Regional Alliances on the Rise
5th annual conference of the Russian Alliance in Moscow
M o s c o w – „The Russian Alliance is alive and its work is advancing quickly.” That was the conclusion of
Vladimir Ryaguzov, Chairman of the Russian Evangelical Alliance (REA), following its fifth annual conference in Moscow on 26 and 27 February. “It was a terrific conference,” added Ulrich Materne
(Wittenberge, Germany), the German Evangelical Alliance’s consultant for Eastern Europe. “I was greatly encouraged.”
Approximately 55 leaders from 15 churches and agencies attended the conference. Pastor Ryaguzov, a Baptist instructor in theology who has just returned to Moscow after a year of study in Germany, added: “Our work is growing from the bottom up. Actually, the first day of the conference was as in earlier times. But the second day was even much better than expected. Thirty-five persons from eight regional conferences reported with enthusiasm on their work.” Not only were Izhevsk (west of the Urals), Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk (Urals), Novosibirsk and Kemerovo (Western Siberia) and Nizhny Novgorod represented; spokespersons from Togliatti (central Volga) and Stary Oskol (near Ukraine) were surprisingly also present. Togliatti is unique in that a small Presbyterian denomination is playing a leadership role there. Ryaguzov noted: “We plan to visit as many regional Alliances as possible this fall in order to encourage and motivate them. They are still in need of our counsel.”
Three church leaders from Kyrgyzstan were also present at the conference in an Adventist church in Moscow. The Muslim government’s new, highly-sharpened restrictions on evangelical work prove the necessity of joint Protestant action. During March an Alliance delegation consisting of Russians and Germans is scheduled to visit this landlocked, middle-Asian country.
The first day of the conference, held under the motto of “Lord, what shall I do?”, was marked by a strong dosage of self-criticism. Yuri Sipko (Moscow), President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, conceded: “Despite our claims to high spiritual standards, we have allowed ourselves to humiliate and hurt others. We lack unity even within our own Baptist family. Our relationships with others are marked by evil, a refusal to forgive and injurious attacks. That is for us a major defeat and a sign of weakness; that pains Christ and moves him to tears.” He continued: “We are not yet mature enough for the struggle against evil. We are instead still combating those who are standing with us at our side.”
Alexei Naidion, a prison counsellor, complained that local missionaries are transporting their confessional
arguments into prisons. He called on the most prominent church leaders to find a form of proclamation which “does not drag fresh converts into inter-church polemics”. Methodist Bishop Hans Växby
(Moscow) noted that preaching demands an easily understandable choice of words. Interested listeners should find it simple to “find the door and pass through it”.
The opening of a Moscow office and official state registration are two prominent tasks still facing the REA, which was founded in April 2003. The next annual conference is scheduled for Moscow on 3 and 4 March 2009.
Dr. William Yoder
Moscow, 6 March 2008
A press release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. May be published freely, 490 words.