Early Rain Covenant Church

What is Early Rain?

Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, Sichuan, first began meeting as several small groups in 2006 and became an independent church in 2008 with 63 members. In July 2011, 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. Since its founding, Early Rain has planted many other churches in Chengdu and the surrounding region.  

December 9 Arrests

Beginning December 9, 2018 and continuing until now, Early Rain has been experiencing significant and persistent government persecution. More than 200 members of Early Rain have been arrested, and in the winter of 2019 elder Qin Defu was sentenced to four years in criminal detention and pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to nine years in criminal detention. In addition, church and personal property has been seized and destroyed, and many families have faced repeated eviction from their homes or deportation from Chengdu to their hometowns in distant provinces. 

As members of Early Rain write and share urgent updates and prayer requests, including lists of the detained, China Partnership has been assisting in maintaining a written record of the events. To read these updates visit: 

Bold Statements of Faith

At the beginning of 2018, new religious regulations were implemented across China. Though many were uncertain of how strictly the regulations would be enforced, Wang Yi was active in calling for China’s house churches not to comply with the regulations. You can read an extensive interview with Wang Yi and another influential pastor, Gao Zhen, about how the house churches should respond to the new regulations here:

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22 March 2018
The Reformed churches that were built in the past twenty years, and the Reformed theology that has been preached, will be tested during this persecution.
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03 September 2018
On the morning of Saturday, September 1, 2018, one of China's leading house churches, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, posted a joint statement on Facebook declaring its stance on the new religious regulations. So far, the document has been signed by 116 church leaders across the country and the call for signatures remains open. 
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12 December 2018
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead. 
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30 August 2015
On August 30, 2015, Early Rain Reformed Church in Chengdu published their own version of Luther’s 95 theses in an attempt to reaffirm the Chinese house church’s position on faith before government and society at large, and with a fearful but humble heart, defend the church. This document is a bold statement reflecting the maturity of the Chinese unregistered church. It argues the church’s theological position thoroughly; with the doctrine of creation as its starting point, it places the gospel and...
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30 December 2019
We invite all sojourners throughout the world who belong to the universal church to pray fervently for Pastor Wang Yi and Elder Qin Defu, who are being imprisoned for the sake of Christ and of the gospel, as well as for their families. Pray for all of us. We will also pray for you. We also invite churches who are currently being persecuted to fix their eyes together with us upon the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
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Who is Wang Yi?

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.

Wang Yi received a call into full-time ministry in 2008, was elected and installed as a ruling elder in 2009, and in 2011 Wang Yi was examined by a committee of ordained Presbyterian pastors, and ordained in the Fall of 2011 at which time he was also installed as the lead pastor of Early Rain. He is a prolific writer and poet, with great zeal to increase theological reflection and writing among China’s house church pastors. His writings and sermons have been widely shared online in China.

Wang Yi is married to Jiang Rong. They have a son, age 12.

Wang Yi and Jiang Rong were arrested on December 10, 2018, and remain in criminal detention. No one has been able to communicate with either of them since their arrest. Their son has been kept, along with his grandmother, in isolated house arrest. He has only been allowed outside of his grandmother’s small apartment two times since December.

You can read Wang Yi and Jiang Rong’s last family newsletter, written and sent shortly before their arrests:

Wang Yi's Theology

Wang Yi’s Theology of the Church and City

Wang Yi’s theology does not focus on the church-state question alone. He has spent significant time reflecting on the nature of the church and eschatology of the city. A good example of his theology on the topic can be found in his series “The City of God on Earth”:

The City of God on Earth

Wang Yi’s Theology of Suffering and Persecution
Wang Yi believes deeply in the Christian’s call to suffer as part of his or her union with Christ. He teaches that all believers are called to the life of the cross and was intentional in preparing his congregation for the suffering he believed to be eventual in every Christian’s life. You can read some key articles on the topic of suffering and persecution here:

Suffering and Persecution

Get to know the people of Early Rain

A Special Interview with Early Rain

It is important to hear directly from Early Rain’s leaders and members.

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. Deacons in the Presbyterian 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.

You can read an extensive interview with Early Rain leaders and members before the beginning of their persecution here: 

A Special Interview with Early Rain

Testimonies

All of Early Rain’s elders were detained and arrested by the police. Some have been released and placed under house-arrest. Early Rain’s deacons and assistant deacons were also detained and arrested. Many were detained in the process of checking on other church members.

Many of those who have been detained, particularly church leaders, have young children from whom they have been separated. In situations where both parents have been detained, families from the church have helped to provide care for the children left behind.

Elder Li Yingqiang was detained after evading the police. Before he was detained, he published a handwritten letter to encourage Early Rain to hold firm to their faith and continue public worship. You can read his letter, as well as testimonies from the experiences of Early Rain members in detention, here:

Testimonies

Support from those outside Early Rain

Not all house churches agree with Wang Yi and Early Rain’s theology and decisions, but many do. You can read letters and prayers of support here:

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A Hope-Filled Prayer for Early Rain Covenant Church
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Letter for All Christian Churches to Pray for Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu
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From Jin Tianming: This Is Also Where I Stand!
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About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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