Baptists Desire a Strong and Positive Orthodox Church
A compilation of RUECB news items
M o s c o w -- “It would be good if the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) would truly become a spiritual leader in our country, if its authority were rooted in the merciful and reconciling power of love.” This sentence stems from a paper earlier this month on the issue of religious education in schools authored by Viktor Ryaguzov, Baptist Senior Pastor (or Bishop) for the regions of Samara and Ulyanovsk (Volga). The paper continues: ““Instead the church opts for the wealth of national resources and oil, for the symphony between secular and spiritual powers.”
Similar complaints stem from a roundtable of nine Protestant groups meeting for the first time on 12 September in the region of Tuva, Eastern Siberia, to discuss its relations with the government. Regional and Orthodox representatives chose not to attend the meeting. In a statement the roundtable complained: “No one in the European countries in which the Orthodox are a small minority in comparison with the Protestants would consider defaming the Orthodox as a ´sect´.” Religious historians in the meeting noted that it was Baptist settlers who initially brought the Christian faith to this remote region early in the 20th century..
But sometimes the churches discover themselves on the same side of issues. A law proposed by the Moscow City Duma on 14 March 2007 triggered protests from both Orthodox and Protestant quarters. This legislation forbade “religious agitation” in public places. The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) press service reports that this Article 3.8. would have transformed street evangelism into a public disorder on the level of begging or prostitution.
Early in July RUECB-President Yuri Sipko responded with a letter to the city government requesting clarification. The letter noted that such a law would be at odds with all international standards on the freedom of religion and speech. The municipal politicians then announced in a letter in early September that the matter of “religious agitation” would be dropped from legislation.
Despite all Orthodox advances on religious instruction in schools, Pastor Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of the RUECB´s Department for External Church Relations, concludes: “We must not give up prematurely. In Russia the struggle for an open, multi-confessional society has not yet been lost. Our discussions with the Orthodox are not over.”
Regarding the numbers to which the Tuva roundtable referred: The Baptist World Alliance (BWA), based in Falls Church, Virginia/USA, represents 38 million of the roughly 100 million Baptists on the globe. That makes Baptists the world´s largest Protestant confession.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 17 September 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-35, 409 words.