Russian Seminaries Remain in Limbo
The future remains uncertain
L a d u s h k i n – “Carry on as best you can.” That seemed to be consensus after the Baptist “Moscow Theological Seminary” (MTS) lost its appeal for re-registration on 27 February. The court cited formal, bureaucratic reasons for the rejection, leaving observers in the dark regarding the actual reasons. Only two Protestant theological institutes in Moscow region can presently legally engage in classroom teaching: “Zaoksky Adventist University” located in Tula region to the south and Alexander Tsutserov’s “Moscow Evangelical-Christian Seminary”. Tsutserov’s continued success is attributed to his access to the upper echelons of Russia’s political circles.
One instructor explains that legal loopholes allowing some form of teaching are being sought. Teaching in the name of Russia’s Baptist Union remains legal, yet its very own seminary cannot do so. Both MTS and the ROSKhVE’s seminary (“Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith”) are applying for the right to offer advanced studies to those who already have an initial theological degree. The seminary of the ROSKhVE is also attempting to shift to non-theological vocational and pedagogical training. The Baptists will be attempting to teach legally in venues beyond the walls of their own seminary. The Baptist musical institute “Logos” for ex. engages in theological teaching without being a part of MTS.
Further legal appeals can be expected and the quiet support of some Orthodox circles makes Baptists optimistic. Yet the future does not look particularly promising: A “Tass” release from 6 April reports on possible upcoming legislation further restricting the work of foreign NGOs on Russian soil. “Tass” specifically refers to non-political, foreign-funded educational programmes as NGOs likely to be subjected to additional sanction and scrutiny. As reported in our release of 15 February 2020, Protestant Bible institutes and seminaries are indeed heavily dependent upon foreign finance.
These are essentially all topics for the foreseeable future. Since late March, Zaoksky and Tsutserov’s institution have also been closed due to the world-wide pandemic.
A note from a staff person at Moscow Evangelical Christian Seminary (MECS): I “deny the rumours that the seminary
continued operating due to Dr. Tsutserov’s ‘access to the upper echelons of Russia’s political circles’. I link the seminary’s success during the Rosobrnadzor’s inspection to the well-organized
work of my colleagues. Well before the inspection arrived, we started preparing all needed documentation to fulfil the Rosobrnadzor requirements. The inspectors were tough on us, but they
saw that we did the best we could. During the three days of inspection, my colleagues were literally working day and night. That’s why we succeeded - no magic, no high-ranking officials, just
“As you know, the same result occurred with MTI (Moscow Theological
Institute) of the РЦХВЕ (“Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith” - Grabovenko) as well as with SPChU (St. Petersburg Christian University). They have undergone the
inspection and kept their educational licences without the alleged access to ‘upper echelons´.”
“Currently MECS is not closed due to COVID-19; all the staff and professors work from home. The classes are continuing online through the Zoom platform.”
Note from the editor: Rosobrnadzor stands for “Federal Inspection Authority for Education and Science”.
A New Lutheran Bishop for the Ingrian Church
Ivan Latev was inaugurated on 9 February
L a d u s h k I n -- On 9 February Ivan Sergeyevich Latev was inaugurated as bishop of the St. Petersburg-based “Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia” (ELCIR). He replaces Arri Kugappi (born 1953), who in 1996 had become this church’s first Russian-born bishop and citizen since the 1930’s. Kugappi now carries the title of “Bishop-Emeritus”. Latev had been elected bishop on 19 October 2019.
Ivan Latev, who had been born in an eastern suburb of St. Petersburg in 1979, had become a catechist for the church in 2000. He was ordained a pastor in 2011 and appointed head of Ingria’s division for mission a year later. In 2015 he became rector of the church’s seminary in the vicinity of St. Petersburg. Latev is said to be a gifted communicator and teacher. His denomination has Finnish roots and he is reported to also speak Finnish.
During the celebratory event in Petersburg’s “St. Mary’s Church” on 9 February, hands were laid on the new bishop by bishops from Latvia, Estonia and Finland. Besides Kugappi, the sole other Russian bishop involved in the act was Vsevolod Lytkin from the Akademgorodok-based “Siberian Evangelical-Lutheran Church”. The ELCIR regards itself as a conservative, confessional church which takes the Book of Concord from 1580 seriously. In North America it is allied with the Missouri-and Wisconsin-Synod churches. Observers regard Latev as a committed Lutheran confessonalist who will not judge an understanding with the larger “Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Russia” (ELC) to be an initial priority.
As reported in our release from 3 December 2019, the Omsk-based “Evangelical-Lutheran Church in the Urals, Siberia and the Far East” is very much interested in healing the rift with Ingria. As a church with a conservative, pietistic orientation Omsk, it could be regarded as a potential intermediary between the more liberal, Moscow-based ELC and Ingria. The Omsk church itself is a regional segment of the larger ELC. Dietrich Brauer of Moscow is the ELC’s archbishop; Alexander Scheiermann is bishop in Omsk.
Along with the ELC, Ingria remains a member of the Geneva-based “Lutheran World Federation” (LWF), which is rare among confessional Lutheran churches. The LWF lists the membership of Ingria as 15.000 and the ELC as 27.450.
Ivan Latev is married to Irina; the couple has two sons and two daughters.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 10 April 2020
A journalistic release for which the author is solely responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #20-09.