Welcome to , 28 Sep 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

GETTING MARRIED AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD: TRINITY CHURCH IN ANTARCTICA
from Slate.com

Select to see full-size! (18 Sep) From the scorching deserts of Sinai to the frozen tundras of Siberia, Orthodox Christianity has a history of building its churches and monasteries in inhospitable places. But only a few can rival Trinity Church on King George Island [just off the tip of Argentina - ed.]. The southernmost Orthodox church in the world, Trinity was built near Bellingshausen Station, Russia's permanent outpost in Antarctica. In the mid-1990s Patriarch Alexii II of Moscow gave his blessing for this audacious project. The church was constructed in Russia and transported by a supply ship to its present location. One or two monks from Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra -- considered the most important Russian monastery as it is the spiritual center of the Russian Orthodox Church -- volunteer to man the church year-round.

While most of buildings on this continent are built to hug the ground in order to reduce their exposure to the polar wind, this church proudly stands 50 feet tall. It is a wooden structure built from Siberian pine and carved in the traditional Russian style by master carpenters of Altay. The priests manning the church take care of the spiritual needs of the staff of nearby Russian, Chilean, Polish, and Korean research stations. Their obligations include praying for the souls of 64 Russians who lost their lives in various expeditions, and the very occasional, very chilly, baptism. While the church is large enough to accommodate 30 visitors, it is rarely filled to capacity. In 2007, however, the church performed its first wedding -- the first wedding ever celebrated in a church in Antarctica -- between Chilean and Russian researchers. [read more...]


TURKMENISTAN: "IF YOU ADOPT THEIR FAITH I'LL TEAR OFF YOUR HEAD"
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

(17 Sep) Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, a former religious prisoner of conscience, many of his relatives and many of his unregistered Protestant congregation have been summoned for interrogation, threats and insults since 15 September. One police officer threatened to "tear off" the head of one of his relatives if she adopted "their faith," he told Forum 18 News Service from Mary. Denied state registration, Pastor Nurliev's community - Light to the World Church - has been unable to meet for worship in recent years "because of the circumstances" he lamented to Forum 18. "Who is threatening him? We simply need to know more about him," an officer of Mary police Criminal Investigation Department claimed to Forum 18.

No one at Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry could explain why it had told the United Nations Human Rights Council in follow-up to the UPR review that "no laws" restrict the rights of unregistered religious communities when wide-ranging new Administrative Code punishments have just been adopted. "Our Ambassador to the UN, Esen Aydogdyev, will be answering all these questions at the Human Rights Council session in Geneva on 18 to 20 September," the official told Forum 18 and put the phone down. [read more...]


RUSSIA WILL DEFEND NATIONAL IDENTITY, BASED ON RELIGIOUS VALUES - PUTIN
from Interfax-Religion

(20 Sep) People will lose their human dignity without values enshrined in Christianity and other world religions, without moral standards that have taken millennia to take shape, President Vladimir Putin. "We believe that it is natural and appropriate to defend those values. Any minority deserves respect for its distinctive identity, but the rights of the majority must not be questioned," Putin said during a meeting of the Valdai discussion club. He believes that Russia can't move forward without cultural and national self-determination. Otherwise the country won't be able to respond to external or internal challenges, can't be successful in global competition.

"Events that take place in the world represent one more serious challenge to the Russian identity. There are foreign policy and moral aspects to this. We have been able to see many Euro-Atlantic countries effectively embark on a path of renouncing their roots, including Christian values, which underlie Western civilization," Putin said. "That involves the negation of moral principles and any traditional identity - national, cultural, religious, or even sexual," he said.

"Policies are pursued that put large families and same-sex partnerships in the same category, belief in God and belief in Satan. Excesses of political correctness reach the point where there are serious discussions on the registration of parties that have propaganda of pedophilia as their objective. People in many European countries are ashamed and afraid of speaking about their religion, holidays are abolished or given other names, names that shyly conceal the nature of those holidays, and aggressive attempts are made to force this model on the rest of the world," Putin said. "This is a direct path to degradation and primitiveness, to deep demographic and moral crises," he said. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: CHURCH PIANO, PULPIT, CARPET, REFRIGERATOR SEIZED
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(18 Sep) After a Baptist congregation in Uzbekistan's southern city of Karshi had religious literature and church property confiscated in three police raids this year, court bailiffs arrived in late July. This time they seized the Church's piano, pulpit, carpet, refrigerator and seventeen benches, as well as privately-owned property, to meet unpaid fines imposed on the home owner because the congregation chooses to meet without the compulsory state registration.

