True Jesus Church
|True Jesus Church|
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The True Jesus Church (TJC) is a Christian denomination that originated in Beijing, China, during the Pentecostal movement in the early twentieth century. The True Jesus Church is currently one of the largest Christian groups in China and Taiwan, as well as one of the largest independent churches in the world.
Established in 1917, the church’s early adherents in Hebei and Shandong were influenced by certain charismatic practices of the Apostolic Faith Mission in China, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, especially faith healing, baptism of the Holy Spirit, footwashing, and Sabbath keeping.
The TJC was founded by Paul Wei (Wei Enbo, 1877-1919) in 1917. A former member of the Beijing branch of the London Missionary Society led by British missionary Samuel Evans Meech (1845–1937), Wei became a Pentecostal under the influence of Norwegian missionary to China, Bernt Berntsen. In 1917, he left Berntsen’s group and claimed that a vision had directed him to found his own church. Wei predicted that the world will end in 1921 or 1922. He died of tuberculosis on September 10, 1919, and the failure of his prophecy did not prevent the further growth of the TJC.
The TJC’s early leaders included Zhang Lingsheng (1863—?), who convinced Wei that the church should maintain a seventh-day Sabbath, and Barnabas Zhang (1882–1961), who eventually left the group in 1929 and established a rival movement in Hong Kong.
In Mainland China, Wei’s son, Wei Wenxiang (魏文祥, Isaac Wei, 魏以撒, ca. 1900-?), emerged as the main leader of the TJC. He also presided over TJC’s international expansion to various countries and the establishment of an effective bureaucracy.
By 1949, the membership grew to around 120,000 in seven hundred churches. In 1951, Isaac Wei was arrested and “disappeared.” How and when he died is unknown. Li Zhengcheng (李正誠, ca.1920-1990) replaced Isaac Wei as the main leader of the TJC and lead it into joining the Three-Self Patriotic Movement as the government had requested. Scholar Melissa Inouye reports that, fearing persecution, the leaders mourned the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 claiming that he was now in Heaven. One even stated that “Comrade Stalin has saved many tens of thousands of people, more than Jesus.” Persecution, however, came, both before and during the Cultural Revolution Li Zhengcheng spent more than twenty years in jail. Because of the developments in China, the TJC abroad proclaimed its autonomy, with headquarters first in Taiwan and from 1985 in the U.S. The Chinese branch was however reconstituted, as part of the Three-Self Church, after the Cultural Revolution and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping and still has a substantial following in China.
Today there are officially 1.5 million members in fifty eight countries.
In mainland China most of the True Jesus Church congregations are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, and usually meet on Saturdays in TSPM church buildings as separate sabbatarian sub-congregations. However, since TJC practices such as healing and tongues are "frowned upon" in the TSPM other congregations are independent Chinese house churches.
Taiwan and the United States
Outside China member churches of the TJC look to the central synod of the TJC in California. In 1967 TJC church leaders from outside mainland China met for the first World Delegates Conference in Taiwan, and an international headquarters was established in Taichung, Taiwan, where a seminary was opened. The headquarters was subsequently moved to California in 1985.
In the United Kingdom, True Jesus Church congregations were established as a result of immigration patterns in the 1960s and 1970s, coming largely from Malaysia and Hong Kong, the latter especially from Ap Chau. This would result in a number of congregations being established throughout the country, particularly in Northern England and Scotland, such as Leicester, Newcastle, Sunderland, Elgin, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The church believes that the sacraments must fulfill three requirements according to the Scripture. Firstly, they must have been performed by Jesus Christ himself as an example. Secondly, the sacraments must be directly related to one's salvation, eternal life, entering the Heavenly Kingdom, and having a part with Jesus. Lastly, they must be of the sacraments which Jesus Christ instructed the disciples to perform as well. There are ten articles of faith that the True Jesus Church holds in order to worship God correctly. According to them, one must speak in tongues as evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. The mode of baptism also determines salvation. The correct mode should be with the head facing down (in the manner of Jesus' death) and only in natural ("living") water.
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