William Yoder – Healthy Debate is Needed. A conversation on the Baptists of Georgia

 

Despite controversies, Elimar Brandt of Berlin, a Baptist pastor and long-time director of Christian health-care facilities, see reasons for hope within the Baptist church of Georgia. After five years of post-graduate studies in Oxford/UK, its long-time head, Dr. Malkhaz Songulashvili, returned to Georgia in April 2014. Yet soon he was no longer archbishop: that position is now held by a more conservative colleague, Merab Gaprindshvili.

Even prior to the return from England, a grouping calling itself the „Evangelical Baptist Association of Georgia“ had broken off from the mother „Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia“ (EBCG) in October 2013. The Association has roughly 30 congregations and 800 members; the EBCG according to some reckonings may have as few as 2.000 adult members.

„I don’t notice any front between Merab and the other three bishops,“ Pastor Brandt maintains. (Brandt has visited Georgia frequently in the course of the past two decades.) “Merab was and remains a pupil of Malkhaz, who always has been a strong influence on him and Bishop Ilja (Osephashvili). It’s a kind of father-son dispute. I find it very laudable that the (stay-home) bishops did not attempt to resolve everything in Malkhaz’ absence. All sides are attempting to find a way back to each other – that’s my reason for being optimistic. The experiences they have gathered during the course of the controversy have been very challenging and formative.” Continue reading “William Yoder – Healthy Debate is Needed. A conversation on the Baptists of Georgia”

Russian Empire | Cookies and The Caucasus

Russian Empire | Cookies and The Caucasus.

Here is a great post about an amazing place – Tsminda Sameba (Holy Trinity) Church in the Kazbegi Mountains, in Georgia (the real one, not in the US). Something to do next time I visit there.

Misha Mdinaradze – Kyrie eleison

Music by Misha Mdinaradze
Choir: “Mdzlevari ”
Vocalists: Mariam Roinishvili / Mikheil Javakhishvili .

Ilia II of Georgia – Kyrie eleison

The International Festival From “Easter to Ascension” “KYRIE ELEISON”(Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia ILIA II) for Viola,Symphony Orchestra and Choir / Viola:Giorgi Tsagareli /http://www.myspace.com/georgetsagarelli Conductor:Zviad Bolqvadze/ The National Symphony Orchestra of Georgia/Trinity Choir /26 APRIL 2009

World Evangelical Alliance Presents Pope Francis with Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award

Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award to Pope Francis

9 Nov 2014, Vatican City

(Vatican Radio) Meeting this week in the Vatican with a delegation from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and its partner “First Step Forum”, Pope Francis has been awarded the annual Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award for his tireless commitment to build a more peaceful and reconciled world.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to WEA President, Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, who explained the main reason for the meeting was to talk about areas of potential collaboration, to address global issues of common concerns to both the evangelical community and the Catholic Church.

Tunnicliffe begins by explaining exactly what he means when speaking of a “New Era in Evangelical and Roman Catholic Relations” – which by the way, happens to be the very title of the speech with which he addressed Pope Francis… Continue reading “World Evangelical Alliance Presents Pope Francis with Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award”

Universal Language of Beauty

In the old village of Kanda, Georgia, six people enter an unfinished Orthodox Church to sing the Trisagion hymn. Their voices rise up in Georgian and Aramaic as a foreshadowing of what will take place when the Church is finished. Regardless of whether or not you can understand these languages, the language of beauty rings clear; it ushers us into an awe-filled space where we are invited to join in singing “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.”

Martin Luther King jr – The Prophet of Non-Violence for Georgia – 1


Martin Luther King jr

In 1964, US President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. This act ended racial segregation in public places, theatres, churches, hotels and hospitals and granted whites and Afro-Americans equal rights to employment. This article is dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the adoption of this act and to the person who served as the beacon for the civil rights movement.

“King’s Men”

Our airplane took off from Tbilisi airport with a swoosh. The sky was clear. Looking out of the window, one could see the sun-scorched landscape below and patches of fluffy clouds above.