Svetlana Andreychenko told the bailiffs "she had not and will not pay the fine since she does not think she is guilty of a violation," church members told Forum 18 News Service. Asked by Forum 18 why he and his colleagues took away church-owned property which did not belong to Andreychenko, one of the bailiffs was unable to answer. Meanwhile a Tashkent court suit to strip the Baptist Union of its summer camp is due to resume on 20 September. The head of the Regional Department which brought the suit refused to explain to Forum 18 why it did so. [read more...]


MORAL AUTHORITIES EXPLAIN WHY UKRAINE SHOULD CHOOSE EUROPE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(27 Sep) For the second time the initiative group "December 1" gathered at the Lviv Book Forum in order to once again remind people about values and determine the direction of development for the society. This year, the participants of the open discussion, which took place on September 15 at the Palace of Arts, discussed the topic of choosing the future of the country and on what values it will be based. The discussion, of course, was about our European choice.

An open discussion took place between authoritative and respected people in Ukraine - Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Vice Rector of UCU Myroslav Marynovych, philosopher and writer Yevhen Sverstyuk, and director of the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Myroslav Popovych. They have repeatedly stated their desire to see Ukraine as a free European nation. The moral authorities agreed that Ukraine is now heading in the right direction - the European Union, but the way is difficult and Ukrainians must do everything possible to reach the goal without losing their Christian values.

Myroslav Marynovych, who started the discussion, first described the activities of the initiative group and, in particular, the Charter of Human Freedoms, which they signed. He noted that in Ukraine when discussing the European choice, many feel as if our fate is decided without us. Ukrainians as always lag behind and do not have their own well-articulated positions on European integration. "So our commitment today is to search for this position, figure out what features it should have, which aspects are important to us," he said, outlining the main objectives of the meeting. Archbishop Emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) Lubomyr Husar began his speech by debunking if not the most popular myth that modern Europe moved completely away from Christianity and that this is also waiting for Ukraine if it joins Europe. [read more...]



WESTERN EUROPE SHOULD FOLLOW RUSSIA'S ANTI-GAY LEAD, SAYS METR. HILARION
from RIA Novosti

(03 Sep) Western Europe should follow Russia's example in adopting laws designed to preserve family life, such as its ban on propagating "homosexual propaganda" to children, a church official said last week. "I believe that this law is necessary, and it was adopted in a very timely manner," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for External Church Relations said in a Friday interview with Italian media portal AsiaNews. "Moreover, I think that the same laws should be passed in other countries, instead of those norms that have been introduced in a number of European Union countries, where same-sex couples are given the right to adopt children," he added.

Hilarion said Western countries' polices on the issue were "self-defeating" because same-sex unions lead not only to the destruction of the family but "sign the death warrant of whole nations," in demographic terms. "There is an acute demographic crisis [in] many European countries under the influence of secular ideologies, advertising, and a consumer-driven attitude to life," Hilarion said. "They should take an example from Russia?We want strong families to be revived in Russia, so that our families have many children." [read more...]


RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH PROPOSES MORALITY POLICING
from The Voice of Russia

(20 Sep) The Russian Church proposes to adopt laws and create agencies which would protect public morality. The head of the Patriarchate?s public relations department Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin spoke about this at a session of Russia?s Public Chamber in Moscow on Thursday.

