Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dr. Fan Yafeng - Recipient of the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award

Yesterday I had the blessing to be able to attend the ceremony in which Dr. Richard Land was able to give the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award to Dr. Fan Yafeng on behalf of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in the U.S. House of Representatives side of the Capitol of the United States of America. Dr. Yafeng was unable to come, so Bob Fu, of the China Aid Association, received it on his behalf - Mr. Fu was the recipient of the 2007 award
(I blogged about that a few years back).
The speakers at this ceremony were United States Representative Trent Franks, Dr. Richard Land, Dr. Barrett Duke, and Mr. Bob Fu.

Dr. Yafeng is one of China’s foremost legal scholars and advocate for constitutional democracy and he has increased his participation in the activist circuit through open involvement in the defense of persecuted Christians. He has worked closely with Gao Zhisheng, Wang Yi, Zhang Xingshui and Li Baiguang on cases such as the defense of Pastor Cai, Lian Changnian and Tong Qimiao, and he is also a Chinese house church leader (click here for a relevant press release where some of this information is from).

(This picture shows the speakers at this ceremony - from top then left to right: Dr. Fan Yafeng (was skyping from China on the screen in the background), Mr. Bob Fu, Representative Trent Franks, Dr. Richard Land, and Dr. Barrett Duke.)

(Dr. Land and Dr. Fan Yafeng.)

In September of 2006 Christianity Today outlined one example of how Dr. Yafeng is trying to help build a “rule-of-law” philosophy in China. He serves as a legal counselor to pastors and he doesn’t expect to stop persecution from the police, but he states that one of his goals is to get the police to, “think in terms of legality.” His efforts are helping the government to turn into more of a democratic system in incremental steps. In his testimony from yesterday he referred to this philosophy of gradual change of the Chinese culture and eventually the polity of the nation:

After the totalitarian rule for decades…the hearts of the Chinese are full of hatred, and the spirit and the soul of countless Chinese families have fallen apart. Only the Gospel of the Lord and the freedom told by the Bible can bring healing and salvation for the soul of the Chinese…The key is to persuade these angry people to look back to their most fundamental rights, transitioning to the system of maintained stability by the rights-safeguarding movement.

This will make, “an ancient civilization to be a new land for the gospel.” This ultimately leads to the building of what Yafeng described as, “the society that may emerge after the collapse.” In 2005 the Boston Globe drew attention this changing tide in China by quoting Premier Wen Jiabao saying that China is, “surely moving toward democracy.” Dr. Fan has been a vital leader in the work to move this democratic philosophy forward particularly in the "Taishi Village Incident Memorandum". Democracy, in Yafeng’s view, creates a “super-dimension” of belief. He seems to be saying that democracy frees up space in their country for a “free belief space” in which, “unity between tangible church property and intangible free space is reached.” Ultimately this philosophy gives the Chinese people religious liberty to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, not to be confused with a theocracy.

Toward the beginning of Yafeng’s statement he said, “Before I was 15 years old, I sincerely believed in communism.” He continued, “I tried a lot of ideological trends, such as existentialism, Marxism, the Confucian school, the Taoist school, Buddhism, etc., until finally at the end of 1996, when I was…a student of Peking University, brother Wagn Zhiyong, preached the gospel to me. Early in 1997, I made my decision to be converted to Christianity, and in May I was baptized.” He mentioned that this was the most important time in his life, “How amazing the grace that came to me, a sinner…Thank God that He chose me in 1997 so that my soul didn’t go so far as to perish.” In his video testimony, which was slightly different than his written testimony, he even mentioned that his introduction to Reformed theology further strengthened his faith. Praise God for Christ’s work of redemption through the substitutionary atonement that is found in Him alone. It is truly amazing grace that a holy God would pour out His wrath on His own Son in our place if we would only repent and believe!

(In this picture Representative Franks is giving remarks with Dr. Yafeng in the background on Skype and Dr. Land to his right side.)

Yafeng talked about what an honor it is to suffer for Christ as well when he was laid off from his position at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in November of 2009:

I had the honor of suffering for God: oh! how glorious, how joyful! I was willing to carry any cross on my back for my great King and my Savior. I knew deeply that my life was in the hand of God and I knew deeply in Whom I believe. I also believed numerous brothers and sisters would pray for me. So that is a period of time that my heart was full of joy and peace and there was revival in my life.

He describes his work in “rights defense” for the church as a church ministry rather than a legal ministry and that this award has been a wonderful encouragement to him and the Chinese house churches.

Dr. Barrett Duke asked Dr. Yafeng what the the Chinese church most needs from American Christians and Dr. Yafeng said, "Prayer." He also said that the two greatest needs for the Chinese churches are, "spiritual strength and theological training for pastors." That's really what we need here too! Dr. Duke made the gospel very clear, and we were able to pray for Fan and the Chinese churches.

(In this picture Dr. Duke is leading us in prayer for Chinese Christians, and Fu is translating.)

It was a wonderful time to honor God by honoring Dr. Yafeng, and it is my prayer that God will continue to refresh the saints in China to be able to glorify Him as they persevere in their faith and share the gospel with as many as possible. Actually my prayer is the hymn "Speed Thy Servants"!


Speed Thy Servants by Thomas Kelly

Speed Thy servants, Savior, speed them;
Thou art Lord of winds and waves;
They were bound, but Thou hast freed them;
Now they go to free the slaves:
Be Thou with them, ’tis Thine arm alone that saves.
Be Thou with them, ’tis Thine arm alone that saves.

Friends, and home, and all forsaking,
Lord they go at Thy command,
As their stay Thy promise taking,
While they traverse sea and land:
O be with them; lead them safely by the hand.
O be with them; lead them safely by the hand.

When they reach the land of strangers,
And the prospect dark appears,
Nothing seen but toils and dangers,
Nothing felt but doubts and fears,
Be Thou with them, hear their sighs and count their tears.
Be Thou with them, hear their sighs and count their tears.

When no fruit appears to cheer them,
And they seem to toil in vain,
Then in mercy, Lord, draw near them,
Then their sinking hopes sustain:
Thus supported, let their zeal revive again.
Thus supported, let their zeal revive again.

In the midst of opposition
Let them trust, O Lord, in Thee;
When success attends their mission,
Let Thy servants humbler be:
Never leave them till Thy face in Heav’n they see.
Never leave them till Thy face in Heav’n they see.

There to reap in joy forever,
Fruit that grows from seed here sown;
There to be with Him, who never
Ceases to preserve His own;
And with gladness give the praise to Him alone.
And with gladness give the praise to Him alone.

(This is a picture of Bob Fu and I.)

1 comment:

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