National Conference in Moscow
On 2 April 2004 the one-year-old Russian Evangelical Alliance gave itself a constitution. This legal document was officially passed at the 2nd national conference of the Alliance in the Moscow suburb of Niemchinovka. Though only a small circle of VIPs were invited, 40 representatives from all major Protestant denominations gathered for the historic event.
Delegation by the churches is progressing - the new constitution allows not only Christian organisations and denominations to become members; individuals may also join. This legal document stresses the importance of the annual Prayer Week and joint prayer in general – not only during Prayer Week.
Discussion at the conference centred on the broad and impressive variety of social- and health-care activities of Protestant churches in Russia. Through such activities, Russia’s nearly one million Protestants intend to make their presence known. In private discussions, Dr. Vladimir Ryagusov, Rector of Moscow’s Baptist Bible Institute and Alliance chairman, stressed the necessity for all Protestant churches to stand together in an effort to rebuff the monopolistic tendencies of the Orthodox church. Attempts at rapprochement are in themselves not sufficient. He stated: “The media have given the social work of the Orthodox wide coverage. It therefore has appeared as if there were no other Christian voice in Russia. But thanks to our new constitution we are now stating in unison: ‘We also can do something good for our society. We’re here, too.’”
The not less important concern of evangelisation is to be stressed at regional conferences scheduled for the coming months. The city of Novosibirsk is presently holding a “Year of the Bible”; 55 local congregations have used this opportunity to meet. The Alliance is also particularly active in Samara and Izhevsk. The Alliance’s annual prayer booklets are read actively in a prison near Krasnodar; in Nizhny Novgorod 500,000 invitations to the renown Jesus-Film were passed out. Rector Ryagusov is anticipating a positive echo to Mel Gibson’s new film on the passion of Jesus and insists: “We want to go to the theatres and speak with non-believers about it. A lot of blood has flown in Russia, too. That’s simply a part of our history.”
Conference speakers in Niemchinovka included Gordon Showell-Rogers (London), General Secretary of the European Evangelical Alliance, and Pastor Ulrich Materne (Wittenberge), the German Alliance’s official adviser on Russia. The Baptist professors Alexander Zaichenko, a former economic advisor of Gorbachev, and Igor Podbereski, a member of the Academy of Sciences, lectured on social issues.
The Russian Alliance does not yet have a General-Secretary – the reasons for this are primarily economic. Very soon a part-time secretary should be becoming the Alliance’s first paid employee.
The original Russian Evangelical Alliance was founded in 1906 but did not survive the following year because of internal discord.
Dr. William Yoder
Moscow, 5 April 2004
This is an official press release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance, 498 words.