German and Russian Baptists Attempt to Talk

Spontaneity on One Hand, Planning on the Other


Russian RUECB visits the German BEFG


B e r l i n – In a meeting between the „Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists“ (RUECB) and Germany’s „Federation of Evangelical Free Churches“ (BEFG) in Elstal near Berlin on 3 December an obvious truth was repeated: Germans and Russians have differing strengths. Russians think in the shorter term: They welcome spontaneity, improvisation and creativity. That clashes with the German requirements for planning, agreement and structure. An exampled mentioned were preparations for the successful Russian transcontinental bike tour from Germany to Vladivostok in 2007.


The discussion on structures was particularly helpful in Elstal. The BEFG possesses an encompassing overview: Most Federation activities are part of an overall, general budget. A department’s financial plan for youth or missions is part of the general budget and requires the blessings of the entire Union. This permits a clear setting of priorities. This would mean in Russia that a department would not be dependent strictly upon the income which it could collect by itself. A department’s size could not be determined by financial powers outside of the Union. Vital but financially weak departments would receive funds from central Union offices.


In Elstal, the RUECB´s Department Director for External Church Relations, Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), also explained: „We must make clearer to our pastors and congregations the necessity of a national union.” Regina Claas (Elstal), the German Federation’s General-Secretary, answered: “We do that which the local congregation is incapable of doing.” These include a centralised educational programme as well as international, government and inter-church relations. A German “Confidential Council” (Vertrauensrat) offers pastors counsel and support when they find themselves in conflict with their congregation. German youth work is accomplished on three levels: congregational - regional – federal (union).


Pastor Vlasenko maintained repeatedly that Russian Baptists are in need of a stable identity capable of relating to contemporary society. He expressed the hope that his union’s theological education could contribute strongly to the creation of a Baptist identity for all. Pastor Claas stressed that her Federation continues to be willing to continue its support for theological education in Russia.


RUECB-President Yuri Sipko made the last visit to BEFG headquarters two years ago. Yet the BEFG had not been the official host at that time – Pastor Sipko had been invited to Germany by German-Russian “Aussiedler” congregations. The second member of this year’s delegation was Dr. William Yoder, a member of the RUECB´s Department for External Church Relations.


On 4 December, the two-man delegation visited the Evangelical Church in Germany’s (EKD) foreign office in Hanover. They were hosted by the Russian-speaking Michael Hübner, their foreign office’s Secretary for Central and Eastern Europe. This union of 23 Lutheran, United and Reformed churches has been in continuous contact with the Moscow Patriarchy since 1952. The two dialogue on issues such as theology, society, reconciliation and diaconia (social care). Russian Baptists are interested in a fruitful exchange with Russian Orthodoxy and conversations with the EKD could be a significant help for Baptists.

Unexpectedly, Secretary Hübner offered Russian Baptists the possibility of a theological or diaconic studies programme (or continued education) in Germany. Most German churches have broad and varied experience in the realm of diaconic (nursing and social) care. German Lutherans have trained volunteers to care for the home-bound aged in the Kaliningrad region – a service, which Baptists could also pursue.


Michael Hübner announced a reciprocal visit to Moscow. Vitaly Vlasenko commented on the visit: “Such visits are an expression or our desire to work more closely with European churches.”


Dr. William Yoder

Department for External Church Relations, RUECB

Moscow, 7 December 2007


A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-53, 570 words.