Welcome to , 24 Sep 2011
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:
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(Note: the "prayers" link in the heading will take you to this issue's "Prayer and Praise" list.)

BAPTISMS IN THE BLACK SEA: UKRAINE CHURCH-PLANTING CONFERENCE YIELDS SOULS
from The Christian Chronicle

Select to see article(24 Sep) More than 300 church members from across this Eastern European nation are praising God, getting to know one another and baptizing new believers on the shores of the beautiful black sea at a church-planting conference. In Ukraine, where Churches of Christ have found the most fertile fields in Europe. Sasha Prokopchuk, a minister in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk (Ukraine's "Bible Belt") hosts the annual conference. Prokopchuk also hosts a TV show about the Gospel, and many of the attendees are regular viewers who write to the show, study a Bible correspondence course and then get invited to the seminar.

Eastern European Mission provided support - and Bibles - for the event. Participants got a stack of books from the ministry, including children's Bibles and songbooks. Valera Onischenko found out about Churches of Christ through the program and first came to this conference in 2006. He was baptized, and he and his family have attended ever since. Today his son, 16-year-old Roman, became the final member of the family to be baptized in the Black Sea. [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: PARLIAMENTARY ADOPTION OF RESTRICTIVE LAWS IMMINENT
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(23 Sep) Two laws imposing severe restrictions on freedom of religion or belief could possibly be adopted by Kazakhstan's Senate, the upper house of Parliament, as early as next Thursday (29 September). Both laws passed through the Majilis, the lower house, in one day and reached a Senate committee the same day. One observer described the speed of passage to Forum 18 News Service as "unprecedented", and a Majilis press spokesperson was unable to say whether any laws had ever had a quicker passage

An official of the government's Agency of Religious Affairs confirmed to Forum 18 that the two laws would be considered at the Senate's plenary session on 29 September, but would not say if they would complete their passage within one session. Human rights defenders and some religious communities have already told Forum 18 of their deep concern at many of the provisions, which violate Kazakhstan's international human rights commitments.

The first proposed law, a new Religion Law, would among other restrictions impose a complex four-tier registration system, ban unregistered religious activity, and impose compulsory censorship. The second proposed law amends nine legal provisions, and its changes to Article 375 of the Code of Administrative Offences and to the Law on the Rights of the Child could have a more far-reaching impact on freedom of religion or belief. [read more...]


RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE IN KAZAKHSTAN RISING - GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
from Interfax-Religion

(22 Sep) The religious situation in Kazakhstan remains stable despite the noticeable impact of religion on modern society, said Kairat Lama Sharif, head of the State Agency for Religious Affairs. "This is proved by the increasing number of religious organizations and active construction of houses of worship. Today, there are 4,551 religious organizations in Kazakhstan (for a comparison: there were just 670 of them in 1990)," he said in an interview with Interfax.

"Religion is regarded by the majority of Kazakhstanis as an element of ethnic culture and national traditions. The spheres of influence of traditional religious institutions are expanding, the public's exposure to religion is growing, social functions of religious organizations are strengthening, the role of religious education is increasing, and religious missionaries are getting more active," the head of the state agency said. "Our country is home to representatives of various faiths, including Muslims, the Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Jews. The logic of such an equation is that inter-ethnic and interfaith relations are inextricably linked," Lama Sharif said. [read more...]


RUSSIA'S PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT EVOLVES FROM PARISH ACTIVISM TO OFFICIAL CHURCH ENGAGEMENT
from Religioscope

(11 Sep) A fledgling pro-life movement in Russia began in parish-based activism but now is finding growing support among Russian Orthodox leaders and increasingly borrowing strategies from its American counterpart. The early activism against abortion took place largely under the radar of official church approval and structures, according to Daria Oreshina (National Research University, Moscow), who presented a paper on this subject at the recent meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion meeting in Las Vegas, which Religioscope attended.

Such activism was based in parishes with laypeople and priests ministering to those who were unhappy with the Russian healthcare system and the problems it had in providing childbirth and childcare services. Abortion was and continues to be used as a means of birth control in the Russian healthcare system. The parishes were among the few places where such grievances were aired and thus drew many sympathizers from outside the church. [read more...]


HEADS OF KYIVAN PATRIARCHATE AND UKRAINIAN AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CHURCH AGREE TO START DIALOGUE TO RESTORE UNITY OF ORTHODOXY IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(23 Sep) On 14 September, 2011, in the Kyivan Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate, a meeting was held between the head of the Kyivan Patriarchate Patriarch Filaret, and the head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Metropolitan Mefodii. The meeting was also attended by former President (2005-2010) Viktor Yushchenko.

As the result of the meeting, the primates signed a joint statement regarding the fruitfulness and usefulness of the meeting and agreement to make steps to resume the dialogue between the two Churches as to the restoration of unity of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. read more...


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH INTER-COUNCIL PRESENCE'S COMMISSION FOR OPPOSING AND OVERCOMING CHURCH SCHISMS MET IN KYIV
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

MOLDOVAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SLAMS UN RELIGION RAPPORTEUR
from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

CRIMINALS TRIED TO SET CHURCH ON FIRE IN MOSCOW
from Interfax-Religion

PROJECT HOPE ALREADY PLANNING TO REACH 50,000 WITH ETERNAL HOPE THIS CHRISTMAS
from Mission Network News

VANDALS AGAIN ATTACK SIBERIAN PROTESTANT CHURCH: POLICE INACTIVE
from Portal-credo.ru

See HOSKEN-NEWS Daily for more of the latest news!


