B eijing, China ... [ANN] A ten-strong delegation of Seventh-day Adventist leaders concluded on November 18 a two-week tour of mainland China to assess the situation for Christians in the country.

The team from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Northern Asia-Pacific Division, now based in Seoul, Korea, toured Eastern and North-Eastern China, including Beijing, Shenyang, Haicheng in the Liaoning Province, Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province, Nanjing, and Shanghai.

"The major purpose of this visit was for the Adventist leaders to meet with the government officials and church leaders of China in an attempt to learn more about Christianity in China and to assess the needs of our work there, while acquainting them with the people and culture of the country," says Tadaomi Shinmyo, Communication director for the Division.

The team visited six Seventh-day Adventist Churches which are permitted to hold services on the Saturday Sabbath, while other Protestant groups of the so-called "Three Self Movement" meet on Sundays. The "Three Self Movement" is the government-sponsored organization to which all Christians are assigned. "Since the restoration of religious freedom in China at the end of the cultural revolution, the church has been experiencing phenomenal growth," says Shinmyo. "Today, there are an estimated 10 million Protestant Christians in China in comparison to the 700 thousand members in the 1950s. There are 12,000 churches open for public worship, with an additional 25,000 meeting points all over China. Seventh-day Adventist number over 230,000 members meeting in 600 churches."

The training of young pastors is a major need in China, reports P.D. Chun, President of the Adventist Church’s Division. Protestant Christians in China have set up seventeen theological seminaries, one of which, the East China Theological Seminary, was visited by the Adventist team. Nine Adventist students attend this Seminary which has a total of one hundred students.

"It was a very profitable trip for our church leaders so that they can lay plans to provide help for the Christian churches in China," concludes Chun.

"China, being the country with the world’s largest population, presents an enormous challenge to the world-wide Seventh-day Adventist Church. The visit was able to offer information which the church leadership requires as it builds its plans for the future," Larry Colburn, associate secretary at the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headqarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, commented on the visit. Colburn’s office coordinates church affairs in the Asia- Pacific region. "As a church we do no other, but respond to Christ’s mission to the world. Our church members around the world continue to hold the believers in China up before God in prayer," he added. [Jonathan Gallagher]