Late, But Not Too Lat
M o s c o w – Sixteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists intends to take its future into its own hands. During intensive, occasionally late-night sessions at “Moscow Theological Seminary” (MTS) from 26 to 28 June, an expert commission of 25 persons made the decision to present the 54 bishops meeting this fall with completed studies regarding a new orientation for the RUECB. The studies, on which the bishops will need to express a verdict, should cover all aspects of the church’s service.
Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of the RUECB’s Department for External Church Relations, explained: “Our society is in the throes of total transformation. We therefore cannot just stand aside and watch. The walls surrounding us, constructed during the decades of persecution to protect our congregations and families, aren`t holding any longer. Internet and television have driven cracks into our protective walls. We must develop a church presence geared to times of peace and the free market (on religion). The time may already be late, but it is certainly not too late.”
Pastor Vlasenko, a key player in this commission initially formed last November, assures that a break with the the 140-year-old traditions of Russian Baptists is not desired: “We do not intend to alter our theology. But society has undergone a basic transformation and we must take that into account when we go about applying Biblical theology.” Vigorous contemplation of the future is in order. The commission has therefore attempted to locate the most strategially-oriented minds among Russian Baptists and make their counsel a part of future planning.
The Department Director stresses that the concerns of the grassroots level must be a top priority. That which serves and supports the local congregation must remain uppermost. The Union’s most pressing issues include a definitiion of pastoral service, the nurture of children, youth and their education, finances and administration, church construction, PR and the media. He asks: “What criteria do we have for measuring the relative success of pastoral service? The size of the church building and the number of Western partners dare not be the decisive factors. Much more essential is the question of whether a pastor is producing disciples of Christ.” Theological education must address true needs. Vlasenko attributes the excessive number of small educational institutions to decentralized and uncoordinated foreign funding. A concept for education is therefore of utmost necessity.
The counsel and advice of foreign partners remains nevertheless highly welcome. The Union is considering dividing the functions of President and General-Secretary. For that reason the structures of the Baptist Unions of Germany and South Korea were studied at this consultation. Foreign literature on questions of upbringing and the family are also highly needed at present.
The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists represents 78.000 adult believers in 1.930 local churches and groups. Its General-Secretary – and President – is Yuri Sipko. He was actively involved in the consultations at MTS.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 30 June 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-19, 483 words.