Speaking to a committee in the Upper House of Parliament thus summer, he urged Russia?s regions to pass appropriate regional legislation as soon as possible. He praised the Region of Belgorod south of Moscow for legislating against public urination, defecation and nudity. Father Vsevolod is a known critic of sexually explicit attire. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

BELARUS: IMPRISONED CATHOLIC PRIEST "POLISH SPY" OR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM VICTIM?
from Forum 18 News Service

RUSSIAN CHURCH OFFICIAL URGES TO RECONSIDER THE CONCEPT OF TOLERANCE
from Interfax-Religion

NEXT GEN BELIEVERS IN REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA EXCITED FOR UPCOMING RESOURCES
from Mission Network News

HEAD OF UGCC: "RUSSIAN WORLD" HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHURCH
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

SCHOLARS CRITICIZE MISUSE OF EXPERT ANALYSES IN TRIALS OF BELIEVERS
from ReligioPolis

CONCERNS OVER DETAINED KAZAKHSTAN PASTOR AFTER 'SOVIET-STYLE PSYCHOLOGICAL TREATMENT' (UPDATE)
from BosNewsLife

NEWLY PUBLISHED MESSAGE OF GLORY NEW TESTAMENT FOR MUSLIMS
from Russian Ministries

CHURCH LEADERS IN UKRAINE REJECT EU DEMAND FOR NEW GAY RIGHTS LAWS
from CatholicHerald.co.uk

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Please forgive me for not producing a mid-September issue of Hosken-News: for the past three weeks we've been packing up all our remaining household belongings after giving away or discarding a fair amount: as they say in Russia, "Two moves are as good as a fire." Then we moved from Madison WI to Pittsburgh PA, visiting an old high school church youth group friend of Cheryl's along the way, and staying with our son Rob and family a few days waiting for our moving truck trailer to arrive. It came to our door on Monday, and by today, Saturday, we're almost completely unpacked and set up.

You'll notice in this issue several news articles dealing with Russia's and Ukraine's response to the Western-sponsored drive for "gay rights" and "toleration" that is recognized in Eastern Christianity for what it really is: homosexual propaganda and advocating sexual immorality. The Church in the West needs to take a firm vocal and highly visible stand against these anti-Christian movements.

(After you've read this issue, please tell us what you think! Write your feedback in our comment form, and it will appear immediately so that others can respond.)

Ministry as Edification (oikodome)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 14 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.]

Our goal is wholeness, but how do we get there? The answer is edification, and the central passage concerning edification (oikodome) is Ephesians chapter 4, which directly links ministry (diakonia) with edification. The Good News Bible makes very clear in v. 12 what the purpose is for God giving various kinds of leadership gifts: "He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service (diakonia), in order to build up (oikodome) the body of Christ."1 The purpose for doing ministry (diakonia) is in order to build up the Church, the Body of Christ! The word "edification" seems rather abstract and lofty, but actually has a very concrete meaning: according to Strong's Dictionaries it is "architecture, that is, (concretely) a structure; figuratively confirmation: building, edify (-ication, -ing)"2 as when an architect plans and builds an edifice. What are your design plans for using diakonia in order to make the church grow?

As we will see, this edification or building up of the Body of Christ is both quantitative and qualitative. Paul writes - "Under his [Christ's] control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up (oikodomeo) through love"3 (v. 16, GNB). In both of these verses we notice that the church grows and is built up when all of God's people, the saints, do their works of diakonia. The third place in this text that mentions oikodomeo is v. 29 (GNB) - "Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up (oikodomeo) and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you."4 This is qualitative church growth, literally "bringing grace to those who hear." This doesn't mean using sugar-coated words to avoid dealing with real problems, but rather "speaking truth in love, [so that] we may grow up in all things into him, who is the head, Christ" (v. 15). The way that we speak the truth is as important as the truth we speak! As we notice in v. 15, the ultimate goal of edification (oikodome) is wholeness, maturity, growing up into the image and likeness of Christ. Maturity means being able to take care of oneself, to carry one's own burdens. But as Paul writes in Gal. 6:1-5, getting there requires mutual help -

Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren't tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. For each man will bear his own burden.

When we rehabilitate a person from an illness, injury or from addiction to carbohydrates, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, sex, computer games, etc., we must be careful to build up (oikodomeo) that person by using loving but firm and true words and actions. Being rough verbally in psychological rehabilitation can repel the person and is often a projection of our own guilt onto the other person. Also, being rough in physical rehabilitation can injure that person and ourselves. The correct positioning of one's own body when lifting another person can avoid back and shoulder injuries to the one doing the lifting. Likewise, the position of our body - our body language - sets the tone and communicates our message at least as much as our words do. The goal of all this is to enable the other person to "bear his own burden," to become a mature, responsible member of the church and of society in general.

