The Russian Evangelical Alliance is still on the Move
Inter-confessional bodies in Russia and Ukraine
L a d u s h k i n – The status of the “Russian Evangelical Alliance” is clearly improving. Its 17th annual convention was held on 11 March at the Moscow headquarters of the “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” (ROSKhVE). For the first time in years, its Senior Bishop, Sergey Ryakhovsky, attended. Indeed, both large Pentecostal unions were present. The Baptist Union (RUECB) was represented by Senior Vice-President Viktor Ignatenkov. Leonid Kartavenko represented the „All-Russian Fellowship of Evangelical-Christians” (VSEKh).
As a sign of expanding activities, the REA appointed a regional secretary for Eastern Russia. That person is Sergey Lavrinov, a ROSKhVE-bishop and pastor of a 700-member congregation in Tiumen (Western Siberia). Current regional secretary for Western Russia is the REA’s long-time General-Secretary, Sergey Vdovin of Moscow. Alexander Fedichkin remains President and Vitaly Vlasenko the REA’s Global Ambassador.
The REA is planning a larger event comparable to its founding conference in 2003. This should take place in late 2020 or early 2021.
New Inter-Confessional Body in Ukraine
More than a year ago, on 22 January 2019, an “All-Ukrainian Council of Evangelical Churches” was formed in Kiev. Its official “coordinator” and unofficial founder is the Baptist Oleksandr Turchynov, a prominent Ukrainian politician currently serving as the country’s “Secretary of National Security and Defence”. The organisation includes church leaders such as the Pentecostal bishop Mykhailo Panocho and Baptist president Valery Antoniuk.
Though not in fellowship with the World Evangelical Alliance, this movement in a fashion supersedes and replaces the country’s long-struggling Evangelical Alliance. The independent evangelical bishop Anatoly Kalyuzhny, who has in the past been active within Ukraine’s Evangelical Alliance, is a member of this new association.
The state connection via Turchynov supplies the body with funding and public status, but the leading role of a partisan politician is also one of the factors making the body unsuited for dialogue with the Protestant churches of next-door Russia. Turchynov is one of the Ukrainian politicians officially under sanction by the Russian government since November 2018. Nevertheless: Though this organisation does not share the official political perspective of Russian church bodies, its worldview clearly overlaps with the Russian one. The vehemently anti-LGBT and pro-family position pushed by Turchynov and most other Ukrainian evangelicals also has strong support among Russian believers.
A statement from the day after its founding assures that it is “not a political party and not an ecumenical association”. It is clearly an inter-confessional one, so “non-ecumenical” must imply that it does not relate to the ecumenical movement as embodied by Geneva’s “World Council of Churches”. That is only par-for-the-course in Eastern Europe.
This “All-Ukrainian Council of Evangelical Churches” should not be confused with the “All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations” formed in December 1996. Besides Protestants, this older organisation also includes Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish bodies.
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 11 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 #20-10, 459 words.