William Yoder – The Demise of Moscow’s Russian-American Christian University

William Yoder an American Baptist writer writing currently in evangelicals in Russia, and a great lover of Putin and of his regime is discussing in this article a recent book by John Bernbaum, which describes the pathetic saga of an American funded university in Moscow.

I share it here because of it’s relevance for other similar evangelical educational institutions in Eastern Europe, including in Romania. Here is the text.
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Ladushkin – I’m still struck with sadness when recalling the makeshift monument erected in 2007 about 40 metres from the entrance to Moscow’s “Russian-American-Institute”. Its plaque stated that the monument was dedicated to “protection from the enemies of the Russian soil”. At least 15 demonstrations took place at the site in the four years prior to completion of the building in 2010. In the end, Russian taxes and US-debt killed the project and led to the building’s purchase by a secular Russian firm in March 2014. Founded in 1995, the institution was known as the “Russian-American Christian University” (RACU) until November 2007.

What caused such a negative reaction within the Russian nation? After all, in October 1990 upper echelons of the Gorbachev-government had invited evangelical educators to start a liberal arts university on Russian soil. It was a Russian proposal, not an American one, and it was the Russians who gradually reneged on their invitation.

A book by the project’s primary mover-and-shaker, John Bernbaum, is entitled “Opening the Red Door” and was published by InterVarsity-Press in 2019. The book is a documentary, not an intellectual enterprise, and makes no real effort to answer the above question. Allow me to try.

1. Reason #1: Too big and too different
Such a project at the country’s Moscow epicentre was too big, too visible and too Western to survive a serious downturn in US-Russian relations. One could claim: In view of East-West tensions, not even St. Peter could have kept the project afloat. To believe otherwise would have meant defying the laws of gravity.

In addition: Russia’s less-than-a-million evangelicals were in no position to support, both financially and intellectually, a multi-confessional project of these dimensions. In Europe there is no tradition of privately-owned, Christian liberal-arts universities. Intellectual centres of learning are a luxury never enjoyed by Russian Protestants. Russian evangelical support for the project was very modest: its strongest supporter was the neo-Pentecostal “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” (ROSKhVE).

In 2014, Ruslan Nadyuk (or Nadiuk), the long-term head of RACU’s social work department, insisted: “Most (Russian) Protestants do not want professional programmes. They view education strictly as an instrument for evangelism.” Yet Protestants restricting themselves to evangelism “will in time reduce themselves to little groups capable only of converting their offspring”. He added, that the anti-intellectualism in his realm is fuelled by Western fundamentalists insisting that the study of psychology is an anti-Christian endeavour (see our release from 14 July 2014).

RACU was a welcome source of capital and jobs to Russian Protestants, but a sense of ownership did not develop. As I wrote in the above release: “To Protestants, this institution appeared worthy of exploitation, but not of sustenance. The unfed cow was milked until she expired.”

The reservations of provincial, conservative church circles regarding a liberal-arts education is also par-for-the-course in North America. In the Russian context, such graduates usually end up as Charismatics or Orthodox – or as residents of the West. A vital first step would involve touting the fruits of involvement in intellectual topics among the old-time faithful.

2. Not meeting Russians on equal terms
In Russia, by far the world’s largest country in territorial terms, such an international project can only succeed if local government and church authorities feel they are truly equal partners. Despite the very best of intentions, those paying the piper will also determine the tune, and Russia’s Protestants were absolutely incapable – and the government unwilling – to supply 50% of the funding. It was a Catch-22 situation: They money was not there to insure equal treatment, and without equal treatment, the project was doomed. Even RACU’s PR-work in Russia was headed by a US marketing firm (page 197).

After 1990, and perhaps even today, Russia long wanted – or still wants – positive relations with the West. But that desire is not unconditional, very much in contrast to the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine. Smaller countries are accustomed to being junior partners and do accept orders arriving from above. The survival of Protestant university projects in Lithuania and Ukraine can be attributed in part to this readiness. The tiny minority of Russian Protestants frequently does not mind being a junior partner – but its government certainly does.

Those projects still surviving in Russia are, despite their names, essentially seminaries or Bible schools. Two of them are “St. Petersburg Christian University” and Krasnodar’s “Kuban Evangelical-Christian University”. They are more modest, less-invasive endeavours – and not located anywhere near the nation’s capital.

There are Western-sponsored Christian institutions of learning in China and even North Korea. Yet in both cases, they are geared to job and professional training, not the liberal arts or theology, and tied closely to the hosting government. See „Pyongyang University of Science and Technology“ under “pust.co”. It has a sister institution in China.

