Welcome to , 17 Aug 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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from Wall Street Journal

Select to see full-size! (06 Aug) An outspoken Russian Orthodox priest who had been critical of the church hierarchy and had voiced support for the jailed feminist punk group has been stabbed to death in his home, police said. Pavel Adelgeim, 75 years old, was found dead late Monday from several stab wounds in a small town outside the northwestern city of Pskov, which sits near Russia's border with Estonia. Russia's Investigative Committee said a 27-year-old man found inside the priest's home stabbed himself in the chest as police tried to detain him. He was hospitalized in serious condition and had to be placed on life support, so he hasn't yet been questioned.

Investigators offered no theories as to motive, but local lawmaker Lev Shlosberg told TV Rain that the man appeared to be mentally ill and Fr. Adelgeim and his wife had welcomed him into their home for a few days at the request of a friend who thought the priest could help. "He is a mentally ill person, and maybe his acquaintances hoped Fr. Pavel's word would cure his illness," Mr. Shlossberg was quoted as saying.

Mr. Adelgeim had been a religious dissident during the Soviet Union and had been jailed for speaking out against the Soviet regime, according to a biography posted on his blog. While in prison, he lost his right leg. In recent years, he became a vocal critic of the Russian Orthodox Church's leadership through newspaper articles and through his blog. [read more...]

by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Aug) Russian legislative initiatives concerning freedom of religion or belief have markedly increased since President Vladimir Putin's return in May 2012, Forum 18 News Service notes. This appears at least partly due to activity by the Duma's Committee on Social Associations and Religious Organisations after its chairship passed to Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party in late 2011. But not all are restrictive, or have proved resistant to revision in the direction of more religious freedom.

For example, a government legislative initiative backed by the Committee regulating religious meetings has still to be voted on by the Duma. The amendments, proposed on 7 June 2013 in response to a Constitutional Court ruling, are to some extent positive: meetings for worship in private could not be subject to a need to gain state permission in advance. However, a degree of uncertainty remains over public meetings for worship in rented premises. Some local state officials have continued to obstruct meetings for worship in private or rented premises. But despite a general trend towards harsher restrictions, not all recent proposals negatively affecting religious freedom are being adopted. [read more...]

from Interfax-Religion

Select to see full-size! (09 Aug) The Moscow Patriarchate Department for Church Charity and Social Service transferred $1,320,407 to the bank account of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the beginning of August 2013. The money was collected at the Russian Orthodox churches with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to help people affected by the military hostilities in Syria, the patriarch's website reports.

"This charitable initiative is not strange to the history of the great Russian Church and the great Russian people, who always supported the sister Church in Antioch and was so compassionate with the suffering Syrian people," Patriarch John X of Antioch and All the East said in his letter sent to Patriarch Kirill on 21 July 2013. The primate of the Church of Antioch expressed his "high esteem and great gratitude" to Patriarch Kirill for the fund-raising and assured him that the Patriarchate of Antioch would send "a detailed plan of distribution... so that the holy sister Russian Orthodox Church could inform her generous faithful about the distribution of the mentioned sum." [read more...]

by Geraldine Fagan, Forum 18 News Service

(14 Aug) More than a month since a vaguely-worded law criminalising "offence to religious feelings" came into force in Russia on 1 July, no prosecutions have followed, Forum 18 News Service observes. Yet fears over the Law's restrictive potential persist. It is the most notorious legal measure concerning freedom of religion or belief to be adopted since President Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in May 2012.

Alexander Verkhovsky - who monitors nationalism, xenophobia and threats to freedom of religion or belief in Russia - is so far unaware of any formal requests to the law enforcement agencies for a criminal case to be opened due to "offence to religious feelings". "Perhaps they exist, who could possibly know?" he commented to Forum 18 on 9 August. "Many are waiting, I think, and it's summer."

To date, Verkhovsky's Moscow-based Sova Center for Information and Analysis has reported only one associated incident concerning a representative of the Saami people in Russia's Far North. Lawyer Inna Zagrebina of the Moscow-based Guild of Experts on Religion and Law is similarly unaware of formal complaints of "offence to religious feelings," she told Forum 18 on 14 August. [read more...]

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(17 Aug) The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) expects over 20,000 pilgrims to Kyiv from various countries of the world to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the Christening of the Kyivan Rus and consecration of the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.

The main festive events are scheduled for August 17-18. These are exhibitions entitled "Patriarch Joseph the Blind" and "The Pope and Ukraine," an educational forum entitled "Christian Values in Education. Challenges and Prospects," a concert of sacred music, and a ceremonial meeting at the Ukraina National Arts Palace. [read more...]

by Andrew Doran, First Things

(31 Jul) In the early spring of 1953, a sickly Russian novelist, "covered with ice, out of the dark and the cold," staggered forth from the Soviet Gulag, the constellation of Communist prison camps that stretched from Siberia to South Asia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, ill with cancer, had once been a proponent of the system that condemned him to forced labor. Now he saw his nation's "deep suffering," like his own, as redemptive.

"The entire twentieth century," Solzhenitsyn observed in his 1983 Templeton Lecture, was "sucked into the vortex of atheism and self-destruction." Why? "Men have forgotten God," he said. At the outset of the twentieth century, the faith of the Russian people could be witnessed even in the trenches of the Great War, where the Germans would gun down thousands of Russians by day only to listen in wonder at their seraphic, if melancholic, chant by night.

