ADVERTISING
 
Wednesday, August 15   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
New season
What kind of contents do you enjoy most?






SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



William Yoder
 

The present climate among Russia’s Protestants

It appears once again as if the Russian state will be moving simultaneously in opposite directions. Restrictive measures are combined with financial support for Protestant and multi-confessional projects.

FEATURES AUTHOR William Yoder SMOLENSK (RUSSIA) 27 SEPTEMBER 2016 16:04 h GMT+1
An Orthodox Church in Nizhni Novgorod (Russia). / Aptem Kovalov (Flickr)

The worries are self-evident since the „Yarovaya-Laws“ or the „Yarovaya Package“ were passed on 7 July. A seminar held by the US-supported “Slavic Legal Centre” on 18 July in the Russian capital was attended by 3.500 mostly Protestant listeners.



“The believers are very worried about monetary fines”, reported Vitaly Vlasenko, Director of External Relations for the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”, on 20 September. “Our congregations are frequently very poor and even a fine of 1.000 roubles (14 euros) can cause major excitement. Many of our congregations still meet in unregistered church buildings officially belonging to private persons. But now it appears as if outside guests and foreigners will barely have access to such quarters. Much regarding the practical implementation of the new laws is still unclear, and in more rural regions our police do not always act in a professional manner. In one recent case, people were kept from praying in their own place of worship.”



In Samara/Volga Protestants were very unsure whether they would even be permitted to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the Russian Synodal Bible. Yet precisely this project has received significant state funding!



The news service Forum 18 reported that during their first full month in force (August), the Yarovaya-Laws had led to the conviction of six persons. Not only lonely wolves and Hari-Krishna were affected; long-established Baptist, Adventist and Pentecostals congregations have also been under scrutiny.



Moscow Pentecostal Sergey Filinov, Pastor of the “Mission of Living Faith” and head of the umbrella “Council of Christian-Evangelical Churches”, notes that the banning of missionary activity could be interpreted as an infringement of the constitutionally-guaranteed right to religious freedom. According to present interpretations, the new laws permit religious gatherings in private quarters if the house group and all its members are part of a registered religious organisation. But in whose name is a person speaking when he proclaims his faith, the pastor asks: “He may speak in the name of his church, but not in his own name.” The pastor regards this as a splitting of hairs.



It could soon be the case that foreigners on tourist or humanitarian visas will no longer be allowed to speak at religious gatherings. This would probably also affect Ukrainian citizens, though they are permitted to enter Russia without a visa. One hears that a written contract between a guest speaker and the inviting organisation will be required.



This is clearly an attempt by the government to bring order to the far-flung and complex network of religious organisations developed since 1990. All should be required to clarify their identity and background, all should be categorised. One could maintain that these measures are nothing less than an attempt to put into practice the legislation already passed in 1997. This will place significant pressure on decentrally-organised confessions such as the Korean Presbyterians. There is essentially no Presbyterian leader in Russia with a complete overview of his denomination’s national presence. That is not particularly surprising, for South Korea possesses roughly 112 independent and autonomous Presbyterian denominations. The “Soviet Tserkvei”, the “International Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” formed in 1961, does not want to be a registered organisation and never has on principle possessed officially-registered places of worship. It is prepared to once again accept the chips as they fall.



 



POSITIVE ASPECTS



Vitaly Vlasenko spent 19 September in Samara in hopes of calming the waves. He stressed there that nothing is impeding the holding of events commemorating the Bible translation. He also visited the Orthodox Metropolitan Sergiy (Poletkin), who promised to send a delegate to the anniversary celebrations. According to Vlasenko, the Metropolitan also gave the new “I Read the Bible”-project his unmitigated support. This project promoting the reading of the Bible also enjoys strong government funding; both projects have been run through the External Relations department (Vlasenko) of the Baptist Union.



The state will also be strongly funding a project for the Reformation year of 2017 organized by Archbishop Dietrich Brauer and his “Evangelical-Lutheran Church”. (The financial numbers have not been made public.) It appears once again as if the Russian state will be moving simultaneously in opposite directions. Restrictive measures are combined with financial support for Protestant and multi-confessional projects.



Vlasenko consequently claims that the new legislation is not directed against Protestants: “Our government of course is not opposed to the Christian faith.” This church diplomat intends to interact constructively with the state and Orthodoxy. “Sometimes organisations are too critical,” he concludes. “We desire constructive dialogue – the state and Orthodoxy are our allies. We desire to stress that we are Russians, that we feel ourselves at one with our land. The Bible teaches us that we should obey and honour our authorities. That gets complicated only when they contradict the Bible.” He believes organisations such as the “Slavic Legal Centre” ignore the underlying dynamics expressed through the Yarovaya legislation.



My commentary: It is clear that states such as Russia, China, India and the Muslim countries of Central Asia intend to prevent the haphazard proliferation of religious organizations common in the countries of Latin America and Africa. In the latter, even the tiniest Western churches and sects are permitted to open new branches. Several years ago, I chanced upon Baptist employees of the Indian embassy at Moscow’s “Central Baptist Church“. I mentioned to them that foreigners preaching or baptising in India on tourist visas can reckon with an entry ban of five years. These Indian diplomats had no problem with that practice. These nations intend to retain their cultural identity – one thinks defensively in Eastern Europe and many parts of Asia.