3. Conflicting worldviews
Being “too Western” demands an explanation. The author is struck by the drastic gap between Bernbaum’s description of recent Russian history and the views prominent within Russia – he inverts the heroes and villains. Bernbaum does not deny the human foibles of Boris Yeltsin, but his “heroes”, Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev, are viewed as villains by today’s Russians. Gorbachev, regarded as the annihilator of the USSR’s economy, has popularity ratings hovering around 1%.

Vladimir Putin is this book’s nationalist villain. No mention is made of Putin’s openness for a free trading zone reaching from Lisbon to Vladivostok or his remarkable address to Germany’s Bundestag on 25 September 2001. He had then appealed for broad German-Russian cooperation while speaking of an “all-European cooperation between equals”. Putin – not the West – spoke until recently of the other side as “partners”. In Russia, it’s the diehard nationalists who complain about Putin’s softness on the West. The book does not regard NATO’s encirclement of Russia as a major issue.

Bernbaum describes communism and the communist state essentially as highly-corrupt producers of rubble. Yet the communist state turned an agrarian power into a superpower in the half-century following 1917 – and that despite a devastating world war. The legendary Wolfowitz Doctrine of 1992 asserted that the USA should never again tolerate the existence of a second super power. That paper certainly did regard the USSR as having superpower status. Granted, the USSR never was a superpower in terms of living standard.

The book reveals several information gaps. On page 12, it is claimed that the sport-mad USSR had been without swimming pools. Yet mass access to swimming facilities has really only become a problem since 1990. Page 64 has the people demolishing statues of “Stalin, Lenin and Dzerzhinsky” in late 1990. Yet the statues of Stalin had been dumped 30 years previous.  

One could claim that John Bernbaum, like very many of us, did not understand the USA either. The book assumes the US is a stalwart and mature force of stability; its seasoned evangelical educators teaching their skills to the less-endowed of Russia. Yet it was not the USSR nor China that rained death and destruction on Southeast Asia and the Middle East in the decades after WW II. (The Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89 could be seen as an exception, but Zbygniew Brzezinski and his “Operation Cyclone“ were part of the cause in that one, too.)

North America has had an excellent chain of Christian, liberal-arts institutions and I for one once profited from that immensely. I have reason to be grateful. But today, 25 years after the founding of RACU, 85% of US evangelicals are supporting a highly-divisive, populist and rightist president. In Brazil and Bolivia, evangelicals are helping to head extreme-rightist governments. We from the USA are not nearly as stable, learned and impartial as we once thought.

Perhaps evangelical goals are way too grandiose. Philip L. Wickeri’s classic work from 1988 on the relationship between church and state in Mao’s China, “Seeking the Common Ground”, concludes that Christian circles had reconciled themselves to the fact that a church need not own hospitals and schools in order to make an impact. Christians were free as individuals to participate in the social programme of the whole. Thanks in part to this “defeatist” worldview, the Chinese church grew from 2.5 to roughly 50-70 million in the 50 years after 1949. Granted: Educational deficiencies remain a trademark of the current Chinese church.

Page 35 of Wickeri’s book: Missionaries had a “pre-packaged understanding” of the truth, which rendered them incapable of genuine encounter with those around them. “The scandal is not the cross, but the unshaken class and ideological standpoint of the message bearer.” Can missionaries be effective without being missionized themselves? Can change only occur if it is mutual? Western and Russian evangelicals could afford to study this book carefully.

William Yoder, Ph.D.
Ladushkin, 15 February 2020
Webpage: “wyoder.de”

Note: 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.

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”

Johannes Reimer – Mission in Post-Perestroika Russia

NOTE: The text below was written twenty years ago, yet it is as valid as it was when it was first published, not just for Russia, but for the entire Central & Eastern Europe..

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The church of Russia, as the churches in other post-Marxist countries, needs help from the global church–meaningful help!  Let me briefly spell out some basic requests from a Russian Christian to a Western church wanting to support the mission of the church in post-perestroika Russia.

  • Incarnational Rather Than Organizational

In this respect I want to identify basic attitudes which, I believe, a good missionary to my country would need:  become one of us and we will listen to you.  Live as we live, but without sin, and we will copy you.  The answer is not to talk about solutions, but to live them out.  The answer is not the Christ of the Text, but Christ incarnate. Continue reading “Johannes Reimer – Mission in Post-Perestroika Russia”

An Urgent Call to Prayer for Russia – UPDATE

prayer

For years we have watched as huge changes take place in Russia under the increasingly dictatorial rule of President Putin and his administration. Freedom of religion represents a threat to the current political agenda in Russia. Today, few—if any—foreign Christian mission groups have an official presence in Russia, having been pushed out by anti-evangelical regulations. Which is why it is crucial that we continue training national Next Generation Christian leaders in Russia through programs like Mission Eurasia’s School Without Walls. Equipping in-country Christian leaders with the training and tools to make disciples and influence their nation is the only effective approach to sharing the gospel in a country that is so hostile to outsiders.

