Protestant half of the 20th century, which shaped

Protestant has been a prominent part
of the general religious revival in China over the past three decades, with the
number of believers growing from fewer than one million in 1978 to more than 50
million today. Protestants are usually referred to a ‘Christians’ in China,
however this raises questions as to how the religious denomination was first
introduced to China, perhaps through the missionary movements that coincided
with attempts to ‘open’ Chinese economy to the West. As the religion continues
to grow throughout China, several issues arise regarding the extent to which
the Government authorizes and permits worship in registered bodies, as well as
churches that continue to endure state control of and interference of their
activities.

Foreign missionaries left China a full
half-century ago and despite such indigenization, at the time of Communist
victory in 1949, Christianity was still seen as a ‘foreign religion’ by many Chinese
and by the Communities. To make the Protestant churches in China conform to the
ideology and organization of the new political system, the new Communist government
and representatives of the Chinese churches founded Three-Self Patriotic
Movement (TSPM), on the principles of “self-supporting, self-propagating, and
self-governing” (Bays 187). This ideology, created explicitly to sever ties
with the Western churches in the 1950s has perpetuated much of the appearance
and tone of the old missionary churches, at least in many urban congregations.

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Some Chinese Christians, however, chose not to join the TSPM on theological,
political or personal grounds.

The turbulent forces of history in the
first half of the 20th century, which shaped all aspects of China’s
politics, economy, and culture, changed the fate of Protestant missionaries and
Chinese Christians. In October 1949 the Communists took power, and under the
banner of patriotism the new regime started rooting out the influence of
Christianity in China. At this time, denominations were criticized as ‘relics
of imperialism,’ leading to the merging of ecclesiastical hierarchies and a “post-denominational
era.” Thus, Protestantism was significantly weakened after 1949 and further
disappeared from public view during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, when
the Chinese state stove to erase all religion from society. At this point in
time, all religious life and thinking was suppressed, driving Christians
underground into “house churches.”

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