Urgent Appeal regarding the Church Case of the "Three Grades of Servants" by Preachers from the House Churches of China

China Aid Association

Urgent Appeal regarding the Church Case of theThree Grades of Servants” by Preachers from the House Churches of China
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow countrymen

The case of the “Three Grades of Servants” underwent court trial at the intermediate people’s court of Shuangyashan City, Heilongjiang Province for more than three days from February 28 to March 3, 2006. The first trial was hastily brought to a close. The court did not announce the verdict on the spot. During the trial process, the relevant authorities forcibly dragged Sister Xu Baiyin, daughter of the principal defendant Xu Shengguang, out of the court and did not allow her to attend the trial. Even the entire neighborhood block where the court is located was place under martial law. Extremely pressure was imposed on the defense attorneys and they were prohibited from interviews with the media and from revealing any information related to this case for fear of leaking a secret.  

As a group of preachers of the home churches in China, we have been closely following this case with interest. We are deeply concerned and worried about the unconstitutional and illegal conduct by the relevant authorities regarding this case.

As is widely known, certain government authorities have tried by every means to conceal the crackdown and persecution of, as well as their intention to eliminate, the home churches in China in the recent decade or more. Their tactics are normally enlisting the Three-Self associations to vilify, slander, and condemn the home churches. Then they would instigate and confuse certain preachers of the home churches to pass judgments. Some of the preachers would openly declare, without investigation and research, that the home churches of certain denominations belong to heresy or an evil cult, and finally those churches would be persecuted and eliminated by the authorities. The same situation has happened to a number of cases framed by the Three-Self associations including the so-called “Adopted King,” “Exclaiming Sect,” and “Cry for Rebirth” in the past and the “Three Grades of Servants” of today. This has enabled relevant government authorities to secretly and completely destroy many of the independent denominations and establishments of the home churches in China without a trace.  

Today’s crackdown and persecution against the Three Grades of Servants is the outcome of an elaborate scheme and surveillance for years. This case has been kept out of public awareness from the very beginning and cloaked in a cloud of complication and confusion. Even the defense attorneys present in court are unable to get the whole picture. The file for the case in Shuangyashan alone contains more than five thousand pages. Many of the confessions were extorted through severe torture. So far we still don’t know the exact number of members of that church who have been captured, detained, and tortured to death. However, about ten courts in at least eight provinces of China have successively sentenced several hundreds of followers to various terms of imprisonment and forced labor-education, and almost ten to death.  

We hold that the sect of Three Grades of Servants of Christianity (It is called by insiders the “Truth Sect”) is an independent denomination. Though some of their internal titles for preachers and management methods might be different from those of the conventional churches, this does not hinder their firm belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior. In the early 1960’s Brother Xu Shengguang, their principal preacher, embarked on an independent and professional career of preaching the Gospel. He has withstood long-term ordeals amidst a perilous social environment and been captured, detained, paraded on the street, and sentenced time and again. The Three Grades of Servants of Christianity, as a church organization, has an integrated church administration system on the whole.   

There is no denying that different opinions and disputes exist inside the home churches of China concerning the Three Grades of Servants church founded by Xu Shengguang, and reservations remain on some of his working and leadership styles. Therefore, further investigation and research needs to be conducted on the status of life, theological tendency, church governance, financial condition and other issues of the Three Grades of Servants church in order to reach convincing conclusions based on solid facts and evidence. 

Many factors have contributed to the immaturity of internal governance of the home churches. First and foremost is the social environment. It is well known that the ruthless crackdown and persecution against the home churches by relevant government authorities in the past half century or more have forced preachers like Xu Shengguang to adopt a strategy of evasion. He innocently believed that he could maintain his safety and security by drifting away in the edge of society.

As a result, they have isolated and estranged themselves from the rest of society for such a long time that many people have very little knowledge of this church.  
Secondly, some brothers and sisters lack the “fatherly heart” as Apostle Paul said and the condescending and humble attitude of Jesus Christ. They refuse to do serious and down-to-earth investigation and research. Instead they prefer to rely on hearsay and pass judgment as they please on persons or things they do not understand, and thus create many conflicts among ourselves. More dreadfully, such judgments have provided excuses for those people or authorities who have been seeking opportunities to crack down and persecute the churches and cause intensified persecution to many of our compatriots and fellow preachers as a result. We earnestly offer our prayers to those brothers and sisters who were not careful enough in speech and entreat that God cover their mistakes and renew their intentions. And we beseech that God confer us with a unified heart so we can be more harmonious and vigilant for the thriving of the Gospel of our Lord, seal up the cracks of the church and leave no more room for the Devil.  

The current church case of the Three Grades of Servants and the previous church cases that happened to other churches have taught us that the time has arrived to wake up. Everybody, every organization, every denomination, and every church should get a clear understanding of the position we are in and the situation we are facing. We should recognize that our interest and fate are intertwined when confronting disparages and slanders from the world. Therefore, we should have the courage of Christians and express the due moral principle; brotherly sentiment and compatriot love regarding the church case of the Three Grades of Servants, as well as maintain sufficient soberness and vigilance.   

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance, at the same time the right to solicit and accept voluntary contributions and other offerings from individuals and institutions. We hold that the accusations in the indictment against the Three Grades of Servants by relevant authorities are arbitrary and improper. The coercion against the preachers and general followers of the Three Grades of Servants is the brutal intervention and persecution of the religious freedom of the believing masses.

It was learned that the relevant authorities frequently organized so-called Special Case groups in the 1980’s and 1990’s to investigate and suppress the Three Grades of Servants. The church principals’ names were even blacklisted by certain government departments as an evil cult. All this indicate that the current case of the Three Grades of Servants has a background of an even more profound level and many factors unknown to the public. How can this case receive a fair trial under such a background? Therefore, we are even more encouraged to boldly stand out and solemnly appeal to the relevant authorities and the entire international community:   

First of all, we hope that the relevant authorities conscientiously abide by the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All are equal before the law and are entitled without discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.” “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.”           We hope the relevant authorities ensure that the interested parties of the Three Grades of Servants case receive fair and public trial and prevent righteous people from suffering wrongful treatment and make sure justice is to be upheld.  

Secondly, we strongly appeal that the relevant authorities respect every fundamental value of  human society and the human rights and religious belief of every citizen, discard all ideological prejudices and discriminating understanding of religion, fairly and impartially understand and respect the home churches of China, especially the various independent denominational churches among them, acknowledge their legal status and respect our right to freedom of religious belief granted by the Constitution and the laws.   

Thirdly, we hereby also strongly appeal to the numerous co-workers, pastors and elders, and denominational leaders of the churches, as well as people from all walks of life to express the spirit of Jesus Christ in affection, sympathy, compassion, wisdom and justice and to display the spirit of morality and justice in this society that lacks generally acknowledged truth, reverses right and wrong, and everybody strongly feels a sense of mercy and love from the bottom of their hearts. We must realize that to keep silent on this case means the blasphemy of social justice and human conscientiousness, appeasing and compromising to power and evil, and also connivance of the vicious forces. We deeply believe the Biblical principle that justice will uphold a country and sins are the disgrace of the people. For the love and grace of Jesus Christ to be deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, for the Chinese churches to take root and build with sincere life and pure truth, and for the civilization and progress of Chinese society and mankind, let all our compatriots and friends show solicitude for this world shocking case. May God’s love and justice be displayed here! And we will earnestly pray to God for this!   

May God bless and keep us!       

Preachers from the House Churches of China                   

March 9, 2006, Beijing   

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