Ryaguzov Nominated to Succeed Sipko (process later halted)

Viktor Ryaguzov Nominated to Succeed Yuri Sipko as RUECB-President


Results of the Union Council’s spring sessions


M o s c o w -- The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ Union Council will nominate Viktor Ryaguzov to succeed Yuri Sipko as RUECB-President at the next Convention slated for Moscow, 23 – 25 March 2010. The term will last four years. This was a primary result of the twice-annual Union Council sessions (Soviet Soyuza) which ended on the campus of the RUECB’s Moscow seminary on 27 March. The Convention (Syezd), the RUECB’s highest legislative authority, meets only once every four years. It last met in connection with the large Congress in Bryansk in August 2006, which itself meets every second year. In Bryansk the Convention had elected Yuri Sipko for a second four-year term.


Viktor Semyonovich Ryaguzov (born 16.10.1951), Pastor of the 800-member „Preobrazhenie" (Transformation) congregation in Samara/Volga, has served this congregation since 1980. He has been “Bishop” (“Senior Presbyter” in Russian) for the regions of Samara and Ulyanovsk since 1992. He is also one of the RUECB’s seven Regional Vice-Presidents and is now responsible for the entire Volga region. In contrast to his older brother, Dr. Vladimir Ryaguzov, until 2006 Rector of “Moscow Bible Institute” and well-known to Baptists in Germany and California, the Presidential candidate has not mastered a foreign tongue.


A matter of continuing dialogue at Union Council sessions is the issue of Calvinism, in particular its teaching of eternal security. The issue has also involved Viktor Ryaguzov, for the Samara preachers’ institute majoring in homiletics is supported by John MacArthur’s decidedly-Calvinistic “Grace Community Church” in Sun Valley/California.


Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), Director of External Church Relations, reports that the Union restructuring initiated at the Council sessions last October is making good headway. The five Bishop-headed committees (Church Service, Mission, Education, Media and External Relations, Finance) created to supervise the work of the RUECB’s national offices are up-and-running. “People are excited; our Bishops are now more involved in the life of the national Union. They are observing the work of the various departments and making proposals for the future.”


Other issues elsewhere


1. On 12 March, the Russian Ministry of Justice announced plans to create legislation to further restrict the activity of foreign missionaries. The new laws are to be in their final form by no later than December. In an interview with the newspaper “Gaziety”, the Ministry’s Sergey Milushkin stated: “Current law stipulates that foreigners can only engage in a preaching activity at the invitation of a domestic religious organisation. But this requirement does not function in practice. We are therefore going to propose that foreigners who preach in Russia with nothing more than a tourist visa in their pocket can expect not only expulsion from the country, but also additional punishment.”


Protestants present at a roundtable discussion in the State Duma on 19 March protested vehemently against the planned measures. Konstantin Bendas, Senior Vice-President of Sergey Ryakhovsky’s “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” retorted: “Existing legislation is quite capable of protecting citizens from encroachments into their private lives. If illegal preaching has gone unpunished, then that was due to the low level of education among law-enforcement bodies and the judicial community on religious matters – not because of legislative holes.”


Lawyer (banister) Anatoly Pchelintsev from Moscow’s “Slavic Legal Centre” pointed out in his organisation’s own press service that such legislation would infringe upon international standards on the observance of religious freedom. He labelled such attempts to restrict missionary work “a recurrence of Soviet thinking”.


2. Baptists do on certain rare occasions receive funding from Russian government sources. Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov announced in late March that during 2009 the city would be giving 182 million roubles ($5.352.941 US) for the restoration of 17 historic religious structures: 15 Orthodox, one Muslim and one Baptist. The building in question is the home of the 1.700-member “Central Baptist Church”; for decades during Soviet times the sole officially-registered Protestant sanctuary in Moscow. 5,5 million roubles ($161.765 US) have been allocated for 2009, during the past two years the city had subsidised the building with a total of 5,2 million roubles. The municipal and national governments have spent many millions of roubles for the restoration of Moscow’s Lutheran St. Peter-and-Paul-Cathedral over the past 15 years.


The RUECB, Russia's largest, unified Protestant church, represents approximately 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups.


William Yoder, Ph.D.

Department for External Church Relations, RUECB

Moscow, 31 March 2009


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 #09-11, 706 words, 4.758 strokes and spaces.