The future of Christianity in China addressed at Hong Kong conference

A four-day conference in Hong Kong has addressed the future of Christianity in China and the challenges that the believers face in the communist country.

Last week, theologians and leaders from various background and denominations gathered in Hong Kong to talk about the present problems of Christian churches and communities in China. The conference organized by the Ecclesiological Investigations International Research Network (EIIRN) finally came to an end on Saturday, Vatican Radio details.

(Reuters/Jason Lee)Catholics attend a Christmas eve mass at a Catholic church near the city of Taiyuan, Shanxi province, December 24, 2012.

Although Christianity — which includes the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations — is one of the five approved faiths in China, they are required to affiliate with two state-run patriotic church organizations. Underground Christians who refused to do so have been persecuted and imprisoned.

One Jesuit theologian who has established ties with China told the delegates of the EIIRN conference that Chinese leaders want to resolve an existing conflict between Beijing and the Vatican. The said conflict stemmed from the issue of appointment of Catholic bishops, and the theologian said this could be a key to uplifting the situation of the millions of Catholics in China.

Despite the rising Christian persecution in China, the Communist nation is set to have the most number of believers in the world by 2030, according to OMF International vice president for mobilization and religious trend scholar Rodney Pennington. He told The Christian Post last week that China is on track to have around 200 million Christians by that year.

While God's work in China brings so much joy to missions group OMF, Pennington said the task is still not finished. They still have to work on many other needs of the believers in the communist nation, and the areas that need improvement are discipleship, children's and youth ministry, and cross-cultural outreach.

In an essay published in Slate magazine, Center of Religion and Chinese Society's director Fenggang Yang noted that the Protestant movement in China has been growing by more than 10 percent each year. Echoing Pennington's predictions, he said there could be 255 million Christians in the Asian nation by 2025.