Baptist president responds to worship service held for Russia`s nuclear fighting units
M o s c o w – On the occasion of 60th anniversary of the creation of Russia’s (or the Soviet Union’s) nuclear defence, a first-ever service was held in Moscow’s “Christ the Saviour” cathedral honouring the nuclear-equipped fighting units. Leading the festivities was Alexei II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Pastor Yuri Sipko (Moscow) is President of the Russian Union of Evangelical-Christians-Baptists (RUECB), Russia’s largest, nationally-organised free church.
My first question to you, Pastor Sipko: Why were church anniversary festivities on 4 September necessary? What is the ROC hoping to achieve?
The ROC believes it has state-moulding characteristics. That type of claim harbours enormous dangers. The century of state-sponsored atheism has been followed by an era of religious freedom. Religious competitors are now struggling for as large a piece of the prize as possible. The ROC is not shrinking back from intermeshing with the state, and is hoping with state help to overwhelm the competition. But a symphony with the state costs a pretty penny. A church sanctifies the dealings of the state; the state in turn favours that church. The ROC is striving to make its influence on the state absolute. Yet an institution which participates massively in government activities becomes co-responsible for its political and military decisions.
Is there a difference for Baptists when a church only blesses guns and flags, or when it also blesses atomic weaponry? Are Baptists allowed to serve in a nuclear fighting unit?
I believe the church of Jesus Christ must never allow itself to become the political office of an army or navy. And when she does that, the difference between that, which she is, and that which she intends to bless, disappears. The ROC finds itself in this kind of danger. One can also note incidentally that up to 35.000 people are killed on Russia’s motorways every year. And that happens despite the fact that nearly all Russian automobiles have been blessed by the ROC. I also believe that the devastating might of atomic weaponry has not yet claimed all of its victims.
The RUECB does not give its members orders regarding military service. They and all other citizens of Russia have the choice of serving in the regular army or opting for alternative service.
In 1958 the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) almost split regarding the question of whether Christians – and military chaplains – were allowed to serve in an army equipped with atomic weaponry. Should that be a topic for Baptists today?
That question is currently not a pressing one. The RUECB is located outside the political realm. Such issues could reappear if international tensions increase once again. Here we are very dependent upon the mercy of God.
The Lord has called his church to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth. This message is necessary for soldiers, government officials and every person anywhere. Which means that the service of a military chaplain or any pastor working with soldiers is indeed a holy calling.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 12 September 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-32, 497 words.
The interviewer was William Yoder.