 



THE FUTURE



Pastor Vlasenko concedes that the Yarovaya-Laws passed through the Duma as a small-print rider hidden behind more prominent legislation. Not even the Duma’s commission for religious affairs had been consulted; nevertheless, President Putin had seen it fit to sign the legislation.



Since the elections on 18 September, the Duma is being reconstituted. Church leaders such as Sergey Filinov hope a person such as Yaroslav Nilov, chairman of the Duma’s commission on religious affairs, will start an initiative to improve and better define the legislation. Highly regarded by Protestants, the 1982-born Nilov is a delegate of rightist Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s “Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia” (LDPR). Putin has already mentioned the possibility of future changes.



 



COMMENT: BAD NEWS IS GOOD NEWS



How far would the West’s arms build-up have gotten during the Cold War without reports on the persecution of Christians in communist-run states? That’s how the bad is turned into “good”. For those wanting to attack the Russian Federation, the Yarovaya legislation is a highly-welcome development. These laws help feed the propaganda mills.



But the friends of Russia and all other alternative systems do not do otherwise. That’s general human practice: One uses the sins of the other side to further one’s own cause. And one increases the “positive” effect of this practice by exaggerating the sins of the other side.



Perhaps we could agree on the following: Our criticism does not intend to destroy, it is instead a query. Serious, thought-through responses to queries are always possible and welcome. That’s how we could make progress.



I often have the impression, much would remain uncovered in the Protestant, Russian-speaking world if there were not at least a few observers willing to describe affairs in English. The churches of the West need larger sources of information. Information must be the foundation of our decisions; we’re otherwise groping in the dark. Both Russian and Ukrainian shortcomings need to be covered. But it is in all cases important that a fair and honourable style be preserved.



 



William Yoder, Ph.D.



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. You will also find this article on the webpage: “rea-moskva.org”.



 


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - The present climate among Russia’s Protestants
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church Nominal Christianity, a mission field for the church

An interview with Lars Dahle, of the Steering Committee of the Lausanne Movement Global Consultation on Nominal Christianity held in Rome.

 
Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation Ruth Valerio: A lifestyle that cares about creation

Are Christians called to make a difference in environmental care? What has creation care to do with "loving our neighbours"? An interview with the Global Advocacy and Influencing Director of Tearfund.

 
Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA Kathy Bryan: Online sex trafficking in the USA

“Prostitution is nobody’s dream,  it’s a very traumatic lifestyle”, says Kathy Bryan, director of the Elevate Academy. She mentors former victims.

 
Christians in politics? Christians in politics?

What is the role of Christians serving in politics? An interview with Auke Minnema, the new General Director of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

 
Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies Michael Ramsden: Communicating the Gospel in today’s societies

RZIM International Director Michael Ramsden responds to questions about the secularisation of Europe, the role of Christians in public leadership and the new ‘culture of victimism’.

 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow Sharing Jesus with World Cup fans in Moscow

A team of Steiger mission is starting conversations about the gospel in the middst of the football celebration in Russia.

 
Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible Analysing current issues in the light of the Bible

At the 2018 Apologetics Forum in Comarruga (Spain), Michael Ramsden, Pablo Martinez, Ruth Valerio and José de Segovia analysed how society and the Bible approach the issues of personal identity, integrity, sexuality, pop culture, and environmental care.

 
European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga European “Bridges to Inclusion” gathering 2018, in Riga

The network of Christian ministries working for the inclusion of people with disabilities, celebrated its tenth continental meeting in Latvia with the participation of 12 countries.

 

 
Coexistence in the church - a model for society Coexistence in the church - a model for society

“Gospel, identity and coexistence” were the themes of the General Assembly of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance. Two days in Palma de Mallorca to reflect about the role of evangelical churches in society.

 
'Ungi kulimi changana' 'Ungi kulimi changana'

Educator and journalist Jordi Torrents shares images of the Sekeleka social centre in Mozambique. About 50 children live there, many with some kind of disability. All photos were taken with permission.

 
The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve The President in an evangelical church on Christmas Eve

For the first time, the President of Portugal attended a worship service in an evangelical church. It was in Sintra, on Christmas Eve.

 
VIDEO Video
 
Being a peacemaker Being a peacemaker

Ken Sande, Founder and President of Relational Wisdom 360, develops a practical systematic theology for pursuing peace and resolving the conflicts of real life. 

 
“No one should have to leave their values at the door” “No one should have to leave their values at the door”

Author Krish Kandiah talks with politician Tim Farron about the Christian faith, politics and secularism.

 
What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader? What are the essential characteristics of a godly leader?

Clinical Pastoral Counsellor Emoke Tapolyai reflect on three characteristics Christians who have been given leadership roles should develop.

 
Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’ Reaching non-Christian ‘Christians’

How can we reach those who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have not experienced a conversion to Christ? Forty missiologists and mission practitioners came together for a Lausanne Movement global consultation in Rome.

 
Trailer: “The Peace Between” Trailer: “The Peace Between”

A film about the experience of refugees in Europe. Churches, small groups and individuals are encouraged to use it during Refugee Week: 17-24 June.

 
Heart Heart

A short animation film by Swiss cartoonist Alain Auderset tells the message of the Bible in four minutes.

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.