Russia’s Evangelical Alliance: Only an Eight-Year-Old Lad
A conversation with its President: Dr. Vladimir Ryaguzov
The questions were posed by Marina Tschernyavskaya from the Russian edition of the news service “Christian Today”.
The Russian Evangelical Alliance was formed eight years ago. How would you describe the years since then?
The Russian Evangelical Alliance indeed does remind me of an eight-year-old lad. He’s started school, but he still needs a lot of conversation with his friends and parents. His achievements are limited by his modest age. It’s a time for growing up and developing personal initiatives. During this period, the Alliance has created ties with most of Russia’s Protestant unions as well as with other organisations and churches in Belarus, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. We also retain good relations with our foreign, Western partner: the German Evangelical Alliance.
We’ve already attained the following goals:
1. During the second week of every year, a week of prayer is held jointly with believers from many denominations. Every year a special prayer booklet is created for that week – its topics are determined for all of Europe by the European Alliance. We printed 10.000 copies of the booklet last time, but the demand has risen and we are planning to produce 15.000 copies for the upcoming year. They are distributed through the churches in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. (And can also be downloaded from our webpage.)
The texts, which we write ourselves in Russia, expound on certain Bible verses and can also be used as sermon helps. The booklets also mention prayer concerns from around the world as well as from the world of the Alliance. I regard these booklets to be our most successful offering at present – we’re getting a good echo.
2. We also hold an all-Russian annual conference on some current topic. Topics have been for ex.: “Protestantism in an Orthodox Context”, “Christianity in Times of Economic Crisis” and “The Contribution of Russian Protestantism to Society”. Not only Christians speak at such conferences – we also invite well-known academics specialising in religion. Representatives of foreign Evangelical Alliances also attend.
Following this conference in Moscow, Alliance representatives visit other cities and hold regional conferences there. Regional conferences have responded well to topics such as “Teach us to Pray” or “The Lord’s Prayer”. The fellowship on such occasions strengthens our unity in Christ and supports his appeal for unity as expressed in John 17. Yet these conferences only succeed if Alliance representatives expend extra effort and openness on the part of the hosts, including pastors and bishops, is present.
3. Every year we organise trips to the German Evangelical Alliance’s national conference in Bad Blankenburg/Thuringia in August. There we hear of many new developments and enjoy the exchange with brothers and sisters more experienced in the work of the Alliance.
4. We have also created a webpage (rea-moskva.org) on which we publish the most important developments. The webpage intends to encourage prayer and the unity of all believers. Publishing a wide variety of information helps promote our belief that the Russian Alliance is not only the concern of an inner circle, but also a matter of interest to the entire Christian family.
5. The Alliance is presently also involved, in agreement with the “Advisory Council of Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia”, in producing Bible commentaries. This summer, the first Russian-language commentary from the German theologian Gerhard Maier will appear – it will be on the book of James. Publishers are the Russian Alliance in cooperation with the Orthodox “St. Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute” in Moscow.
The Alliance’s concern seems to be more readily accepted in the regions than in the capital. What is the reason for that?
I believe this is due to the fact that the capital already offers a large number of inter-confessional events. I imagine Muscovites have already tired of them. In Moscow, all appear convinced of the necessity of Christian unity and act accordingly. The “Advisory Council of Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia” is also active there.
Things are quite different out in the wide expanses of Russia – especially there where the economic crisis continues. Those areas receive few guests from elsewhere – not even from the Alliance. The believers there want to hear what is happening elsewhere in the world and how they themselves can be of help. They also want to show those on the outside that Christians have more things uniting them than separating them. They want to defend their interests jointly vis a vis a watching world.
What are the biggest difficulties confronting the work of the Alliance?
Even holding regular board meetings is proving difficult. These people are key actors in their church unions and are therefore in high demand. It isn’t easy to get the entire team under one roof. In addition, I (the President) moved from Moscow to southern Russia two years ago. Board members continue to receive no pay for their work and need to take care of these responsibilities above-and-beyond their other tasks. Due to economic duress, some people are forced to hold down more than just one job. It’s even more difficult to find people capable of donating funds to the work.
Western Europe has had an Alliance for over 150 years. Society there recognises the efforts of the Alliance. Do you think it possible that the Russian Alliance could in time achieve a similar status? Could the Protestants of Russia achieve a similar degree of unity? What hampers developments in this direction?
An Alliance’s development is above all a question of time. The other Alliances of Europe also did not appear suddenly out of nowhere. There were once also eight-year-old lads. Secondly: A positive development also depends upon where leaders as well as simple church members recognise the importance of spiritual unity. Jesus requested this from the Father – that his disciples might be of one spirit. Thirdly: Our thriving also depends upon the amount of concrete effort we ourselves put into this.
This interview appeared initially in „Christian Today“ and was carried by the „word4you.ru“ Internet-service on 7 June. Dr. William Yoder translated and abbreviated the text.
Press Service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
Moscow, 08 July 2011
An official release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance in German and English. Release #11-13, 978 words or 6.052 keystrokes and spaces.
Note from June 2020: Vladimir Ryaguzov (born 1950) suffered a massive stroke in June 2013 in Krasnodar and is now
residing with his family in Seattle/USA. Full recovery appears unlikely.
The website listed above (rea-moskva.org) is no longer current. Best to try this site or, in Russian, the "word4you.ru" site. I (Yoder) can pass on any inquiries regarding the Russian Alliance.