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China's Christian churches reduce leaders' age ceiling

By Hou Liqiang and Zhao Yinan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-12 01:59

China's top Christian authority has decided to lower the age ceiling for its senior religious leaders as part of efforts to include more energetic minds in the leadership.

The chairman and vice-chairman of the country's two national Protestant associations — the National Committee of Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China and the China Christian Council — should be younger than 70 when elected, instead of the current maximum of 75, under the new constitutions of both associations.

China's Christian churches reduce leaders' age ceiling

Churchgoers attend an Easter Sunday service at Shanghai Moore Memorial Church in March. With the average age of pastors in China decreasing, two national Protestant associations have decided to lower the required age ceiling for elected senior leaders from 75 to 70. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

The constitutions were adopted on Tuesday by the National Chinese Christian Congress, which ended on Wednesday in Beijing.

The new constitutions also state that future secretary-generals of the associations should be younger than 65 throughout their term of office, although current rules allow those leaders to stay in the role providing they were younger than 65 when elected.

Reverend Kan Baoping, vice-chairman of the China Christian Council, explained to delegates that the changes were to "allow younger senior leaders of the two associations".

Bao Zhimin, one of the delegates, said the average age of Christian pastors in China has decreased sharply in recent years and most local Christian associations are now electing much younger leaders.

"It is inevitable and beneficial for Protestant churches to include more fresh blood."

He said China used to have a shortage of young Protestant talent due to the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), during which divinity schools were closed and no students were enrolled.

"But now those who went to theological schools after the ‘cultural revolution' have grown up," he said.

Shan Weixiang, vice-chairman of the China Christian Council, recalled when almost all representatives of the congress had silver hair, and said that most are middle-aged or even younger now.

"The views and values of the senior members are usually conservative, which may not be beneficial for the development of the church," he said.

Kou Xiaodong, a delegate from Gansu province, said the changes in the age maximum mark a step forward for the country's churches.

"A younger Christian leadership can ensure a smoother operation of the church, since they are in better physical condition and have gained rich experience after working for 10 or 20 years."

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