I am writing today to inform you of a new, extremely alarming anti-missionary bill that is being considered tomorrow by the State Duma—the legislative house of Russia’s Federal Assembly. If passed, the bill would, among many other things, prohibit missionary and evangelistic activity in residential areas of Russia and limit missionaries to acting only on behalf of registered religious groups. I believe this is the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union. Continue reading “An Urgent Call to Prayer for Russia – UPDATE”

William Yoder – The Fellow with His Finger in the Dike. Sergey Ryakhovsky turns 60

M o s c o w – On 18 March, Moscow’s Sergey Vasilevich Ryakhovsky, Senior Bishop of ROSKhVE, the “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith”, turned 60. Despite his many detractors in Ukraine and the West, Russian evangelicals have reason enough to thank Ryakhovsky for his efforts in the public and political realm. Russian nationalists have long wanted to prove that evangelicals are foreign, pro-Western half-spies, the lengthened arms of Western governments reaching over and beyond the political divide. The Bishop and his cohorts are doing what they can to keep the nationalists from winning the day. He’s the Dutch boy plugging the dike with his finger, keeping the onslaught from turning into a deluge. He is attempting to keep the public presence of Russia’s Protestants afloat by proving that Protestants are loyal servants of their societies even when they find themselves beyond the reach of NATO and the European Union. Left to their own devices, the West’s pro-Maidan evangelicals would in my view virtually prove the claims of Russia’s nationalist movement.

In an interview published by “Moskovsky Komsomolits” on 21 March, the birthday kid claimed: “I will not hide the fact that the members of our denomination are active in all branches of government.” Yet he also admits in the article that not all of these feel free to express their religious allegiances openly. Publicly, the Bishop tries hard to be up-beat and constructive; he likes to claim that accusations of sectarianism are becoming a thing of the past. In the interview he states: “Let me remind you that I have been a member of the ‘Presidential Council for Cooperation with Religious Organisations’ since 2002 and a member of the ‘Public Chamber’ since 2005. My membership would be cancelled within seconds if the federal government changed its attitude towards Protestants.”

After Ryakhovsky famously posed with President Putin and the heads of Russia’s largest religious faiths in Red Square on 4 November 2014, an “Itar-Tass” press release listed his Pentecostal denomination among the “leading traditional Russian confessions”. “Fortunately”, the Bishop’s location on the right edge of the photo allowed him to be cropped off by some agencies, but the press release itself was sufficient cause for heart attacks on the part of Russia’s nationalist faithful. Continue reading “William Yoder – The Fellow with His Finger in the Dike. Sergey Ryakhovsky turns 60”

William Yoder – A Commentary on Evangelist Franklin Graham in Moscow

franklin graham
Franklin Graham

Note of the blogger: The text below proves, again, what an embarassment the foolishnes of Franklin Graham is to his illustrious father. Read for yourself (I have undelined certain passages, for out help). I need to say no more. (D.M.)

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God: Big Enough to Stomach Us Both

M o s c o w — Rev. Franklin Graham’s visit to Moscow from 28 October to 1 November was surely the most “politically incorrect” visit of a Western church leader to Eastern Europe in decades. A foreboding of things to come had arisen when Graham assured at the outset that he was praying for Vladimir Putin. Franklin Graham, chairman of the “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association” had previously only visited Russia in 1984 along with his famous father. Franklin did hold evangelistic campaigns in Ukraine in July 2007 and June 2014.

Ukrainian Baptists had ridiculed the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” for a statement on 30 May 2014 which lauded the divorced Russian leader for “protecting and strengthening spiritual and moral values”. Graham repeated the transgression in his meeting with RUECB leadership on 28 October by assuring that Putin “defends Biblical values from the attacks of secularism”. On the basis of his statements in Moscow, Graham sees Putin as a major defender of the historic Christian faith. Barack Obama on the other hand is “without a Christian worldview” and “promotes atheism”.

