Baptist Leaders meet Patriarch Kirill
John Upton and Hans Guderian visited Moscow
M o s c o w -- From March 28-31, 2012 the President of the Baptist World Alliance, Pastor John Upton, (Virginia/USA) and the President of the European Baptist Federation, Pastor Hans Guderian (Berlin/Germany), took part in the annual conference of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Unions of Evangelical-Christians-Baptists in Moscow. There was also a meeting with the Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church on March 29, 2012.
Participating in that meeting in the Moscow residence of the Patriarch (which had served until 1941 as the private domicile of the German ambassador) were among others: the President of the Baptist World Alliance, John Upton, the President of the European Baptist Federation, Hans Guderian, the President of the Baptist Unions of Russia, Aleksey Smirnov, Ukraine, Vyacheslav Nesteruk, and Belarus, Victor Krutko. Those participating from the side of the Russian Orthodox Church were Patriarch Kirill, Abbot Filaret and Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko.
In his opening words, the Patriarch spoke of his concern regarding the questioning of fundamental moral values in the life of the individual and society regarding marriage and the family. Whereas secularisation originally had the goal of liberation from oppression and the struggle for religious freedom and human rights, we today experience a serious questioning of all values and an extensive total relativism which will not accept any kind of normative truth. In this context, the Patriarch then mentioned positively that in spite of all significant theological differences, today’s position of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Baptist communities appear close on a variety of basic anthropological issues.
In his response, Pastor John Upton thanked the Patriarch for his firm position on the unalterable truth of the Gospel. He noted in addition that in a world in which fundamental principles are subjected to erosion to the extent that even absolute truths become relative, the trusted Biblical witness of good and evil, of Christian hope and of marriage and family must be affirmed in order to resist the proliferation of abortion and various social afflictions.
John Upton and Hans Guderian expressed their hope that the conversation between Baptist and Orthodox believers in Russia might be continued in the form of an extended dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance and the Russian Orthodox Church.
The conversation in the Moscow Patriarchate took place in a cordial atmosphere and lasted over an hour - much longer than originally planned. At the end of the meeting, both sides exchanged presents as gifts of remembrance.
During their visit to Moscow, John Upton and Hans Guderian took part in a number of further meetings and
encounters. On the morning of March 29, the 12th National Prayer Breakfast took place in the “Hotel President” with about 200 participants from politics, economics and church life.
That gathering also focused on the continued support and defence of fundamental Christian values in marriage and the family.
On March 30, the international guests took part in the 20th annual conference of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Moscow’s Baptist seminary. The 60 participants from the Baptist unions of the countries of the former Soviet Union reported on their missionary activities. Despite difficulties caused by the authorities, many possibilities for doing children’s and youth work remain in Turkmenistan. A former mullah is now serving as a Baptist church pastor. In Uzbekistan, Christians are experiencing strong pressure from the government. But the 20 registered and eight non-registered churches with their 2,600 members nevertheless reach out to people from many different nationalities, including Tatars, Kazakhs and Tajiks.
Baptists from the Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation reported on the many open doors for their witness and testimony. But there are also problems associated with the fact that many congregations are no longer growing. Thus the number of church members in Russia continues to decline slightly. At the end of 2011, there had been 72.500 Baptists in nearly 1.800 congregations and groups
On March 31, another ecumenical meeting took place between Hans Guderian and the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in European Russia, Pastor Dietrich Brauer. The conversation occurred in Moscow’s Peter-and-Paul Cathedral, which has only been repaired in recent years. The church now serves as sanctuary and conference centre for the approximately 25.000 Lutherans within the “Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Central Asia” (ELCROS).
John Upton and Hans Guderian both expressed their gratitude for the manifold meetings, conversations and worship services during their stay in Moscow. They cordially invited the assembled leaders of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Unions of Evangelical-Christians-Baptists to become involved in a much stronger fashion in the life of the Baptist community worldwide, and specifically to participate in the next General Council of the European Baptist Federation. It will take place in Elstal near Berlin from September 25-29, 2012.
Berlin, 2 April 2012
Composed for the European Baptist Press Service; this version edited by William Yoder and may be distributed freely. Yoder’s release #12-09a, 782 words, 5.152 keystrokes and spaces.
William Yoder, Ph.D., Moscow
Translation of the original Russian-language release of the Moscow Patriarchate
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill Met With the President of the World Baptist World Alliance, Pastor John Upton
On 29 March 2012, a meeting of the Most Holy Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus, Kirill, with the President of the Baptist World Alliance, Pastor John Upton, the President of the European Baptist Federation, Pastor Hans Guderian, and representatives of the Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists took place at the Patriarch’s working residence in Chisty Pereulok lane.
Participating in the meeting on the part of the Russian Orthodox Church were Abbot Filaret (Bulekov), Vice-Director of the Department for External Relations, Archpriest Dimitry Sizonenko, Secretary of the Department for External Relations for International Contacts, and the Executive Secretary of the Christian Inter-Confessional Advisory Council for the CIS-Countries and Baltics, Y.V. Zydov.
Participating as part of the delegation from the Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists were the President of the Russian Union of ECB, A. V. Smirnov, the President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of ECB, V. V. Nesteruk, the President of the Union of ECB in the Republic of Belarus, V. N. Krutko, the President of the Russian-Ukrainian Union of ECB in the USA, Georgy Harlov, the Department Director of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian Union ECB, V. K. Vlasenko.
In greeting the guests, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill noted with satisfaction that despite significant theological differences, today the position of the Russian Orthodox Church and the position of Baptist communities appear close on a variety of basic anthropological issues.
In response, Pastor John Upton warmly greeted His Holiness the Patriarch on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance and thanked him for the firm testimony on unalterable truths which the Russian Orthodox Church bears in Russia and beyond its borders. He noted in addition that in a world in which «fundamental principles are subjected to erosion to the extent that even absolute truths become relative”, Baptist congregations as well as the Orthodox Church aspire to return to contemporary society the trusted interpretations of good and evil, of Christian hope and the traditional understanding of family while attempting in every possible way to resist the proliferation of abortion and various social afflictions.
In the course of conversations, the meeting’s participants exchanged opinions in particular regarding disturbing tendencies directed towards removing Christian values and religious symbols from the life of contemporary society.
During the meeting questions regarding further cooperation under the auspices of the Christian Inter-Confessional Advisory Council for the CIS-Countries and Baltics were also discussed. Both sides noted that deliberation on socially significant problems demands as wide a circle as possible of representatives from the traditional confessions of Russia and the near abroad. Documents on the results of the deliberations should then be accepted which present a convincing picture of the position of Christian communities to Russians, Americans and Europeans.
At the end of the meeting, both sides exchanged gifts of remembrance.
Press Service of the Department for External Relations, “patriarchia.ru”
31 March 2012
Translated by William Yoder