Three-Self Patriotic Movement
The National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China (中国基督教三自爱国运动委员会) and the China Christian Council (中国基督教协会) are known in China as the lianghui (two organizations). Together they form the only state-sanctioned (registered) Protestant church in mainland China (see also: Protestantism in China and Christianity in China.)
The three principles of self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners), and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work) were first articulated by Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841–73, and Rufus Anderson, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The principles were drafted formally during an 1892 conference in Shanghai of Christian missions reflecting an almost unilateral agreement that the future of the Chinese church depended on the indigenization of the leadership, and the finding of sufficiently Chinese modes of worship. Dixon Edward Hoste, head of the China Inland Mission, was known for putting the same principles into practice in the effort of assisting the Chinese to establish their own indigenous churches during the early 20th Century.
In 1951, Y. T. Wu (吴耀宗, 1893–1979), a Chinese Christian leader, initiated the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which promoted a strategy of 'self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation' in order to remove foreign influences from the Chinese churches and to assure the government that the churches would be patriotic to the newly established People's Republic of China. "Three-Self" is a characteristically Chinese way of abbreviating "self-governance, self-support, self-propagation" (自治、自养、自传). In 1954, 138 Chinese Christian leaders who presented the "Christian Manifesto" to the country, pledging the support of Christians for anti-imperialism, anti-feudalism, and anti-bureaucratic capitalism efforts. The movement, in the eyes of critics, allowed the government to infiltrate, subvert, and control much of organized Christianity.
From 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution, the expression of religious life in China was effectively banned, including even the TSPM. The growth of the Chinese house church movement during this period was a result of all Chinese Christian worship being driven underground for fear of persecution. To counter this growing trend of "unregistered meetings", in 1979 the government officially restored the TSPM after thirteen years of non-existence, and in 1980 the CCC was formed.
An official survey in 2010 by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found there were 23 million registered Protestants in China.
The TSPM is not a denomination, and denominational distinctions do not exist within the organization. Pastors are trained at one of thirteen officially sanctioned seminaries. Current theological emphasis is on "a protection and promotion of the five basic tenets of Christian faith — the Trinity, Christ being both human and God, the Virgin Birth, Death and Resurrection and the Second Coming."
However, the TSPM is charged with being an instrument for the secular Chinese government, which persecutes Christians outside of it.
The attempt to bring house-church Christians into the fold of "registered" meeting places has met with mixed results.
Statement of Faith
God is Spirit. God is loving, just, holy, and trustworthy. God is almighty Father, the Lord who creates and sustains the cosmos and all that is in it, who keeps and cares for the whole world.
Jesus Christ is the only Son of God, born of the Holy Spirit, the Word made flesh, wholly God and wholly human. He came into the world to save humankind, to witness to God the Father, to preach the gospel; he was crucified, died, and was buried. He rose again and ascended into heaven. He will come again to judge the world.
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, who enables people to know their sinfulness and to repent, who bestows wisdom and ability and every grace, leading us to know God and to enter into the truth, enabling people to live holy lives, and to give beautiful witness to Christ.
The church is the body of Christ and Christ is its Head. The church is apostolic, one, holy, and catholic. The visible church is called by God to be a fellowship of those who believe in Jesus Christ. It was established by the apostles as Jesus instructed them. The mission of the church is to preach the gospel, to administer the Sacraments, to teach and nurture believers, to do good works, and to bear witness to the Lord. The church is both universal and particular. The Chinese Church must build itself up in love and be one in Christ.
The Bible has been revealed by God and written down by human beings through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the highest authority in matters of faith and the standard of life for believers. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, people in different times have gained new light in the Bible. The Bible should be interpreted in accordance with the principle of rightly explaining the word of truth. It should not be interpreted arbitrarily or out of context.
Human beings are made in the image of God, but cannot become gods. God has given humanity dominion over all God's creation. Because of sin, human beings have diminished God's glory, yet through faith and the grace of Jesus Christ, human beings are redeemed and saved, and are granted resurrection and everlasting life.
Christ will come again. According to the teachings of the Bible, no one knows the day of his coming, and any method to determine when Christ will come again violates the teachings of the Bible.
A Christian's faith and works are one. Christians must live out Christ in the world, glorifying God and benefiting people.
Standing Committee of the TSPM
- Secretary General
- Trammel, Madison, "Marking Time in the Middle Kingdom", Christianity Today Library, retrieved May 1, 2007.
- Venn, Henry (1971), Warren, M, ed., To Apply the Gospel: Selections from the Writings of…, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
- Grant, Paul (January 1, 2007), The Three Self Church, NSM, retrieved May 1, 2007.
- Lewis, Donald M. (2004). Christianity Reborn: The Global Expansion of Evangelicalism in the Twentieth Century. William B. Eerdmans. p. 90.
- Johnstone, Patrick (2001). Operation World. London: Paternoster. p. 164.
- Wilson, Lynette (March 14, 2012). "Rise in Christians has China’s churches, government looking for help". Episcopal News Service. Domestic & Foreign Missionary Society, The Episcopal Church. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Mengfei, Gu. "Chinese Churches on the Way Towards Unity". World Council of Churches. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- Wong, Francis (August 12, 2010). "Over 23 million Christians in China, official survey shows". Christian Today. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- "TSPM – A Young Evangelist's Perspective", Amity News Service.
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997: Congressional Hearing, pp.156-157
- "Chapter Two: Faith". Church Order of Protestant Churches in China. National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China/China Christian Council. May 15, 2008. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
- 中国基督教三自爱国运动委员会第八届主席、副主席、秘书长名单 (in Chinese), CCC TSPM.
References and further reading
- Daniel H. Bays. A New History of Christianity in China. (Chichester, West Sussex; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, Blackwell Guides to Global Christianity, 2012). ISBN 9781405159548), esp. Ch. 7, "Christianity and the New China, 1950-1966.
- Philip L. Wickeri. Seeking the Common Ground : Protestant Christianity, the Three-Self Movement, and China's United Front. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988). ISBN 0883444410.
- Wallace C. Merwin and Francis P. Jones, ed., Documents of the Three-Self Movement: Source Materials for the Study of the Protestant Church in Communist China. (New York, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Division of Foreign Missions. Far Eastern Office, 1963).
- Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of the China Christian Council (official website).
- Chinese Protestant Church.
- The Church in China.
- Amity Foundation.
- "TSPM Church Directory", Amity news service.
- "FAQs about the Protestant Church in China", Amity news service.
- Ji, Jianhong (November 2004), "Interview", Christianity Today, then-head of the TSPM.