Mainstream media – the “Washington Post” for ex. – have repeated branded Putin a “fascist”. Yet Graham insisted in Moscow that millions of simple Americans would like to see Vladimir Putin candidate for the office of US President. God has given Putin the wisdom necessary to “lead a massive country, which God has blessed”. Graham met personally with the Russian president for 45 minutes during the Moscow sojourn. Continue reading “William Yoder – A Commentary on Evangelist Franklin Graham in Moscow”

Liana Enli Manusajyan About ‘Electric Yerevan’ – An Interview

Liana Manusajyan
Liana Enli Manusajyan

During my trip to Armenia, that I have just finished, I had the privilege of meeting Liana Manusajyan, a young human rights lawyer, who is also a member of the Advisory Council of World Vision Armenia.

During our short meeting we were able to talk about the recent peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan, Liana being one of the organisers. She has the kindness of responding to a few questions and allowed me to publish here her answers. Here is the short interview.

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DMArmenia is, for me, a paradoxical country. Armenians are smart, industrious and well educated people. However, Armenia, to a certain extent like my own country, Romania, is a poor country. How do you explain this paradox?
LEM – The reason of our paradox is monopolization of fields. No competition. Everything is centralizes in the hands of few people who don’t allow the competition.
DMBecause of its geographic location, of complex historical circumstances and the decision of its leaders in the last two decades, Armenia is under the spell of Putin Russian empire. Along the years I have been surprised by the level of acceptance that Armenians have of this political and economic dependence of the ‘Bi+g Bear’. Am I right? And, if so, why do you think this is the case?
LEM –  You are right. The thing is that Russia wants to have control over economy and politics in Armenia. We have economical dependence on Russia and till we won’t find other alternatives to escape that economical dependence we should somehow take them into account.

Continue reading “Liana Enli Manusajyan About ‘Electric Yerevan’ – An Interview”

William Yoder – Report on A Visit in Slaviansk and Kiev

Smolensk – The express train from Kiev to Konstantinovka storms toward the front lines at up to 100 mph – Konstantinovka, located to the west of Donetsk, is the present end station. War-damaged Croatia left a different impression two decades ago. Back then, I experienced aged busses on detours chugging slowly up mountain passes.
 
In Slaviansk, Eastern Ukraine looks remarkably robust. Since the “rebels” departed on 5 July of last year, the city has been busy hammering and sawing. War damage is now only apparent on the fringes of the city; schools, hospitals and municipal offices are working full steam. Innumerable street potholes still point to the events that transpired a year ago.
 
The city’s three large Charismatic-Pentecostal churches have been major players in the rebuilding process. These are the churches now up on top in Slaviansk. Peter Dudnik reported on 1 April that helpers associated with his congregation had repaired 112 of the 1.500 damaged private dwellings and built four new ones from the ground up.
 
The humanitarian efforts of Dudnik, the second head pastor of the large „Good News“ congregation, have made him a household name throughout Ukraine. His congregation has major connections and sports a constant steam of construction and humanitarian workers arriving from western Ukraine, Germany and the US. In the office of his congregation, representatives from the local government and military are frequent guests. Continue reading “William Yoder – Report on A Visit in Slaviansk and Kiev”

Mykhailo Cherenkov – ‘Orthodox Terrorism’

Donetsk-Christian-University
Building of Donetsk Christian University,
occupied now by pro-Russian terrorists

Long before Russia’s annexation of Crimea and unproclaimed war in the Donbass, Ukraine had become a religious battleground. Despite the warning of Yurii Chernomorets, Cyril Hovorun, and other observers, none of the leading Ukrainian and Western politicians foresaw the threat posed by an increasingly aggressive form of Orthodox Christianity being promoted by Moscow. As events in Ukraine have now shown, Orthodox fundamentalism is no less aggressive than Islamic fundamentalism, and the “Russian Spring” is no less bloody than its Arab counterpart.

The facts speak for themselves: Greek Catholics and Kiev-patriarchate Ukrainian Orthodox churches have become de facto ­il­legal entities in the annexed Crimea; in the Donbass region, an “Orthodox army” is active; dozens of Protestant ­churches have been seized; there have been cases of kidnapping, torture, and killing of pastors; ­Moscow-patriarchate priests openly bless terrorists and refuse to pray over deceased Ukrainian soldiers; Patriarch Kirill of Moscow predicts the downfall of Ukraine as a “kingdom divided against itself.”

Russia’s war against Ukraine has exacerbated a series of international, interethnic, and interconfessional conflicts. It is the religious aspect of the conflict that may prove to be the most significant, because Moscow Orthodoxy has been presented as the thing holding the “Russian world” together, and thereby as the main actor in the bloody Russian Spring.

