„God Will be With Us“
Decisions reached at the ELCER’s Moscow synod
M o s c o w – Rev. Dietrich Brauer was inaugurated as Bishop of the „Evangelical-Lutheran Church in European Russia” (ELCER) in Moscow’s St. Peter-and-Paul- Cathedral on 12 March. At the ELCER’s synod in nearby Pushkino, Brauer had been elected unanimously to serve as the new ELCER Bishop. Superintendent (Propst) Vladimir Provorov of Ulyanovsk/Volga was appointed his deputy. The ELCER is one of the seven regional churches forming the St. Petersburg-based “Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia” (ELCROS). Provorov is also President of the ELCROS synod. The church’s Archbishop is August Kruse of St. Petersburg.
Brauer’s election was a cause for elation and gratitude. At 28 years of age, he is undoubtedly one of Europe’s youngest and most energetic Protestant bishops. Siegfried Springer (born 1930) had served in this position from 1992 to 2007. He was succeeded by another German citizen, Edmund Ratz (born 1933), who served simultaneously as ELCROS-Archbishop until 2010. Brauer began his first term as the Moscow-based Interim Bishop in early Summer 2010. He had served with great success as Pastor in the Gusev/Gumbinnen region in the once-German enclave of Kaliningrad/Königsberg from 2005 to 2010. The service of his spouse, Tatiana Petrenko, who is also ordained, had contributed to the fruits of their efforts in Gusev. (Both of them are from the former USSR.)
Yet the new Bishop has had to overcome major difficulties during his first months in Moscow. On 19 August 2010, an unmarried, 26-year-old member of the congregation, Andrey Pautov, took his own life. Pautov, who was incorrectly labelled a pastor by Russian media, had expended considerable effort in recent years to preserve the historic German church structure in Gnadentau (Volgograd region).
Accused of personal immorality, Dimitry Lotov (born 1965) and Dietrich von Bülow-Sternbeck (born 1966) were removed from office shortly thereafter. Lotov, known for his high-church, strongly-sacramentalist convictions, had served as pastor of the Russian-speaking congregation in Peter-and-Paul since 1997. Bülow-Sternbeck had served in the same capacity for the German-speaking congregation since Autumn 2009.
The synod in Pushkino now confirmed the cancellation of all ordination rights for both men. Now serving in a pastoral capacity for the two congregations at Peter-and-Paul is Andrey Bobylev. Yet Lotov continues to refuse acceptance of the Bishop’s and synod’s verdicts. Due to complaints from congregations, the synod also terminated ELCER’s long-time administrative head, Alexander Zerr.
A pastor from the Volga region stated privately at the recent synod: “I think we as a church are going through a period of spiritual testing and maturation. I’m optimistic about the future. God will be with us!”
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Moscow, 29 March 2011
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 #11-03, 430 words, 2.854 keystrokes and spaces.
Update from July 2020: Alexander Zerr as well as the bishops Ratz and Springer have all died. The Moscow congregation headed by Dimitry Lotov is now a full-fledged member of the Lutheran Ingria denomination based in St. Petersburg.