BEIJING — It has all the trappings one would expect from the capital’s
most well-heeled and prestigious Christian congregation: a Sunday school
for children, nature hikes for singles and clothing drives for the
needy. Last year, the church, called Shouwang, or Lighthouse, collected
$4 million from its 1,000 members to buy its own house of worship.
But Shouwang, according to China’s officially atheist Communist Party
leadership, is technically illegal. It is a so-called house church,
which in recent years had come to symbolize the government’s wary
tolerance for big-city congregations outside the constellation of
state-controlled churches. The church has been a release valve for an
educated elite seeking a nonpolitical refuge for its faith.
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