The Same, but Different
Viktor Krutko new President of the Belarusian Baptist Union
M o s c o w -- Chairs revolved in Minsk’s large “Bethlehem Baptist Church” as Viktor Nikodimovich Krutko was elected President of the Belarusian Baptist Union on 20 March. More than a two-thirds majority of the assembled 289 delegates voted for him to succeed Nikolay Vassilovich Sinkovets as the Union’s President. Krutko had served as the Union’s General-Secretary since 2002; Sinkovets had been its President since that same year. Now, Sinkovets will serve as General-Secretary – the two leaders are essentially trading seats. Vice-President remains Josef Rachkovsky. Prior to 2002, Krutko himself had served as Vice-President.
Dmitry Lazuta, who has successfully planted three thriving Minsk congregations consisting primarily of younger persons with non-Baptist backgrounds, is enthusiastic about Krutko’s election. In a conversation he stated: “I expect a greater openness for churches such as ours which use a contemporary style of worship. We reckon with greater acceptance as regular, normal congregations.” But he hastened to add that Pastor Sinkovets himself has always been supportive. Leonid Demidchik, a pastor in Orsha, also described both Krutko and Sinkovets as cherished and respected leaders admired by all generations.
Lazuta is cautiously optimistic regarding the future of church-state relations. “It’s a kind of intuition I have,” he stated. “Even though it is sometimes just two steps forward, one step back.” Nikolay Sinkovets reported at the election assembly on a meeting with state officials responsible for relations with religious denominations on 11 March at Minsk’s “Government House”. On that occasion, the government appealed also to Protestants for help in overcoming the serious social issues – substance abuse and the breakdown of family life – facing society.
Leonid Mikhovich, Rector of the Baptist Union’s seminary in Minsk, sees the election as a clear vote for continuity. Regarding government relations, he stated in an interview: “We will be continuing our past policy. If changes occur, then they will be initiated by the government side.” He expressed the wish of Baptists that the government become more lenient in permitting services to be held outside of church buildings in those locations where a structure is not available. Such services are for the present officially illegal.
Viktor Krutko was born on 18 June 1953 and grew up in Vileysky region near Minsk. He studied theology for three years at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, graduating in 1992. He served thereafter as Superintendent (or “Bishop” - Starshy Presbyter) of Minsk district and became head pastor of the Bethlehem congregation in 2002 – a capacity in which he still serves. Rev. Krutko is married to Nina, the couple has a married daughter and recently became grandparents.
The “Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in the Republic of Belarus” has 13.500 members gathered in 290 congregations. Besides a relatively strong presence of the "International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists" with nearly 4.000 members within the country, a sprinkling of autonomous Baptist congregations also exists. This IUCECB was known during Soviet times as the “underground church”; its congregations remain unregistered up to the present. Roughly 100.000 (1%) of the country’s 9.8 million citizens are Protestants.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Moscow, 23 March 2010
Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
Release #10-07, 499 words, 3.329 keystrokes and spaces.