Not Liberal – Just Different
Russian report on the European Baptist Federation Council sessions in Budapest
M o s c o w -- „The Baptists of Western Europe are not ´liberals´, they are simply different from us in some ways.“ That was the conclusion of Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), Director of the Russian Baptist Union’s „Department for External Church Relations“ following his visit to the annual European Baptist Federation (EBF) Council sessions. These were held in Budapest from 26 to 29 September and involved 150 delegates from most European and several Middle Eastern countries. Vlasenko continued: „Liberalism is the wrong word to use when describing our differences. „Liberalism“ is an ideology, an academic theory. It’s an „ism“ much like Marxism. We Baptists are united by the same belief, the same baptism and many common principles. That’s more reason than enough for us to accept the differences that do exist.“
Vlasenko described the reception in Budapest as „wonderful“. „I really love the atmosphere of EBF meetings. Everyone wishes us well, everyone is willing to help. I felt welcome and accepted from the very beginning. It was also a great experience to become acquainted with older brothers from Western Europe who had come to visit us in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s when the EBF was still young. Now they can see some of the fruits of their work – we Russians are a part of that fruit.“
The Department head insists that membership in the EBF is of vital importance to all post-Soviet republics: „We must continue on and foster this relationship. We belong together“. Though roughly five delegates from Ukraine were present in Budapest, no delegate came from EBF-member Belarus. Vlasenko, who participated in an EBF-Council session for the first time, was the sole delegate from Russia. The Baptist Unions of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are no longer members of the EBF. Joy was expressed in Budapest over the fact that the Romanian Baptist Union under the leadership of Dr. Otniel Bunaciu (Bucharest) has after a 12-year absence again become a member of the EBF. Its 99.000 members make Romania Europe’s third-largest Baptist Union.
Rev. Vlasenko hopes the Russian Union is again beginning to make its mark on the European Baptist scene. In Budapest he was asked to report on this year’s highly-successful transcontinental bicycle expedition from Germany to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. In Budapest, German leaders expressed regret that they had not given more of their time to the expedition during its short sojourn in Germany last May.
Relief24, a Hungarian Baptist emergency relief effort, has helped build a very positive reputation for Baptists in that country. Its teams attempt to be on location around the world within 24 hours after a catastrophe. Germany is making plans to partner with this organisation; individual Russians are also invited to participate. Persons trained as doctors, nurses, firemen, mountain climbers, cave experts or radio operators are needed.
The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB), Russia’s largest Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members meeting in 1.750 local congregations and groups. Its President is Pastor Yuri Sipko.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 9 October 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-36, 495 words.