Welcome to , 09 Sep 2012
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

PENTECOSTAL CHURCH LOOTED, RAZED
from The Moscow Times

Select to see full-size! (09 Sep) A telephone call woke up Natalya Cherevichnik, 25, a parishioner of a Moscow Pentecostal church, at about 3 a.m. A fellow worshipper told her that at that very moment, unknown workers, backed by the police, were knocking down their church. Cherevichnik, a resident of the town of Shatura, 125 kilometers east of the capital, had returned home about 1 a.m. from a Wednesday evening service at the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church in Moscow's eastern suburb of Novokosino. She promptly took the 6 a.m. bus back to the city. "When I arrived, I just burst into tears," Cherevichnik told The Moscow Times outside the church ruins Friday evening. "I couldn't believe that something that had been built over several years could be destroyed in a few hours."

The demolition, which sent shock waves through the country's Protestant community over the weekend, was ordered by city authorities determined to build a sports stadium on the site. But the decision, based on a court order, is raising fears that religious freedom is under attack from a government that has long shown preferential treatment to the dominant Russian Orthodox Church. About 12:15 a.m. Thursday, a group of unidentified drunken people in civilian clothing, accompanied by police, broke down the door of the church, located at 10 Ulitsa Nikolaya Starostina, where a young woman worked as a night watchman, said the church's senior pastor, Vasily Romanyuk. The intruders tore out the telephone cable and seized the woman's cell phone. The police took her to the police station, where she was kept for three hours before being allowed to call Romanyuk.

Romanyuk and several of the church's 550 parishioners arrived at the site about 3:30 a.m. to find the gates around the building and yard ripped off their hinges and about 40 to 45 drunken young men in civilian clothing standing in two equal groups, one beside the gates and the other beside the church. The men blocked the parishioners from entering, pushed them, shouted obscenities and threw stones at those who tried to take pictures, the pastor said. Police who arrived at Romanyuk's request watched impassively. Soon construction machinery arrived and destroyed most of the church.

After the construction machinery left together with the unidentified men, the parishioners discovered that many church possessions had been looted, including furniture, musical and computer equipment, and even the communion cups and food from the canteen. City Hall had leased the plot, with an area of 1.3 hectares, to the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith, which manages the church, for one year in 1999 on the condition that the organization draft design and budget plans for the construction of a cultural center. But the religious organization failed to fulfill the contract and constructed a three-story building without permission, according to city authorities. [read more...]


TURKMENISTAN: UPSURGE IN RAIDS, THREATS, FINES
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(05 Sep) Protestant Christians have faced an upsurge since late July in raids, threats of expulsion from villages or social ostracism, threats that their children will be kept under close scrutiny in school and other harassment, Protestants from Turkmenistan have told Forum 18 News Service. At least three separate administrative trials of Protestants have taken place, leading to large fines. "The situation has got markedly worse since July and we don't know why," one Protestant, who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 in late August.

Several Protestants have told Forum 18 that they fear their children will face discrimination and harassment in schools, especially in rural areas. The new academic year began in Turkmenistan's schools on 1 September. "Children of believers can be singled out by head teachers and individual teachers for ridicule and can have their grades lowered because of the faith of their parents," one Protestant complained to Forum 18. The Protestant pointed to several such instances in the academic year that finished in the summer.

Forum 18 was unable to find any official at the national level in the capital Ashgabad [Ashgabat] prepared to comment on the raids, threats and fines. The man who answered the telephone of Gurbanberdy Nursakhatov, Deputy Chair of the government's Gengesh (Council) for Religious Affairs, put the phone down on 4 September as soon as Forum 18 called. Subsequent calls went unanswered. The man who answered the phone of Fr Andrei Sapunov, a Russian Orthodox priest who is also a Gengesh Deputy Chair with nominal responsibility for Christian affairs, told Forum 18 the same day that it was a wrong number. [read more...]


CHURCH WILL INCREASE SPIRITUAL INFLUENCE ON AUTHORITIES AND SOCIETY - PATRIARCH KIRILL
from Interfax-Religion

(05 Sep) Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has denied the allegations on the increasing mingling of the church and the state in Russia. "People who say that the Church in Russia is very closely connected with the state are wrong. It's not true," the Patriarch said in an interview with the Japanese media before his visit to Japan. Patriarch said the Church is working with the authorities on the restoration of cultural monuments, education of the youth, culture, and social sphere, but has no goal to influence state politics.

"However, we are preaching to people, including our authorities. We bring certain values to our people, primarily moral values. And we insist that politics should be based on morals. Politics without morals do not benefit those who pursue those policies and those who are influenced by these policies," he said. For this reason, the influence exerted by the church on political life is "moral, not political."

