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Chinese Church is fastest-growing church in UK thanks to warm welcome for Hong Kongers

by Donna Birrell

The Chinese Church is now the fastest-growing Church in the UK, according to a new report from Bible Society.

There has been a 28.8 per cent growth in the last two years, putting the Chinese Church ahead of the Pentecostal Church (3.3 per cent) and other minority ethnic churches (1.8 per cent). In 2021, there were an estimated 83,072 Chinese Christians in Britain worshipping at 138 churches. Today, there are some 114,976 Christians at 201 churches.

The growth is happening largely in Cantonese congregations.

Dr Yinxuan Huang, carried out the research for Bible Society. He told Premier more about the study :

“It’s ten times higher if we compare it with the growth rate in the previous decade from 2011 to 2021.

“I think the main reason for the growth is the Home Office’s BNO (British Nationals Overseas) visa scheme, which has attracted now around 150,000 migrants from Hong Kong to settle in the UK since 2021.

“I think the reason churches attract people is that they can offer both spiritual support and care in daily life to those undergoing such life transitions. The social role of the church is incredibly appealing to new immigrants. And it's often the only place where a new migrant can receive unconditional love and assistance from, learning how to register with an energy company or with the NHS, to more important emotional care. So these positive testimonials in themselves eventually lead more people to want to understand more about the faith behind them, and therefore transforming their lives in the long term.”

Dr Huang, who’s a former fellow at the London School of Theology added :

“This is an exciting time for the Chinese Church in Britain. It is seeing a time of incredible growth, which is also a missional opportunity as others from within the Chinese community are drawn to the Church.

“It is also a time when local, English-speaking congregations can welcome people from Hong Kong to their services. There is a real opportunity for growth, but also learning from each other.”

The report finds that not all Chinese Christians attend a Chinese church. A quarter prefer to attend an English-speaking church.

One of the fastest-growing Chinese churches is the Manchester Alliance Centre, which has seen six-fold growth.

Its pastor, the Rev Wai Chor Chiu said, ‘When the UK government welcomed Hong Kong people to move, it was quite exciting. The church expanded to six times the original size to more than 1,500. It’s a big change.”

The government announced in 2020 that its new visa would enable British National Overseas citizens from Hong Kong and their dependent family members to come to live in the UK for up to five years. They are then able to apply for permanent settlement and, in turn, British citizenship (subject to associated eligibility criteria).

The policy followed the Chinese government’s introduction of a new National Security Law in Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese authority in 1997.

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