But when war and famine proved too much to bear, the Russian people rebelled. Decades earlier, Dostoevsky had prophetically warned that "great events could come upon us and catch us intellectually unprepared." Those events came swiftly in Russia. The Bolsheviks, the most organized and ruthless of the factions that vied to replace the old regime, emerged victorious. Solzhenitsyn wrote of Marx and Lenin, "Hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions." Nowhere was this more evident than in the Bolsheviks' systematic campaign of atheistic violence, unprecedented in human history. [read more...]


from Forum 18 News Service

from Interfax-Religion

from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

from InVictory.org

from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate

from The Prague Post

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


Religious freedom is the recurring theme in this issue, as in many of our newsletters: a dissident priest is murdered, new laws aim to limit religious freedom, Russian Orthodox send aid to fellow believers in Syria... which side will prevail? We can and must pray and strive, as did Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, for the spiritual renaissance taking place in Russia today!

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Ministry as Wholeness (teleiosis) and Fullness (pleroma)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 13 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.]

The Old Testament gives us glimpses into God's glory, but as Heb. 7:11 tells us, the Levitical priesthood had not reached perfection - "Now if there was perfection (teleiosis) through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people have received the law), what further need was there for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron?" Chapters 7-10 of Hebrews explain in great detail the Old Covenant's shortcomings. Christ, however, introduces the more perfect priesthood - "But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect (teleios) tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation" (Heb. 9:11). As Elizabeth said to Mary - "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment (teleiosis) of the things which have been spoken to her from the Lord!" (Luke 1:45) Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, is indeed the perfection and fulfillment of the Old Testament's hopes and partially fulfilled promises!

Strong's Dictionaries define teleiosis as "completion, perfection, performance" and the adjective teleios as "complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); of full age, man, perfect."1 The concept of teleiosis relates to diakonia-ministry in the passage that is the central focus of this work, Eph. 4:12-13 (ESV) - "to equip the saints for the work of ministry (diakonia), for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature (teleios) manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness (pleroma) of Christ."2 There is one goal, as we see here, beyond that of "building up the body of Christ," and that is for each and every Christian to attain wholeness, completion, perfection and maturity in Christ, and fullness in Him.

In philosophy the concept of cause is divided into two parts: "Ontology" which investigates and explains the nature and essence of all beings, their qualities and attributes, and "Teleology" which deals with the final causes of things. The Greek root of teleology is teleiosis, the German equivalent is "Ziel" and the Russian is "tsiel," both meaning "goal." All of these teleiosis-related words point to the idea of purpose or meaning. Thus we see that the purpose driven church is the ministry driven church that is aiming toward wholeness and perfection of each believer. The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of this in the Sermon on the Mount - "Therefore you shall be perfect (teleios), just as your Father in heaven is perfect (teleios)" (Mat. 5:48).

The Apostle John's vision of the heavenly Jerusalem encompasses this restoration to wholeness: "He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away. He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new'" (Rev. 21:4-5a). All illness, crying, death, mourning and pain pass away when Christ makes all things new. Notice the tense of the verb: "I am making all things new." This process of restoration to wholeness has already begun!

And the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor. 3:12-18 (ISV) -

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we speak with great boldness, not like Moses, who kept covering his face with a veil to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of what was fading away. However, their minds were hardened, for to this day the same veil is still there when they read the old covenant. Only in union with Christ is that veil removed. Yet even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord's Spirit is, there is freedom. As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory by the Lord's Spirit.3

In v. 18 we find again the continual present action of the Holy Spirit restoring and transforming us into the image of Christ. But it is important to be aware of a potential obstacle to wholeness: social pressure, as we see in vv. 12-13 - "?we speak with great boldness, not like Moses, who kept covering his face?." Why did Moses put a veil on his face? It wasn't because the glory was fading, but because the Israelites told him they couldn't stand to look at the glory (Ex. 34:30-35). People around us say, "Don't be a religious fanatic," and soon we internalize this message so that it becomes self-talk: we inhibit ourselves from striving toward wholeness. Thus, many of the limitations that we feel are inhibitions we have placed on ourselves: "People just don't do that," or "God doesn't act in that way anymore," or the seven last words of the church - "We've never done it that way before." We as disciples of Jesus, however, have such a glorious future hope that we can break out of these false paradigms, and speak and act with great boldness!

The Apostle Peter also writes that it is God's glory and virtue "by which he has granted to us his precious and exceedingly great promises; that through these you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2 Pet. 1:4).

What a great comfort to the maimed, the lame and the blind as we minister diakonia to them! We know that our earthly suffering is not senseless and pointless, but rather it brings us toward perfection and sanctification: this is comforting to the hurting soul - "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" (1 Thes. 5:23). True diakonia is ministering the whole Gospel to the whole person: "spirit, soul, and body," aimed at restoring people to wholeness.

Endnotes to Chapter 13:

1. Strong's Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, op. cit.

2. English Standard Version, op. cit.

3. International Standard Version, op. cit.

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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Pray for the mentally ill young man who stabbed to death 75-year-old Fr. Pavel Adelgeim in Pskov.
Mon. - Ask the Lord that the new proposed legislation on religion in Russia will not curb religious freedom.
Tue. - Thank God that the Russian Orthdox Christians have donated over $1.3 million to fellow Christians in Syria.
Wed. - Pray that Russia's new law forbidding actions that "offend religious feelings" will be fairly enforced.
Thu. - Thank the Lord for the celebration of the 1,025th anniversary of the Christening of Kyivan Rus in 988 A.D.
Fri. - Pray for Russia's continued renaissance - spiritual awakening - as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn predicted.
Sat. - Praise God for our goal, the pleroma-fullness of Christ in His Church, as described in Eph. 1:23 & 4:13.

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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