A Chinese pastor arrested with 100 members of his congregation said that while he is "filled with anger and disgust" at the persecution Christians endure in the country, he accepts and respects the fact that the "evil" Communist regime has been "allowed by God to rule temporarily."
On Sunday, Wang Yi, Senior Pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church and one of China's most prominent Protestant pastors, was arrested along with over 100 members of his congregation.
Anticipating his arrest, the pastor wrote a declaration in September to be published should he be detained for more than 48 hours. Church members released the letter on Wednesday.
In the lengthy letter, which has been translated into English, the pastor said he is "filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience."
However, he emphasized that changing social and political institutions is "not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel."
Instead, he vowed to use non-violent methods to stand by his faith and oppose the laws that he said were against biblical commandments. He reminded Chinese Christians that life is brief — and the sufferings of the present pale in comparison to eternity.
"For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily," he explained. "As the Lord's servant [16th century theologian] John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God's people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord."
According to the South China Morning Post, Wang has been placed under criminal detention for allegedly inciting subversion of state power. Under China's criminal code, the charges could result in a sentence of up to five years, but up to 15 years in extreme cases.
Wang's wife Jiang Rong is implicated along with her outspoken husband and could be detained for up to six months, according to her lawyer.
In his letter, the pastor clarified that his civil disobedience – done with the goal of elevating the Gospel – must not be misinterpreted as political activism.
"As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man's sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ," he wrote. "As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the Gospel commission. Christ's Great Commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world, but to testify about another world."
Wang's arrest comes amid a crackdown on illegal house churches following the implementation of the Chinese Communist Party's updated Regulations for Religious Affairs in February.
The updated regulations require all illegal "house churches" to register with the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church system or face harsh penalties and police action.
Previously, Wang condemned the regulations "evil" and "foolish."
"As far as faith is concerned, these new regulations are evil; as far as the constitution is concerned, they are illegal; as far as politics is concerned, they are foolish," Wang wrote earlier this year. "I intend to peacefully reject this regulation's legitimacy and implementation."
Before becoming a pastor, Wang was a human rights activist and a constitutional scholar.