Forgive us their trespass

"Forgive us their trespass" Continued...

Issue: "Marathon man," Feb. 17, 2007

Thus far, Roy has managed to convince a number of European political and religious figures to join his delegation. The initiative has proved a harder sell stateside, suffering a dramatic setback last fall when confirmed supporter Ted Haggard resigned from the pastorate and his role as president of the National Association of Evangelicals because of misconduct with a male prostitute. Road to Reconciliation executive committee member Gary Edmonds, the initiative's primary recruiter of U.S. delegates, had planned to use Haggard's name and influence to attract other prominent evangelicals. Without Haggard, he has yet to land any comparable figures. Megachurch pastors Rick Warren and Joel Hunter have declined to participate.

"There are some who just aren't sure that this is wise," Edmonds said. "As it's been more difficult to mobilize some from the U.S., you have to ask yourself the question, 'Is this a way that maybe the spirit of God is trying to slow this down or get us to rethink some things?'"

In his conversations with Chinese business leaders, Edmonds has received warnings against representing Christianity in apologizing for imperial abuses, an action that might rekindle false stereotypes that all Westerners are Christians. Such advice gives him further pause as to whether the initiative is truly necessary.

An American evangelical involved with the house-church movement in Beijing-granted anonymity to protect his sensitive position-called the Road to Reconciliation initiative a waste of time, arguing that the only resentment the Chinese still harbor toward foreigners is directed at the Japanese for their 20th-century invasions.

"In talking with Chinese Christians, I have never heard a single one lament the historic role of foreigners in the giving of the gospel and the subsequent formation of the Chinese church," he said. "You want to make up for the past? Sponsor a school. Give your life for the Chinese church. Pray daily for those in jail for their faith. Invest something of meaning. Words, words, words, that's all this thing is. I have no use for it." He also told WORLD that most Chinese people have come to understand that Westerners and Christians are not synonymous.


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