Pastoral Letter issued by the bishops of Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, 1956
[Source: China Bulletin of the Far Eastern Joint Office, Division of Foreign Missions, NCCC/USA) Volume 6 no. 15 (August, 1956): 1-3.]
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All the bishops of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui (Anglican Communion) met for seven days in May of this year in Shanghai. The Standing Committee of the General Synod was meeting at the same time. None of the business or administrative decisions have been reported but we have a copy of the Pastoral Letter issued by the bishops at the close of their session, which we give below: (This translation, by one of their bishops, is unofficial, and has not been checked by the other bishops.)
May 20, 1956
In May, 1956, we the Bishops of the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui met together for seven days in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Shanghai. In the course of our meeting several joint sessions were held between the House of Bishops and the Standing Committee of the General Synod of our Church. In the fellowship of the Holy Spirit we partook of the Eucharist and together offered our thanksgiving and prayers on behalf of the whole Church. The Presiding Bishop in his presidential address analysed our past situation, summarized our achievements in recent years, and inspired us to go forward to the still greater prospect of tomorrow. We have been aware that many of our clergy and members have upheld our work in this meeting with sincere prayers. Now as we conclude our meetings and take leave of one another, we wish to give to you our greetings in the name of Christ, and to speak to all our clergy and members and to all who are willing to hear what is uppermost in our minds.
At our meeting we reviewed all the important changes the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui has gone through since the Liberation and surveyed the present situation as regards the spirituality, the thinking, the life, the work and the personnel in our Church. We cannot but with thanksgiving bear witness to the fact that, in spite of our weaknesses, the Lord has been with His Church because He is the Lord of the Church. When we are disobedient, He judges; when we confess our sins and faults. He forgives; when we hate the sins and evils in our midsts. He cleanses; when we are weak. He gives us grace that is sufficient for us. All this enables us to see that the Lord has not only redeemed us at a heavy price, but is still giving Himself to uphold and sustain us.
We know that, as an autonomous Chinese national church, the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui existed only in name. No matter what people¡¯s subjective wishes were in former years, the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, like other churches under mission boards, was in a position of dependence on forces related to colonialism and was subject to the influence of these forces. Moreover, owing to the shortsightedness and habit of dependence on the part of us Chinese colleagues and church members, the Church lost the independence which it ought rightly to possess, and consequently had to suffer many handicaps. For instance, our acceptance of western ways of thought and life created a barrier between the Church and the people of China in general, making it hard for the light of the glorious gospel of Christ's redemption of the world to shine forth with much brightness. In the inner life of the Church itself there have also
been revealed many dark spots such as the lack of unity and fellowship among its various parts. Since the Church chose to walk on a path contrary to the will of God, its power to witness before men became greatly weakened.
But the Lord has not given up the Church. "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Lord, that He might present it unto Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.*' In the same way he loves our Church and chooses to cleanse it.
For the cleansing of the Church, self-administration in church affairs, self-support in church finance, and self-propagation of the gospel are a timely demand, a weighty trust and a heavy responsibility. Our whole church has gone through a difficult period, but it has been a meaningful experience of spiritual profit to the Church. We believe it is a necessary period to go through for the Church truly to become itself in the hand of God.
Here we should pause to express our heartfelt thanks to all the members and the clergy of our Church. In passing through the most difficult period of our Church, you did not become dismayed but instead stood up to meet your responsibilities. Among our members very many of you have arisen to support your Church and your congregations as you do your own families. You are regularly bearing the burdens of church affairs and are bringing more and more of your fellow-Christians to the same enthusiasm. The sense of churchmanship was never so widespread and deep in the past as it is today. Among our clergy a very large number of you have also clearly demonstrated true loyalty to your vocation. This loyalty is indeed a gift bestowed by God as a glory to His Church. In the simplicity and in some cases meagerness of your standard of living, you have come to know what freedom and richness are really hidden in material scarcity when it is borne in faith and love. After you ceased to rely on the financial support
of mission boards your relationship with your people entered upon a new stage. You now know much more clearly what blessing it is to toil to meet the spiritual needs of your people. As a result, our people love their Church even more and support it with even greater thankfulness and loyalty. And this is what we discover to be the basic way for any Church to solve its problem of self-support.
Today the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui has begun its existence as a truly Chinese and truly nationally-organized church. In the past, owing to the diversity of missionary backgrounds, the different dioceses were not closely related and were extremely independent. Today, while no change has been made as to the authority of the dioceses and the diocesan bishops, there have emerged a sincere will among the dioceses for closer affinity and for going forward in a co-ordinated way, and a relatively strong national leadership. That this meeting of the House of Bishops has been attended by all the Bishops of our Church without exception symbolizes very well this new situation. From now on all the dioceses shall be even more closely united as one Church, and go forward hand in hand in the same direction.
