Welcome to , 27 Oct 2013
Fortnightly Report on Christianity in Former Soviet Bloc Countries,
by Dr. Robert D. Hosken
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FIRST, THE NEWS:

ORTHODOX CHURCH SLAMS SURROGACY AS 'MUTINY AGAINST GOD,' SEEKS LEGAL BAN
from Russia Today

See the full article! (08 Oct) A representative of the Moscow Patriarchy has blasted surrogacy as "mutiny against God" and "happy fascism," restarting the controversy after tabloid reports of a celebrity couple who used a surrogate mother to have children. The comment from the head of the Patriarchy Commission for Family, Motherhood and Childhood, Dmitry Smirnov, came after Russian mass media reported that in September the 64-year-old Russian pop star Alla Pugachova and her 37-year-old husband Maksim Galkin had two children born through surrogate motherhood.

"I would ban this, of course. We can see that a bad example is contagious," the senior church representative was quoted as saying by Interfax. "This is mutiny against God, this is very happy fascism with a contract, the money and confiscation of a child." The cleric also reminded that the Russian Orthodox Church supported a complete ban on surrogate motherhood in Russia and called on the State Duma to initiate such a move. The official concept of the Russian Orthodox Church's social policy calls surrogate motherhood - the agreement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another person or couple - "unnatural and immoral," adding that it should not be allowed even in cases where there is no monetary motivation. [read more...]


UZBEKISTAN: BAPTIST CAMP ORDERED SEIZED, PROTESTANT PRESSURED TO INFORM
by Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service

(24 Oct) A court in Uzbekistan's capital Tashkent has ordered expropriated a Baptist Union camp it bought legally 13 years ago, according to court documents seen by Forum 18 News Service. Baptists have lodged an appeal to the General Prosecutor's Office. The judge and the Department which brought the expropriation case refused to discuss the case with Forum 18. Religious communities have long faced insecurity of ownership over their property.

Meanwhile in Andijan, a secret police officer tried to pressure Protestant Murot Turdiyev to inform on his community, Protestants told Forum 18. The officer put the phone down when Forum 18 called him. Turdiyev is also facing possible punishment because he had a Christian book in his car when stopped by traffic police. [read more...]


DEMOCRACY IS A BIGGER LIE THAN COMMUNISM - PROMINENT ORTHODOX PRIEST
from Interfax-Religion

(24 Oct) Head of the Patriarchal Commission for Family and Maternity Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, believes that democracy is based on lies. "It's just a lie. Communism is also a lie, but Communism has religious features. Communism seems to take a lot from true religions. The Communists have their own teaching, their own 'Holy Scripture.' They have their own rituals. They have their martyrs, their have their prophets. They have their heroes. I would say they have their messianic promises," the priest told the radio station Radonezh.

As for democracy, "people have never had real power anywhere," the priest said. "Democracy is simply deceit. Because all people are different and it cannot be that one person equals one vote," the priest said. The priest believes that all issues are resolved with money in a democratic state and "the transition from monarchy to capitalism was carried out by moneybags for their own benefit. In the olden days, if you were a duke you were a duke, regardless of whether you had money or not. Now I decide if you are a duke or not. And if I need to, I buy your daughter, marry her and become a duke too, I take that title. And if you want to become a president? No problem. You want to work in politics? That will cost this much," he said. [read more...]


BELARUS: WHY IS CATHOLIC PRIEST STILL DETAINED BY KGB SECRET POLICE?
by Olga Glace, Forum 18 News Service

(15 Oct) Four and a half months after Belarus' KGB secret police arrested Catholic priest Fr. Vladislav Lazar on 31 May, it is still unclear why he was arrested or what specific acts he is accused of having committed, Forum 18 News Service notes. Fr. Lazar is being held in a KGB detention centre under conditions which have been described as designed to crush the spirit. He has - against international human rights law - been denied visits from his family, friends and fellow-clergy, including Papal Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti

Fr. Lazar has been charged with treason, which carries a punishment of between seven and 15 years in jail, but the authorities have refused to reveal details of their allegations. Curiously, the charges were first revealed by the Catholic Church three and half months after the arrest, not by the authorities. The KGB secret police has bullied Fr. Lazar's family, but campaigns for him continue. Pope Francis has also expressed his concern, and many in Belarus are convinced the priest is innocent. "The case is falling apart and everyone understands that the charges sound funny," journalist and family friend Lyubov Lunyova told Forum 18. [read more...]


UGCC HEAD: "IF WE DO NOT FOSTER THE INSTITUTION OF FAMILY, WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE SOCIAL ORPHANS"
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

(25 Oct) "From the perspective of a Christian, the family is an institution established by the Creator as a indissoluble and fruitful unity of a man and a woman. Only such a family can provide proper upbringing to children," Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) said on October 24 in Kyiv during a roundtable discussion on child abandonment. A public discussion on this subject was held at the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. According to the Information Department of the UGCC, Yuriy Pavlenko, the Presidential Commissioner for Children?s Rights, deputies, and representatives of NGOs and charitable foundations participated in the roundtable.

