Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists Organise A Major Convention This Year

The  EAU is Up-and-Coming

A major convention is planned for this year

M o s c o w – The „Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical  Christians-Baptists“ (EAF) in the area of the former Soviet Union is  up-and-coming. It is presently organising a major convention scheduled to take  place in Kiev on 28 and 29 October 2011. This was made official during a press  conference at the Moscow seminary of the “Russian Union of Evangelical  Christians-Baptists” on 25 March.

According to Alexander Firisiuk from the Belarusian Union in Minsk,  the EAF was formed at the USSR’s demise “in order to preserve our dialogue and  unity of Spirit. We indeed have remained one family in Christ.” The EAF is also  the entity which reminds one most readily of the giant, Soviet-era All-Union  Council of Baptists. Vyacheslav Nesteruk, President of the Ukrainian Union,  added: “Conversing with one another is a very pleasant matter. When I travel to  Moscow and meet the brethren, I feel as if I have returned  home.”

During the press gathering, the Federation’s spokespersons stressed  their positive relations with the Prague-based “European Baptist Federation”  (EBF) – most ex-Soviet unions belong to both federations. But it was added that  the EAF regards itself to be more conservative. RUECB-President Alexey Smirnow  noted: “It is very important that we demonstrate our unity in Christ to the  world. Liberalism attacks not only the mind, it also divides the world into  factions and subjects people to all kinds of convictions and opinions.”

One  speaks English in the EBF, but Russian remains the EAF’s lingua franca.  The unions of 15 countries now form the EAF – the primary unions of the three  Baltic states and Georgia are no longer members. But these countries also  possess groups of Russian-speaking Baptists who count themselves a part of the  EAF. The Baltic states for ex. have a significant number of Ukrainian Baptist  residents. In contrast to the EBF, the EAF, which is headed by the Muscovite  Yuri Apatov, has no legal status.

It was actually a cross-border work among youth led by parlamentarian  Pavel Unguryan (Kiev) and Pastor Yevgeny Bakhmutsky (Moscow) which revived the  EAF from its slumber. In August 2008, an impressive youth conference with nearly  3.000 participants from 19 countries was held near Odessa. Each year in  February, a working conference for youth leaders takes place near Moscow under  EAF auspices. In August 2009, immediately after the Amsterdam conference  commemorating the 400th anniversary of the European Baptist movement,  a similar, Russian-language conference was held in Kiev with 1.700 adults in  attendance.

This year’s conference in October is to be held under the motto of  Philippians 3,13: „Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.” One  leading speaker is to be John MacArthur from Sun Valley/California – he has been  active in the countries of the former USSR for more than 20 years and is  well-known in Eastern Europe. “The Master’s Academy International“, which he heads, now has branches for  ex. in Samara/Volga and in Irpin near Kiev (the Baptist “Irpin Biblical  Seminary”).

The EAF’s return to the scene is also supported by the fact that  Russia’s inter-confessional bodies have lost their momentum. The EAF offers Baptist unions once again the  opportunity to form coalitions beyond the boundaries of their own union. Russian  Orthodoxy and the state are already pushing the significance of Kievan Rus, the  medieval union of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

Additional Developments

On 23 March, Moscow’s venerable „First Baptist Church“ celebrated the  graduation of one of the most-experienced classes in the history of European  evangelicalism. Sixteen of the RUECB’s superintendents (called “starshy  presbyter” in Russian) received a Masters degree from “Moscow Theological  Seminary”. Some of these clergymen had no previous academic degree in theology.  Over the past three years they had prepared themselves for their final exams  mainly through studies by extension. In conjunction with the Union Council,  which meets twice annually, they had usually come a week earlier to Moscow in  order to attend lectures on campus. Primary guest speaker at this graduation was  the Moldovan pastor and politician Valeriu Ghiletchi (Chisinau), the EBF’s  current President.

Alexey Smirnov has now been President of the RUECB for exactly one  year. That was one reason why the Union Council, which lasted until 25 March,  was concerned more than ever with numbers. Yevgeny Bakhmutsky, the Union’s  Senior Vice President, explained: “We want to obtain a true picture of  developments within our brotherhood. We want to discover how things really look  among us and where we are headed.” He is concerned above all with the  recruitment and preparation of further pastors for congregational  work.

The webpages of the RUECB’s Missions Department report on two  expeditions taking place during February and March. Missionary expeditions even  during the coldest times of the year have proven their worth – they have been  taking place for a decade. The Russian East then has more ice (better roadways)  and fewer flies than in the summer. Both expeditions aimed to visit as many  prisons and penal colonies as possible; one travelled primarily in the southwest  (for ex. Tambov, Voronesh, Tula and Belgorod), the other in the central Siberian regions of Krasnoyarsk, Khakassia  and Tuva. The western expedition terminated on 24 March after having visited 21  colonies and 3 rehab centres as well as 15 churches. Since many inmates were or  are addicts, not only spiritual literature was distributed. Information on  evangelical rehab centres which can be looked up following release from prison  was also supplied. The number of listeners at meetings ranged from four to 250;  the youngest listeners in special schools were only 10 years old. Employees and  administration were frequently also present. The testimonies of missionaries who  themselves were once addicted or incarcerated has proven to be particularly  effective.

The RUECB, Russia´s largest unified Protestant church, represents  nearly 80.000 adult members in 1.750 congregations and groups.

Department for External Church Relations, RUECB

Moscow, 05 April 2011

Mobile for W. Yoder in Moscow: +7-906-075-7199

A release of the Department for External Church Relations of the  Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. It is informational in  character and does not express a sole, official position of  RUECB-leadership. Release #11-5, 959 words, 6.104 keystrokes and  spaces.

If you would not like to receive these RUECB press releases, you only  need to return this eMail and write “No thanks” on the topic line. But be sure  to use or mention the address to which the press release was  sent.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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