Putin has justified the annexation of Crimea by saying that it has “sacred meaning for Russia, like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Jews and Muslims.” He calls it “the ­spiritual source of the formation of the ­multifaced but monolithic Russian nation. . . . It was on this spiritual soil that our ancestors first and forever recognized their nationhood.”

Continue reading “Mykhailo Cherenkov – ‘Orthodox Terrorism’”

EBF Response to Russian Baptist Union Statement on Ukraine

ebf_logo

Baptist Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Russia

Peace be with you!

Thank you for sending a copy of your Statement to ‘friends in Christ primarily in North America’, on the day of US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s visit to Kiev.  Of course these issues regarding a political stance towards Ukraine are also there for western European nations and the European Union, as the presence this week in Kiev and Moscow of the German Chancellor and the French President confirms.

You graciously invite us to respond to the Statement, and as President and General Secretary of the EBF we take this opportunity to do so.

We are sure that all in the European Baptist Federation would share with Russian Baptists the overwhelming strong desire for a peaceful, negotiated settlement to end the violence, bloodshed and driving out of people from their homes in Eastern Ukraine.  Together we believe in Christ who ‘came to bring peace’ (Ephesians Ch 2) between those who are estranged from one another.   Continue reading “EBF Response to Russian Baptist Union Statement on Ukraine”

EBF appeals to Russian/Ukraine Baptists

News | European Baptist Federation (EBF).

The European Baptist Federation reminds Russian Baptists that they are called to play a prophetic role in their country and not just blindly endorse the militaristic policy of the Kremlin.

Roundtable/Consultation on Religious Persecution in Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Ukrainian delegation

Dear Friends and Ministry Partners,

I am writing to request your urgent prayers for a strategic Roundtable/Consultation on Religious Persecution in Occupied Territories of Ukraine that Mission Eurasia is hosting today in Washington, D.C. in partnership with the International Religious Freedom Roundtable (USA). The goals of this special Roundtable/Consultation are to create awareness about the state of religious persecution in Ukraine—that now includes abduction, torture, and even murder—and to mobilize the US Congress and global Christian community to support and advocate on behalf of those in Ukraine who are suffering for their faith.  Special reports and presentations will be made by religious leaders from Kiev and eastern Ukraine as well as by other experts in the fields of religious freedom and human rights.    Continue reading “Roundtable/Consultation on Religious Persecution in Occupied Territories of Ukraine”

Why Russia’s Evangelicals Thank God for Putin | Christianity Today

Why Russia’s Evangelicals Thank God for Putin | Christianity Today.

Mark Elliott, editor of East-West Church & Ministry Report, writes about the large support that Putin militaristic policy strangely enjoys among evangelicals in Russia.
A case study about the lasting effects of Soviet brain washing.

Philip Jenkins – The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine

The 160-Year Christian History Behind What’s Happening in Ukraine | Christianity Today.

This text, written by historian Philip Jenkins, from Baylor University, could help us understand the historical background of the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia. And, yes, this is, again, about Russian exceptionalism, apocalipticism and imperial drive, all clothed shrewdly in the Eastern Orthodox garments of the ‘Third Rome’.

My Ukrainian Friend’s Comment on My Text About Russian Baptists


Russia invaded Eastern Ukraine

You may find HERE the article on my blog to which my Ukrainian friend responds.
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Dear Dr. Manastireanu!
Thank you for your article on Russia-USA Christian Leaders Forum. I totally agree with your evaluation of the situation. We also had a number of critical articles and posts of Ukrainian church leaders about this “forum”. Here we have been involved in informational war with Russia (including Russian Christians) for already a year. But it seems that many “Christians” in Russia believe more in “Holy Russia” than in Holy Trinity.
By the way, one interesting fact. One of quite influential pastors in Ukraine just before this forum wrote in FB about a dream he had in which Hilarion with a group of Russian protestant leaders came to the US Congress meeting with US senators trying to persuade them that Putin is the last and only hope against moral decay of the world. Famous US Christian media (i.e. CT) were broadcasting this event and all believed them. Later he saw as all the members of the group had small portfolios on which it was written: “unblessed peacemakers” and Ezek. 13:9-14. Then he woke up…

Continue reading “My Ukrainian Friend’s Comment on My Text About Russian Baptists”

Russian Baptists Fail to Assume Responsibility for Their Shameful Support of Putin Invasion in Ukraine


Orthodox Metr. Hilarion addressing the forum

Relationships between Russia and the US are deteriorating rapidly because of the aggressive neo-Soviet imperialism promoted by Putin, primarily in Ukraine, but, in fact everywhere in the world where he has interests. This unavoidably affects Russia’s image in the world. Not that Putin cares very much about that – it was not care for the world that made him a KGB spy and then president of Russia. However, such image deterioration has economic consequences, and that really hurts (not so much the Russian people, who really do not count, but the interests of the oligarch’s who support the Russian dictator). Thus, the new Russian ‘tsar’ started sending around his ‘slaves’ to try saving what they can.

