Bible in China Seminar – “The Role of Christianity in Modern China: The Bible and Social Service”

Participants at the opening ceremony of the Bible in China Seminar at Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Photo: SASS

SHANGHAI, China – Third year in its running, the Bible in China Seminar, held in Shanghai from 23 to 26 October 2013 was a resounding success. In fact, David Smith, Manager of British and Foreign Bible Society International Programme remarked, “This is the best seminar ever!”

There were several firsts for this year’s seminar.  Firstly, besides the academia, we see an increase in participation from government representatives and Chinese churches. This tripartite mix provided a solid and robust discussion between policy makers, academicians and practitioners. Secondly, we also see a greater participation not only from Shanghai but also from other regions like Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Fujian and Yunnan. This is critical as it allows us to have a more complete and accurate picture of what is happening in China.

The theme this year is “The Role of Christianity in Modern China: The Bible and Social Service”. About 50 participants from China and various countries gathered together to listen to 22 papers being presented and discussed over a period of two and a half days. Out of these 22 papers, seven were from overseas participants.

Kick starting the first session of the seminar was Prof Choong Chee Pang, UBS honorary academic consultant, who reminded us that “many social problems such as social injustice, the abuse of power, inequality, the widening gap between the rich and the poor due to mismanagement of the resources, corruption and bribery have their root causes. All these give rise to host of social problems for social service to handle.”  Thus, it is important for the Church to play the roles of both the “prophet” and “servant”.

Mr Wang Aiguo, Deputy Inspector of Yunnan Religious Affairs Bureau, presented on the crucial work of “Christian Spiritual Therapy for Drug Rehabilitation”. Photo: UBS/ Davis Yap

Apart from offering biblical and theological perspective, presenters also shared on the experiences in their countries.  Of particular mention is Dr Greg Clarke’s (CEO of Bible Society Australia) paper on “The Biblical Shape of Australian Charities: Heritage and Future Significance” and Prof Don Lewis’ paper on “Evangelicals, Philanthropy and the State in Victorian England”.  Bishop John Chew (UBS Global Council member) and Dr Loh Yik Hin also shared experiences from the Singapore perspective.

One very interesting case study is the paper presented by Mr Wang Aiguo, Deputy Inspector of Yunnan Religious Affairs Bureau, on “Christian Spiritual Therapy for Drug Rehabilitation – Explorations and Experiments of Yunnan Christian Community in Social Services”. It tells the amazing story of how Yunnan Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement through its social service arm, helped people with drug abuse problem overcome their addictions. Instead of relying on medication, they depended on the Word and prayer. The result: a success rate of more than 80% of the people staying clean.

Besides Mr Wang Aiguo’s paper, other Chinese professors and researchers also presented their findings of the Chinese churches’ involvement and work in social services. The ministry of YMCA/YWCA and Amity Foundation in community services were also shared and discussed.

Overseas participants (1st row L to R): Dr Greg Clarke, Bishop John Chew, Prof Yan Kejia, Mr David Smith, Prof Choong Chee Pang. (2nd row L to R): Dr Loh Yik Hin, Mr Kua Wee Seng, Mr James Featherby, Dr Cristian Romocea, Mr Chris Henwood. Photo: UBS/ Davis Yap

As in the past years, this year’s seminar was jointly organized by Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and Centre for Studies of Religion and Culture.  Prof Yan Kejia, Director of Institute of Religious Studies of SASS expressed his thanks, saying, “The Seminar was a great success and we are thankful to all the presenters, participants and organizers.  We are also thankful to UBS, the British and Foreign Bible Society and Bible Society of Australia for their support and sponsorship.  We look forward to next year’s seminar.”

Mr Kua Wee Seng, Director of UBS China Partnership, said,  “As I listened to the presentation and discussion on the contribution of the Chinese churches in social services, I could not help but thank the Lord for enabling His Church in China to be a blessing to the community and to bear witness to the love of God!”

He also thanked God for the seminar, which provided a great opportunity for the policy makers, researchers and church leaders to interact and discuss how to provide greater space, opportunity and encouragement for the Church in community services.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5: 16

Story: Davis Yap
Edited: Cynthia Oh
2013 © United Bible Societies China Partnership