Welcome to , 29 Jul 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX LEADER TO VISIT POLAND, SIGN RECONCILIATION STATEMENT
from Catholic News Agency

(17 Jul) During his Aug. 16-19 visit to Poland, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow plans to join the country's Catholic leaders in signing a statement appealing for mutual forgiveness. The document signals "a new stage and a common perspective on a difficult, common history," Polish bishops' spokesman Father Jozef Kloch said of the document on reconciliation, due to be signed by the Moscow Patriarch along with Polish Bishops' Conference President Archbishop Jozef Michalik.

Russia's top church leader will be in Warsaw for the first two days of his visit, meeting with Polish state officials and Catholic bishops. He will sign the joint Catholic-Orthodox statement on his second day in the capital, at the city's Royal Castle, Fr. Kloch said during a July 16 press conference. A commission with representatives of both churches has been working for three years to develop the statement. "We hope it will gradually lead to reconciliation between our nations," said Fr. Kloch, explaining that the document was a step toward resolving "the painful history of Poland and Russia" on the basis of shared Christian faith. [read more...]


APPEAL BY GREATER GRACE PROTESTANT CHURCH AGAINST ITS LIQUIDATION RESUMES
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(20 Jul) The appeal by Baku's Greater Grace Protestant Church to annul a lower court decision banning the church began at Baku Appeal Court on 17 July, the court website noted. The case is being heard by a panel of three judges headed by Judge Seriyye Seyidova. The Judge's assistant, who did not give his name, told Forum 18 on 20 July that the State Committee was represented in court by the head of its Legal Department, Yusif Askerov. He added that two monitors from European organisations attended the hearing, at least one of them from the Baku Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

The State Committee lodged the case to liquidate the Church in December 2011. It claimed that the Church had broken the law by failing to apply for the compulsory re-registration following the changes to the Religion Law in 2009. The Church had gained registration with the Justice Ministry in April 1993. This is the first known enforced liquidation of a religious community since Azerbaijan's harsh Religion Law was adopted in 2009. If the liquidation ruling goes into force, any communal activity the Church undertakes will be illegal and its members subject to prosecution. [read more...]


UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS PROTEST PATRIARCH KIRILL'S VISIT TO KIEV
from Interfax-Religion

(26 Jul) Activists of the all-Ukrainian nationalistic association Svoboda (Freedom) held a protest demonstration near the Ukrainian presidential compound in Kiev against Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia's ongoing visit to Ukraine. About 30 Svoboda members gathered near a fence that surrounds the presidential compound on Bankovaya Street. They held party flags and several banners saying "Down with Moscow occupiers," "For united local Orthodox church with center in Kiev" and "Down with Muscovite colonizer priest." Several policemen deployed at the site made sure that the protesters did not cross the cordoned area.

Svoboda earlier planned to hold their protests against Patriarch Kirill's visit near the Kiev Laura of the Caves Monastery on July 26 and on European Square on July 27, but the Kiev District Administrative Court banned these actions. In response to this, Svoboda called on its activists to gather near the presidential administration building. "We will ask the government why it is groveling before the Kremlin," a Svoboda activist said. Meanwhile, a court ban on mass actions in the center of Kiev remains in effect until September 1. The ban was imposed on July 3, when protesters against a new language policy bill gathered near the Ukrainian House in the center of Kiev. [read more...]


AZERBAIJAN: NEW LITERATURE CONTROLS NOT "FORMALLY" ABOUT CENSORSHIP
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(18 Jul) Religious literature - already subject to compulsory prior censorship from the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations - is set to face further, parallel control by Azerbaijan's Tax Ministry. Printed and electronic religious literature and recordings are specifically identified in new legal amendments, alongside literature more generally and medicine, as requiring "verification marks" before they can be sold.

Although billed as consumer protection and tax measures, legal specialists and human rights defenders have expressed concern to Forum 18 News Service that the real aim of the measures - at least those related to religious literature - is to make it easier to confiscate unapproved religious literature and make publication of religious literature more difficult. The legal amendments are awaiting approval from President Ilham Aliev. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN PATRIARCH COMMEMORATES THE BAPTIZER OF KIEVAN RUS
from The Voice of Russia

REGULAR SESSION OF THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH'S HOLY SYNOD BEGINS AT THE LAVRA OF THE CAVES IN KIEV
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

RUSSIA: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SURVEY, JULY 2012
from Forum 18 News Service

ST. PETERSBURG CHARGES 74 UNDER NEW LAW ON PROPAGANDA OF PEDOPHILIA, HOMOSEXUALITY
from Interfax-Religion

