Welcome to , 30 Mar 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

200 NEW ORTHODOX CHURCHES IN MOSCOW CAUSES PUBLIC STIR
from Russia Beyond The Headlines

200 new churches (26 Mar) As part of the 200 Churches Program approved by the Russian Orthodox Church two years ago, eight new churches have already been built in five districts of Moscow. Thirteen more are under construction, and the documentation for a future 36 churches has been completed. Patriarch Kirill announced in the summer of 2010 that the Russian Orthodox Church would need to build at least 200 new churches. He based his argument on the numbers: If, in Russia overall, there is one church for every 11,000-13,000 residents, then, in Moscow, (where there are only 650 churches and chapels) every place of worship must accommodate two or three times as many people.

Many see the realization of the 200 Churches Program as the ideological expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church; even some Orthodox believers are disturbed by it. Most disgruntled of all by this program are people who live in the districts where the new churches are being built or will be built. In principle, they are not against this sort of construction, but they say that more thought should be put into choosing the sites - parks and squares should be left untouched.

Meanwhile, many Muscovites cannot understand why new Orthodox churches have to be built at all. They say that the churches near them are largely deserted, even during important Orthodox holidays. In their opinion, it would be far more logical for the Russian Orthodox Church to spend its money on shelters for the homeless. The Russian Orthodox Church insists that the program's naysayers are a small minority. Philip Gril, leader of a movement that supports building new Orthodox churches, noted that "under Soviet rule, some 1,000 churches in Moscow were destroyed; so today's construction of 200 new churches is a partial restitution of debts to the Church." [read more...]


KAZAKHSTAN: RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FINES MULTIPLY - CRIMINAL PENALTIES TO COME?
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(18 Mar) If adopted in its current form, Kazakhstan's proposed new Criminal Code would allow those who lead unregistered religious communities to be imprisoned for up to three months, and those who share their faith for up to four months. The draft text - seen by Forum 18 News Service - is expected to be approved by the government in May and presented to parliament in July, Ruslan Toktagulov of the General Prosecutor's Office, who is coordinating preparation of the draft, told Forum 18 from Astana.

A new Code of Administrative Offences is expected to reach parliament in the autumn, but no draft has been published. Fifteen individuals are known to Forum 18 to have been found guilty under the Code of Administrative Offences in 2013 for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. Ten were fined two months' average wages, four were fined one month's average wages and the other was warned. [read more...]


RUSSIAN CHURCH HOPES NEW HEAD OF ANGLICAN CHURCH WILL NOT ALLOW FEMALE BISHOPS, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
from Interfax-Religion

(25 Mar) The Moscow Patriarchate expects Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, to adhere to the norms of Christian morals and church governance. "We know that the Anglican Church is now going through a difficult time and various views, positions, and parties co-exist in it. However, we really hope that the traditional understanding of Christian morals and the church system will prevail in this polemic," Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, said during a meeting between Welby and representatives of the Orthodox Churches who attended his enthronement.

The introduction of the institution of female bishops will lead to the elimination of even a theoretical possibility of the Moscow Patriarchate recognizing the church hierarchy of the Anglican Church, the communications service of the Department for External Church Relations reported on Saturday. "I would like you to know about that and take our opinion into account when this issue arises again," Metropolitan Hilarion said. He also stated he is hoping Justin Welby will firmly defend the traditional biblical understanding of marriage as a union between a man and a woman "to prevent secular society from forcing on the Church of England the recognition of some forms of cohabitation which were never considered marriage by Christian churches." [read more...]


RUSSIA: IS "NEGATIVE EVALUATION OF CHRISTIANITY" A CRIME?
by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(27 Mar) Four Jehovah's Witness publications have been ruled "extremist" by a Siberian court since the beginning of 2013, with rulings expected soon on a further four, Forum 18 News Service notes. One "expert" analysis used by the court uncovered "propaganda" of the superiority of citizens on religious grounds and incitement of religious discord. It also pointed to the publication's "negative evaluations of Christianity and its religious leaders," but gave no examples from the text itself.

The publications are expected to appear soon on Russia's Federal List of Extremist Materials. In April a court in Chelyabinsk is due to consider whether 95 further Jehovah's Witness works are "extremist." Fifteen more works by Islamic theologian Said Nursi and a Russian translation of a biography of him were added to the Federal List on 19 March. Individuals and communities who possess such works deemed "extremist" can be fined or even imprisoned. [read more...]