This is the context for the so-called ‘Russia-USA Forum of Christian Leaders’, in which a delegation of Russian Orthodox, led by Metr. Hilarion Alfeyev, in charge of foreign affairs for the Moscow Patriarchate, and of Russian Evangelical leaders, mostly Baptists and Pentecostal/charismatics (nota bene, there were no Catholic leaders involved), have met with a number of Protestant/Evangelical American leaders, in an attempt to clean up the tarnished face of ‘mother Russia’. The convenor of this religiously dubious and politically misguied meeting was the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more precisely, its constantly embarassing president, Franklin Graham. Continue reading “Russian Baptists Fail to Assume Responsibility for Their Shameful Support of Putin Invasion in Ukraine”

Taxi – Dear Americans

This would be hillarious, if it was not so sadly true.

I love Taxi. Dan Teodorescu rocks.

Martin Marty – Russian Orthodoxy

Kirill & Putin
Patriarch Kirill & President Putin

“Many a bum show has been saved by the flag,” actor and playwright George M. Cohan once mumbled in criticism of the hypocritical use of patriotic symbols in efforts to rescue bad plays. One could also mumble, “Many a bum cause has been saved by the cross, or the crescent, or the star of David, etc.,” in criticism of the hypocritical use of religion in efforts to rescue incidences of hate, rage, and carnage.

Timothy J. Egan in his New York Times column (July 18, 2014) reviewed the previous week’s bum causes and mis-uses of religion by “Faith-Based Fanatics (see References). Among Egan’s examples: Buddhists, the World Cup, Governor Rick Perry “as spokesman for the deity,” Sunnis, Shiites, Boko Haram, but not Ireland for the moment.

Egan was thankful that the U.S. founders explicitly kept God out of the Constitution. “At least that was the intent. In this summer of the violent God, five justices on the Supreme Court seem to feel otherwise.” But the U.S. is not the topic of today’s Sightings.

Instead, we look further East and mention the newcomer to the cast of characters, the one which came too late to catch Egan’s attention: Russian Orthodoxy. Its hypocritical mis-user of the week was President Vladimir Putin, who made a point of visiting a concert at a shrine for St. Sergius of Radonezh. Continue reading “Martin Marty – Russian Orthodoxy”

RD Kaplan – Why Moldova Urgently Matters?

Eastern Romania and Moldova map

“NATO’s Article 5 offers little protection against Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” Iulian Fota, Romania’s presidential national security adviser, told me on a recent visit to Bucharest. “Article 5 protects Romania and other Eastern European countries against a military invasion. But it does not protect them against subversion,” that is, intelligence activities, the running of criminal networks, the buying-up of banks and other strategic assets, and indirect control of media organs to undermine public opinion. Moreover, Article 5 does not protect Eastern Europe against reliance on Russian energy. As Romanian President Traian Basescu told me, Romania is a somewhat energy-rich island surrounded by a Gazprom empire. The president ran his finger over a map showing how Romania’s neighbors such as Bulgaria and Hungary were almost completely dependent on Russian natural gas, while Romania — because of its own hydrocarbon reserves — still has a significant measure of independence. In the 21st century, the president explained, Gazprom is more dangerous than the Russian army. The national security adviser then added: “Putin is not an apparatchik; he is a former intelligence officer,” implying that Putin will act subtly. Putin’s Russia will not fight conventionally for territory in the former satellite states, but unconventionally for hearts and minds, Fota went on. “Putin knows that the flaw of the Soviet Union was that it did not have soft power.” Continue reading “RD Kaplan – Why Moldova Urgently Matters?”

28 March – Day of Prayer for Ukraine

Winter 2014 has become the most tragic period in Ukraine’s history of national development. For more than three months, there has been a very aggressive confrontation between the people of Ukraine and government special police forces. Demonstration lost its peaceful character after people were killed, and the 19th of February was a horrible day, marked by close to 900 injured people and 77 dead due to gunshot wounds. Prayer is much needed for families of those who lost their loved ones. May the Lord protect their hearts, minds, and souls from hatred and aggressive decisions.