As the center of church life for the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui, as a sign of nation-wide unity in our Church and as our Church's witness to Christ in Shanghai, the biggest city of our country, Holy Trinity Cathedral was dedicated on May 20 in the presence of a large congregation of clergy and laity as the National Cathedral of our Church. Many church members, clergymen, parishes and dioceses presented gifts on this occasion^ and this shows how our people attach importance to this Cathedral as something belonging to the whole Church. From here prayers will be offered incessantly by our people for our bishops, our clergy and our members, for the whole Church of Christ, for our country and for peace in the world.
At the same time let us thank God for that, before long, the Chung Hua Sheng Kung Hui will have a Book of Common Prayer which shall be used all over the country. Up to the present, owing to the different missionary backgrounds of our dioceses, there is still no Book of Common Prayer common to all the dioceses. Now that the spirit of unity prevails in our whole Church, a uniform Prayer Book which has been long asked for will appear as soon as the careful work of final editing is completed. This Prayer Book will unite all of us before the altar of God, where we can offer Him adoration and praise even more truly with one heart and one voice. This is something which all our clergy and members are glad to hear, we are sure.
Our fatherland is becoming every day more and more lovely. Children having no home to go to, hungry peasants, famine-afflicted people waiting to die, workers looking for jobs, prostitutes living under contemptuous eyes - these, have all become memories of the past. On our earth are being built countless factories, farms, scientific research institutes, hospitals, schools, parks, residences, children's recreation centers. Are not all these "acceptable to God and approved of men"? When we Christians support and heartily join in these constructive projects, we shall be witnessing to the Lord with our life and conduct. Let our Church encourage its people to take a greater part in the work of constructing socialism. Help them understand that they will not be working hard only to support their own families, but that their work is of value to the welfare of the people of the whole country and to future generations, and above all that such work and active interest in public welfare is an essential part of Christian witness. We must also remind all Christians of their responsibilities in the family - how they ought to maintain good family life, to give their children proper general and religious education, to elevate their moral standards, to promote literacy and cultural activities and to see to it that piety and good conduct permeate all corners of society, from the Church to the family, from childhood to adulthood.
For the sake of our national reconstruction, for the prosperity of our Church and for the preservation of all things of value in the world, how we need peace today I Christ is the Prince of Peace Who brings about reconciliation between God and men, and wills that peace should also reign among men. We thank God for the growing relaxation of international tension in the world today. We thank God for the fact that today, owing to Christ's prompting in their hearts, more and more of those who have the mind of Christ are devoting themselves to the cause of peace. We need to pay the price of peace in devout prayers and unremitting labor.
Colleagues who have offered yourselves to the Church, and fellow-Christians who love the Church. The Church is God's own creation, the Body of Christ. Being something most precious, the Church deserves our dedication of all we have and all we are. Today, if we really have faith in it, we ought to fulfil our duties and let the Church be cleansed by Christ so as to manifest His glory. Only as our Church strives to be loyal to the apostolic tradition and to its true nature of being One, Holy and Catholic can we make our contribution to the whole Church of Christ in our land. Thus let us remind each other constantly to keep a high conception of our sacred calling. In the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and of the Eucharist, in leading congregational worship, in fulfilling our pastoral and teaching duties, in our visitations and efforts to build up our people's faith, in preparing them for confirmation and in bringing to youth God's call for service in the Church, in helping fallen Christians to rise and obtain courage to move ahead on the path of life, and in our self-cultivation of spiritual life, of theology, of Church work and of knowledge in general, we need to realize our responsibilities so that we may set a higher goal for ourselves; this will benefit the whole Church.
Today there is much work waiting for us to do. Moreover, we still have many defects and unsolved problems to tackle. Opportunities are like open doors inviting us and the generations following us to enter. If, in the early days of Liberation, we still lacked faith, today after these years since 1949 we are full of faith. We realize that what we are undertaking is God's own work. Our warmth towards our Fatherland, our support of her and our high expectation of her are all rooted in our faith and conscience. Since God has blessed us. He surely will not forsake us. But we must relinquish every whit of pride which may have been produced owing to the achievements of the recent years. As a Church in the midst of six hundred million people, we, in order to be used by God to meet the tremendous opportunities before us, are in great need for humility, for waiting before God, for the power of the Holy Spirit, and for mutual strengthening in brotherly love.
As we meet here in the period between Ascension Day and Whitsunday, we thank God for our intimate realization once again that Christ reigns at the right hand of God, and that He is both the Head of the Church and the Lord of the world. Unceasingly He prays for the Church before the Father and He sends the Holy Spirit to be with us. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation Who calls to our remembrance what Christ has said to His disciples. He teaches us to repent upon finding out our trespasses, gives us strength and leads us into ever deeper truth. May this Holy Spirit be with you. Now unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.