China’s Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) has responded to the nine-year sentence handed down in December to its senior pastor, Wang Yi, who had been imprisoned on charges of ‘trying to subvert state power’. He was also charged with ‘illegally operating a business’.
The pastor was put on trial at the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court and, on 30 December, the former human rights lawyer was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 50,000 renminbi.
In a statement, the ERCC said, ‘Pastor Wang Yi is a faithful servant who has been chosen by God and by the Lord Jesus Christ. His teachings on the truth of the gospel are consistent with the entirety of biblical revelation.
‘His sermons, lectures, books, and articles are produced for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. From the perspective of society, he is exercising his freedoms of religion and of speech, rights granted to Chinese citizens by the Constitution and laws of China.
‘The books printed by the church have never been printed for profit but only for the pastoring of believers and for the spreading of the gospel. He has never conducted so-called “illegal business operations”.’
The church also clarified their belief there is a distinct separation of church and state, although the pastor has always taught that Christians should submit to authorities in accordance with Scripture.
Wang Yi was one of many people from the church arrested by Chinese authorities in 2018 on trumped-up charges. Many were released but others, such as Elder Qin Defu, still remain imprisoned. The church has asked the global community of Christians to pray ‘fervently’ for them.
According to The Guardian, China’s constitution guarantees religious freedom but since Xi Jinping became president, the government has tightened restrictions on religions seen as a challenge to the authority of the Communist party.
Over recent years, many churches have been targeted, shut down, had crosses removed, and hit with increasingly tough sanctions to crack down on their activities.