For more than eight years, this council, which includes representatives of all theological educational institutions of the Russian UECB, has been holding regular meetings for participants to discuss issues related to the development of education. This time 40 people from 12 theological schools of the denomination gathered together.
The topic of the meeting was controversial, but exciting for everyone: "Unity and diversity in theological education." It is no secret that certain factors jeopardized our theological unity coming out of the Soviet era, such as the opening of seminaries, the publication of literature, the availability of theological materials on the Internet, cooperation with believers from different countries and faiths. There are both positive aspects and fears related to the issue of maintaining unity between believers, churches and educational institutions.
The meeting was held with an open, yet constructive dialogue, beginning with a report on the unity of the church in the age of theological pluralism. All the speakers emphasized the importance of mastering the theological dialogue culture, as the art of listening to each other, the ability to learn from each other, and constructively discussing ideas without things getting personal. Another thought, which was repeatedly emphasized in many speeches, concerned the need to separate the major fundamental issues, on which we can agree that determines the identity of our faith, from the minor secondary issues, in which freedom of opinion and disagreement is possible.
Many participants expressed their agreement that the painful problem of divisions is caused not so much by a particular school of theology, as by a dogmatic conviction of the exclusiveness of their own understanding of the Bible. In other words, a threat to unity arises in cases where a particular theological system is declared the only correct one, and any disagreement with it is considered to be "unbiblical" teaching. This approach sows mutual suspicion between believers and artificially divides the members of our brotherhood from "friends" to "strangers."
In order to avoid unnecessary polarization and confrontation in the field of education, several important suggestions were made by speakers. First of all, an honest and open dialogue is needed on topics of concern for the churches of the Union, and especially those that cause disagreement. All employees of the Evangelical Christian Baptist seminaries have an open invitation to this dialogue, as well as ministers of local churches, for which, ultimately, a theological education exists. It is also important to refuse labeling: “liberals”, “fundamentalists”, “Arminians”, “Calvinists”, “biblical” and “unbiblical” churches and seminaries, etc.
Speakers also encouraged the representatives of those educational institutions for which there are complaints from the local churches, to think and analyze the reasons for these complaints - it is quite possible, not always well-deserved, but often having a certain basis. Representatives of the UECB (Levashov and Ignatenkov) expressed what churches should expect from seminaries - to prepare not just technical exegetes and preachers, but men who will love the local church and engage in creative ministry in it.
In conclusion, the idea was expressed that the unity of the Church, as the 4th chapter of Ephesians shows, is both a given and a task, a fact and a process. On the one hand, we have already been granted the unity of the Spirit by virtue of our belonging to Christ. This unity must be maintained, and the main condition here is humility, including the lack of inflated ideas about their own theological views.
On the other hand, in the same chapter, the apostle Paul speaks of the need to achieve "the unity of faith and knowledge." This is the goal we must strive for, including an open discussion of issues that separate us in the spirit of mutual respect and brotherly love. In the case of our faith, today's unity of the Union has been plagued by the difficult years of trials through which our predecessors passed. Losing it in the years of freedom would be a serious and unforgivable mistake.
In general, this meeting was only the beginning of a discussion of such an important and relevant topic. The next CTE meeting is scheduled for December 2-3, 2020. The Chairman of the CTE and all participants call for the participation of representatives of all educational institutions of the fraternity in this dialogue.