Phase Two in the Offing
Public Council meets in Moscow
M o s c o w - The re-election of Valentin Vasilizhenko (Moscow) as Secretary of the "Public Council" (Obshestvenii Soviet) for the next two years at its Moscow session on 27 May rings in a new, second phase of its work. This umbrella organisation consisting of 10 church unions - most of whom departed from the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists following the USSR's demise - was founded in June 2006. Following the meeting, the re-elected Secretary, a pastor in the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB), reported: "We ascertained that the first two tasks given our association have already been fulfilled: Contacts were created and a dialogue is in process. We are now facing the third task: the creation of joint projects." These will consist primarily of mission and educational projects. Pastor Vasilizhenko added: "It's important that pastors even in remote regions get the opportunity to improve their level of knowledge. Pastors with families and a secular job will not be able to travel to a seminary - the seminary will need to come to them." Youth leaders are to be included in the effort to up educational standards. He noted that new means for attaining objectives in a changed, capitalistic society need to be learned - the works of Rick Warren are being studied in this capacity.
Foreign mission was also an important topic at this gathering of 60 church leaders from as far away as Siberia, the Caucasus region and neighbouring countries. In certain cases, the majority of members belonging to one of these church unions already reside in the West. One is therefore considering the option of sending them missionaries from Russia. The still- unregistered "Initiativniki, who became known worldwide as the "underground church" and now go by the name of "International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists" (IUCECB), report a global membership of 78.015. Yet only roughly 20.000 of them still reside on Russian soil.
Vasilizhenko indicates that a phase of soul-searching ensued after the passing of long-time IUCECB-President Gennadi Kryuchkov in July 2007 and the accidental deaths of two other leaders. Now, a new President has been elected: Nikolai Antonyuk from Timoshovsk in the region of Krasnodar/Caucasus. His deputy is Gennadi Yefremov from St. Petersburg. Secretary Vasilizhenko maintains: "A new leadership has been selected and we believe we will be able to find contact with one another and continue our dialogue." This church union has observer status within the Public Council.
Whether the RUECB should remain host and "first among equals" within the Public Council is presently a matter of debate. "We are very open to discussion on this matter," states Vitaly Vlasenko, the RUECB's Director for External Church Relations. "We desire full mutual respect and brotherhood. With many of them, we were together in one union for a long time." The RUECB, Russia's largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 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, 30 May 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 #08-25, 483 words.
Note from December 2020: Valentin Vasilizhenko and his large family moved to the USA in
2009. See also our press release from 27 Feb. 2009.