Continue reading “28 March – Day of Prayer for Ukraine”

The Economist: Russia and Crimea Maps

This is how it was before WWII. Continue reading “The Economist: Russia and Crimea Maps”

William Yoder – Fearing ‘Gypsies’ No More – On the Roma in Europe and Russia

26/11/05
St.Petersburg region, st.Peri
the gipsies on platform.

M o s c o w — Much of Roma history remains shrouded in mystery – there is no consensus even on the matter of numbers. According to Wikipedia, the highest number of Roma (once called “gypsies” as derived from the word “Egyptian”) are located in the USA – around a million. Yet the Zurich journal “Religion und Gesellschaft in Ost und West” (RGOW) reports that the governments of Eastern Europe intentionally underestimate their number. Twenty-two-million-strong Romania now claims to have 408.000 Roma citizens, yet RGOW believes the number could be as high as three million. Roma are said to be Europe’s largest minority of 10 to 12 million. Their worldwide population could be as high as 60 million. The counting problems are compounded by the fact that there is no single definition of the term “Roma”.

It is generally accepted that ethnic Roma began their trek westward from India around the 7th century A.D.; a traditional stronghold has been southeastern Europe. Some later headed eastward, arriving first in the Polish–Lithuanian Union and the other Baltic states. They only arrived in the Russian kingdom after some regions were annexed by the Czar in the 18th century. Though strongest in Moldova and Ukraine, Roma can now be found even in the Russian Far East.

Reports state that the Roma were initially no more nomadic than native tribes. In time, they became a major unskilled-but-reliable workforce. The coming of Fascist Germany then brought deportation, extermination and major upheaval; as many as 500.000 may have been killed. Following WW II, the socialist governments of Eastern Europe attempted to force their assimilation by reintegrating them into the labour forces for heavy industry. In October 1956, the Supreme Soviet banned nomadism, forcing Soviet Roma to accept stationery housing. Soon, more than 90% of the USSR’s Roma were settled. Continue reading “William Yoder – Fearing ‘Gypsies’ No More – On the Roma in Europe and Russia”

The Kremlin’s failure to uphold its own constitutional commitment to religious freedom

This is the first of two abridged extracts from a book by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18’s Russia and Belarus Correspondent, “Believing in Russia – Religious Policy after Communism” (Routledge, October 2012). The book presents a comprehensive overview of religious policy in Russia since the end of the communist regime, exposing many of the ambiguities and uncertainties about the position of religion in Russian life and revealing how religious freedom in Russia has, contrary to the widely held view, a long tradition. The book argues that continuing failure to resolve the question of whether Russia is to be an Orthodox country with religious minorities or a multi-confessional state is destabilising the nation. More details on the book are available from http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415490023/.

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 The Russian Orthodox Church asserts itself as the definitive expression of Russian nationhood. Alternative worldviews are marginalised. The gravest consequence of this antagonism is its exacerbation of separatist tendencies among Russian Muslims, who seek to establish Islam locally in opposition to Patriarchate hegemony nationally. Far from its mystical vision, the Orthodox-centred model of Russian identity is thus failing to consolidate the modern Russian nation.

Chechnya’s bald imposition of Islamic norms in defiance of Russia’s 1993 Constitution goes unchecked by Moscow. Regional disparity is now acute: in June 2008 the Koranic verse “There is no god but Allah” adorned the mountainside opposite Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov’s palace. The same month, it was forcibly removed from the outer wall of a mosque in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. The Kremlin’s failure to uphold its own constitutional commitment to religious freedom means there is no firm barrier against further decline.

The erosion of religious freedom is not due to deliberate federal preference for the Russian Orthodox Church. Rather, it is the symptom of a disinterested Kremlin absenting itself from the religious policy sphere. Few top officials yearn for Orthodox Christianity’s restoration to the status of national ideology as under the tsars. The driving impulses of today’s Russian rulers are the pursuit and retention of personal wealth and influence, and it is these that determine the areas in which President Vladimir Putin’s “power vertical” (vertikal’ vlasti) operates. Since religious freedom (among other human rights and public concerns) is not one of them, it is left unregulated to the extent that it does not encroach upon the strategic interests of the elite.

Read the rest of this text on Forum 18.

WEA – Why Russia Persecutes Non-Orthodox Churches

October 4, 2012

Russian police demolished Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church in Moscow last month. The members of the church now gather near the ruins for worship, bearing testimony to the continued persecution of “non-traditional,” or disfavored, religious groups after President Vladimir Putin assumed office about five months ago.

