China looks set to implement a database of church leaders, together with the introduction of other stringent controls, beginning in May.
The move is part of China’s increasingly harsh clamp down against Christian ministry in the Communist country.
The State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) has confirmed that the ‘Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel’ will come into effect on 1 May.
A key measure is ‘a database of religious personnel’ listing all those authorised by the state to perform religious ministry.
Church leaders not registered in this database will not be permitted to undertake ministry.
A news report by Barnabas Fund says church leaders in China must swear loyalty to the Chinese ruling party before they will be registered on the database.
Church leaders must, according to the official measures, be those who ‘love the motherland, support the leadership of the Communist Party of China, support the socialist system, abide by the constitution, laws, regulations and rules, [and] practice the core values of socialism’.
Each pastor – and any other religious leader – added to the database will be given an identification number, and the database will also store ‘basic information of religious personnel’.
The new rules demand that churches and other religious organisations conduct a formal assessment of their pastors.
The churches must use this assessment to apply ‘rewards and punishments’, which will also be recorded in the database.
Under Article 21 of the new measures, churches will be obliged to cancel the qualifications of a minister if they are ‘advised’ to do so by Chinese government officials.
Articles 47 and 48 confirm that pastors and churches who do not adhere to these measures may be liable to penalties including de-registration, fines, or criminal prosecution.
Article 51 adds that the State Administration for Religious Affairs is ‘responsible for the interpretation of these measures’.
In February, ET reported that Christian Chinese nationals who live other countries are being targeted where they live.
Bob Fu, a renowned campaigner for Christian freedom in China, received death threats and was hounded out of his home in Texas, USA.
At the time, Mr Fu said, ‘The goal is clear: it is to silence my voice for freedom in China and destroy the ministry of China Aid.
‘We cannot let them stop us. Freedom has a price and this is the price we are proud to pay for our faith and for freedom.’