The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
“Except for a few Orthodox extremists, I do not hear a single voice expressing approval for the prohibition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses”, says Russian church historian Constantine Prokhorov.
Russian Protestant rejection of the prohibition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in early April appears virtually unanimous.
It usually runs along the lines of the quote from the revered German church leader Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984): “When the Nazis came for the communists, I did not speak out, as I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I did not speak out, for I was not a social democrat.” The long quote concludes with the statement: “When they came for me, there was no one left to protest.”
HISTORIAN: UNANIMOUS REJECTION OF THE BAN
In Omsk on 22 April, the Russian church historian Constantine Prokhorov stated: “Except for a few Orthodox extremists, I do not hear a single voice expressing approval for the prohibition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. All are defending them, even if we have major theological differences.”
“This is a very positive development, for the Russians have often been very suspicious of ‘Western sects’. Speaking in very wise and Christian terms, even the prominent Orthodox theologian Andrey Kuryaev has categorically rejected their prohibition. That makes me very glad. We must remember that nearly all public organisations, including the Russian Orthodox, have a radical fringe.”
LUTHERANS: “WITNESSES ARE NOT A DANGER”
The US-American Bradn Buerkle, an instructor for the Novasaratovka-based seminary of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church (once ELCROS), stated that the term “good riddance” does not describe Lutheran reaction to the prohibition.
“Generally, Lutherans regret that the freedom for religious practice is no longer the case. But we are seen as a historical confession, so this issue does not affect us directly.” Lutheran leadership is cautious and “there is no willingness on our part to step up and declare that this measure is against the constitution. But the Witnesses should have the freedom of religious practice if they are not a danger to society – and they are not.”
CATHOLICS: THEOLOGICAL ISSUES VS. LEGAL ISSUES
A news article quoting Igor Kovalevsky, General-Secretary of Russia’s “Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops”, was entitled: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses may be heretics, but they are not extremists.” The state must distinguish between theological issues and legal rights, they said.