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Also known as Church of Almighty God, and as Lightning from the East, the group takes its name from Matthew 24:27: "For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man."
Some lesser known names also used by this movement are Seven Spirits Sect, New Power Lord's Church, True Light Sect, True Way Sect, or The Congregation.
While based in China, Eastern Lightning also has followers in the USA.
[B]ecause Christianity was so harshly repressed in China, and because many Chinese seem to be looking for millenarian, miracle-producing faiths, many popular house church movements have developed into authoritarian fiefdoms themselves, with adherents following one charismatic leader, who often has little religious training. These underground leaders are hardly vehicles for liberal reform.
In some of these heretical movements, which mix elements of Christianity with folk religion, leaders announce that they are Jesus reincarnated or that they have direct links to the Lord. As the New York Times recently reported, one house church, Three Grades of Servants, is organized around its leader, Xu Shuangfu, who claims to speak with God. Three Grades now claims to have several million followers; Xu reportedly has ordered the killing of his religious enemies.
Three Grades's sworn enemy, another house church known as Eastern Lightning that claims a similar following, is just as intense. Eastern Lightning also believes that Jesus has returned to Earth, and has taken the form of a Chinese peasantwoman. Like Three Grades, Eastern Lightning tries to force other Christians to join its group, allegedly kidnapping other house church leaders and trying to brainwash them until they join Lightning.
- Source: Joshua Kurlantzick, Chinese Christians Are a Force, But What Kind? The Washington Post, USA, Nov. 28, 2004
Wherever one travels in China, Christian leaders talk about the devastating effects of the cult Lightning from the East. Not only has this cult spread throughout China (especially in rural areas) but now it is active overseas. Not so long ago we were alerted about cult members placing their tracts on the windshields of cars parked outside Chinese churches in California during Sunday services! The cult now has centers in New York and Toronto, and an active website.
- Source: China Insight Newsletter, Sep/Oct. 2001
Chinese Christianity's internal problems include rivalry between the government-approved and unregistered factions, and the spread of bizarre heresies among people who have been denied religious education.
Some sects reject parts of the Bible or spurn the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, saying instead that God the Father is greater than the Son and the Son is greater than the Holy Spirit. Others demand absolute obedience of leaders.
The most troublesome group, Eastern Lightning, believes Jesus has returned as a mystery woman living in Henan province. House church leaders say this group targets them for beatings, blackmail, kidnappings and even murder.
- Source: Journalist: Christians poised to reshape China's future, Associated Press, USA, Jan. 22, 2004
Some Chinese churches push the envelope of Protestant doctrine. Eastern Lightning, for example, is a fast-growing group started several years ago that believes the Bible is passé. In a throwback to a 19th-century Chinese rebellion led by a man who said he was Jesus's younger brother, Eastern Lightning holds that Jesus's sister has come to Earth and is Chinese.
The group has grown quickly in the central plains by abducting house church leaders and persuading them to join. Last year, Eastern Lightning kidnapped more than 30 leaders of an underground church, the China Gospel Fellowship, according to fellowship leaders and government officials.
- Source: Evangelicals on the Rise in Land of Mao, Washington Post, Dec. 24, 2002
Three Grades of Servants, a banned Christian sect that claims several million followers, made inroads in Huaide and other northern towns beginning nearly a decade ago. It lured peasants like Yu Xiaoping, as well as her neighbor, Ms. Kuang, away from state-authorized churches. Its underground network provided spiritual and social services to isolated villages.
But it also attracted competition from Eastern Lightning, its archrival, which sought to convert Ms. Yu, Ms. Kuang and others. The two sects clashed violently. Both became targets of a police crackdown.
Xu Shuangfu, the itinerant founder of Three Grades of Servants, who says he has divine powers, was arrested last summer along with scores of associates. Mr. Xu was suspected of having ordered the execution of religious enemies, police officers said.
- Source: Violence Taints Religion's Solace for China's Poor, The New York Times, USA, Nov. 25, 2004
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