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The Three-Self Patriotic Movement (officially , National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China; colloquially , the Three-Self Church) or TSPM is the government-sanctioned ("patriotic") Christian organization in the People's Republic of Chinamarker. Known in combination with the China Christian Council as the lianghui (two organizations), they form the only state-sanctioned (registered) Protestant church in mainland China. (See also: Protestantism in China and Christianity in China.)


The three principles of self-governance, self-support (i.e., financial independence from foreigners) and self-propagation (i.e., indigenous missionary work) were first articulated by Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1841–73, and Rufus Anderson, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The principles were drafted formally during an 1892 conference in Shanghai of Christian missions reflecting an almost unilateral agreement that the future of the Chinese church depended on the indigenization of the leadership, and the finding of sufficiently Chinese modes of worship. Dixon Edward Hoste, head of the China Inland Mission was known for putting the same principles into practice in the effort of assisting the Chinese to establish their own indigenous churches during the early 20th Century.

In 1951, a Cantonese Christian named Y. T. Wu ( , 1893–1979) initiated the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which promoted a strategy of 'self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation' in order to remove foreign influences from the Chinese churches and to assure the communist government that the churches would be patriotic to the newly-established People's Republic of China. The 'Three-Self' is a characteristically Chinese way of abbreviating 'self-governance, self-support, self-propagation' ( ). The movement began formally in 1954 and allowed the government to infiltrate, subvert, and control much of organized Christianity.

From 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution, the expression of religious life in China was effectively banned, including even the TSPM. The growth of the Chinese house church movement during this period was a result of all Chinese Christian worship being driven underground for fear of persecution. To counter this growing trend of "unregistered meetings", in 1979 the government officially restored the TSPM after thirteen years of non-existence, and in 1980 the CCC was formed.

in 1993 there were 7 million members of the TSPM with 11 million affiliated, as opposed to an estimated 18 million and 47 million "unregistered" Protestant Christians respectively.


The TSPM is not a denomination, and denominational distinctions do not exist within the organization. Pastors are trained at one of only thirteen officially sanctioned seminaries. Current theological emphasis is on "a protection and promotion of the five basic tenets of Christian faith - the Trinity, Christ being both human and God, the Virgin Birth, Death and Resurrection and the Second Coming."

The attempt to bring house-church Christians into the fold of "registered" meeting places has met with mixed results.


There has also been allegations of regular and systematic persecution against Christians associated with the House Church movement and other unregistered Christian organizations in China . The attitude of the government towards unregistered Christian organizations however differs regionally, with some regions restricting their activities more vigorously and other regions treating such organizations similarly with the official Three-Self churches . Nevertheless, there generally has been significant improvements over the years by the government of China in respecting freedom of religion .

Standing Committee of the TSPM

  • Chairperson & Acting Secretary General
Presbyter Ji Jianhong

  • Residential Vice Chairperson
Rev Deng Fucun

  • Associate Secretary General
Rev Mei Kangjun


  1. Christianity Today Library: Marking Time in the Middle Kingdom, Madison Trammel (URL last accessed on May 1, 2007)
  2. Warren M (Ed.), To Apply the Gospel: Selections from the Writings of Henry Venn, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971
  3. Grant, Paul: The Three Self Church, NSM, January 1, 2007 (URL last accessed on May 1, 2007)
  4. p.164
  5. p.164
  6. p.164
  7. Amity News Service: TSPM - A Young Evangelist's Perspective
  8. p.164
  9. Forum 18 Analyses: Reports from China (URL last accessed on May 1, 2007)
  10. United States Department of State: Background Notes: China: Religion
  11. Christian Today: House church leaders detained in China, 18 February 2009

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