Haj Faigh Nabiyev, Namik Gajiyev and I were sitting on the one side of the aisle whilst Bishop Ilia Osepaishvili and Gela Guniava on the other. Our delegation was heading for Iran and Iraq. The airplane belonged to Iranian airlines. Continue reading “Martin Luther King jr – The Prophet of Non-Violence for Georgia – 1”

Ecclesial Theology: Baptist “Receptive Ecumenism” in the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia

Ecclesial Theology: Baptist “Receptive Ecumenism” in the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.

This is an older post by American Baptist theologian Steven Harmon on the ecumenical engagements of Georgian Baptists, under the leadership of Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili.

Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze – 2014 International Women of Courage Award Winner


Bishop Rusudan at her ordination by Archbishop Malkhaz

Two days ago my friend the Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili was announcing me, confidentially, that soon, his colleague, and our common friend Bishop Rudusan Gotsiridze will receive at the State Department, in Washington the 2014 International Women of Courage Award, together with a number of other remarkable women.

Congratulations, Bishop Rusudan!

Here is the official announcement, for the ceremony that took place today: Continue reading “Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze – 2014 International Women of Courage Award Winner”

Walking with Malkhaz Among the Clouds

2007-11 - Danut & Malkhaz
Walking with Archbishop Malkhaz in the hills of Gori, in November 2007

In 2007 I have visited Georgia for the second time. During my previous visit there I had the privilege of participating in the magnificent Celebration of the Ascension, done on the hills overlooking Tbilisi and Mtskheta. It was then that I met Malkhaz for the first time, and I was struck by his unusual and unique personality.

Having returned to his dear ccountry, and one of my favourites among the countries I serve in my capacity in World Vision, I wanted to spend some time with him. The only chance I had was an extended walk in the hills of Gori, on a rainy and cold Saturday of November. We walked and talked that day for many ours on those hills often surrounded by clouds, and rarely seeing a clear landcape. I felt like I walking with Moses on Sinai, something I will carry with me all my life. Continue reading “Walking with Malkhaz Among the Clouds”

Nino Machaidze – Caro nome – Rigoletto – 2010

This is my favourite Georgian opera singer.

Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili from Georgia has Been Recognized by Pro Fide Award

award
Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze, the Very Revd Candelin and Archbishop Malkhaz. Tbilisi, Georgia

On November 7 Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili’s work for peace, freedom and justice was recognised by Pro Fide Award 2014.  It was awarded by the Very Revd Johan Candelin of the Friends of the Martyred Church (Finland) at Betheli Centre, in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The Very Revd Johan Candelin is the good will ambassador for the First Step Forward, an organization of top ranking Christian politicians from Europe and USA.

“I googled “Malkhaz Songulashvili” and when I read everything I thought such a person could not possibly exist,” said the Very Revd Candelin before granting the award, “yet he is among us and we would like  to recognise his work and ministry.”

“I am humbled by such a recognition and, to be perfectly honest, I do not think I deserve it.” Said the Archbishop.

“This is what other recipients have also said.” Immediately commented the Very Revd Canelin, “we give this award only to such people who think they do not deserve it.” Continue reading “Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili from Georgia has Been Recognized by Pro Fide Award”

Archbishop Malkhaz – Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi

honorary citizen

Every year the Mayor of Tbilisi nominates and grants title “Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi” to distinguished scientists, artists, musicians, statesmen, businessmen  and others. Since 1979 up to present already 169 people were nominated and granted the title of honorary citizens.

This year on October 6 the awarding ceremony of “Honorary Citizens of Tbilisi” was held at Tbilisi History Museum “Karvasla”. Among other recipients of the title was Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia – the first clergyman to have received this title. Continue reading “Archbishop Malkhaz – Honorary Citizen of Tbilisi”

A Declaration from Archbishop Malkhaz Songhulashvili – On Homophobia in Georgia

a

Archbishop of Georgia’s Press Service

May 17th is International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO), celebrated around the world with LGBTQ rights rallies. An attempt to observe the day against homophobia in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi ended in rioting as hostile protesters attacked participants and police lines crumbled.  Thousands of anti-gay protesters inspired, organised and led by the leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Patriarchate (by Corespiskopos – Deputy Patriarch Iakob and senior clergy of Tbilisi Diocese) attacked a group  of activists attempting to hold 30 minutes’ – long silent protest  in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.  The video footage of the event has shaken thousands of people to their core. The couple of dozen peaceful activists had to be rescued by police and bussed out of the city centre for their safety. The mob descended on the bus with such ferocity and primordial anger that it was lucky that they escaped with their lives. Dozens of people were injured, including journalists and police officers trying to escort people away from the trouble.  For your information:

http://www.eurasiareview.com/17052013-georgia-anti-gay-riot-rocks-tbilisi-capital/

