Portraying Christendom as One Single Family
The Russian Evangelical Alliance’s annual conference has taken place
M o s c o w – In a word of greeting at the Russian Evangelical Alliance’s (REA) national conference in a Moscow church of the Seventh-Day Adventists on 15 March, the Baptist traveling evangelist Yuri Sipko criticised sharply the past of his own Protestant movement. He attributed the slow improvement in inter-denominational relations to “not only a spirit of competition, but also a malicious and hateful condemnation of each other” arising from the demise of the USSR. The Alliance’s primary task since then has been “to portray all of Christ and all of Christendom to society as a single, non-competitive family”. Sipko, until March 2010 President of the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”, has become known since last autumn as a proponent of dialogue with the Charismatic movement.
Only 35 persons attended this year’s national conference, but offshoots of reconciliation are sprouting within the country’s regional Alliances. Regional conferences are taking place for ex. in Kemerovo, Perm, Voronesh and Nizhny Novgorod. On 18 March 2012 a first-ever regional conference with foreign participation took place in Krasnodar. Pastor Ulrich Materne (Wittenberge), East European Consultant for the German Evangelical Alliance, and Vladimir Ryaguzov (Krasnodar), theology lecturer and the REA’s President, were present. The conversations from 18 March are to be continued in April. Ryaguzov reports that the southern Russian region of Krasnodar has suffered from a particularly viral confrontation between Baptists and Charismatics.
Relations with the Orthodox are also accompanied by frequent small signs of hope. Last November, an Orthodox congregation held a concert in the Moscow church of Baptist pastor Alexander Fedichkin, the REA’s Vice-President. Only 13 days later, on 19 November, the Baptists were invited to a baptismal talk in the unnamed Orthodox congregation. That conversation lasted until after midnight. The Russian news service “Word for You” reported afterwards: “Gatherings of this type destroy the conventional wisdom that friendship between Orthodox and Protestants is impossible. It all depends on the degree of openness present on both sides. Only together can we make headway in the struggle against anti-religious, global secularism.”
The topic for this year’s Moscow conference was based on James 1:25: “The perfect law is the law of freedom”. The gathering was very much influenced by the new Russian-language commentary on James written by the German Lutheran theology and retired bishop, Gerhard Maier. It was released jointly in late 2011 by the REA and the publishing house of Moscow’s “St. Andrew’s Biblical-Theological Institute” in an initial edition of 1.000 copies. Moscow’s Lutheran Bishop Dietrich Brauer is convinced of the book’s success. In a private conversation he assured: “Commentaries of this quality are in very high demand.” The book is to become part of a series; as soon as sufficient funds are found, the translation of Hans F. Bayer’s German-language commentary on Mark is to begin. The joint production of Bible commentaries by Protestants and Orthodox is a completely new development for Russia.
It is now planned to hold the annual Moscow conference on the first Friday of March – which would be 1 March 2013. The national committee intends to meet quarterly.
The German Evangelical Alliance’s annual conference will take place from 1 to 5 August – as always in Bad Blankenburg/Thuringia. The youth conference will begin on 25 July. Over 60 guests from Eastern Europe attended last year. Those from Russia wishing to attend should contact the Alliance’s English-speaking Moscow office manager, Svetlana Pochtovik, immediately (+7 916 152 8089 or „firstname.lastname@example.org“). The Alliance’s next worldwide week of prayer is scheduled for 13 - 20 January 2013.
News service of the Russian Evangelical Alliance
Moscow, 20 March 2012
An official news release of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. Release #12-07, 594 words, 3.905 keystrokes and spaces.