CELEBRATION OF 1025TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAPTISM OF RUS TO BE ATTENDED BY REPS OF ALL LOCAL CHURCHES
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(29 Mar) The main events to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus are planned for 27-28 July. So reported the press-service of the Kyiv city state administration to UNIAN. This year, the celebratory events will be held at the international level. Various events will be for the first time organized in Russia and Belarus. The capital of Ukraine will be the epicenter of the celebration with the participation of representatives of all the local churches. Today, as part of the preparation for the celebration, an organizing meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Kyiv Mayor O. Popov, where it was decided to intensify the preparation process, approve the plan of the celebratory events and hold a meeting of the Kyiv City Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.

As part of the preparation for the celebration, the monuments to St. Prince Volodymyr, St. Princess Olha, St. Cyril and Methodius, the Apostle Andrew and sacral buildings will be restored. In addition, a monument in honour of the 1025th anniversary of Baptism of Rus will be erected in Naberezhne Highway. According to the press-service of Kyiv City Council, Deputy Mayor H. Hereha participated as a member of the Ukrainian delegation in the first session of the Church-public organizing committee of the Moscow Patriarchate on the preparation and organization of the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of Baptism of Rus which was held on 27 March in Moscow with the participation of delegations of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. [read more...]


A SOCIETY OF HIGH PRICES AND LOW VALUES
from Russian Evangelical Alliance

(18 Mar) Upholding moral values is the rallying cry of Russia's National Prayer Breakfast movement. That was again the case at this year´s gathering of roughly 200 leaders in Moscow on 12 March. This was the 13th breakfast in the course of its 18-year history. First-time guest Yaroslav Nilov addressed the morality theme immediately and concluded in his speech that Russia is "a society of high prices and low values." adding that his country features "sturdy homes housing fragile families."

Nilov, the 31-year-old Vice-Chairman of the Liberal-Democratic Party's (LDPR) parliamentary group in the Duma, also offered a vital definition: "True spirituality is not measured by the number of candles lit and the amount of money donated. Spirituality is located within the person and transforms one's life." Alexander Torshin, First Deputy Chairman of the Council in Russia's Upper House and member of Vladimir Putin's "United Russia" party, decried the "absence of trust" between the people and its rulers as well as among each other. "Spiritual unity will not occur without human unity." [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

ROLEX OF DOOM: BULGARIAN CLERIC FAILS TO SELL GOLD WATCH TO COVER HIS CHURCH'S ELECTRICITY BILL
from Russia Today

IF POPE AND PATRIARCH DO MEET, IT WILL UNLIKELY HAPPEN IN RUSSIA - RUSSIAN CATHOLIC FIGURE
from Interfax-Religion

EASTER BASKETS OF HOPE -- IS IT TOO LATE? NOPE.
from Mission Network News

UOC-MP TO TEACH YOUTH ABOUT TOLERANCE OF FOREIGNERS
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

GAYS' PLANNED PROTEST ON SUNDAY IN SYKTYVKAR IS BANNED
from Portal-Credo.ru

SERBIAN PATRIARCH SENDS EASTER GREETINGS TO CATHOLICS, PROTESTANTS
from B92 News

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

HAPPY WESTERN EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! We thank the Lord for the fact that dozens of new churches are being built in Moscow, or are in the planning stages. Yes, there are detractors and to a great extent I agree that the Orthodox should build structures that combine worship and housing, but the Russian Church is slowly recovering from 70+ years of atheistic socialism and is moving ahead.

On another note, in the excerpt from my book below I'd like to emphasize the point that both Christ and the Apostles combined acts of healing and compassion with the proclamation (kerygma) of the Gospel and the call to repentance. In approximately the last 100 years we in the West have experienced the separation of these two aspects into opposing theological camps: the "Social Gospel" and the "Spiritual Gospel." The former group tended toward secularizing the Gospel by making it into simply doing good works in society and trying to make the world a better place. The latter group backed away from this "worldly" and "liberal" trend, and concerned itself with "saving souls." But this created a false dichotomy, an incorrect division of the Gospel into two "either/or" parts. Neither part, however, was the whole Gospel. Proclaiming salvation must always be combined with doing good works and acts of mercy. Proclamation of the Gospel and practical ministry go together!

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Ministry as Proclamation (kerygma / kerusso) - Part 2

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of my book The Ministry Driven Church. It's also on our website as an online course, and you can try out the course's interactive questions HERE.]

We find this same emphasis on repentance in the preaching of His disciples: "He called to himself the twelve, and began to send them out two by two; and he gave them authority over the unclean spirits. ?They went out and preached (kerusso) that people should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed many with oil who were sick, and healed them." (Mark 6:7 and 12-13, see also Mat. 10:1-8 and Luke 9:1-2). Mark emphasizes casting out demons, along with Matthew and Luke's mention of healing the sick accompanying the proclamation of the Good News.