"Our ill-wishers are telling tales about the Church, and these tales spread worldwide become stereotypes spread fast," he said. Patriarch Kirill said the Church wants to influence everyone, "including state figures and ordinary people so that the morals the church preaches are adopted by our people's consciousness." [read more...]


TAJIKISTAN: FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE PENALTIES PUNISH RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(28 Aug) Three new Articles were added to the Code of Administrative Offences to punish those violating the Religion Law's tight restrictions on sending Tajik citizens abroad for religious education; on preaching and teaching religious doctrines; and on establishing ties with religious organisations abroad. Another new provision punishes religious communities doing things not specifically set out in their statutes. For the first time, the responsibility has been given to the State Committee for Religious Affairs to hand down the fines for such "offences", Forum 18 News Service notes.

"Parliament did not see any violation of rights, and so adopted these changes," Mavlon Mukhtarov of the State Committee claimed to Forum 18. "It should not be the prerogative of the State Committee to hand punishments to religious communities but of the courts," one independent legal expert told Forum 18. "We feel like little children who need to ask permission for each step we are taking," one Protestant complained to Forum 18. [read more...]


ORTHODOX FAIL TO OBSTRUCT BUILDING OF GREEK-CATHOLIC CHAPEL IN KHMILNYKY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(07 Sep) Despite the protests of the Orthodox against the construction of a Greek Catholic chapel in the town of Khmilnyk of Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine, the law remains on the side of the Catholics, as one denomination cannot prohibit another one to build a church. The senior priest of the Greek Catholic parish of St. John in Khmilnyk, Fr. Oleksandr Plieshanov, reported so to CREDO.

"No one told me for what reason they sought to change the location of the chapel. But the town council did not consider that question today. Probably because our religious community expressed its protest against making any alterations to the previous decision of the Khmilnyk Town Council," he said. The interdenominational conflict in Vinnytsia Oblast started after a protest of Orthodox believers led by their priest against the construction of the chapel by the Greek Catholics in a former Catholic cemetery. They even promised a massacre if the chapel is built. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH FORGAVE RUSSIAN PUNK BAND
from Wall Street Journal

RUSSIA: SHOCK AT MOSCOW CHURCH DEMOLITION
from Forum 18 News Service

POLISH INTERIOR MINISTER LAYS CORNERSTONE FOR RUSSIAN CHAPEL COMMEMORATING EXECUTED OFFICERS
from Interfax-Religion

JOINT ORTHODOX-PENTECOSTAL PATROLS PROPOSED FOR PROTECTING CHURCH PROPERTY
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

CHURCH DESTROYED, RUSSIAN EVANGELICALS ARE CONCERNED
from Mission Network News

SYNOD OF THE UOC-MP PROHIBITS POLITICAL AGITATION IN CHURCHES FOR UPCOMING ELECTIONS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR OF VLADIVOSTOK: BAPTISTS IN BATTLE FOR CHURCH PROPERTY
from Russia Religion News

UKRAINE'S ALLEGED PLAN TO ARREST NIGERIAN PASTOR ADELAJA
from The Guardian - Nigeria

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Listen to the Voice of Russia audio Orthodox Patrols: Pros and Cons, Select to listen to the audio discussing not only the prevention of vandalism attacks on Orthodox churches and monuments in reaction to the two-year sentence meted out to the female punk rock group that desecrated the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow, but also at places such as the Family Research Council offices in Washington, D.C. after a leftist organization called it a "hate group," and at a Baptist seminary in Texas. It is obvious that we are witnessing an increase in anti-Christian vandalism and even violent attacks around the world. This is strongly reminiscent of the persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union of 25-50 years ago.

The leftist media have continually "blamed the victim," accusing the Russian Orthodox Church of not forgiving the punk rock group, ignoring the fact that the Church forgave them from the very beginning. This propaganda campaign has gone on for a few months now, and it is becoming tiresome and ever more obvious that anti-Christian forces are using it to attack the Church and Christianity in general. The proposal that joint Orthodox-Pentecostal patrols be organized to protect church property is appropriate, as it would negate the objection that only the Orthodox are allowed to guard their property, especially in the wake of the recent destruction of a Pentecostal church building.

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Ministry as Fellowship/Community (koinonia) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my book The Ministry Driven Church, available HERE.]

