Wang Yi (pastor)

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Wang Yi (Chinese: 王怡; born June 1, 1973), pen name Wang Shuya (Chinese: 王书亚; pinyin: Wáng Shūyà), is the founding pastor of the Early Rain Covenant Church (Chinese: 秋雨圣约教会; pinyin: Qiūyǔ Shèngyuē Jiàohuì), a Calvinist house church in Chengdu. He is also a productive writer, editor, and social activist, and was a legal scholar at Chengdu University before he resigned to take up the pastorate.[1]


In 2004, he was included in the list of "50 Most Influential Public Intellectuals of China" by Southern People Weekly (Chinese: 南方人物周刊). In 2005, he was converted, baptized, and started to serve in the house church. He was among the few pioneering Christian human-rights attorneys in China.[2]

Wang Yi met with President George W. Bush at the White House in 2006, with other Chinese human rights attorneys, to discuss religious freedom in China.[3][4] He returned to Washington, D.C. in 2008, to attend the Conference for Global Christians in Law and was awarded "Prize for the Contribution to Promoting Religious Freedom."[5]

In 2008, he founded and started to serve the Chengdu Early Rain Reformed Church (Chinese: 秋雨之福归正教会; pinyin: Qiūyǔ Zhīfú Guīzhèng Jiàohuì) (later renamed as the Early Rain Covenant Church). In October 2011, he was ordained and became the senior pastor of the church.[5] The church now had a membership of about 700 before it was closed down in late 2018.[6]

Wang Yi was one of China's best-known pastors in the West. He and Early Rain have been profiled in The Atlantic and New York Times,[7][8] and the subject of a number of journalist and academic works.[9][10] A review by the editorial board of the Washington Post called Wang "a paragon of the noble aspiration that people be allowed to think, speak, worship and assemble freely".[11]

On 9 December 2018, he and over 100 other members of the church were arrested by Chinese authorities,[12] who simultaneously banned any reporting of the crackdown.[13] This action is being objected to by the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.[14] After he had been detained for 48 hours, the Early Rain Covenant Church released Wang's "My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience" written two months earlier in anticipation of his arrest.[15]

On 30 December 2019, Wang was given a prison sentence of nine years by Chengdu Intermediate People's Court for "inciting subversion of state power and illegal business operations." The sentence also included the stripping of his political rights for three years and the confiscation of his personal assets of RMB 50,000 (US$ 7,000).[16][17]

On 31 December 2019, U.S. State Department called China for Wang's immediate and unconditional release in a statement, saying "This is yet another example of Beijing's intensification of repression of Chinese Christians and members of other religious groups".[18]

On 1 January 2020, the embassy of the Netherlands in Beijing posted a message on Chinese social network Sina Weibo, which emphasized the importance of freedom of religion, with a screenshot of the Chinese court document about the sentence of Wang Yi.[19]


Wang Yi argues that the idea of the separation of church and state originated from the Calvinist tradition. He criticizes the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China as emphasizing nationalism, which he claims results in a worship of secular authorities at the cost of valuing the local community.[20] Instead, he argues for the separation of church and state in the United States which he suggests is a constitutional polity legitimized by a transcendent power – namely, a sovereign God.[2][21] Furthermore, he claims that the nation cannot interfere with church affairs, on the one hand, and should be obliged to protect the religious freedom out of the divine duty, on the other.[22]

Wang wants to promote the transparency and publicity of the Chinese house church. Wang argues that churches ought to not only listen for God's voice, but also engage in public affairs. For him, the Reformed church in China should have a pastoral mission for the Chinese church and a prophetic mission for Chinese society.[23][21] According to Fredrik Fällman, Wang Yi sees this as the mechanism by which "New Genevas" are established throughout China, akin to John Calvin's reforms in Geneva.[24]

Chinese 95 theses[edit]

In August 2015, Wang Yi posted a document titled "Reaffirming our Stance on the House Churches: 95 theses" in an attempt to reaffirm the Chinese house church's position in the relationship between government and society. Echoing Martin Luther's 95 theses, these Chinese 95 theses demonstrate his opinion of the church-state relationship from the perspective of the house church.[25]

This document is divided into 6 sections:[26]

