesday.

Wang said he met with senior officials at the White House and the State Department to promote more communication between the two countries on religious affairs.


Geoff Tunnicliffe from the World Evangelical Alliance said he has been to China a number of times and praised the development of religious freedom in the past three decades.

"In the past 30 years, there has been significant development in the whole area of religious freedom," he said.

As the Bible is central to Christians and Evangelicals, he said, showing its influence and development in China is important to American Christians.


What impressed him most at the exhibition is how Chinese Christians handwrote the Bible from memory during challenging times.

Missie H. Dowey, of Irmo, South Carolina, said the exhibit "brings China to life here in the US, shows us all the things and opportunities going on there in a very crispy and beautiful way".

 



Pictured above: An imperial edition New Testament, one of the four existing copies that were printed from the same plate of the one presented to Empress-Dowager CiXi in 1894 (Carol U, Christina Song)



Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell),
pjenks@ncccusa.org

 

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