Interview with Yuri Sipko, President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists
M o s c o w – In an interview with the Moscow Internet portal „The Other News“ on 12 July, Pastor Yuri Sipko (Moscow), President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, noted that it is not only the government and the Russian Orthodox Church which are blocking large evangelistic campaigns. Thanks to media overkill, Russia is also experiencing the “demise of big”. Stadiums and halls are remaining largely empty for sport and theatre perfomances. Sipko regards it therefore as more effective, if “each believer at his place at home, at work or among friends”, uses his example and his words “to witness to the fact that we belong to God`s kingdom”.
Sipko stressed that he does not mean to criticise the mass rallies held by Franklin Graham in Kiev, Ukraine. Yet for the foreseeable future, Russian authorities “will not be tolerating such mass meetings”. For three days beginning on 6 July, Franklin Graham spoke at Kiev rallies attended by a total of 125.000 persons. In October 1992 his father, Billy Graham, had preached to 155.000 attending three rallies in Moscow`s Olympic stadium.
Yuri Sipko described the government position as one of „observing from afar“. He also senses this in the legal realm. At Duma sessions on 15 June, Sergey Ryakhovsky (Moscow), Bishop of the charismatic „United Russion Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith“, had called for the legal recognition of Protestants as traditional Russian churches. Yet the state refused to act on this initiative. Sipko maintained that government distance is also apparent in the fact that attacks on Baptist-owned buildings never find their way into a courtroom. For this reason, among others, the Baptist concluded that the ground rules of democratic interchange are not being kept. “Not nearly everyone in our country can count on equal protection from the courts and the Ministry for Internal Affairs.”
In the interview, the President of the Baptist Union also addressed a favourite national topic: What is to be done with Lenin`s body? He voiced his opposition to church participation in any of the populistic exploits proposed such as a spontanous removal of the waxed corpse from Red Square. He added that Christians are “located outside the political realm”, but conceded that “dust must be returned to dust”. This kind of fetish “should no longer be allowed to darken our minds and the minds of our children. It is wrong, that an unburied body remains at a very central location in our country, to which thousands still come to pay homage. This is a shameful manifestation which should seem highly odd to all of us.”
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 14 July 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-21, 427 words.