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”