BEIJING (BP)-- In a show of solidarity, Shouwang Church's illegal outdoor public worship service welcomed members of other house churches June 26, and 15 of them were arrested in the 12th straight week Shouwang has defied the Chinese government's demands not to meet.
It was not year clear how many of the arrests were members of Shouwang Church and how many were members of other house churches, but it was yet further proof that the confrontation is spreading to other house churches. ChinaAid, a group that monitors religious freedom in China, reported the latest figures.
Shouwang Church, one of the largest house churches in Beijing, has tried to meet in a city public square for three straight months after the government forced it out of its indoor facility.
Failing to meet together, church members say, would place them in disobedience to Scripture. The church's stance has served to inspire Christians worldwide.
"Our constant plea before God is, if it is in accordance with his will, to open up a path for the church at an early date, so that this battle can come to an end as soon as possible," the church said in a statement in mid-June that was translated on ChinaAid.org. "But, up to now the battle rages on."
Many more Shouwang members likely would have been arrested Sunday had police not placed most of the members under house arrest since Friday, preventing them from even leaving their house. The church has nearly 1,000 members. All the church's leaders have been under house arrest for weeks, and some members have lost their jobs and been forced from their homes as the government pressures employers and landlords.
Shouwang is not a legal, registered church. In China, only churches that are members of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and registered with the government are considered legal. But registration brings heavy restrictions, including prohibitions on evangelism, Sunday School and baptizing children and teens, said Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid, which has been covering Shouwang's stance.
Members of the Three-Self Patriot church once again worked with police, talking to the Shouwang members to try and get them to stop meeting. In a statement in mid-June, the church said it would not join the Three-Self movement.
"We would like to reiterate here that Shouwang Church is a house church that exalts only Jesus Christ as Lord; regardless of whether it is today or some time in the future, never join any non-church government entity," the church said.
Shouwang Church has suffered for defying the government's demands, including seeing 160 arrested during the first week it met outdoors. Following are the approximate number of arrests for each subsequent week: Week 2 (50 arrests), Week 3 (40), Week 4 (30), Week 5 (13), Week 6 (20), Week 7 (25), Week 8 (20), Week 9 (20), Week 10 (14) and Week 11 (14).
"In this race," the church said in its mid-June statement, "may we not look at our weakness and fatigue but rather keep our eyes always on the Lord Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith, believing that whatever perfect work he has begun will, at his appointed time, surely bear fruit."
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.
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