Welcome to , 02 Feb 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

WHO WILL PAY? ROMANIAN COURT ORDERS TOWER NEXT TO CATHEDRAL DEMOLISHED
from Catholic Register

Bucharest Cathedral (30 Jan) An appeals court in Bucharest, Romania ordered a new 18-story office building demolished because it threatens the Bucharest Cathedral's physical security and was illegally constructed. Despite various "stop work" orders over the past several years, the construction is finished, although electricity, gas, phone lines, and plumbing have not been installed. Experts consulted by the media in Romania said it is possible to take the office building down, floor by floor, for between $2.7 million and $6.8 million.

Several official reports and lower courts concluded that construction began without proper permits, authorizations or engineering tests. Bucharest Archbishop Ioan Robu said he thinks the owners of "Cathedral Plaza," as it was called, should pay all costs related to demolition, but the court order gave responsibility to the city -- and the city says it has no money for such an expensive operation. The archbishop said he is considering starting a fund to raise the money for the immediate dismantling of the condemned building, hoping local and international donors might participate.

The project began in 2006 next to the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Backed by American investors, the development, featuring four underground levels, was expected to be one of the tallest buildings in Bucharest, a city located in an active seismic zone. The cathedral is built on sandy land that borders a subterranean river and has been damaged in four earthquakes since 1940. An independent study by Italian seismologists concluded that in an earthquake the cathedral could be destroyed - and everyone inside, killed - by the office tower. [read more...]


BELARUS: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SURVEY, JANUARY 2013
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Jan) Belarus continues to keep religious communities within an invisible ghetto of regulation, Forum 18 News Service has found. The state closely controls people meeting together to exercise their religious freedom, forcing many religious communities to keep out of sight. Officials are hostile towards followers of faiths they see as a threat, particularly the Protestantism of many of the regime's political opponents.

However, Forum 18 also notes that Belarus has been more reluctant to crack down on freedom of religion and belief in recent years, for fear that this might increase political opposition. Other issues include: strict controls on foreign citizens, including Catholic priests, who conduct religious activity; a Soviet-era network of KGB secret police and religious affairs officials; lack of provision for conscientious objection to military service; and obstruction of the religious freedom of prisoners, including prisoners of conscience and death-row prisoners. [read more...]


MEDVEDEV WANTS STRONGER RELATIONS BETWEEN STATE, CHURCH, SOCIETY
from Interfax-Religion

(01 Feb) On the fourth anniversary of Patriarch Kirill's enthronement, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wished him health and said he is hoping the relations between the church, the state, and society in Russia will become stronger. "The Patriarch's service is a very difficult mission and I hope everything will be fine. I wish for the special relationship now established between the Russian Orthodox Church, the state, and the entire society to grow stronger and serve for the good of our Fatherland," Medvedev said after the liturgy in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

During the meeting, Patriarch Kirill mentioned the increase in the number of bishops, adding that 300 bishops had assisted him during the liturgy, whereas he was elected by only 200 bishops four years ago. The Patriarch said this is due to the increase in the number of dioceses in the Russian Orthodox Church in the past few years. "The increase in the number of bishops, as I understand, reflects an increase in the number of people going to church, which is an objective process," Medvedev said [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: RAIDS, CRIMINAL CHARGES AND CHRISTMAS BIBLE DESTRUCTION
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(30 Jan) After two raids on her home in Urgench in north-west Uzbekistan this January and being detained for 11 hours, Protestant Christian Sharofat Allamova is facing criminal prosecution for "illegally" storing religious literature, the police officer who led the raids told Forum 18 News Service. The criminal charges carry a fine up to 200 times the minimum monthly wage, or a prison term of up to three years. Also, Protestants in Tashkent Region have told Forum 18 that they are upset and outraged over a judge's order to destroy Bibles.

They are particularly upset as the decision was handed down on 24 December 2012, as church members were beginning their Christmas celebrations. Judge Ikrom Obidov - who fined four local Protestants in the same case - has already punished many people locally for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. In an appeal against an earlier fine of 100 times the monthly minimum wage imposed by Obidov, also for "illegally" distributing religious literature, the appeal judge ignored evidence that the original case against Protestant Vadim Shim had been fabricated. [read more...]


COUNCIL OF CHURCHES SUPPORTS AMENDMENTS TO RENEW EARLIER VERSION OF RELIGIOUS LAW
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(31 Jan) The heads of denominations supported the legislative changes prepared by the Ministry of Justice and aimed to renew the previous version of the Law of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations." The decision was passed by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations at its session of January 24 held under the chairmanship of Archbishop Grygoris Buniatian, the Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) reports.

Deputy Director of the Department on Religions and Nationalities Maksym Budarin voiced the position of the Ministry of Culture in this regard. According to him, in addition to the introduction of the "single window" principle in the process of registration of religious organizations, one should take the opportunity to correct the obsolete norms in the Law on Freedom of Worship. In particular, it is proposed to pass the functions of control to the central body of the executive power on religious matters, that is the Ministry of Culture. [read more...]


RUSSIAN CHURCHES ENCOURAGED TO TACKLE RUSSIAN ORPHAN CRISIS AT PASTORS SUMMIT
from Christian Post

(30 Jan) At a summit in Kiev, Ukraine, next week, pastors from Russia and other Eastern European nations will be provided with encouragement and guidance to solve the orphan crises in their nations through adoption and other programs. The Church is the only organization with the resources and mandate to solve the problem, Paul Pennington, executive director and founder of Hope for Orphans and one of the summit's organizers, told The Christian Post Tuesday.