Wendell Berry, in his book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, points out that the Bible teaches several things about stewardship of the earth -

We will discover that we humans do not own the world or any part of it.... There is in our human law, undeniably, the concept and right of "land ownership." But this, I think, is merely an expedient to safeguard the mutual belonging of people and places without which there can be no lasting and conserving human communities. This right of human ownership is limited by mortality and by natural constraints on human attention and responsibility; it quickly becomes abusive when used to justify large accumulations of "real estate," and perhaps for that reason such large accumulations are forbidden in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus. In biblical terms, the "landowner" is the guest and steward of God.5
The second overlooked item in Acts 2:42-47 that I must point out is one that, in The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren touches on in another context, under the heading "Churches Driven by Buildings." He writes,
Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings, and then they shape us." Too often a congregation is so anxious to have a nice building that the members spend more than they can afford. Paying for and maintaining the building becomes the biggest budget item. Funds needed to operate ministries must be diverted to pay the mortgage, and the actual ministry of the church suffers. The tail ends up wagging the dog.6

The fact is that in Acts 2:42-47 the Jerusalem church first met in a huge building complete with dining and residence facilities. This fact is entirely overlooked in every commentary I have read. Although Warren uses the quotation from Churchill to downplay the vital significance of buildings, the early church clearly met and worshipped in the Jerusalem Temple, which was a multi-purpose structure that had rooms for dining, and rooms where some priests and even the prophetess Anna resided. We need only study the detailed descriptions in 1 Chron. 28:11-12 and Ezek. 41:6-7 to learn about these auxiliary rooms surrounding the Temple courts. A multipurpose ministry facility, if properly designed, can "shape us," as Churchill said, but in a positive way that enhances the ministry of the body of Christ and at the same time greatly reduces the budget outlays for building and maintenance, thus freeing up funds for mission and ministry.

This concept of multi-purpose facilities carried forward into the Early Church: clergy-physicians frequently studied medicine along with their general and spiritual education. These priest-physicians served the court and wrote textbooks on medicine. As a result of this type of education, hospices were established. The most famous of these early hospices was the Basilias established by St. Basil in Caesarea of Cappadocia. St. John Chrysostom established several of them in Constantinople. Usually, the hospices contained a house for the elderly, for disabled, for contagious disease, acute disease, and for travelers. Often a church or cathedral was part of the group of buildings where people came for healing and rest.7

But we must also beware of the potential dangers of koinonia: Acts 5:1-15 tells of Ananias and Sapphira who sold a piece of land and pretended to give all of the proceeds to the church. It is important to note Peter's explanation: "While you kept it, didn't it remain your own? After it was sold, wasn't it in your power?" (v. 4). He did not negate or in any way undermine the right to private ownership of property. But at the same time he accused them of lying to God and tempting the Spirit. Violating the rules for koinonia can bring down swift judgment.

In our first period of overseas missionary service, my wife and I lived with a team in Austria. Our son Rob had already been born in Canada, and then our daughter Tanya was born while we were living in Austria. We shared kitchen, dining, bath and toilet facilities with others on the team. One of the team rules was to take turns keeping these shared facilities clean. But one time several team members became quite sick, and it was finally diagnosed as hepatitis. As it turned out, a new mother, the wife of another teammate, had rinsed out her baby's diapers in the bathroom sink! What she thought was just a minor infraction of the rules could have been fatal for others on the team. In Deut. 29:18-19 the German Luther Bible warns -

That there not be perhaps a man or woman or clan or tribe among you whose heart has turned from the Lord, so that he goes and serves the gods of those nations, and a root may grow up to bear gall and bitterness, and although he hears the words of this curse, he still justifies himself in his heart and says, 'It will go well with me if I do whatever my heart desires,' so that the drunken and the sober are destroyed together. (my translation)

A little carelessness, a little greed, a little idolatry, a little lust, a little drunkenness - and not only the sinner but innocent bystanders can be drawn in and destroyed, physically or spiritually.

How is koinonia an aspect of ministry? In 2 Cor. 8:4 Paul writes: "...beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints"8 (ASV). Paul is writing here about the Corinthians? sending a love-gift to the Jerusalem church experiencing material hardship, and he states that fellowship (koinonia) is a form of ministering (diakonia) to other believers, and Paul uses the verb diakoneo again in vv. 19-20 to describe this act of koinonia. Once again he underlines this concept in 9:3 - "seeing that through the proving of you by this ministration (diakonia) they glorify God for the obedience of your confession unto the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution unto them and unto all." Sharing materially, which in 8:4 he identifies as koinonia, is thus a "proving" or a test of true diakonia. And in 13:14 Paul closes the letter with a Trinitarian benediction: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship (koinonia) of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen." Thus he links koinonia of the Holy Spirit together with the material sharing of one's wealth, alluding to the spiritual basis for the material outworking of koinonia.

