This week, China sentenced Early Rain Covenant Church pastor Wang Yi to nine years in prison. This conviction was the latest attack on jiating (house church) congregations and came a year after officials took more than 100 leaders and members of the prominent congregation into custody. The round-up had come on the heels of the government shutting down Beijing Zion Church, one of China’s capital largest house churches, after the congregation refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary. The crackdown on Beijing Zion marked the beginning of a new campaign by the Chinese Communist party-state to eliminate all jiating churches in China. With these high-profile forced closure of several prominent jiating congregations, the Chinese authorities have now begun zeroing in on the lesser known but numerous jiating churches throughout China.

Many Chinese Christians belong to a distinct type of Protestant churches called jiating churches, which are often translated as “house churches,” “family churches,” or “home churches.” Although expedient, these are inadequate translations. The Chinese word jiating could mean family, home, or house, and “house” is the least commonly used meaning, so referring to these churches as “house churches” is a misnomer. The members of such churches often regard their church as jia, which means the family or the home associated with a sense of familial belonging and close-knit fellowship. The physical structure of a house is the least important and may change from time to time. As the meaning of a jiating church is closer to a “congregation” than a church building, I adopt the transliteration and refer to these churches ...

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