It becomes evident that the Apostles clearly understood and made use of the dual meaning of "edify" (oikodomeo) and "edification" (oikodome) as we look at several texts. First, let us look at Mat. 16:16 and 18 (ISV) - "Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!' ? I tell you that you are Peter, and it is on this rock that I will build (oikodomeo) my church, and the powers of hell will not conquer it."5 Peter (petros, a little piece of rock) confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and this is the petra, the massive foundation stone on which Christ will build His church (Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:6). Thus Matthew combines both the concrete and figurative meanings by referring to "rock" and "church" in the same sentence.

Luke explains that the "rock" is Christ's teaching - "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and don't do the things which I say? Everyone who comes to me, and hears my words, and does them, I will show you who he is like." It is extremely important to understand this: the point is not just to listen to sermons or study the Bible; it is to do what Jesus taught us to do. Jesus continues -

He is like a man building (oikodomeo) a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on a rock (petra). When a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it was founded on the rock. But he who hears, and doesn't do, is like a man who built (oikodomeo) a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:46-49).

When we as co-laborers with Christ build His church on the rock by confessing Him before the world as the Son of God, and by doing what Jesus Christ taught His disciples to do - diakonia, practical ministry to the poor, lame, maimed and blind, that church will stand! Church growth fads and techniques will wither and fade, but the church that is built (oikodomeo) on this rock of confessing Christ and doing diakonia will not be shaken.

Later, Luke chapter 14 records Jesus' call to discipleship that includes the risk of forsaking father, mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters, then in v. 28 Jesus says - "For which of you, desiring to build (oikodomeo) a tower, doesn't first sit down and count the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?" This teaching concludes with Jesus' call to renounce our possessions if we want to be His disciples (v. 33). So the concrete meaning of building a tower is an analogy of building our lives on Christ and following Him regardless of the cost.

The structure itself isn't the most important thing, as we see in Mark 13:1-2 - "As he went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Teacher, see what kind of stones and what kind of buildings (oikodome)!' Jesus said to him, 'Do you see these great buildings (oikodome)? There will not be left here one stone on another, which will not be thrown down.'" Recall what Rick Warren wrote - "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 edifice complex that seemed so glorious when the congregation held the first worship service in it later may become a boat anchor that pulls the congregation down from greater heights it might have reached with a more purposeful design. What is that purposeful design? The ministry driven church building should be designed specifically for the kind of diakonia-ministry that Jesus and His disciples did.

Many churches today have a fine foundation, but it seems as if they are still holding all of their worship services and Sunday school classes on the foundation, in the basement -

For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's farming, God's building (oikodome). According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder (architekton) I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on (epoikodomeo) it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if anyone builds on (epoikodomeo) the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man's work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man's work is. If any man's work remains which he built on (epoikodomeo) it, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire (1 Cor. 3:9-15).

By this I mean that they preach the Gospel of salvation only through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the only foundation on which the true Church can be built! They preach Christ, they teach their children about Jesus, they witness in public and to their friends and acquaintances, and they pass out millions of tracts and thousands of New Testaments. All this is very commendable, but we must be careful not to always live in the basement! Remember what Jesus said about sticking a candle under the bed or under a bushel basket: "Don't do that! Put it up high on a candlestick so that the light shines all around, then people will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!" The structure of the church building should be designed specifically for good works.

Endnotes to Chapter 14:

1. Good News Bible, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

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

3. Good News Bible, op. cit.

4. Ibid.

5. International Standard Version of the Bible, op. cit.

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


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Praise the Lord for the Trinity Orthodox Church, the first and only church of any kind in Antarctica.
Mon. - Uphold Pastor Ilmurad Nurliev and others of his unregistered church who've been threatened with violence.
Tue. - Thank God that Russian President Putin took a strong stand at Valdai for defending Christian family values.
Wed. - Pray for the Baptist congregation in Karshi, Uzbekistan, whose church property was illegally confiscated.
Thu. - Ask the Lord that Ukraine will hold fast to traditional Christian values as it moves toward joining the EU.
Fri. - Praise God that the Russian Orthodox Church is promoting the passing of laws to protect public morality.
Sat. - Pray that believers will do Christian service (diakonia), to build up (oikodome) the body of Christ (Eph. 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. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.


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