Serving both Christ and our People
A Baptist word addressed to Russia and the world
The acting president of Ukraine, Alexander Turchinov, is a Baptist, and we Baptists were strongly criticised on Russian television on 18 March for that reason. US foreign minister John Kerry, a Roman Catholic, had also come under attack for attempting what was regarded as intervention in internal Russian affairs.
All of the world’s Christians are – or should be - united by their love for Christ and his church. But the overarching love and respect of Christians for each other exists alongside great differences in their political assessments and judgements. Politics are a complicated affair. We request of our Orthodox brothers and sisters that they recognise the great political diversity among Christians. World churches like the Roman Catholics or the Baptists have members struggling on virtually all sides of all political barricades. Both civil-rights leader Martin Luther King and many of his sharpest adversaries claimed to be Baptists.
We Baptists are now divided regarding our assessment of Crimea. Democracy and self-determination speak for its separation from Ukraine; international law demands that it remain with Ukraine. Separation has caused great unrest, but failing to separate would have been against the will of roughly 80% of the populace. (80% assumes that those who did not vote last Sunday were against separation from Ukraine.) On the basis of our experience, we believe the rights of religious minorities will be respected in a Crimea allied with Russia.
We Russian Baptists believe the matter of Russian military bases in Crimea is particularly clear. Let us be fair. Did the USA accept a Soviet military base on Cuba in 1962?
We beg our friends in Ukraine and the West to understand that we cannot take a stand for a foreign power against our own government. We in Russia cannot and will not request military protection from Russia!
We request from our Orthodox friends that they continue giving us a chance to prove our patriotism and love for the peoples of Russia. We will remain in Russia as a church, and together with you we want to struggle for a country which is socially just, stable, united, democratic and free of corruption. (We wish the same for Ukraine!) It is not our primary calling to turn Orthodox believers into Protestants. We want to struggle jointly with you for the high calling of Christ and our people. (Philippians 3:14)
We want our Western friends to understand that we have a very special relationship with Ukraine. We have been together as one (or two) nations for over 1,000 years. We are intermarried and interrelated – closer even than the US-Americans and the Canadians. Even I have a Ukrainian surname. We long to be good neighbours.
Rev. Vitaly Vlasenko
Department for External Church Relations
Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists
Moscow, 21 March 2014