  • Theses 1–17: God's Sovereignty and Biblical Authority.
  • Theses 18–31: God's Law and Christ's Redemption.
  • Theses 32–39: Against the "Sinicization of Christianity."
  • Theses 40–44: Church as the Body of Christ and His Kingdom.
  • Theses 45–72: The Relationship between Two Kingdoms and the Separation of Church and State.
  • Theses 73–95: Against the "Three-Self Movement" and Affirmation of the Great Commission.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Madsen, Richard (19 May 2017). "Flourishing spirituality in China, apart from traditional Western dogma". Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b Chow, Alexander (May 2014). "Calvinist Public Theology in Urban China Today" (PDF). International Journal of Public Theology. 8 (2): 158–175. doi:10.1163/15697320-12341340. hdl:20.500.11820/9dc682b5-4fe2-4022-932a-89d466dd71c1. ISSN 1569-7320.
  3. ^ "House Church Lawyers Promote Religious Freedom Through the Rule of Law". Congressional-Executive Commission on China. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  4. ^ Vu, Michelle A. (12 May 2006). "Chinese Christians Defend Religious Freedom with Non-Violence, Law". Christianpost. Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  5. ^ a b "Reformation 500". Stephen Tong Evangelistic Ministries International. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  6. ^ Zylstra, Sarah Eekhoff (27 March 2017). "Young, Restless, and Reformed in China". The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  7. ^ Johnson, Ian (23 April 2017). "In China, Unregistered Churches Are Driving a Religious Revolution". The Atlantic. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  8. ^ Johnson, Ian (25 March 2019). "This Chinese Christian Was Charged With Trying to Subvert the State". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  9. ^ Johnson, Ian (2017). The Souls of China: The Return of Religion After Mao. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-241-30530-0.
  10. ^ Li Ma (2019). Religious Entrepreneurism in China’s Urban House Churches: The Rise and Fall of Early Rain Reformed Presbyterian Church. Abingdon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-00-022792-5.
  11. ^ "China persecutes a genuine people's leader on utterly baseless charges". The Washington Post. December 30, 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  12. ^ Johnson, Ian (10 December 2018). "Chinese Police Detain Prominent Pastor and Over 100 Protestants". New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  13. ^ Rudolph, Josh (10 December 2018). "No Reports on Chengdu Church Crackdown". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  14. ^ Brownback, Sam [@IRF_Ambassador] (10 December 2018). "Distressing reports about another raid on Early Rain Covenant Church" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  15. ^ Wang, Yi (4 October 2018). "My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience". China Partnership. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
  16. ^ Paul Mozur and Ian Johnson (Dec. 30, 2019), China Sentences Wang Yi, Christian Pastor, to 9 Years in Prison", New York Times. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  17. ^ Lew, Linda; Guo Rui (30 December 2019). "Chinese pastor Wang Yi gets nine years in jail for 'inciting subversion'". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 30 December 2019.
  18. ^ "U.S. alarmed by China's trial and sentencing of Christian 'house' church pastor". Reuters. 1 January 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  19. ^ "The Netherlands' New Year greeting did not go down well in China". Quartz. 3 January 2020.
  20. ^ Vala, Carsten; Huang Jianbo (2016). "Three High-Profile Protestant Microbloggers in Contemporary China: Expanding Public Discourse or Burrowing into Religious Niches on Weibo?". In Travagnin, Stefania (ed.). Religion and Media in China: Insights and Case Studies from the Mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Abingdon: Taylor & Francis. pp. 167–86. ISBN 978-1-317-53452-5.
  21. ^ a b Wielander, Gerda (2013). Christian Values in Communist China. New York: Routledge. pp. 130–50. ISBN 978-1-317-97604-2.
  22. ^ Wang, Yi (2012). Ling hun shen chu nao zi you [Revolution in the depth of soul]. Taipei: Ji wen she Chuban. pp. 250–69. ISBN 978-986863795-5. OCLC 852503041.
  23. ^ Wang Yi (2012). Ling hun shen chu nao zi you [Revolution in the depth of soul]. Taipei: Ji wen she Chuban. p. 293. ISBN 978-986863795-5. OCLC 852503041.
  24. ^ Fällman, Fredrik (October 2016). "Public Faith? Five Voices of Chinese Christian Thought". Contemporary Chinese Thought. 47 (4): 229. doi:10.1080/10971467.2015.1262610. ISSN 1097-1467.
  25. ^ Starr, Chloë (2016-12-06). "Wang Yi and the 95 Theses of the Chinese Reformed Church". Religions. 7 (12): 142. doi:10.3390/rel7120142.
  26. ^ "95 Theses: The Reaffirmation of Our Stance on the House Church". China Partnership. Retrieved 27 November 2017.

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