The China Christian Council (CCC), a national association of registered churches, has severed its ties with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because of its alleged "clandestine" missionary activity.

But the council's action is not expected to trigger the ouster of eight SBC missionaries working through the CCC. Avery Willis, senior vice president for overseas operations with the SBC's International Mission Board (IMB), traces the disagreement to Southern Baptists sharing their Christian faith while working in professional capacities throughout China. There are 14 such individuals, most of them on two-year assignments. "I think this is strictly an isolated situation," Willis says. "It's not new. Ten years ago we talked about the same thing."

The dispute boiled over in November when the CCC posted a letter on the Internet announcing an end to the relationship with the IMB. The agreement between the Foreign Mission Board—renamed the IMB during SBC's massive restructuring (CT, Oct. 17, 1997, p. 96)—had only been formalized in July 1996.

CRITICISM FROM CHINA: In the letter, council president Wenzao Han said the CCC and its government-sponsored Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) have always followed the principle that all church work should be open and above board.

In his letter, Han expressed disappointment that the IMB has, "without consulting us, adopted a 'two-track approach' vis-a-vis China.

"In this view, while not giving up its 'partnership' with the CCC as the 'open' track, [IMB] will try to give major attention to a clandestine track, through which church workers from abroad are secretly sent to China to carry out 'missionary' work as dictated by the IMB."

Such people do not make their mission-board relationships ...

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