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.

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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.

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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”

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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)

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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”