Paul again ties diakonia together with koinonia in Eph. 3:7 and 9 - "Whereof I was made a minister (diakonos), according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. ...And to make all men see what is the fellowship (koinonia) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ"9 (KJV). So Paul understands his role as a servant or minister (diakonos) to be that of sharing (koinonia) the mystery, the divine plan of God heretofore hidden but now revealed, that of sharing the Good News of God's grace with the gentiles. St. Paul writes to the Philippians, telling how he prays "for your partnership (koinonia) in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now" (Phil. 1:5). And shortly after this he writes, "If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship (koinonia) of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion, make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind" (Phil. 2:1-2). In these two passages Paul again links the material and spiritual aspects of koinonia. But perhaps the hardest aspect to swallow is in Phil. 3:10 - "that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship (koinonia) of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death." The threat of his impending execution in Rome made the koinonia-sharing of Christ?s sufferings very real to Paul.

The last quotation from Paul on this facet of ministry is in Phm. 1:6 when he describes how he prays for Philemon - "that the fellowship (koinonia) of your faith may become effective, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus." Here the KJV translates it as "communication" that indicates Paul prays for Philemon to communicate his faith effectively by doing good (agathos), applying his knowledge of Christ Jesus in practical ministry.

The anonymous author of the letter to the Hebrews, perhaps Paul or Barnabas, writes: "But don't forget to be doing good and sharing (koinonia), for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (13:16). The author writes this in the context of identifying with Christ's suffering: "Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate. Let us therefore go out to him outside of the camp, bearing his reproach" (verses 12-13). So once again we see the material aspect of sharing (koinonia) linked together with the spiritual aspect of the fellowship of Christ's suffering. In his wonderful book, Discipleship, J. Heinrich Arnold gives some very sound advice about community -

If we want to live in church community we must do it for the sake of God alone. Otherwise, even with the best will, we will be like parasites on the inner life of the church. Even if we work more hours than other members, even if we produce more income than others, our efforts will lie like a heavy weight on the rest of the community. We have an open door for all people, but we also expect each one who wants to stay with us to accept the challenge of full discipleship. Otherwise our community will go to pieces.10

My wife and I have visited one of the "Bruderhof" communities founded and run by Heinrich's followers. They manufacture there all kinds of equipment for rehabilitation of disabled children and adults. The lived-out community that we saw was a powerful dynamic for Christian ministry, witness and outreach.

Jean Vanier is founder of the world famous L'Arche communities for the mentally handicapped and their helpers. His book Community and Growth inspired my wife and me to launch into our present ministry, and later I had the privilege of meeting him personally when he was in Moscow a few years ago to give a series of lectures. He writes - "There is no ideal community. Community is made up of people with all their richness, but also with their weakness and poverty, of people who accept and forgive each other, who are vulnerable with each other. Humility and trust are more the foundation of community than perfection."11 We shy away from community because we fear letting people see we are less than perfect, becoming vulnerable, but then we are left to our own loneliness. In order to experience koinonia-community we need to admit our own weakness and accept others' weakness. This involves dying to the "rugged individualism" of self that says "I'm self-sufficient, I don't need you." Next we will learn more about this call to full discipleship. Get ready to take up your cross, deny self and follow Christ!

Endnotes:

5. Berry, Wendell, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community (New York, Pantheon Books, 1993), 96-97.

6. Warren, Rick, The Purpose Driven Church, op. cit., 78-79

7. Hosken, Cheryl, "Lecture # 003: Historical and Christian Perspectives of Disability," Practical Ministries (www.agape-biblia.org/index04.htm).

8. American Standard Version (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

9. King James Version (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

10. Arnold, J. Heinrich, Discipleship (Farmington, Pennsylvania, Plough Publishing House, 1994), 104-105.

11. Vanier, Jean, Community and Growth (New York, Paulist Press, 1989), 47.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the looters of the razed Pentecostal church will be brought to justice, and that the church may have another building.
Mon. - Interecede for Protestants in Turkmenistan who are experiencing increased raids, threats of expulsion, threats to their children.
Tue. - Praise the Lord for Patriarch Kirill's strong stand on the the Church's positive role in promoting morality to the state and society.
Wed. - Pray against the stronger administrative penalties by the Tajik State Committee for Religious Affairs punishing religious activity.
Thu. - Thank God that construction of a Greek Catholic chapel in Khmilnyk, Ukraine, was allowed to continue despite Orthodox protests.
Fri. - Pray for Christians of all confessions to stand together against vandalism and attacks by anti-Christian forces on their property.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that believers will come to a greater understanding of "Ministry as Fellowship/Community (koinonia)."


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. Democracy can only survive until the people find their way to the public purse. - Plato
      Socialism can only survive until it finally runs out of other people's money. - M. Thatcher


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