Three-Self Patriotic Movement

The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (officially 中国基督教三自爱国运动委员会, National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China; colloquially 三自教会, the Three-Self Church) or TSPM is the government-sanctioned ("patriotic") Christian organization in the People's Republic of China. Known in combination with the China Christian Council as the lianghui (two organizations), they form the only state-sanctioned (registered) Protestant church in mainland China. (See also: Protestantism in China and Christianity in China.)


The three principles of self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners) and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work) were first articulated by Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841–73, and Rufus Anderson, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The principles were drafted formally during an 1892 conference in Shanghai of Christian missions reflecting an almost unilateral agreement that the future of the Chinese church depended on the indigenization of the leadership, and the finding of sufficiently Chinese modes of worship. Dixon Edward Hoste, head of the China Inland Mission was known for putting the same principles into practice in the effort of assisting the Chinese to establish their own indigenous churches during the early 20th Century.

In 1951, a Cantonese Christian named Y. T. Wu (吴耀宗, 1893–1979) initiated the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which promoted a strategy of 'self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation' in order to remove foreign influences from the Chinese churches and to assure the communist government that the churches would be patriotic to the newly-established People's Republic of China. The 'Three-Self' is a characteristically Chinese way of abbreviating 'self-governance, self-support, self-propagation' (自治、自养、自传). The movement began formally in 1954 and allowed the government to infiltrate, subvert, and control much of organized Christianity.

From 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution, the expression of religious life in China was effectively banned, including even the TSPM. The growth of the Chinese house church movement during this period was a result of all Chinese Christian worship being driven underground for fear of persecution. To counter this growing trend of "unregistered meetings", in 1979 the government officially restored the TSPM after thirteen years of non-existence, and in 1980 the CCC was formed.

in 1993 there were 7 million members of the TSPM with 11 million affiliated, as opposed to an estimated 18 million and 47 million "unregistered" Protestant Christians respectively.


The TSPM is not a denomination, and denominational distinctions do not exist within the organization. Pastors are trained at one of only thirteen officially sanctioned seminaries which are Marxist-oriented and teach liberal theology.

The attempt to bring house-church Christians into the fold of "registered" meeting places has met with mixed results. One area of disagreement has been the restriction that the government places on preaching and teaching certain doctrines which are deemed to be inappropriate. Some examples of teaching that are not offered at the TSPM meetings include: references to the divine healing, deliverance from demons, Second Coming of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead.

However, restrictions are not always harshly enforced, and many pastors within the TSPM have the freedom to exposit Christian teachings more fully.


The TSPM and CCC are viewed with suspicion and distrust by some Christians both within and outside China. Some claim the TSPM to be a tool of the Communist Party of China to control and regulate the expression of Christianity . As a result, there are groups that refuse to deal with the TSPM or CCC and there exists a large unregistered House Church movement in China with some claiming that it serves the large majority of Protestant Christians in China .

There has also been allegations of regular and systematic persecution against Christians associated with the House Church movement and other unregistered Christian organizations in China .

Standing Committee of the TSPM

  • Chairperson & Acting Secretary General

Presbyter Ji Jianhong

  • Residential Vice Chairperson

Rev Deng Fucun

  • Associate Secretary General

Rev Mei Kangjun


See also

External links

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