CMS Ireland’s Southern Regional Co-ordinator, the Revd Patrick Comerford, and the Dean of Residence of Trinity College Dublin, Revd Dr Alan McCormack, are currently visiting China on behalf of the Dublin University Mission (DUFEM).
DUFEM was founded in 1885 in association with CMS Ireland and was originally known as the Dublin University Fukien Mission.
Alan McCormack, who chairs DUFEM, is studying Chinese in Beijing. Later he plans to visit churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan, where he will be a guest of Bishop David Lai, who recently visited Ireland.
Patrick Comerford, who is secretary of DUFEM, is visiting China with a group representing churches and mission agencies in Ireland, Britain and Germany. The delegation is being led by Caroline Fielder, Director of the China Desk of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and Canon Soh Chye Ann, Asia Director of CMS Britain, who has been heading up the Guizhou Project in recent years.
Other members of the delegation include: George Banks, Scottish Churches China Group; Revd Jonathan Kerry of the Methodist Church (Britain), Revd Canon Mark Oxbrow, International Mission Director, CMS Britain; Revd John Pritchard, chair of the Friends of the Church in China; the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Right Revd David Urquhart, chair of CMS Britain; and Dr. Lothar Engel and Bishop Dr Hans-Juergen Abromeit from the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany (EMW).
Patrick is attending the opening of a new theological college and bible school in Guiyang and visiting rural churches in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou. He will also meet the Guizhou Provincial Christian Council and students and teachers at the Bible school. In Shanghai he plans to visit the headquarters of the China Christian Council and the East China Seminary, and to meet Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai and members of the Shanghai Christian Council.
In Hangzhou, Patrick plans to attend the Sunday service at Chongyi Church, the largest church in China, and to visit the Seminary of Zhejiang and Lingyin Buddhist Temple. In Beijing, the delegates expect to visit the China Christian Council and to meet academics working on religion and philosophy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the People’s University.
The Churches in Britain and Ireland have a ‘unique’ contribution to make in supporting the huge growth and development of Christianity in China, according to Caroline Fielder, who coordinates the ecumenical programme that forges links with both Catholics and Protestants in China.
‘The late 1980s saw a hardening of Chinese government policy towards the religions as a reaction to the collapse of Eastern Europe and the Tiananmen Square incident,’ she says.’'But the 1990s and 2000s have seen a more pragmatic approach by the government and a revival in many religions.’
‘In 2001 the then Chinese premier declared that religion was not only here to stay but that it may even outlive the Communist Party. The expectation is that religions can and will contribute significantly to the future development of Chinese society.’
This report was published as ‘The Church of Ireland Notes’ in ‘The Irish Times’ on 5 September 2005.