Segregation is broadly defined as “the action or state of setting someone or something apart from others”, whilst separation is defined as “the action or state of moving or being moved apart”.
Segregation is also defined by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance as “the act by which a (natural or legal) person separates other persons on the basis of one of the enumerated grounds without an objective and reasonable justification, in conformity with the proposed definition of discrimination.” Racial segregation is generally outlawed.
Prior to the year 2007, Chinese and foreign members of the New Apostolic Church in China were allowed by the church to associate with one another. This however changed and during 2007 the New Apostolic Church made two important decisions, namely:
- Dismiss the Chinese Apostle Daniel Wang (Chinese name: Wang Liwei) and stop soul-care for the approximately 10,000 local Chinese New Apostolic Church members and ministers in his work area,
- Instruct foreign members of the New Apostolic Church to stay away from local Chinese members of the church in China and implement a system of separate soul-care for local Chinese members and foreign members, living in China.
These two decisions resulted in the segregation or separation between local Chinese and foreign (Non Chinese) members of the New Apostolic Church in China.
Following these decisions, any attempts to unite local Chinese and foreign members of the New Apostolic Church in China, were actively opposed through lies and the spreading of misinformation.
The official reason for the segregation / separation was given as, “for the safety of our Chinese members”. This reason implies two things, namely:
- Foreign members of the New Apostolic Church are a threat to the safety of local Chinese members of the Church, or
- If foreign members join local Chinese members, the safety of the Chinese members are threatened by the Chinese government.
Both of the above implied outcomes are far-fetched and would only find acceptance with the gullible and uninformed. A simple fact finding visit to China, would provide sufficient insight into religious practices in China. The Chinese religious law provides for Chinese and foreign Christians to worship together at legally approved venues, especially where Chinese preachers conducts divine services.
Over the past ten years, foreign members of the New Apostolic Church in China have attended Chinese church services (non New Apostolic), together with Chinese, and even joined in combined music concerts with Chinese, without any negative impact on the Chinese or foreigners.
Is the preservation of unity important?
The Bible underlines the importance of “unity” and “oneness.” Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
UNITY is absolutely essential because the church is the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), and a body cannot be in disunity or disharmony with itself.
If disunity occurs, it essentially ceases to be a body and becomes a disjointed group of individuals. Jesus’ plan for His church is people unified in the faith.
The statement of Jesus, in John 17, indicates the fundamental importance of the spiritual UNITY between the Father and the Son, AND those whom God has chosen out of the world (John 17:6), “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word”
The lack of unity puts a question mark on the credibility of Christians
John 17:21 – “that they all may be one, as You, Father are in me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”.
The Unity between Father and Son and among the followers was of the utmost importance to the credibility of Jesus’ sending by the Father…”so that the world may believe”.
It can therefore be interpreted that Jesus wanted to indicate that the lack of UNITY among His followers, would make it difficult for the world (Non-Christians) to believe that God sent Him.
What is the aim of Christian Unity?
The ultimate aim of Christian UNITY is the glory of God. Apostle Paul prayed, “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:5-7).
Does unity mean the absence of differences?
Unity does not mean that all Christians are the same. It is acceptable to have differences of opinion on non-essential spiritual matters, like the impact of customs or culture on worship styles, dress codes, local laws, etc.
Whether you believe one or the other, it does not affect your salvation. However, some people, with evil intentions, use these non-essential differences as justification to divide and separate and thereby cause division among Christians.
What are the intentions of those who encourage segregation / separation?
Isolation and segregation / separation are strategies normally employed by weak and selfish people in order to negatively impact on development or to stupidly punish certain individuals or groups of people.
Historical examples can be seen in the implementation of “Apartheid’ (segregation / separation) policies by the South African Government, persecution of Jews by Germany (under the rule of Hitler), etc.
Spiritually speaking, we know that the intent of the evil one is to create conditions so that Christians fall into the trap of divisions and separations. The evil one is aware that the lack of unity and the forced separation and isolation of Christians, will make it difficult for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the growth and development of God’s work, especially here in China.
Apostle Paul advises believers to avoid those who cause separation and division. “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
In contrast to those governed and directed by evil intentions, those who subject themselves to the influences of the Holy Spirit encourage fellowship, love for one another, forgiveness and unity.
How effective has the segregation / separation of Chinese and foreign New Apostolic Church members been, over the past ten years.
It has now been ten years since the policy of segregation / separation between local Chinese and foreign members of the New Apostolic Church have been implemented and it is good to reflect on the achievements of the past ten-year period.
From the recent video clips which local Chinese members have published on Chinese internet platforms, it can confidently be concluded that music development among Chinese members have been negatively impacted.
The conducting of divine services as well as the dispensation of Holy acts are also not on a level of the church anywhere outside of China.
The New Apostolic Church in China is still not a legally registered entity and functions as an underground church, subject to the “goodwill” of local officials where it operates.
The activities of the New Apostolic Church in China, among the local Chinese population, are confined to the poor and rural (farm) areas in the South of China. The New Apostolic Church has no meaningful presence in the north of China, which is where the political capital of China, namely Beijing, is located.
An objective general observation can be made that the ten years of segregation / separation between local Chinese and foreign members of the New Apostolic Church in China, has resulted in mostly negative outcomes for the Chinese New Apostolic Church members, despite the fact that they have now, at least, got their own church building and seem to function “legally” in the local area.
Despite the above, the main focus of the New Apostolic Christians in China has been to work together with all to glorify God and expand His kingdom by following the example of the first Christians.
How did the first Christians handle threats against them?
Despite the dangers, which the first Christians faced, they were prepared to sacrifice their lives, rather than being separated. They fought to preserve the UNITY. Acts 2:42 – “And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
The New Apostolic Church in Asia will be undergoing major changes over the next few years. Most of the current leadership of the church will be entering into retirement in the very near future.
It can be expected that these retirement changes will have a tremendously positive impact on the development of God’s work in China and the rest of Asia.
It is therefore, highly possible that unity between local Chinese and foreign members of the New Apostolic Church in China, will be restored, and the Church in China, will once again be united, as Jesus desired.
The unity in China will also lead to growth in countries close to China, like South Korea and Japan where the current membership of the New Apostolic Church is very small among the millions and millions of Christians in the region.
This will bring effect to the words of Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
This is God’s work. “With God nothing is impossible.”
So what do you think? Is segregation or separation in the New Apostolic Church ever acceptable?
We highly appreciate to hear your views on this topic. Please comment below.
(Revised: Original article published 5th December 2016)