The Chinese former Anglican bishop KH Ting, who died on Nov. 22 in Nanjing, at age 97, illustrates perfectly the ambiguity we can find in the biographies of many Christian leaders who have lived under oppression, be that communist or otherwise. Let us hope he had time to repent of his compromises and find peace for his spirit, before appearing in front of the throne of Christ, the just judge of our souls.
Here are a few quotes from articles about his life, so that you can understand what I mean by the above.
Ting was an Anglican bishop in the 1940s and 1950s. He served as mission secretary for the Canadian Student Christian Movement and subsequently studied at New York’s Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary.
After moving back to China in the 1950s, Ting served as chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches in China and president of the China Christian Council. He was vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference from 1989–2008.
(The China Christian Council and Three-Self Patriotic Movement form the official, government-sanctioned Protestant church in China. [“Three-Self” stands for self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.] TSPM serves as a liaison between churches and government, while CCC focuses on church affairs.)
Describing Ting as a “great visionary,” the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary general of the World Council of Churches expressed admiration for his commitment to reconciliation between church and society, Christians and non-Christians in China.
Ting worked closely with the leadership of the WCC in its formative years and was a staff member of the World Student Christian Federation in Geneva, Switzerland.
Ting’s contribution to the re-emergence of church life and opening of the church to the outside world in the 1980s and 1990s is widely recognized, a WCC press release said.
With the creation of the China Christian Council, Tveit said, Ting has “contributed immensely to raise the profile of the Chinese church,” and made it possible that the “church in China re-entered into WCC fellowship after four decades of absence in the global ecumenical movement.”
“Bishop Ting played an important role in ensuring that Chinese Christianity continues to survive and grow even under the communist regime,” Tveit added.
(Source, Anglican Journal)
Hailed by some as a patriot and visionary and criticized by others for being too cozy with China’s Communist leaders, Ting, 97, worked through 60 often difficult years of change in the world’s most populous nation.
Ting was ordained as China’s last Anglican bishop in 1942, a position he never renounced and technically held until death, even though his church was effectively dissolved and merged with other Protestant denominations into an umbrella organization called the China Christian Council.
Ting served as chairman of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the liaison between church and state in China, and president of the China Christian Council, the official Protestant denomination. He became president of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary in 1953.
He lost his positions during the Cultural Revolution — a crackdown launched in 1966 to strengthen Mao’s position in the Communist Party and ensure continuation of the revolution that formed the People’s Republic of China in 1949 — but returned to prominence in the wake of liberalizations following Mao’s death in 1976.
In 1985, Ting and others set up the Amity Foundation, a Christian faith-based organization that promotes education, social services, health and rural development across China. Its work includes Nanjing Amity Printing Company, Ltd., a joint venture with the United Bible Societies launched in 1988 that recently celebrated the printing of its 100 millionth Bible.
Ting is also credited with opening up the Chinese church to the outside world, including Amity’s Teachers Program, which recruits people from around the world sponsored by church agencies to teach English, Japanese or German in Chinese universities.
Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, described Bishop Ting as “an extraordinary leader in the Church.”
“Under his careful guidance, the Church in China flourished and experienced its richest period of growth and service as a truly indigenous expression of the gospel,” Medley said. “He will be greatly missed, not only in China but in the church ecumenical.”
A theologian influenced by French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Ting envisioned an indigenous Christianity devoid of foreign influences and sensitive to the Chinese context. (The Three-Self Patriotic Movement stands for self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating.)
Critics like the U.S.-based China Aid Association, honored by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in 2007, portray Ting as an apologist for the government’s crackdown on “house” churches, which for various reasons do not register with China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs.
Others, like the World Council of Churches, credit him with keeping the church alive during a period of severe persecution and demonstrating that Christianity could survive and grow even under a Communist regime.
Britt Towery, a retired Southern Baptist missionary who was present for the announcement of the Amity Foundation in 1985, called Ting’s death “the passing of an era.”
“Without his influence the revival of Protestant churches would not be what it is today,” said Towery, who now lives in San Angelo, Texas. “He and others proposed to the government to open the churches and allow free access to the Bible.”
“His efforts during China’s tragic Cultural Revolution of the 1960s had a great deal to do with the Christian churches remaining vital, even though the church buildings and many Bibles were destroyed,” said Towery, 82. “On one occasion during those years, his life was threatened. Premier Zhou Enlai personally came to his aid, saving him for the work he led in the 1970s and 1980s.”
(Source, Associated Baptist Press)