Addressing Baptists, the Moscow Patriarch Calls for Mission
Not all developments within Russia are negative
M o s c o w – On the occasion of the Orthodox Easter on 27 April, Alexius II., the Patriarch of Moscow and all of Russia, greeted Yuri Sipko (Moscow), the President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, with Christ’s Great Commission. In his letter he quoted Mark 16,15: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” The head of the Moscow Patriarchate continued: “I sincerely hope that loyalty to the ideals of the Gospel and concern about their affirmation in the lives of the nations will build a solid foundation for our common efforts.”
In an additional Easter greeting addressed to the Baptist President, the Orthodox „foreign minister“, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, appealed for the fostering of peace. “When the people in different parts of the world are divided by dispute and conflict, then the Christians are called to testify of the Risen Saviour. He is ´our peace´.” Sergey Popov, businessman and Chairman of the State Duma´s “Public and Religious Organizations Committee”, also sent a greeting.
Another highly-positive event occurred just prior to Easter: On 19 and 20 April, after eight years of construction, the well-placed, multifunctional Baptist church centre “Gospel House” in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital city of the far eastern island of Sakhalin, was dedicated. The 250 celebrators included Union President Sipko (who arrived from Moscow 6.400 miles away) as well as local politicians.
It was noted at the festivities that no church was able to register legally on the oil-rich island prior to 1980. Similar to the situation in the far western region of Königsberg/Kaliningrad, local communist powers had been bent on keeping their region free of religion for as long as possible. The first Baptist chapel in the Soviet period was dedicated in1989; it quickly proved to be too small. (Königsberg had been German until 1945; the southern half of Sakhalin was Japanese 1905-1945
These events have occurred on the backdrop of very negative developments in Stary Oskol on the south-western fringe of Russia. The “New York Times” reported in-depth on these developments on 24 April. Primarily the small Methodist and Lutheran communities there have been the victims of repressive measures instigated by government and Orthodox sources. An informed member of the RUECB´s Department for External Church Relations commented: „We should ignore neither the good nor the bad that is happening. We together with all people of good will need to see to it that the good in our country is multiplied.”
The RUECB, Russia’s largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 29 April 2008
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is informational in character and does not express a sole,
official position of RUECB-leadership. May be published freely. Release #08-19, 425 words.