Olive Branch with Strings Attached Rejected
Baptists answer the demand of an Orthodox cult specialist
M o s c o w -- “Your attempt to split the fragile fellowship of various religions and confessions committed to the defence of religious freedom will fail.” That was the forecast of Pastor Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), Director of the Department for External Church Relations for the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB), to an open letter dated 25 March. That letter had been signed by Alexander Dvorkin, an Orthodox cleric and feisty head of Moscow’s “Russian Association of Centres for Religious and Sectarian Studies”. In his letter, Dvorkin reported that a Moscow conference of 19 March on religious intolerance had once more included Baptists in the “bouquet” of totalitarian sects. Dvorkin then added: “We would like to know whether Russian Baptist leadership intends to protest this characterisation of the Baptist movement as a totalitarian sect. If it fails to do so, it will lose its moral right to protest in any similar situations. We will commit ourselves to informing society of your response – or the lack thereof – as widely as possible.” The conference, to which Baptists were not invited, had also described Neo-Pentecostals and Charismatics as totalitarian along with Scientology, the Mun church, Hari Krishna and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Vlasenko adds in his written response of 11 April: “The organisations you list have all been officially registered by the Russian Federation. No police forces are pursuing them and no judicial office has accused them of damaging health or society in general. We believe one must treat individual belief with great care in view of the majority opinions in our country. He insists: “No person can take from the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists the right to express its views on various issues of morality.” He thereby quotes Exodus 23,2: “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.” The Department Director states in conclusion: “The worst pages in Christian history are connected to the violence which Christians have committed in God’s name.”
The in Russia well-known, 1955-born Alexander Dvorkin is a US-citizen regarded by some as a specialist on sects and the cults. He spent the two decades prior to 1990 in the USA and graduated from Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood/New York in 1983. Internet reports state that he is a former employee of both Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.
The RUECB is a founding member of the “Advisory Council of Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia” along with the Charismatic “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith” and the Pentecostal “Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith”. The RUECB, Russia’s largest unified Protestant church, represents 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups. Its president is Yuri Sipko.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 15 April 2008
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #08-15, 456 words.
Note from January 2021: Although Dvorkin did study theology in the USA, he was never ordained. The above descripton as "cleric" is therefore false.