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

The last news article and the first item under "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES" both illustrate the tug-of-war taking place in Ukraine: two groups of Orthodox Christians who basically want a church independent of Moscow are talking about uniting together, in the face of continuing efforts by the Moscow Patriarchate's efforts to absorb them. The underlying reason behind this is that the majority of parishes (15,000) in the Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate are actually located in Ukraine, compared to only 12,800 parishes that it has in Russia. Thus, Moscow would lose over half its parishes if the Moscow Patriarchate's parishes in Ukraine were to merge together with the other Orthodox Christians there.

A good friend in Moscow recently informed me that the Russian Orthodox Church officially approved three books by Alexander Men as being well-suited for catechism and instruction. (Fr. Alexander Men was a highly educated priest and prolific author who was axe-murdered in September 1990.) Also, at the same time it prohibited the well-known magazine Blagodatniy Ogon that was famous for some extreme "orthodox" views regarding monarchy, current church leadeship, anti-semitism, etc. And last December the Patriarch passed a decree that every priest should get a seminary education, otherwise, those unwilling will be downgraded to psalmists (readers).

Doing the BasCerMing Thing

(Let us know what you think - use the online feedback form!)

In the previous issue of Hosken-News we considered the danger of prelest - self-deceptive pride, a Christian believing that he has already attained sanctification and transformation; instead, he must "press on" to attain this goal. But the opposite of self-deceptive pride can also be a false humility. Our remaining sinful nature - our fallibility and finitude - should not become an excuse to give up, saying - "I'll never attain holiness or perfection, it's an impossible goal... for me, at least... so why even try?" This false humility becomes a cover for spiritual sloth, laziness.

But there is also another danger, which I'd like to call "Doing the BasCerMing Thing." This springs from yielding to the same temptation as when the serpent tempted Eve: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil!" - the drive for autonomy of the individual human will. In the modern world it whispers - "Question everthing, question authority" - because it assumes that each individual is his own supreme authority: a pope unto himself.

The result: people strive to "do their own thing." When Christians succumb to this mentality, it is almost impossible for them to function together as a team. Why? Because each person wants to play a game according to his own rules. It's like three people, the first who decides to play Basketball, the second who wants to play socCer, and the third whose mind is set on swimMing. The result is a BasCerMing team made up of three guys each playing his own game by its own rules. When there is no central authority (because it has been questioned and undermined), little or nothing of value can be accomplished. Sure, there's a lot of activity to write home about, but few concrete goals will be met.

The answer is that only God is God, and we're not: "You are my witnesses, says Yahweh, and my servant whom I have chosen; that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He: before Me there was no God, neither shall there be after Me. I, even I, am Yahweh; and besides Me there is no savior" (Isaiah 41:10-11). Each of us is not to be the boss or the person who just wants to do his own thing, but to be a witness and a servant.


Prayer and Praise:
Sun. - Praise the Lord for the baptism in the Black Sea during a church planting conference in Donetsk, Ukraine.
Mon. - Pray that God will confound the implemenation of the new restrictive laws on religion in Kazakhstan.
Tue. - Pray for peaceful inter-ethnic and interfaith relations among the numerous religious groups in Kazakhstan.
Wed. - Thank God for Russia's pro-life movement moving from parish-based activism to Church-wide acceptance.
Thu. - Praise the Lord for many Ukrainian Orthodox believers striving to unite into an autonomous Ukrainian Church.
Fri. - Thank the Lord for the recent reforms for layperson and clergy education in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Sat. - Pray that Christians in East and West will not "do their own thing," but will learn to work together for the Gospel.

 

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FEEDBACK:


from Mert, 09/25/11, 8:51pm:
Not only are we called to be witnesses of YHWH, but of Jesus (Acts 1:8). It is not just a command, but we are empowered to do it. We don't do it with our own minds as "Jehovah witnesses" do, but with the power and mind of Christ Jesus, true & living God.


Dear Mert,
That's quite right! In the Old Testament passage that I quoted, it mentions "Yahweh" (the "I Am") and our being His witnesses. Of course, we should do this "with the power and mind of Christ," as you wrote. The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the "I Am" - He is God Incarnate. Although the JWs (mis)use the word "Jehovah," they don't believe that Christ is the "I Am" - God Incarnate. This is a pseudo-Christian heresy.
In Christ, Bob


from Phyl, 09/30/11, 08:21pm:
Hi Bob,
I finally got to answering. What encouraging news regarding abortion, new baptisms and growth of Christianity among other news. I also have been praying for that pastor who won't deny his Christian faith and is facing hanging at any time now unless even more firm objections are given by the USA and other countries sympathetic to his stand. I pray for so many needs I feel overwhelmed at times. It's those times however that I sense God's presence even more and lean on Him for peace and comfort.


Dear Phyl,
It's always a joy to hear from you and know you're praying for these people. Thanks also for praying for that pastor in Iran. May God keep him and his family safe! Keep on praying!
In Christ, Bob



Select to see full-size!   Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...

  Your fellow-servants,

  Bob & Cheryl

p.s. What usually happens with today's open-ended tolerance: when you're too open-minded, your brains will fall out.
      The answer to the ever-present "Why?" is the everlasting Who.


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