The times they are a-changing! Guess where we found all these pictures of Evangelist Luis Palau’s much talked about Gospel rally in Hangzhou? On the website of the “United Front Work Department of CPC Central Committee”!
But that’s not where it ends! We learnt from a press release dispatched by the Luis Palau Association that taking the pulpit along with Dr Luis Palau at the rally was a man named Rev James Meeks. This was truly curious to us because the event was, as far as we understand, the very first evangelistic rally featuring a foreign preacher. Also, the name James Meeks had not appeared the last time we heard about this rally. So why would the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) suddenly allow not one, but two foreign preachers to take the pulpit at the first gospel rally of its kind?
Just who is this Rev James Meeks? As it turns out, he is a Democratic member of the Illinois Senate, the pastor of the 24,000-strong Salem Baptist Church and the chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. He has also been named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the “10 leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement”, “a key member of Chicago’s ‘Gatekeepers’ network, an interracial group of evangelical ministers who strive to erase the division between church and state” and “a stalwart anti-gay activist” who has used his position to campaign against an Illinois LGBT non-discrimination bill.
Wow. Did SARA run background checks on this guy at all? Concerned Chinese citizens should write in to them asking if it is now their policy to allow foreign politicians to preach their religion on Chinese territory — especially those that seek to erase the division between church and state.
The evangelistic rally originally aimed to attract 20,000 people, but eventually drew in only 14,000 people over two nights (because of “cold, damp weather” and the “aftereffects of a massive sandstorm” in Beijing, says the press release!). One of the highlights of the event was a performance led by the 52-voice Salem Baptist Church choir which was supposedly the first time an African-American choir had ever performed at the church. The event climaxed with over 500 people responding to Palau’s invitation to “pray a sinners’ prayer and to become followers of Jesus Christ”. Each of these new converts was given a free Bible and an eight-week course on the Christian faith followed by an “opportunity to be baptised”.
Luis Palau is quoted in the press release as saying:
“I have been coming to China now for 10 years and I’m encouraged by the spiritual growth. Many distinguished Bible teachers and pastors are emerging. They are open about their faith, very courageous and forward-looking with great dreams for China…. Christianity is no longer viewed as a foreign religion in China… The Chinese by the millions are saying Jesus Christ is for China and China is for Jesus Christ.”
One decade of schmoozing with the right Chinese Communist Party officials sure can open a few doors for you (find out all the very important people he’s met on this trip here). Maybe some day, Luis Palau will fulfill his dream of preaching in an open-air stadium here — and if not him, then maybe someone else will.