Christianity is growing in China “at breathtaking speed,” the World Council of Churches said Wednesday.
A WCC delegation that returned from an 11-day trip to the country said conservative estimates put the number of baptized Christians at 10 million and growing.
Based on discussions with religious leaders, the Christian community was larger and growing much faster than other religions, they said.
During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, churches were closed and religious activity forbidden. But since the 1980s, China has provided new opportunities for the churches, the council said.
The 13-member delegation split into three groups, visiting Zhedang, Henan and Shenyang provinces as well as Beijing.
Restrictions on religious practice still apply, they found.
Baptism was limited to people over 18, Sunday schools were not allowed and public manifestations of religion such as funeral services were often banned, they said in a report.
In Henan, the second most populous province in China, the group found more than 600 churches and 3,400 “meeting points” managed by 104 pastors and 243 elders.
The visits, however, seemed to have been ‘stage-managed” by local officials from the Religious Affairs Bureau, the report said.
The World Council of Churches comprises more than 300 Anglican, Protestant and other non-Roman Catholic Christian churches.