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/17/1209903/-Terrifying-video-of-rioters-attacking-gay-pride-participants-in-Tbilisi#

http://republic-of-gilead.blogspot.com/2013/05/georgia-anti-gay-orthodox-protesters.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/world/europe/georgian-officials-react-slowly-to-anti-gay-attack.html?_r=0

Two days before the violence, Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia issued a declaration which was published and widely circulated.  Sadly, this declaration was not heard by the Orthodox hierarchy and clergy, who were in charge of the organized violence. So far no bishops, priests or laity have been disciplined by the church for their participation in the violence. Continue reading “A Declaration from Archbishop Malkhaz Songhulashvili – On Homophobia in Georgia”

Christianity Today Article on Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili

Malkhaz as Gandalf

The latest issue of CT has published an extended article on my friend the Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili.

The author of this text is William E. Yoder, PhD, a freelance journalist based in Moscow. He is a volunteer consultant with the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and the Russian Evangelical Alliance.

In my opinion, the title of the article used an uninspired choice of words. It is understandable in the case of an American Evangelical journal, but because of it, what was probably meant to be a tribute to the fascinating personality of the Georgian Baptist leader, turned into a sort if indictment in the eyes of Eastern Orthodox believers in that country. Not helpful at all.

____________

NOTE: Following a series of legitimate complaints, Christianity Today has changed the title of the article on its webpage. It reads now: ‘The Baptist Bearing Robes and Incense’. I find it equally uninspired, but at least not so offensive as the previous one.

____________

The article also contains a number of factual mistakes:

1. the Baptist church in Georgia has NOT 1 but 2 monastic orders: one for women, called the Order of St Nino, and one for men, called the Order of the New Desert Brothers.

2. as Archbishop Malkhaz  explained in a recent text, Georgian Baptists are NOT WCC members; they applied to if after the former Baptist Union withdrew form WCC on fundamentalist grounds, but were never accepted as a member, the (really stupid) argument being that this will not happen until the Georgian Orthodox Church does not renew its membership, which may never happen.

Also, to allow in the text for an over seven times difference in membership between what Archbishop Malkhaz states as official membership (17,000) and the unproven report of a ‘dissenting Georgia missionary with International Gospel Outreach’ (2,000) avails to mere slender and is proof of poor investigation, and is doubtful ethically.

You can find HERE more information about Georgian Baptists.

Here is the beginning of the article: Continue reading “Christianity Today Article on Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili”

Let the Children Come to Me

Let the children come to me

Let the Children Come to Me – Ikon in the Baptist Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia

Gabriela Munteanu – Georgia mea

Tbilisi2012 109

Georgia, Tbilissi, 17‑22 aprilie 2012; congres de lingvistică şi turcologie.

Cu maşina până la Bucureşti. Întâlnit la poalele Caucazului cu Dinu, venit să facă interviu fetei cu siturile roz‑nostalgice, în cadrul cercetării doctorale pe tema Nostalgiei. Spune despre această Maria, cu care corespondează de un an, că este rafinată, foarte specială, un bun subiect de aplicaţie şi amiciţie.

Georgienii sau ivirii (gruzini, cum le spun ruşii, iar ei refuză acest nume acum), creştini ortodoxi, doar 3 milioane si jumătate de oameni, sunt miraculoşi prin tot ce înseamnă istoria şi felul lor de a fi, cu biblia tradusă în secolul al V‑lea, cu biserici ancestrale, ziduri aşişderea, cu versanţii Caucazilor care îi apară de vijelii şi geruri, încât au o climă subtropicală, fără îngheţ iarna: palmieri, arbuşti parfumaţi, platani şi pini majestuoşi peste tot. Prietenoşi, cultură milenară, precum grecii sau evreii. sau armenii, cu care, aflu, nu sunt în mare prietenie. Continue reading “Gabriela Munteanu – Georgia mea”

