Chinese officials raided a major underground church for the third time this winter. It’s part of the country’s latest crackdown on Christians.
The South China Morning Post reports that 60 police officers and officials stormed Rongguili Church in Guangzhou during a children’s Bible class.
“Halfway through the children’s Bible class, we heard the footsteps of dozens of police and officials stomping up the stairs,” a Rongguili church member posted on social media.
“They read out law enforcement notices declaring our venue was an illegal gathering [that had engaged in] illegal publishing and illegal fundraising and confiscated all Bibles.”
Authorities recorded the identities of the worshippers and confiscated cell phones.
“They then verified our identities again and warned us not to return [to the church] before letting us go,” the church member said.
The officials included representatives from the Communist government’s education and religious affairs departments. They reportedly stayed at the church until 8:00 pm confiscating books and other church property.
The Yuexiu district ethnic and religious affairs bureau released a notice Saturday saying all activities at Rongguili Church have been suspended for violating the government’s regulations.
The church’s building seats thousands of worshippers each week and was one of the country’s first major house churches. It was founded by the late pastor Samuel Lamb Xiangao in 1978 after being released from a Communist labor camp. It has been a spiritual light to China over the past four decades.
“Samuel Lamb’s house church, after his release from prison in the late 1970s, was the leading and largest unregistered church in the south, just as Allen Yuen Xiangchen’s was in the north and in the capital of Beijing,” Hong Kong-based missionary John Short, told South China Morning Post.
“These two men, along with Moses Xi in Shanghai, led the post-Mao era of Christian revival in today’s China,” he said.
Rongguili Church’s raid comes just weeks after Chinese authorities shut down the 1,500-member Zion Church in Beijing in September and Chengdu’s 500-member Early Rain Covenant Church earlier this month.