About 500 pastors from Belarus, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, and other parts of Eastern Europe are expected to attend the Feb. 6-7 event, which is hosted by The Alliance for Ukraine Without Orphans, Russia Without Orphans and Hope for Orphans. Hope for Orphans is a ministry of FamilyLife, a division of Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. While the summit had been planned for over a year, there has been more attention to the plight of Russian orphans recently. The Russian government this month banned all adoptions of Russian orphans from the United States. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH HELPS TO REHABILITATE DRUG ADDICTS
from Russia Beyond the Headlines

RUSSIAN DUMA PASSES BILL BANNING PROPAGANDA OF HOMOSEXUALITY AMONG CHILDREN IN FIRST READING
from Interfax-Religion

RUSSIAN BAPTISTS COMMEMORATE MARTIN-LUTHER-KING-DAY FOR THE SECOND TIME
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

MINISTERING TO THE CHRISTIAN LEADERS IN ESTONIA
from Mission Network News

PATRIARCH FILARET: MOSCOW WILL TRY TO LIQUIDATE INDEPENDENCE OF UOC-MP IN FEBRUARY
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

PRIMATES OF RUSSIAN AND GEORGIAN ORTHODOX CHURCHES MEET WITH RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

GOVERNMENT NEITHER SUPPORTS NOR OPPOSES RELIGIOUS FEELINGS LAW
from Moskovskii komsomolets

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


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Ministry as Sanctification (hagiasmos) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of my book The Ministry Driven Church. I'm currently teaching this as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE: scroll down in the left-hand index to "A Biblical Theology of Ministry."]

Being filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean that you must prophesy, speak in tongues or perform miracles. I do not disallow the exercise of spiritual gifts, but neither do I insist that all must have the same gift. We have already seen how Paul teaches in Rom. 12:4-6 and 1 Cor. 12:29-30 that not every disciple has the same spiritual gift. Jesus never commanded His disciples to speak in tongues and teach others to do so, but He repeatedly taught them to minister to the poor, lame, maimed and blind, and commanded them to teach others to do the same. This should be the most widespread spiritual gift, but it often is the most neglected. And only if we are filled with the Holy Spirit can we exercise the spiritual gift of diakonia.

How does this come about? After we ask, seek and knock we should expect to receive Him. God wants to give us the best gift of all: not necessarily tongues, prophecy or miracles, but the Holy Spirit Himself! The passage in 1 Thes. 4:3-12 starts out, "For this is the will of God: your sanctification." God's will for every Christian, every disciple (and the two are the same) is to experience sanctification, to be a saint! A saint is a holy person, and true holiness only comes from the Holy Spirit. In many of Paul's letters he addresses his audience as "saints" or "called to be saints." A disciple is a "saint-in-process." Here Paul lists several steps to sanctification:

a) Abstain from sexual immorality,
b) Control one's own body in a holy and honorable manner,
c) Do not exploit or take advantage of other believers,
d) Practice brotherly love and agape-love toward other believers,
e) Lead a quiet life, mind your own business and work with your own hands.

This last point, "mind your own business and work with your own hands" is seldom considered as belonging to sanctification. But Paul uses the same phrases to describe it as he uses for the preceding steps, writing about the Christian's "walk" (vv. 1 and 12) and "that you abound more and more" (vv. 1 and 10), another chiasm. Bruce Winter claims that Paul "is here proscribing the boisterous, political rabble-rousing behaviour by clients on behalf of their patrons."1

Then as now, people sought out patrons to sponsor them, but then they became the mouthpieces for their patrons who often used them in an effort to accumulate political power. In order to avoid even the appearance of being "bought" by outside influence, the Christian disciple must steer clear of being sponsored by those who might raise suspicions of unethical interference, and work with his own hands to support himself and other local believers who are in need.

In 1 Thes. 5:23, after warning against both extremes of quenching the Holy Spirit by belittling spiritual gifts, but also being careful to test them for genuineness, keep the good and reject the evil (vv. 19-22), Paul writes, "May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is a process that includes our physical bodies, and in God's sight is already perfected but in our earthly life it is still continuing: "For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). So we can be certain from these passages that God wills our sanctification, He wants us to be sanctified in spirit, soul and body, a process that will reach its completion when Christ returns.

This process is not without struggle. St. Paul teaches us in Gal. 5:16-25 that walking in the Spirit is a real spiritual battle:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let's also walk by the Spirit.

Notice that there are 18 things to avoid, "the works of the flesh," but there are only nine things to strive for, "the fruit of the Spirit," Once we are led by the Spirit, we are free from the dictates of the flesh, so it is then actually easier to walk in the Spirit than to do the works of the flesh.

Finally, we read in 1 Jn. 3:2-3 - "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it is not yet revealed what we will be. But we know that, when he is revealed, we will be like him; for we will see him just as he is. Everyone who has this hope set on him purifies himself, even as he is pure." This is our goal, to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and that is why we let God purify and sanctify us! As we shall see later, it is diakonia-ministry that brings us to this transformation.

Endnotes to Chapter 6:

1. Winter, Bruce, Seek the Welfare of the City, op. cit., pages 48-50.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray that the "Cathedral Plaza," a new 18-story office building that threatens the Bucharest Cathedral, will be demolished.
Mon. - Intercede for the religious communities in Belarus that are being kept within an invisible ghetto of onerous regulations.
Tue. - Thank the Lord for the increase in the number of people in Russia going to church, strengthening the Church and society.
Wed. - Pray against the raids, criminal charges, heavy fines on Protestants and destruction Bibles at Christmas in Uzbekistan.
Thu. - Ask God that the previous version of Ukraine's Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" be restored.
Fri. - Pray that Christians will help solve the crisis of orphan care in Russia and other Central and Eastern European countries.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that you and I will experience hagiasmos-sanctifiction for dunamis-power to do diakonia-ministry.


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. Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel is being turned off.


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