It is estimated that 90 percent of ethnic Russians – and around 70 percent of all Russian citizens – identify themselves as Orthodox. Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russians have closely associated Orthodoxy with national identity, replacing socialism with Orthodoxy. However, people’s association with the Russian Orthodox Church is apparently more symbolic than representative of their commitment to the substance of the faith. This is perhaps why the church attendance is extremely low.

Russia’s 1993 Constitution states that all religious associations are equal before the law. However, the preamble of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, enacted in 1997 under President Boris N. Yeltsin to define the state’s relationship with religion, says respect should be accorded firstly to Orthodoxy, and secondly to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and [non-Orthodox] Christianity. Continue reading “WEA – Why Russia Persecutes Non-Orthodox Churches”

Goulag: le dernier survivant de la Kolyma – L’EXPRESS

Goulag: le dernier survivant de la Kolyma – L’EXPRESS.

Un interview extremement interessant.

Interview with Alexey Smirnov, President of Russian Baptists

M o s c o w – “Baptists do not preach the Baptist confession; Baptists preach the Gospel. Nowhere do we give out calls to accept the Baptist faith.” That was one of many claims made by Alexey Smirnov, President of the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”, in an interview published on his church’s website on 21 May. The interview referred primarily to the Moscow meeting of Smirnov and John Upton, President of the “Baptist World Alliance”, with Kirill I, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus, on 29 March. This had been the first meeting between the heads of the Russian Baptist and Orthodox churches since the deceased Alexey II met with then-President Yuri Sipko and Neville Callam, General-Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, in Moscow on 18 June 2008.

Russia’s head Baptist could again envision Baptists and Orthodox evangelizing jointly – as occurred on occasion two decades ago. Yet the agenda of the Orthodox partner must be the preaching of the Gospel – not superfluous history or church tradition. “We invite people to our churches, but we do not pressure those who attend an Orthodox church and have found God there. Salvation does not come from our denomination, but rather through personal faith in Jesus Christ.” He added: “The Orthodox church too is changing. The Patriarch (he also mentioned Metropolitan Ilarion, Director of the Orthodox office for external affairs) is preaching the Gospel. We could help and accompany each other along the way.” Continue reading “Interview with Alexey Smirnov, President of Russian Baptists”

A Protestant Has Been Elected Mayor of a Major Russian City

Sergey Andreyev defeated the candidate of “United  Russia”

M o s c o w – For the first time ever since the days of the Czars, a  Protestant has been elected mayor of a major Russian city. In run-off elections  in the auto-making city of Tolyatti/Volga on 18 March, the Evangelical Christian  and political independent Sergey Andreyev trounced “United Russia’s” candidate,  Alexander Shakhov. Andreyev won nearly 57% of the vote, the candidate of  Vladimir Putin’s party, 40%. The English-language “Moscow Times” reports that  the upset occurred despite the national government having poured billions into  the city to bail out AvtoVAZ, the city’s largest employer.

But once again, the nation’s ruling party, “United Russia”, was  unable to resist the temptation to retain its hold on power by stirring up  sentiment against the country’s religious minorities. In Tolyatti it portrayed  itself as the fatherland’s saviour from sinister and ominous foreign powers. In  the two weeks prior to the run-off elections, placards and billboards had popped  up portraying Tolyatti’s Orthodox cathedral awash in bright colours besides the  local Baptist church in dark greys, resting below a hovering black  raven. Continue reading “A Protestant Has Been Elected Mayor of a Major Russian City”

Metropolitan Hilarion: There are no grounds to expect the Pan-Orthodox Council to run into surprises

Metropolitan Hilarion: There are no grounds to expect the Pan-Orthodox Council to run into surprises : Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This is a very interesting interview, discussing, among other topics, the situation of the Church in the Middle East and the future Pan-Orthodox Council.

Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, is chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations.

Russian Nostalgia for Christendom

Head Start or Crisis?

The Russian Longing for the Christian State

M o s c o w – Russia is„ even now the best part of Europe and we  offer it the most positive future”. The well-known Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin,  Chairman of the Orthodox “Synod Office for Mutual Relations between Church and  Society”, stated this in early April on television network “Rossiya I”’s  programme “Duell”. Chaplin is convinced that the West, including the USA, no  longer qualifies as Christian. The West indeed represents the most godless  system of all. Both commujnsm and Bolshevism were brought down by their  godlessness; “capitalism will fare no better”. Only Russia can become that which  the West once was. Continue reading “Russian Nostalgia for Christendom”

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.” Continue reading “Euro-Asian Federation of Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists Organise A Major Convention This Year”