Christian unity was the overarching theme of a visit from a World Council of Churches (WCC) delegation with the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) in Shanghai on 9 January.
“How can Christians realise and respond to Christ’s call to be one in our time and context?” asked WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit during his meeting with CCC and TSPM leaders.
Tveit and his delegation were received by a delegation led by Rev. Feng Gao, CCC president, and Rev. Baoping Kan, CCC vice president and general secretary.
“We are called to raise and revitalize our work on the unity of the churches for the sake of the unity of humankind,” Tveit said. “The example and experience of post-denominational Christianity in China offers a significant entry point to explore questions of unity further as the WCC reflects on how churches across the world can move forward towards a unity which is not self-serving but which can be shared for the wellbeing of others”.
Welcoming the delegation, Gao expressed his joy and gratitude for the consistent support and inspiration that the CCC has received from the WCC. “As a developing church faced with its own challenges the CCC remains committed to its Christian call and witness in accordance with biblical teaching and through its various ministries. We thank the WCC for this visit, which is an encouraging sign and assure you of our contribution to the cause of Christian unity”.
Kan outlined the historical association of the CCC with the WCC, since resuming its full membership in the WCC in 1991 and its contributions to the theme of unity. “The CCC has strived to live out a life of common witness in the Chinese post-denominational context by emphasising the commonalities while holding in proper balance the respect for differences and the common striving for united witness” said Kan.
On 10 January, the WCC delegation also visited the East China Theological seminary, one of the five regional seminaries of the CCC, where they were welcomed by the vice president of the seminary Rev. Xu Yulan and other members of the faculty. Rev Yulan introduced the seminary which was started in 1985 to the delegation and outlined the development of the seminary and its curriculum as an attempt to respond to the needs of the growing church in China.
“Through its various courses the seminary is committed to the training of candidates to both lay and ordained ministries of the church.” Yulan also explained how the seminary seeks to ensure that its theological education is deeply rooted in context especially through its programme on sacred theology and music where students are encouraged to develop lyrics and liturgy which reflect the Chinese context and make use of Chinese musical resources in developing their theologies. The seminary also places high emphasis on personal formation.
“The cultivation of spirituality, morality, wisdom, physical performance, fellowship and personal merits are also considered important in the process of ministerial formation,” said Yulan.
Rev. Sang Chang, Asia president of the WCC and a member of the WCC delegation expressed her happiness about the high proportion of women students as well as female leadership in the seminary and in Chinese churches in general. “As a former theological education and a strong proponent of women’s leadership I am encouraged to see women in positions of leadership in the Chinese churches”, said Chang, former president of the EWHA women’s university in Seoul. “This is a clear sign of the discipleship of equals”.
Commenting in general on her visit to China, Dr Chang said, “I came here with an openness of mind and readiness to learn. The experience so far has been deeply inspiring. The story of the Chinese churches will make a great contribution to the goal of full unity of the ecumenical movement”.
Tveit also reflected on the visit in the context of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the WCC. “The context of the 70th anniversary of the WCC is fortuitous for us to explore further what the call to be one means for Christians across the world in the midst of the changing political, economic and historical dynamics of the world order. The experience that the Chinese churches provide have the potential to address questions about the shape that Christian mission, diakonia and witness should take in our world today as living expressions of our common call to unity in a fresh manner,” Tveit said. [WCC News]