Views on Morality Converge
Russian Baptists come to the defence of the Orthodox Patriarch
M o s c o w -- The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) has hastened to the defence of Alexei II, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. He had faced broad criticism following his speech – and the discussion thereafter - at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on 2 October. The RUECB sent a letter to the Patriarch, and on 11 October an interview similar in content was published on the RUECB´s webpage. The interview was signed by Alexander Semchenko, Secretary of the Union’s “Department for External Church Relations”. The letter begins with the statement: “The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists holds in high esteem the speech by Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, at a session of the European Union’s Parliamentary Assembly. Many of the positions of the Russian Orthodox Church as expressed by the Patriarch converge with the views held by the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.” Both Baptist documents underscore Alexei’s statement in Strasbourg: “Those who do not reckon with moral values, cannot in the end reckon with freedom either.” Freedom is imperilled when moral values are not respected.
These Baptists statements applaud Orthodox stress on the Christian roots of European society, culture and science. The RUECB does not diverge from the Orthodox position on the need to publicly uphold and fortify Christian moral values. Both are against „banning“ Christianity from the public realm. Public propagation of that which undermines society should be strongly discouraged.
Stress on individual rights – for ex. the right to accumulate wealth - can impinge on the collective, social rights of others. Alexei attacked the social imbalance in Russia and elsewhere, citing the “beggar status of millions who labour honestly”. The Baptist papers note that many similar tones had been struck at the Protestant National Prayer Breakfast last March.
The clearest reference to the issue of homosexuality in the speech itself was the Patriarch’s thesis that an unduly broad understanding of tolerance can undermine Christian morality. Alexei’s lecture was widely interpreted as an attack on gay rights, yet the issue was only mentioned explicitly in the ensuing discussion. In other contexts, the Patriarch has condemned the holding of a march by homosexuals in Moscow last July.
These two Baptist statements do not mention homosexuality by name either. But the general position of both churches is similar. Whilst respecting the rights of individual homosexuals as human beings created in the image of God, public propagation of their lifestyle should not be accepted. Its practice is regarded as sin.
The Baptist statements laud the fact that in Strasbourg the Patriarch underscored the Orthodox intention to continue dialogue with the other “traditional faiths” of Russia – meaning Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Animist, Catholic and Lutheran. The Russian Baptists, who will be celebrating their 140th birthday during the upcoming week, appeal to the Patriarch to be granted recognition as an additional “traditional faith”.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 15 October 2007
This press release reflects the personal assessment by its author and should not be automatically interpreted as an official RUECB position. May be published freely. Release #07-38, 470 words.