Malkhaz Songulashvili – Sleepless in Georgia – 9 – Meeting President Saakashvili

Saakashvili reception
Official picture with President Saakashvili of Georgia

Stephen, Charles and I left for Tbilisi. That night we had to see off the British delegation.  By that time I was very sleepy, as sleepless nights were catching up with me. As soon as we started from Batumi Stephen and Charles got engaged in a rather hot discussion on Church of England policies. I sat in the back of the car and decided to have a nap while they were engaged in conversation, but it did not work. From time to time, in the midst of the conversation, the bishop would turn to me and ask somewhat  banal questions.

“My Lord Archbishop, what is the distance between the Black and the Caspian Seas?”; or “What is the population of Kutaisi?” Then there was a long interval and I thought the bishop would not ask any questions. I went to sleep. I even started dreaming of something. In the midst of the dream I clearly heard the voice “Malkhaz, how many archbishops have you known?” No, that was not a dream, that was Bishop Stephen again.

“Which archbishops?” I asked naively.

“Archbishops of Canterbury,” clarified the bishop.

“Let me think. I knew Donald Coggan, Robert Runcie, George Carey and Rowan Williams.” I slowly remembered all the names and also the settings where I had met them. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – Sleepless in Georgia – 9 – Meeting President Saakashvili”

My Favourite Opera Singer – Nino Machaidze

This year the beautiful Georgian opera singer Nino Machaidze will make her debut at Wiener Staatsoper with her brilliant Juliette. Don’t miss it.

Malkhaz Songulashvili – The last two days of the year 2012 -1

Dr Taj Hargey & Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili

Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia Malkhaz Songulashvili (right), and Dr Taj Hargey, Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, (left) pictured at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, Oxfordshire, December 20th 2012. Tomorrow Archbishop Songulashvili will give a Friday prayer sermon at Imam Hargey’s mosque, the first time that a non-Muslim has delivered the Friday sermon in a mosque. (Credit: Susannah Ireland / The Independent)

* * *

Day One: it is raining cats and dogs.  Ala and I have a houseguest, Kyrion, a fellow Georgian from Tbilisi, where he served Patriarch Ilia II as a hypo-deacon for more than 20 years. Now he is an Archimandrite of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate.  He is in his early forties. He is a very  amusing and kind character. He is a monk, which means being totally withdrawn from worldly pleasures. Yet his main hobby is shopping…. he dines on coffee, cigarettes and Black Label whisky. He has become part of our family. With him, and a Saudi friend of ours, we attended the other day a Christmas carol service at Christ Church Cathedral. We arrived late. Even though we had tickets, all the places were already taken. I looked around to find places for Ala, Kyrion and our Saudi friend. It was not easy. The service was about to start. With the help of sidesmen I managed to find three places but I could not find a place for myself. There were no more seats available.  I was about to give up when the chief verger appeared in front of me and whispered in my ear:

“The Dean wants you to process with the bishop and clergy, if you do not mind.”

Of course I did not. Now I could have a seat with the clergy! The service of Nine Lessons and Carols was absolutely beautiful. This year the choir sang rather unusual modern carols which added a touch of post-modernity to the service. After the service all four of us were invited to a reception by the Dean and his wife, who have recently visited Georgia and enjoyed the hospitality of a small Baptist Church in the city of Gori. Continue reading “Malkhaz Songulashvili – The last two days of the year 2012 -1”

Beka Mindiashvili – Three Temptations of the Church

The great challenge faced by the Georgian Orthodox Church today is the threat of abandoning the teachings of Christ. The Church – as its position is articulated by the Patriarch, archbishops, priests and congregation – dwells on the “spiritual” mission of Georgia and on Western degradation; it comments on the economy and on culture; it evaluates domestic issues and foreign affairs. Yet, for all its preaching, the Church says nothing about the One True Leader of the Church – Christ Himself. The clergy conveniently forgets what the crucified Christ taught because they understand that freely spreading Christ’s teachings would endanger the myths invented and the wealth amassed by them.