MISSION TEAM VISITS CHURCH FACING CLOSURE
from Mission Network News

BLOGGER ACCUSED OF EXTREMISM FOR CRITICISM OF RPTs LEAVES RUSSIA
from Grani.ru

THOUSANDS SIGN PETITIONS AGAINST CLOSURE OF GREATER GRACE CHURCH IN AZERBAIJAN
from Russian Ministries

ROMANIAN-MOLDOVAN RELATIONS: IDENTITY AND CHURCH ISSUES
from Balkanalysis.com

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

In our first news article, read about Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill's upcoming reconciliation visit to Warsaw, Poland. It should be quite an event: since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, Polish Catholics have been outspoken in their dislike of Russia, often citing the Katyn Forest Massacre in which about 14,000 Polish WW2 resistance fighters were killed by Soviet troops and buried in a mass grave. Some the Polish resistance fighters collaborated with the Nazis against the Soviets.

The second news article, as well as the first and second headline in "OTHER NEWS HEADLINES," highlight the Russian Orthodox Patriarch's controversial Kiev visit to commemorate Prince Vladimir's conversion to Orthodoxy in A.D. 988. (Much of the Orthodox world observed this event two weeks ago, but the Moscow Patriarchate still uses the Julian calendar that is 13 days behind.) Supporters of the breakaway Ukraine Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate, whom the Moscow church calls "Ukrainian nationalists," were quite voiciferous in their demonstration against the Moscow Patriarch's visit.

It is significant that the Moscow Patriarch called a meeting of his Holy Synod in the Lavra Kiev Caves, because this is considered a most holy place for Slavic Orthodoxy, going back a thousand years to the establishing of Christianity in ancient Rus. The Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (ROC-MP) can't afford to lose control of Orthodoxy in the Ukraine, because more than half of the ROC-MP's parishes are located in the Ukraine.

You may have read the article in our last issue about the campaign for aid to flood victims in the Krasnodar region of Russia, where the town of Krymsk was hardest hit: three weeks ago 2-meter to 7-meter floods killed hundreds of people and destroyed or damaged about 5,000 homes. I've just heard from Anatolii Bogatov, my brother in Christ and good friend who lives in Krymsk, that he survived the floods with only minimal losses. Also, you've doubtless heard about the wildfires in Colorado.

The largest losses were from the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, where Cheryl and I were married 46 years ago and where Waterstone, our non-profit "umbrella" organization, is located. One of the Waterstone employees lost her home in the fire, as did the president and several staff at Navigators, people at Focus on the Family, and hundreds of others. To help, you can give by credit/debit card or e-check by clicking HERE, then on the Donate button, and select the "Waldo Canyon Fire Benevolent Fund" (or "Agape-Restoration-Society") from the pull-down menu.

Passover or Resurrection?

[This is an excerpt from the introduction to my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]

Beginning with this issue, I plan to rectify some "semantic shifts," i.e., how certain words in Christianity have been infused with different meanings over centuries of time. The main topic will be "ministry," and I propose to also examine more than 20 other words in its "semantic field" - used in various contexts where "ministry" occurs. Any word's semantic field helps us understand the meaning of that word. This his how little children learn a language - by hearing new words as they are used in various contexts, a child begins to understand what those new words mean.

Ministry is founded on the nature of God. At one time Moses was a prince of Egypt, the future pharaoh. But you know the story, how he killed an Egyptian and had to run away into the desert in order to save his hide. When he was wandering among the dunes, probably thinking to himself, "Hmm! Back then I was the prince, second only to Pharaoh! And who am I now? A shepherd-nobody. Hmm!" - suddenly a burning bush appeared in front of him, but that bush didn't burn up (Ex. 3:2-4). When a voice rang out, "Moses, Moses!" he answered, "Here I am."

Then the Voice told him to return to Egypt in order to deliver the people of Israel. Now, imagine for a moment that you are wanted for murder so you fled from Moscow to Siberia. Then some voice from somewhere, maybe in your head, says, "Return to Moscow!" Moses said, (Ex. 3:11-14) - "Who, me? And by the way, who are you?" Then God replied, "I AM." You know, of course, what happened next: Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, established the Passover, showing them how they must slaughter a lamb and consume all of it, and then Moses led them into the Promised Land.

Our being and purpose is defined in relationship to other people and to God, the Ground of Being who "came down" to Moses. When a person wakes from a head injury and has amnesia, he asks, "Who am I?" He then reconstructs his identity by his relationships as people close to him come to him and remind him who they are to him. When God comes down to us and we begin to have a relationship with Him, we find our true being and purpose.

