Alexey Smirnov on Track for Re-Election
On Baptist and other developments in Moscow
M o s c o w -- The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists’ “Union Council” has voted to propose that Alexey Smirnov be re-elected to a second term as RUECB-President at the next national Congress. No second candidate is to be proposed. The vote occurred at the Council’s bi-annual sessions in Moscow from 27 to 29 March; the RUECB’s 34th Congress is scheduled to take place in March 2014. Smirnov received more than 75% of the votes among the Council’s roughly 55 senior presbyters (also called “bishops”). Smirnov succeeded Yuri Sipko as the Union’s President at the 33rd Congress in March 2010.
Committee work on reforming the Union’s structures continues. Insiders report that the number and role of vice-presidents is in need of further clarification. Issues of better budgeting and bookkeeping may be on the road towards resolution.
Government inspection of non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) has begun to encroach upon religious organisations. Consequently, Anatoly Pchelintsev, the head of Moscow’s “Slavic Legal Centre”, urged in Council sessions that congregations should study legislation precisely and prepare themselves for unannounced inspections. To this end, all relevant laws are to be posted on the RUECB’s website. The barrister noted that no legal requirement exists for congregations to pass on personal information regarding its members to government circles.
The RUECB does not possess a successful periodical covering church events and the life of its member congregations. Due to postal and geographic considerations, the Union’s website has taken over most of this role. The Union’s one-time flagship, the printed-on-paper “Christian Word”, is to be redirected towards a non-believing audience.
Noteworthy visitors at the March sessions included Alexey Kolomiytsev, Senior Pastor of the Russian-language “Word of Grace Bible Church” at Battle Ground/Washington.
Kolomiytsev is an associate of the Californian John MacArthur – the theologian whose very special form of Calvinism is experiencing both significant support and resistance on Russia’s
traditionally Arminian soil. It has also been a major issue of dispute among Russian and Ukrainian Baptists in the US’ Pacific Northwest. Another collaborator in this pro-Calvinist movement,
Illinois’ “Slavic Gospel Association”, is presently involved in a push to make six-24-hour-day- creation a part of Russian Baptist statements of faith.
A very different guest was Rev. Tom Holladay, a brother-in-law of Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of California’s “Saddleback Church”. In Russia, Saddleback has cooperated most closely with the interdenominational, Evangelical Christian and Pentecostal “VSEKh” movement (“All-Russian Fellowship of Evangelical Christians”) headed by Moscow businessman Alexander Semchenko. Concerns remain that Saddleback may attempt to implement a programme within Russia devised primarily in California. A Russian branch of Saddleback in Moscow with live broadcasts from California or an additional leading Western pastor in Moscow are not regarded as helpful initiatives. The present political climate in Russia demands that Protestant churches increase their efforts to prove that they are not “foreign agents” or foreign-run entities. Perhaps most important is the fear that a new major church plant in Moscow could only succeed with considerable poaching (sheep stealing) in the stalls of the other Protestant churches. A well-known Australian Charismatic church (Hillsong) is accused of having done just that in order to get its Moscow effort up-and-going several years ago.
Other church matters in Russia
The business interests of the Evangelical-Christian businessman Alexander Semchenko have slipped dramatically over the past two years. Sadly, his long-time newspaper “Protestant” no longer appears, yet VSEKh and his “Protestant” on-line news service continue.
Last October 13, this service (Yoder) reported that the new campus of Moscow’s “Russian American Institute” (once known as “Russian-American Christian University”) was up-for-sale and that the Mormon church would be the likely buyer. That matter still remains unclear in April 2013. On 3 April, Moscow’s “Advisory Council for the Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia” offered the American owners of the campus a (low) purchasing price of $7 million US. This offer was signed by all larger Protestant churches in the country except for the Russian Baptist Union and the Lutherans. The American side is demanding $17 million, yet the Advisory Council – the highest-level Protestant organisation in the country – claims this amount would include a profit of $10 million.
This service had also reported that Vasily Ryzhov, a retired professor of psychology from Nitzhny Novgorod, replaced Alexander Negrov as rector of “St. Petersburg Christian University” (SPbCU) on 19 May of last year. Yet the two sides had vastly divergent approaches on education and. Prof. Ryzhov departed after only several months in office. SPbCU is searching for a new rector; its acting head is Alexander Belyaev.
On 2 April, Thomas Tae Kang, a Presbyterian missionary, former South Korean military chaplain and current US-citizen, was released from jail in the city of Tula. He had been detained since 28 September, officially on charges of paying a bribe to the police of 1.000 roubles ($33 US). Among Russia’s best-supported foreign missionaries with upper-level political connections in both South Korea and the USA, Kang had been in the process of opening a large, newly-constructed house for young people and other guests in Tula region when arrested.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Smolensk, 11 April 2013
A journalistic release under the auspices of the Russian Evangelical Alliance. It is informational in character and does not express a sole, official position of Alliance leadership. It may be reprinted free-of-charge. Release #13-07, 832 words, 5.596 keystrokes and spaces.