The Need to Coordinate Efforts
The concerns of the Evangelical Alliance are alive in Kemerovo/Siberia
M o s c o w – The concerns of the Evangelical Alliance have been alive in the city of Kemerovo for no less than 10 years. That’s what three representatives from the German and Russian Evangelical Alliances discovered when they visited this West Siberian coal town 3.600 km (2.218 miles) east of Moscow on 19 and 20 November. On the occasion of their visit, 12 representatives from the Pentecostal, Charismatic, Adventist and Baptist churches gathered in the largest congregation belonging to the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”. Vitaly Bak, Senior Pastor of this congregation and head of the interconfessional “Pastors’ Council”, reported that this group has been meeting regularly for the past four years. “It is important that we coordinate our efforts”, he explained. Though Baptists have been present in this city for 95 years, relations with local Orthodox and communal officials remain troubled. After bringing construction materials valued at 15.000 euros ($19.500) onto a building site intended for a small conference centre last summer, a municipal order decreed that the project be dropped.
„We evangelicals get on well with each other,“ Pastor Bak assured. He added that interconfessional gatherings are occurring quarterly at which congregations and confessions are invited to introduce themselves – even Roman Catholics have participated. Private, interconfessional gatherings among pastors, to which their spouses are invited, are also taking place at Christmas. “Not only our pastors should get to know each other,” Bak explained. Unregistered Baptists and scattered Charismatic cells are the only Protestants not taking part in this interconfessional dialogue. That contrasts strongly with Novosibirsk, where most Baptist congregations are opposed to any cooperation with Charismatics and Pentecostals.
In Kemerovo, lay members often don’t listen well to their pastors and consequently hamper the work of the Evangelical Alliance. Many are bent on evangelisation and cannot stop even when meeting up with other evangelicals. So sheep stealing remains a common occurrence – an irritant not only for the Orthodox. These lay missionaries tend to major on fringe issues: the issue of baptism for Baptists, the Sabbath among Adventists and the Holy Spirit among Pentecostals and Charismatics. In Kemerovo, Ulrich Materne (Wittenberge), the German Alliance’s representative for Eastern Europe, kept repeating: “We must point to the centre - and that centre is Christ.”
As during Soviet times, travelling preachers remain capable of wreaking havoc with the best-laid plans of local pastors. That occurred recently when a preacher from Armenia visited his fellow countrymen within Kemerovo’s Baptist and Pentecostal congregations and for the time being brought an abrupt end to inter-congregational harmony.
Before flying to Kemerovo, Materne and Dr. Vladimir Ryagusov (Krasnodar), the Russian Evangelical Alliance’s unsalaried President, visited church leaders in Moscow. They were especially encouraged by meetings with the Methodist Bishop Hans Växby and the youthful Dietrich Brauer, Provisional Bishop of the “Evangelical-Lutheran Church of European Russia” (ELCER). He has held this position only since last summer.
The Russian Alliance’s upcoming annual conference promises to offer a colourful denominational mix: It is to take place in Moscow on 17 and 18 March 2011. The topic will be “The Contribution of Evangelical Christians to Contemporary Russian Society” – all are invited.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Moscow, 27 November 2010
Press service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
A release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of Alliance leadership. Release #10-28, 601 words, 4.052 keystrokes and spaces.