Here in the phrase "I AM!" we discover a remarkable connection between grammar and philosophy: a subject + the intransitive verb "to be" but without a predicate! You doubtless learned that when you use the verb "to be," you must place a predicate in the sentence, for example: "I was a boy (or a girl), but then I became an adult." Both teachers and philosophers tell us that the predicate defines and limits the subject: "An orange is a round fruit, orange in color, juicy and sweet inside," or "An apple is also a round fruit, often not quite as round as an orange, red or yellow in color, it is harder than an orange, also sweet but not as juicy."

All of these predicates define and limit oranges and apples, the essence of which depends on their definitions. But when that Voice said, "I AM!" without a predicate, Moses immediately understood that He, this Voice, is the one unlimited Absolute, which is impossible to fully define and which does not depend on anything. He is the only self-sufficient existence. By the way, the word in Hebrew "Yahweh" or in English "I AM" is often translated "Lord" in the Bible. So when the atheist says, "Hah! What Lord? There is no God! Nobody lords it over me, I'm free!" you can ask, "And are you sure of that?" He will reply, "I'm absolutely certain that there is no God!" Then you say, "That means that you believe in some kind of absolute!" It is obviously absurd to say, "Everything is relative, and that is the absolute truth." Even if we do not consciously acknowledge it, we presuppose some kind of absolute, a fixed point of reference in order to express any intelligent statement. A person cannot even think logically without an absolute, and He is called "I AM!"

Our lord is whatever employer, commander, master or ideology we serve. Atheism, freedom, democracy or self-realization all make very insufficient lords, because none of them are self-sufficient. All of them pretend to be absolutes, but none of them fit the definition. None are the "I AM!" Therefore, none of them deserve the title "lord." Only the "I AM!" deserves our service. When we encounter the "I AM!" we discover Him to Whom we must minister or serve, and thus discover our own meaning and purpose.

Approximately one thousand five hundred years later, when Jesus appeared on earth, He announced the beginning of His ministry with the words of the prophet Isaiah (Lk. 4:16-19) "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me; because of this He has anointed Me?." That is, "I am anointed by the Spirit of the Lord," which means, "I am the Messiah." Then He explained what He intended to do: "proclaim the Gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim deliverance to the captives, and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those having been crushed." He began to gather a band of followers (Lk. 5:1-11) and showed them how this is done (Lk. 5:12-16): He touched a leper and healed him. Then He healed a paralyzed man (Lk. 5:17-26), then a centurion's servant (Lk. 7:1-10), and even raised from the dead the son of a widow (Lk. 7:11-17).

Then He sent out His disciples (Lk. 9:1-6), telling them, "Now it's your turn: go proclaim the Kingdom of God and do the same things!" Every time He sent His disciples out, He commanded them to combine proclaiming the Kingdom with healing the lame, maimed and blind. But the people didn't quite understand: who was He: a prophet, or a rabbi (teacher), or demon-possessed, or a magician (Lk. 11:14-22)? After this as He was eating supper with a certain Pharisee (Lk. 14:12-14), Jesus asked him, "When you throw a party what kind of people should you invite? The poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind." And again in the same chapter (16-21) He said to bring "the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind" into the Kingdom of God.

Here we notice an echo of the words that Moses wrote (Lev. 19:10 and 14): care for the poor, the deaf and the blind. Why? Because "I am the Lord," that is, "I AM!" Because of the fact that God exists, we must tell people this Good News and care for "the poor, the lame, the maimed and the blind." But Jesus' disciples still thought that it would be better to evangelize the rich, the healthy, the intelligent and the good-looking people, and bring that kind of people to Christ!

How many times in the Gospel of John did the Lord Jesus Christ say "I AM"? Eleven times! See Jn. 6:35; 6:41; 6:48; 8:58; 10:9; 10:11; 10:14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1; 15:5. The most important text, 8:58 , shows that the Jews understood when Jesus said it this time, He was making Himself equal to God, which is why "they took up stones to throw at Him."

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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Intercede for genuine reconciliation between Russian Orthodox and Polish Catholic Christians on August 16-19.
Mon. - Pray that the appeal against the liquidation of the Greater Grace Protestant Church in Azerbaijan will be successful.
Tue. - Ask the Lord for a peaceful settlement of differences between Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christians.
Wed. - Pray that Azerbaijan's new literature censorship regulations will not be signed by the country's President Ilham Aliev.
Thu. - Thank the Lord that Russian Christians have the sense and political power to ban homosexual/pedophilia propaganda.
Fri. - Pray for recovery from the flood in Krymsk, Russia, and thank God that Anatolii Bogatov and his family were spared.
Sat. - Ask God to free our minds from the semantic shifts of religiosity, and comprehend the incarnation of the "I AM."


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. I can do something. I cannot do everything, but that doesn't give me the right to do nothing.


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