After Christ's resurrection, Peter was first to take this Good News to the gentiles when he went to Caesarea and proclaimed to Cornelius that Jesus "went around doing good and healing everyone who was under the power of the devil" and "He commanded us to preach (kerusso) to the people and to testify that this is he who is appointed by God as the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him, that through his name everyone who believes in him will receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:38 and 42-43). Paul's preaching included both healing and calling for repentance to receive remission of sins, and in this case it was accompanied by the sign of speaking in tongues.

From time to time we find ourselves asking the "so what?" question. Of course, Jesus and the apostles did those things, but so what? Why is it relevant today? What we need today is strong churches made up of young, healthy, wealthy and successful people! So why waste time on the elderly, lame, sick and blind? They can't contribute to our building programs, and if they show up in church they'll scare away all the normal people. Besides, it takes an enormous amount of time and money to work with those people! What did Jesus have to say about this? First, He taught that at His second coming He would separate people into two groups: those who ministered to the hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, sick and prisoners thus ministered to Him were ushered into His eternal Kingdom, but those who did not care for these despised social outcasts performed no genuine ministry to Christ and were cast to eternal fire (Mat. 25:31-46).

Then a little later, when His disciples shouted - "Why this waste?" about the woman who poured expensive ointment on Him, Jesus replied to them: "Why do you trouble the woman? Because she has done a good work for me. For you always have the poor with you; but you don't always have me. For in pouring this ointment on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Most certainly I tell you, wherever this Good News is preached (kerusso) in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of as a memorial of her" (Mat. 26:10-13). Thus we see that Matthew identified ministering to the poor with ministering to Christ, and is accompanied by kerusso. By the way, John's version of this event tells us that it was Judas who objected to this "waste," because he was a thief and merely wanted to get his hands on the money (Jn. 12:4-6). We know what happened to Judas. What is our motivation: genuine ministry to Christ, or love of money?

The Apostle Paul outlines the entire process of preaching, gaining a response of repentance and faith, and having the person confess Christ publicly in Rom. 10:8-15a (MKJV) -

But what does it say? "The Word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart"; that is, the Word of Faith which we proclaim (kerusso); because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (sodzo). For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation (soteria). For the Scripture says, "Everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame." For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone, "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved (sodzo)." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching (kerusso)? And how shall they preach (kerusso) unless they are sent?2

Bishop Barkley, the British philosopher, stated: "Belief is the disposition to act." Faith or belief, as we see here in Romans 10, is not "armchair faith," mere mental assent to logical propositions or doctrines; it is the disposition, the willingness to:

a) Be sent (apostello) to a place where people don't agree with you,
b) Boldly proclaim divine truth and try to convince those people to repent and change,
c) Lead them to the point of salvation and healing (soteria), and
d) Bring them to the point of unashamedly confessing their new faith to others.

Our faith must be more than something that is taught, it must be caught! We mustn't keep it to ourselves, we must transmit it to others in such a compelling way that they in turn transmit it to still others. That involves risking rejection, danger and failure, but going and doing anyway. It is safer to stay in one's comfort zone where we know we won't fail, to passively listen and consent to truths we have already heard hundreds of times, than to get up and go into a hostile environment, and preach the Word. That is true success! We can't succeed unless we risk failure.

But this is not the worldly kind of success, where we strive to achieve wealth, power or fame for ourselves. Paul writes: "For we don't preach (kerusso) ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants (doulos) for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). The doulos strives to carry out his master's commands, not be involved in running after his own desires and goals. This is real ministry. Paul commanded Timothy to "preach (kerusso) the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:2). The phrase "in season and out of season" is translated in the Contemporary English Version as "even if it isn't the popular thing to do."3 Urging people to repent isn't convenient or popular. We must balance reproof and rebuke with patience and teaching, in order to not drive away the flock of God. In all of this we seek to instill the character of Christ into others' lives.

Endnotes to Chapter 8:

2. Modern King James Bible, op. cit.

3. Contemporary English Version, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Praise God for 200 new churches planned or being built in Moscow, where socialism destroyed 1,000 churches.
Mon. - Pray that Christians in Kazakhstan will be able to exercise their freedom to proclaim their faith and not be fined.
Tue. - Ask the Lord that relations between Russian Orthodox and the Anglicans will improve under the new Anglican leader.
Wed. - Pray that truth will be combined with justice in recent court rulings about "negative evaluations of Christianity."
Thu. - Praise the Lord that leaders from all Christian confessions will celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.
Fri. - Thank God that Russia's political leaders at their National Prayer Breakfast see the need for spiritual and moral values.
Sat. - Ask the Lord that Christians will overcome the false dichotomy of kerygma-proclamation versus 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. How will we ever know how good we have it, if all we ever know is having it good?


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