Assembly delegates at today’s UnitingWorld lunch have heard that the church in many parts of the world is thriving. The West, however, no longer dominates those statistics. Instead, much of church growth is taking place in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.
In China more than 700,000 churches open their doors to a conservative estimate of anywhere between 23 and 70 million Christians. Assembly this week hosts the largest delegation of senior officials from China’s Protestant Church ever to visit Australia.
General Secretary of the China Christian Council, Rev Ken Baoping, said that the Chinese church is enjoying emerging acceptance within Chinese society in recognition of its role as peace makers, reconcilers and comforters.
Reverend Tevita Pelafeu from Tonga spoke of the strength of the local church in the field of education as mission, as well as the importance of the church in providing support to deportees who have returned to Tonga.
More than 140 attendees from the Assembly gathered at the UnitingWorld lunch to take in the discussion on the changing face of Christianity. They were heartened by news of the thriving church in China and the determination of the local church in Tonga as it ministers to deportees returning to Tonga. The deportees have few cultural resources to cope with their new lives in a virtually foreign environment and benefit greatly from the support offered by the church.
President Alistair Macrae, who lead a historic delegation of UCA leaders to China last year, said he recalled fund raising for bibles to be smuggled into China when he was a teenager.
“When I visited China last year it was in time for the 100 millionth copy of the bible to printed, with many of those copies returning to the west.” Rev Macrae said.
Reverend Macrae received a gift from the China Christian Council in recognition of the emerging partnership between China and the UCA.
Cato lecturer Prof. Kirsteen Kim stressed the importance of connecting local mission to global mission. She highlighted the fact that we are compelled not only by our Christian values to a global commitment, but also by the fact that in today’s global environment, ‘when one suffers, all suffer.’