Relationship of Episcopal, Chinese churches strengthened through visit

By Lynette Wilson Episcopal News Service

Building friendships and strengthening relationships characterized Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s first official visit to Asia and Southeast Asia in February. The trip included a visit to China, where he and his staff met with government officials and leaders of the Protestant Christian Church.

“At its root, the Christian way is a way of relationship in Christ. Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or three gather together in my name, there I am,’” said Curry, in an interview with ENS in Shanghai, when asked why it’s important for the Episcopal Church to maintain close ties with China.

“The New Testament talks about the body of Christ, not the individuals of Christ. When we talk about being one holy catholic and apostolic church, [we talk about] a worldwide network of people who are committed to and in relationship with Jesus Christ and, therefore, through him, with each other.”

During his trip to Anglican Communion provincial churches and the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan, Curry visited China at the invitation of the China Christian Council (CCC) and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). He attended meetings in Beijing and Shanghai, where he met with the minister of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), the Chinese government agency that oversees religious practice, and CCC/TSPM leaders, including Elder Fu Xianwei.

Peter Ng, the Episcopal Church’s officer for Asia and the Pacific, now retired; the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to the presiding bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church; the Rev. David Copley, director of global partnerships and mission personnel; Neva Rae Fox, the church’s public affairs officer; and Sharon Jones, executive assistant to the presiding bishop, accompanied Curry on the Feb. 15-27 trip that included stops in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The CCC and TSPM form the official, government-sanctioned Protestant church in China. “Three-Self” stands for self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating. TSPM serves as a liaison between churches and government, while CCC focuses on church affairs.

SARA serves as a bridge between religion and the central government and coordinates relationships among religions to make them all equal. Besides overseeing the TSPM, SARA oversees an additional four sanctioned religious groups: Muslims, Roman Catholics, Buddhists and Taoists.