M o s c o w – The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill (Moscow) praised Baptists for their clear stand on moral questions. At a first meeting with representatives of the Baptist World Alliance, the European Baptist Federation and the (Baptist) Euro-Asian Federation on March 29, in Moscow, Kirill stated that the positions of the Baptist associations and those of the Russian Orthodox Church were very similar. This was the case, for example, in the definition of marriage and family and in the question of abortion. He spoke critically of the fact that in many countries values have been fundamentally questioned, and total relativism is spreading. Baptists, with their biblically based position, are an exception.
In his response, the president of the Baptist World Alliance, John Upton (Richmond, VA), praised the clear, explicit position of the Patriarch based on the “unchangeable truth of the gospel”. Upton emphasised the necessity of meeting a world in which fundamental principles are being blurred with the biblical testimony to good and evil. The state of social misery must be met with the testimony to biblical hope, the increase in the number of abortions with the biblical understanding of marriage and family.
Hans Guderian (Berlin, Germany), president of the European Baptist Federation, also took part in the meeting. As he reported to the EBPS, Baptists hope that after this first meeting, a long-term dialog between Baptists and Orthodox Christians worldwide might result. The conversation took place in a friendly atmosphere, and lasted over an hour, considerably longer than planned. Among the Baptists, the presidents of the Baptist Unions of Russian, the Ukraine, and Belorussia, Alexei Smirnov (Moscow), Vyacheslav Nesteruk (Kiev) and Victor Krutkov (Minsk), also participated in the meeting.
Upton and Guderian also attended the 20th Annual Conference of the Euro-Asian Federation of the Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Moscow. There it became clear that, although missionary opportunities in the church unions of the former Soviet Union are multiplying, many churches and unions are stagnating and shrinking as far as member growth is concerned. In Turkmenistan, it was reported, there are many good opportunities for work among children and youth. Following his conversion, a former Mullah is working as the pastor of a Baptist church. In spite of pressure against Christians from the government in Uzbekistan, members of the 20 registered and 8 non-registered Baptist churches, with 2,600 members, are reaching people of various nationalities such as Tatars, Kazaks and Tajiks.
The two guests from the USA and Germany also took part in the 12th National Prayer Breakfast in Moscow, along with 200 participants from the political, economic and church realms. The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists includes 1,800 churches with about 72,400 members. Although strictly speaking only 35 million of the 142 million inhabitants of Russia are members of the Orthodox Church, about 100 million consider themselves Orthodox, because they equate their nationality with their religion.
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