M o s c o w -- Gennadi Konstantinovich Kryuchkov, President since 1965 of the church now known as the “International Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”, died in Tula on 15 July 2008. He would have been 81 years old this October and had been suffering from a heart condition for the past one-and-a-half years.
Gennadi Kryuchkov’s life and ministry were closely tied to the church best known originally as the “Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” or “Initativniki”. Largely because of disagreements on how to best respond to government repression, his group split off from the “All-Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” in August 1961. It reached its peak membership of perhaps 155.000 in 1966. Today, after large-scale emigration, probably no more than 20.000 of its members remain in Russia. A focus point of its activity is the restored church building in Tula, located 200 kilometres south of Moscow, where a major convention took place in October 2005. This denomination remains committed to the principle of state non-interference as well as church non-involvement in government affairs. For this reason, its congregations remain unregistered with the state up until the present. Officially they still are an “underground” church.
The first two leaders of the “Initiativniki”-church were A.F. Prokofev and Boris Zdorovets. But the two were quickly imprisoned and needed to be replaced by the team of Gennadi Kryuchkov and Georgi Vins in 1962. Vins was perhaps the better-known of the two because of mass press coverage in the West. Imprisoned in 1966 and again in 1974, Vins was deported to the USA in 1979. There he remained active in Initiativniki affairs until his death in 1998 at the age of 70.
Pastor Kryuchkov was also no stranger to human suffering. His believing father was sentenced in 1931 to five years labor camp when Gennadi was only four. Conscripted into the Soviet Army in 1943 at age 17, he was not released until 1951.
After a public demonstration by dissident Baptists including Vins and Kryuchkov at the Kremlin in 1966, both were imprisoned. Kryuchkov was released in 1969. But due to the possibility of imminent, renewed imprisonment, he disappeared and went into hiding the following year. This father of nine then spent the next 20 years as a refugee “on the run” from a government bent on capturing him.
In recent years, much has been done to heal inner-Baptist wounds stemming from the divisions of the 1960’s. Pastor Valentin Vasilizhenko (Moscow), Secretary of the “Public Council”, an umbrella organisation committed to dialogue with all groups of Russian Baptists, reports that he frequently conversed with Pastor Kryuchkov. His “International Council” church enjoyed observer status within the “Public Council”.
In a letter of condolence, Yuri Sipko (Moscow), President of the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” (RUECB), writes: “Gennadi Konstantinovich gave his whole life to the service of God. He was confronted in his life with more than a few trials and tests, which he mastered with honour, dignity and a deep faith. He remained true to Christ and His church. The brotherhood of Evangelical Christians-Baptists has lost a worthy brother, a loyal servant, blessed leader and loving father. Today, we all grieve his passing.”
The funeral of Gennadi Kryuchkov will be held in Tula on Saturday, 21 July.
The RUECB is the legal successor to the Soviet-era “All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”. it now has roughly 75.000 adult believers active in 1.300 local churches and groups.
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 17 July 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #22, 564 words.
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