In his address, Patriarch Sviatoslav informed the participants that the church has experience working with immigrants and their families, both in Ukraine and in parishes abroad. He said that in the eparchies there are centers for the care and rehabilitation of the families of immigrants. He stressed that today, due to many social and economic developments, the institution of the family suffers. "Orphanage occurs when the child does not have care from his or her father and mother. If there will be no support of the institution of the family on the social and national level, then we will always have a problem with social orphans. Social orphans are not just in the families of immigrants but also in the families of successful businessmen who are not engaged in raising their children. No government program, even the best social service, can replace a child?s father and mother," said the head of the church. [read more...]


OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:

MOLDOVA CANCELS 'GAY PROPAGANDA' BAN, EYEING EU ENTRY
from France24 International News

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND STATE DON'T NEED STATE MEDIATOR - UNION OF ORTHODOX CITIZENS
from Interfax-Religion

SEMINARY IN EASTERN EUROPE CELEBRATES MILESTONE: RECORD ENROLLMENT
from Mission Network News

AUCCRO AND BATKIVSHCHYNA SHARE VISION FOR EU AND MORAL VALUES
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine

RUSSIA'S HIGH COURT APPROVES RELIGION CLASSES IN SCHOOLS
from Portal-Credo.ru

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OPENED IN CENTRAL ESTONIAN TOWN
from Estonian Public Broadcasting

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


NOW, OUR VIEWS:

Our first news article reports on the Russian Orthodox Church's reaction to a Russian rock star "having a baby" by a surrogate mother. The Church spokesman Dimitry Smirnov compares it to "fascism" - the Nazi practice of breeding humans like animals to produce a superior race. When there is money involved, surrogate parenting becomes a form of prostitution and child trafficking. When no money is involved, it is simply fornication.

As our third news article quotes the same spokesman stating: "Democracy is simply deceit" - a bigger lie than communism. We in the West have been weaned on the belief that democracy is almost divinely inspired. We've been trained to believe that the majority is always right, but the only truism, the only always-true statement, about the majority is that it's bigger than the minority. When I was a kid, Adlai Stevenson ran against Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 for the U.S. Presidency. During his campaign, a woman called out to Stevenson: "Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson called back: "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!" He hit the nail on the head!

Later, in university I studied Plato's Republic. In it we learned about the five types of government: aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny (see the Wikipedia article). Each degenerates into the next. In democracy, freedom - defined as the right to believe, think and do whatever you want - often becomes the highest virtue. This leads to "the desire to aquire" - to get as much for oneself as possible without self-discipline, without having to work hard for it. When "the people find their way to the public purse" - as Plato wrote, that is, when rabble rousers can fire up the poor masses, the majority, to vote for "free stuff" by taxing (expropriating) the property of the hard-working, successful minority, democracy degenerates into tyranny. As you will see below, however, real freedom comes by God's grace, God's power influencing our heart, our inner being, changing our life and enabling us to do God's will.

In our "Other News" we see that Romania has abandoned its position against "gay propaganda" to minors, compromising its beliefs in order to gain membership in the European Union, another example of the way democracy degenerates into seeking more and more material goods. Shame on Romania.

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Ministry as Grace (kharis)

[This is an excerpt from Chapter 15 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.]

What is grace, and how does it relate to ministry? As the Apostle Paul was visiting the church in Ephesus on his way back to Jerusalem, he had a sense of foreboding that something bad would happen to him there, just as he had been imprisoned and beaten in other cities. He told the elders of the church - "But these things don't count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry (diakonia) which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace (kharis) of God" (Acts 20:24). We have already shown that the word diakonia is ministry in the widest sense, from waiting on tables, to healing and caring for the sick, to preaching the Good News, and we have seen in Acts 14:9-10 how Paul combined preaching with healing the man who was lame from birth. Here we read that Paul defines his particular ministry to be that of "testifying to the Good News of the grace (kharis) of God." Proclaiming the Good News of God's grace was central for him, but he often included healing in his ministry. Both aspects of ministry demonstrate "the grace (kharis) of God."

Just a few verses later, in Acts 20:32 we read - "Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace (kharis), which is able to build up (epoikodomeo), and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified (hagiazo)." What is grace, and how is it able to build up? Strong's Dictionaries give a rather long definition - "graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): - acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy)."1 Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that grace is the saving and sanctifying power emanating from God, which corresponds to Strong's definition: "divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life." So grace is God's power influencing our heart, our inner being, changing our life and enabling us to do God's will.

