American-Chinese Multi-Faith Religious Exchange

Project Background

In June 2007, His Excellency, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong of the People’s Republic of China, and Dee Froeber, Minister to Internationals, Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh, N.C., discussed the American public’s perception regarding the role of religion in China.  Ambassador Zhou suggested that a bi-lateral exchange of religious delegations would have a positive impact on the American public’s understanding of religion in China.

Ambassador Zhou subsequently arranged a meeting for Mr. Froeber in Beijing with the Deputy Administrator of the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), Wang Zuoan.  Mr. Wang responded positively to the proposal for an exchange of religious leaders.  A similar discussion was also held with Rev. Dr. Cao Sheng-jie, former President of the China Christian Council, who also expressed interest in a multi-faith exchange.  In January 2008, a proposal drafted by Mr. Froeber to bring a multi-faith religious delegation from China to the U.S. was accepted by SARA. 


As a result, in September 2008, a delegation of twelve Chinese religious leaders and government officials visited Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C. to meet with U.S. religious leaders, as well as leaders from business, government, and academia.  The delegation was comprised of China’s five major religions, namely Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and Taoism.  The Chinese delegation was led by the President of the China Christian Council, Gao Feng, and advised by Deputy Administrator for SARA, Wang Zuoan.  This event was the first American-Chinese Multi-Faith Religious Exchange (ACMFRE).


Due to substantive dialogues, both U.S. and Chinese participants in the 2008 Exchange came away with a more developed understanding of religious freedom, practice, and diversity in both China and the United States.  Given the success of the 2008 Exchange, SARA officials, China’s religious leaders, and many U.S. participants expressed a strong desire for continued bilateral multi-faith dialogues.  In November 2008, SARA’s senior official, Minister Ye Xiaowen, attended a symposium sponsored by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.  During the symposium, Minister Ye met with Mr. Froeber and other ACMFRE officials and extended an invitation to the ACMFRE organization to assemble a U.S. multi-faith religious delegation for a reciprocal visit to China in 2009.


In October 2009, a delegation of fourteen U.S. religious leaders, scholars and the leadership of ACMFRE visited Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Kunshan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to meet with China’s religious leaders, as well as leaders from business, government and academia.  The delegation was comprised of representatives from Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, and Protestantism.  The U.S. delegation was led by Mr. Dee Froeber, Minister to Internationals at Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh, N.C., and Executive Director of ACMFRE.  Dr. Larry Harper, Senior Pastor at Forest Hills Baptist Church, served as the delegation’s advisor.