China Partnership offers this guide as a supplement to understand the prayer requests released by Early Rain Covenant Church and the Western China Presbytery. We hope this additional information will help those unfamiliar with China, Early Rain, Wang Yi, and the other people and institutions mentioned by Early Rain.
Letter for All Christian Churches to Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, by Western China Presbytery
LIVE POST -Early Rain Covenant Church Urgent Prayer Updates, by Early Rain Covenant Church
My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience, by Wang Yi
Wang Yi’s 14 Decisions: In the Face of Persecution, What Will I Do?, by Wang Yi
How the Church Should Face Persecution, by Li Yingqiang
The Church-State Conflict: 20 Ways Persecution Is God’s Way to Shepherd Us, by Wang Yi
A Statement from CP on Requests for Permission to Repost Early Rain Material, by Hannah Nation
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Chengdu serves as the capital of Sichuan province in the center of People’s Republic of China. It is one of the three most populous cities in Western China. As of 2014, the administrative area houses 14.5 million inhabitants, with an urban population of over 10 million. It is the 5th-most populous city in China according to the 2010 census. It is now one of the most important economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication centers in Western China. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, and Chengdu Railway Station is one of the six biggest in China. Chengdu also hosts many international companies and more than 12 consulates. More than 260 Fortune 500 companies have established branches in Chengdu.
Early Rain Covenant Church
Early Rain first began meeting as several small groups in 2006 and became an independent church in 2008 with 63 members. In July 2009, the church elected and installed Pastor Wang Yi as its pastor. The church now consists of 500 members and regular attendees from a wide range of people: blue and white collar workers, children, college students, young professionals, and young families. Attendees and members range from infants to 80-year-old seniors. The church has been meeting in an office building at the heart of Chengdu. Since its founding, Early Rain has planted six other churches in Chengdu and a nearby city.
Pastor Wang Yi and wife Jiang Rong
Pastor Wang Yi is a former attorney who represented persecuted churches in China, advocating for religious freedom and freedom of conscience. He started a Bible study in his home in 2004, which later became the Early Rain Fellowship. He was baptized in 2005 and became the leader of the fellowship. He was part of a delegation that represented the persecuted church to meet with President George W. Bush in the White House in 2006. He received a call into full-time ministry in 2008, and was elected and installed as the pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in July 2009. He was the leading author of the 95 Theses: The Reaffirmation of Our Stance on the House Church, which Early Rain published in 2015. On December 10, 2018, Pastor Wang Yi and his wife were detained by the police. On December 12, Early Rain published his Declaration of Faithful Disobedience, which he had prepared in October 2018 for publication if he were detained for more than 48 hours.
Wang Yi and Jiang Rong have two children, aged 17 and 12. Many of those who have been detained, particularly church leaders, have young children they have been separated from. In situations where both parents have been detained, families from the church are providing care for the children left behind.
Early Rain Covenant Church follows the Presbyterian Church tradition and is governed by a group of elders. The church elects and ordains both teaching and ruling elders to provide spiritual guidance and make major decisions for the church. As of December 13, all of the Early Rain elders have been detained by the police. Two of them have since then been released and are under house-arrest. Elder Li Yingqiang was detained at 2 am on December 11 while he was evading the police. Before he was detained, he published this handwritten letter to the church to encourage the church to hold firm to their faith and continue public worship.
Deacons in the Presbyterian Church tradition are elected and ordained by the church to minister to those who are in need, to the sick, to the friendless, and to any who may be in distress. They also care for the physical needs of the church. Several of Early Rain’s deacons and assistant deacons have been detained. Some were detained in the process of checking on other church members.
Members and Regular Attendees at Early Rain
There are over 500 members and regular attendees at Early Rain Covenant Church, over 100 of them have been detained by the police since Sunday, December 9. Many children have been separated from their parents and are currently under the care of other church members. While some members have been released, over 80 members are still missing. Different levels and departments of the state have been enlisted in this massive raid. Depending on who has been tasked to make the arrest, members are treated differently, some handled very mildly while others have been brutally treated. Police continue to search and pressure believers, making them sign agreements to stop attending church. Some Sichuan Police even traveled to the northeast part of China to track down one of the members. Harassments, threats, and arrests are continuing to be made against brothers and sisters.
The seminary was founded in 2012 to train lay leaders and pastoral candidates for service in Chinese house churches. It meets in the same building with Early Rain Covenant Church, and it offers both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The school has grown from 40 students to almost 180, most of them are already serving at various churches throughout the nation. Most of the seminary students have been either detained or monitored at home, while two of the dorms have been raided. Some students have been deported to their hometowns and were contacted by the local police immediately upon arrival at home.
Liberal Art College
Recognizing the need to provide alternative higher education to students who did not enter the mainstream education system, and to prepare candidates for graduate studies in the seminary, the college was founded in 2012 to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees to students from all over China. These degrees include general bachelor degrees in liberal arts education as well as master’s in Christian education. At 9 pm on December 10, police asked firefighters to break down the doors of a female dormitory and twelve female students were arrested. As of now, nearly all the dormitories of the college and seminary have been searched and sealed, and many students have been detained or sent home.
A K-12 school founded by Early Rain Covenant Church in 2013 to offer Christian families in Chengdu an alternative education system outside of the state’s education model. It is the first K-12 school in China that advocates for a classical education. Once a student has left the mainstream education system, he or she cannot attend universities in China. Chengdu is the only Chinese city that offers a complete Christian education system from kindergarten to graduate degrees, but all of this is considered illegal because it is a violation of the state’s compulsory education laws to remove a student from the mainstream education system. Some church members have been pressured by the education department to send their kids to state schools or risk being detained.
A multi-purpose messaging, social media, and online payment app, WeChat claims over 1 billion active users in China and abroad. Due to its popularity, it has also been closely monitored and censored by the Chinese government. Starting on December 9, Early Rain’s WeChat page and chat groups have been blocked and shutdown, along with the church’s other social media and email accounts.