Opportunities for church in China are ‘enormous,’ says Williams

By on December 1, 2006

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, after a church service in Beijing. He visited China for the first time last fall.

Beijing
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said he believes that in some regions in China the percentage of the population attending church on Sundays is as large or even larger than that in most western European countries.

Speaking in Beijing after a two-week trip to the world’s most populous nation, Archbishop Williams said the aim of his visit was to gain a better understanding of the Christian community in China and to build relationships.

“The astonishing and quite unpredictable explosion in Christian numbers in recent years is clearly connected to a widespread sense that the equally extraordinary explosion in the economic life has left many huge questions about personal and social values unanswered,” said Archbishop Williams at the end of his Oct. 8-23 visit.

Archbishop Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said that if China were to develop the kind of civil society that will guarantee both stability and harmony, the church would be a vital partner.

“A striking example of the state’s recognition of this was a statement from one very senior government figure about the potential significance of Christian Sunday schools in backing up the growth of a mature and stable public morality here,” he stated. “The opportunities for the church are enormous and its energy is enviable; but its capacity needs urgent building.”

The Anglican leader said his group raised a number of cases of reported harassment of religious personnel – both Roman Catholic and Protestant – and of lawyers defending them, and said the group was “invited to submit more details of the information we had received for further clarification.”

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