The word kharis occurs 156 times in the New Testament, and 130 of those occurrences are translated "grace" in the KJV and most other versions. It is also translated as "favor," "thanks," "pleasure," "acceptable," "benefit," "gift," "gracious," "joy," "liberality," "thanked" and "thankworthy" in the KJV,2 but the overwhelming majority of times it is used as "grace." The common definition is "unmerited favor." God bestows on us, completely undeserving sinners, His free gift of salvation - "for by grace (kharis) you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10). Nothing we had done, no amount of good works, could earn our salvation; it is all of grace, a free gift. In the preceding verses Paul writes that we were dead spiritually in trespasses and sins. What can a dead corpse do? - Nothing, except decompose. It certainly can't earn anything! But when grace comes into our lives, it revives us and begins to transform us. Grace doesn't demand good works; instead, it changes us so that we desire to do diakonia, good works. This is the purpose for which God has created us in Christ Jesus!

This is why it is utterly foolish to think that because grace is free we don't have to do anything in response. As Paul wrote in Rom. 6:1-2 and 14-15 - "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace (kharis) may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? ... For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace (kharis). What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace (kharis)? May it never be!" If we are truly being transformed by God's grace, His divine power poured out upon us, how could we even imagine reverting to our dead sinful nature? Such ideas are either planted in a believer's mind by the old deceiver Satan, or else that person has never truly experienced the transforming power of God's saving grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer begins his book The Cost of Discipleship with a chapter entitled "Costly Grace" -

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack's wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price, grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The Church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part in that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.3

Sadly, there are many who have heard a false gospel of "cheap grace" easy-believism and have raised their right hands or filled out a decision card, but they have never really entrusted their whole heart and life to Jesus Christ. They warm the pew, put a few shekels in the offering if it's convenient, and may even sincerely think they're on the way to heaven because they've done what the preacher said they should do. But they still calculate a cost-benefit analysis; they constantly run a profit-and-loss statement in their head: "What can I get from this?" The fleshly nature is still firmly in control. God's grace hasn't begun transforming them.

How is it that so many people who consider themselves Christians, especially in the Western world, have this mistaken notion of "cheap grace"? I believe it arose during the Age of Reason, when secular philosophers and political theorists were positing the autonomy of human reason and will, juxtaposed against the almost totalitarian authority of the Roman Catholic Church. This occurred at about the same time as the Protestant Reformation, when Luther championed the concept of "salvation by grace through faith," the priesthood of all believers and the ability of each person to understand and interpret the Scriptures for himself. Parallel to this, the Age of Reason taught that man is free and rational, therefore any logical decision he makes is valid, and only those things he can comprehend are real. This placed man in the center of the universe, displacing God. If man chose to believe in God, it was on the basis of equal partnership: "I will believe in you, God, if and only if you will do such-and-such for me."

So a distorted concept of the Protestant Reformation provided a philosophical basis for bargaining with God using the twisted notion of "cheap grace." The truth is, we are not autonomous and we cannot bargain with God. God is absolutely sovereign and we humans are utterly dependent upon His mercy and grace. We are totally bankrupt before God; it is completely senseless to calculate a cost-benefit analysis. God freely chooses to extend His scepter and pardon us, if we will cease our rebellious thoughts of the autonomy of human reason and submit to Him as king. Only when we acknowledge Him as truly God and sovereign Lord by receiving His gift of transforming grace, unmerited favor, will He receive us into His kingdom. When we receive His pardon, He redeems us from the prison of sin. "Redeem" means to "buy back," and God, the Person who bought us, now owns us. We belong to Him. We are not our own, we have been bought with a great price, the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. This is how we should understand "grace."

Endnotes to Chapter 15:

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

2. King James Concordance, (www.e-sword.net, 2004).

3. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, The Cost of Discipleship, (translation from the German Nachfolge by SCM Press, London, SCM-Canterbury Press Ltd., 1948), page 3.


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Prayer and Praise:

Sun. - Thank the Lord for the Orthodox Church's strong stand for morality and against 'surrogate motherhood."
Mon. - Pray that the Baptist Union in Uzbekistan will be able to get back its camp that was recently confiscated.
Tue. - Ask God to enlighten mankind with His true grace, the source of real freedom, the ability to do God's will.
Wed. - Keep praying for Fr. Vladislav Lazar, the Polish priest arrested in Belarus last May, charged with treason.
Thu. - Thank God for Patriarch Sviatoslav's position upholding the family to reduce the number of social orphans.
Fri. - Pray that Romania reconsiders and protects its youth against "gay propaganda" despite pressure from the EU.
Sat. - Intercede for all Christians, that we will reject "cheap grace" and return to God's true grace, doing His will.

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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