China Moves to Regulate House Churches with Temporary Permits

ICC Note: China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs issued a circular on June 1 urging unregistered church groups to apply for temporary permits that are renewable after three years. The underground church community fears that this is the state’s attempt to place them under the guidance of state-sanctioned organizations with the eventual goal to eliminate them.

06/07/2018 China (UCA News) – Chinese Catholics are concerned about a State Administration for Religious Affairs circular that requires organizers of religious activities at temporary sites to seek guidance from government-recognized church organizations.

They fear it will mean that Catholic underground communities and Protestant house churches will come under greater control.

It was reported that the June 1 circular was a result of revised religious affairs regulations implemented on Feb. 1.

The notice stated that religious believers who were registered residents, had no criminal record and possessed certain religious knowledge can apply for temporary religious activities.

Sites must apply to local authorities for a three-year validity period. The number of people attending activities was also stipulated.

Article 13 stated: “Religious groups have guiding responsibilities for the activities of temporary events. The activities of temporary events should receive guidance from religious organizations.”

On June 2, Professor Ying Fuk-tsang, director of the divinity school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote on his Facebook page that if a house church applies for a temporary site, the China Christian Council and the national committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement can provide “opinions” about the applications.

“It is well known that many house churches are reluctant to register and are willing to be an illegal organization because they do not want to be under the two organizations,” he wrote.

“The notice that requires family churches to accept guidance by the two organizations is an attempt to use the name of guidance to force the family church to establish a substantial relationship with them.”

Ying questioned whether the move might interfere with the arrangements of religious affairs, such as sacraments, ceremonial rituals, theological interpretations, and pastoral training and cultivation of believers.

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