Decisive election held in Moscow on 19 November
M o s c o w -- Pastor Aleksey Vasilevich Smirnov is scheduled to succeed Yuri Sipko as President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) in March 2010. This was decided by vote at a gathering of the RUECB’s Union Council (Soviet Soyuza) in Moscow Theological Seminary on 19 November. Smirnov, who was elected by a wide margin, will now be the sole candidate for the office of President at the Union’s Convention (syezd) scheduled for Moscow from 23 to 25 March 2010. The Union Council meets twice annually and consists of the Union’s 57 superintendents (also called “bishops” on occasion). This Convention only convenes every four years to officially elect the Union’s President and take care of other major business.
Aleksey Smirnov (born 24 May 1955) has already served two terms as President of the small, 17-congregation-strong “Association of Brethren Congregations” (ABC) and is Pastor of its “Spasenie” (Salvation) congregation in Dedovsk on the western outskirts of Moscow. But he also became Director of the RUECB’s Pastoral Department in 2006. In February of this year, he succeeded Valentin Vasilizhenko as head of Russia’s “Public Council”, an umbrella organisation of 10 church unions within the Baptist tradition. The ABC was a leading member of the Public Council, also founded in 2006 at approximately the time Smirnov began his service in RUECB headquarters.
Yet Smirnov is more than simply a pastors’ pastor. In an interview this past February, he stressed that Baptists of all denominational colours must “strive to present a unified form and appearance to the outside world”. All Baptist denominations should project a common front to the political and Orthodox sectors of society. Within, he stressed consensus-building among Baptist leaders: “That which we jointly conclude must become of increasing significance.”
By March, Yuri Kirillovich Sipko will have spent the last 16 years in Moscow’s Baptist headquarters, serving as the RUECB’s President since 2002. Sipko, who grew up in Omsk/Siberia, had spent the eight years prior to that as the Union’s Senior Vice- President. It is assumed that the outgoing President (born 1952) will continue serving the church in some capacity. It appears certain that Dr. Peter Mitskevich, the Union’s current Senior Vice-President, will be continuing as Rector of Moscow Theological Seminary.
On 31 March 2009 this news service reported that Viktor Ryaguzov, Pastor of the 800-member „Preobrazhenie" (Transformation) congregation in Samara/Volga, had been chosen as Sipko’s successor at the recent session of the Union Council. Yet Ryaguzov later reconsidered and decided to remain a Pastor and Regional Vice-President. (We apologise for any possible confusion.)
Aleksey Smirnov is married to Inna Nikolayevna Smirnova. The couple has five adult sons.
Both the outgoing and the incoming RUECB-President do not speak any foreign languages.
The RUECB, Russia's largest, unified Protestant church, represents nearly 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 21 November 2009
A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Release #09-35, 464 words, 3.033 keystrokes and spaces.