Every year, the Georgian Orthodox Church celebrates the anniversary of the restoration of autocephaly. But autocephaly means nothing if the central question goes unanswered: Is the Church the gathering of the true followers of Christ? Continue reading “Beka Mindiashvili – Three Temptations of the Church”

Georgia – the Meanders of Religious Freedom


Georgian Baptist Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze (on the left)

Nova Research Centre announced a few days ago a real breakthrough in terms of religious freedom in Georgia, where a new very liberal law has just been passed, with an important contribution of the hierarchy of the little Baptist Church in that country.. The blog post explains:

Initial drafts limited the freedoms to just five groups, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish and Muslim communities of Georgia, in addition to the special status still accorded the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The Baptist Archbishop in Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, reports that following the release of the first draft, Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze (Baptist), lobbied the parliament and requested that the legislation should be extended to all religious groups in Georgia. The draft was subsequently amended to meet this request. A press release from the Embassy of Georgia in London specifically refers to Evangelicals being granted the same freedoms.

Yet, things is Georgia are never simple. Thus, after I have shared on Facebook the link to this article, a friend in  Armenia added the following comment: Continue reading “Georgia – the Meanders of Religious Freedom”

Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili Awarded by Ukrainean Orthodox Patriarch


Awarding Ceremony picture (Archbishop Malkhaz, first on the left)

My very good friend Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, Primate of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Georgia has been awarded the Order of Christ the Saviour by Patriarch Philaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv, ”for strengthening friendly relations between Christian churches and for his support to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” In the same ceremony awards were given to three Anglican clerics. Continue reading “Georgian Baptist Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili Awarded by Ukrainean Orthodox Patriarch”

Ilia II – Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy

This is an incredible piece of music. I hope my friends at our church will be able to adapt it for singing in church. Continue reading “Ilia II – Kyrie eleison – Lord have mercy”

A Blessed Celebration of Our Lord’s Incarnation to All My Friends

Ilia II of Georgia – Ave Maria

Ilia II – Trisagion

Continue reading “Ilia II – Trisagion”

Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili – A Holy Grail of Peace Discovered

It was the end of September when I was taken ill in the early morning. I felt very unusual pain in abdomen. I thought I was clever to apply a hot bottle on the spot where it was hurting most. It was the silliest thing I could possibly do: the pain immediately started excruciating and, as we say it in Georgia, it made me walk on the walls. By the time I went to see the doctor the pain slightly lessened. The doctor carefully examined my abdomen and then told to get dressed .

Shall I go home now and take some medicine?” I asked him.

I am afraid you are not going home, you are going to the emergency unit of the JR Hospital!” was his answer. I was rushed to the hospital and immediately operated. Continue reading “Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili – A Holy Grail of Peace Discovered”

Stalin’s statue removed from Gori, Georgia


Stalin’s staue in Gori, Georgia

Some years ago, when I have visited the city of Gori in Georgia, with my friend Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, the head of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Georgia, he took me to browse through the memorial dedicated to Stalin in his hometown.

Going towards the museum, I was shocked to see a tall statue of Stalin still standing in front of Gori municipality over fifteen years after the fall of communism in Georgia.  Until last night.

Continue reading “Stalin’s statue removed from Gori, Georgia”

Maximus the Confessor and Georgia – Official book launch


Maximus the Confessor and Georgia
, (Iberica Caucasica Volume III, edited by Tamila Mgaloblishvili and Lela Khoperia, English editor Nick Awde, Bennett&Bloom, London, 2009)

The event was held on March 18, 2010 at 18:00 at Georgian University of St. Andrew.

This new book is the third volume of the series Iberica Caucasica, which was established in London in 1998 with the purpose of providing international scholars with the sources and original research pertaining to the history and culture of Georgia. Continue reading “Maximus the Confessor and Georgia – Official book launch”

Georgia’s Rising Star, Soprano Nino Machaidze

The 26-year-old Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze shot to fame during the 2008 Salzburg Opera Festival, just one year after her debut at Milan’s La Scala opera house. Ahead of a gala concert in Prague on January 12, Machaidze spoke to Manana Kuzma of RFE/RL’s Georgian Service about her fast-moving career, the Russia-Georgia war, and her reputation as the Angelina Jolie of the opera world. Continue reading “Georgia’s Rising Star, Soprano Nino Machaidze”