||FIRST, THE NEWS:
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SPOKESMAN LASHES OUT OVER U.S. GAY MARRIAGE RULING
from The Moscow Times
(28 Jun) A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church has called on all those who idolize the American democratic model to take a hard look at themselves after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage, Interfax reported Sunday. The United States' highest court ruled Saturday that same-sex marriage should be legalized across the entire country, meaning that the 14 states with bans on gay marriage will no longer be able to enforce them.
But Vsevolod Chaplin, a Russian Orthodox Church spokesman, decried the decision to legalize such a "godless and sinful thing" and warned his compatriots to be wary of the values that the current U.S. leadership is trying to impose on other countries, Interfax reported. "In reality they want to take away your right to live by faith... to take away the possibility of building the life of your society and state based on the eternal and unchanging moral laws dictated by God," the priest was quoted as saying. Homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, but a law passed in June 2013 bans the promotion of "nontraditional" sexual relations to minors. A survey by independent pollster Levada Center last month found 37 percent of Russians think homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured.
In light of the Supreme Court's decision, Facebook created an application that allows users to cover their profile pictures with a transparent filter in the colors of the LGBT rainbow flag. This Facebook app provoked the wrath of conservative politician Vitaly Milonov, a deputy in St. Petersburg's legislative assembly. Milonov, an architect of Russia's "gay propaganda" law, told the Russian News Service on Saturday that he had asked the country's media watchdog to block Facebook because the application was in "flagrant violation" of the country's law given that the social media site has no age limit. [read more...]
EIGHTH FINE FOR OUTDOOR RELIGIOUS EVENT IN CRIMEA
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(24 Jun) Seven of nine Council of Churches Baptists from Saki who conducted an outdoor religious meeting in the village of Maryanovka in Krasnogvardeiskoe District of central Crimea on 10 May were fined later that month. District Police detained "and subjected them to protracted interrogation," fellow Baptists complained. "Then records of an offence were drawn up against them, they were fingerprinted and photographed, and their vehicle, literature and equipment were examined." The seven were found guilty of violating Administrative Code Article 20.2. This punishes "violation of the established procedure for organising or conducting a gathering, meeting, demonstration, procession or picket". The leader, Sergey Shokha, was fined 20,000 Russian Roubles. The others were each fined 10,000 Russian Roubles.
The case under Administrative Code Article 20.2, Part 5 against the eighth of the Baptists, Kristina Matafonova, was finally heard on 24 June at Krasnogvardeiskoe District Court after several postponements. Judge Irina Shevchenko similarly fined her 10,000 Russian Roubles (185 US Dollars). This is about three weeks' average local wage, according to Crimean residents. "As with the other trials, our church members were there today in court to support Kristina," a church member told Forum 18 from Saki the same day. Judge Shevchenko's assistant confirmed to Forum 18 during the trial that fellow church members were present. [read more...]
LEADER OF RUSSIA'S MAJOR PROTESTANT CHURCH CALLS THE DAY WHEN HOMOSEXUAL "MARRIAGES" WERE LEGALIZED THE MOST SHAMEFUL IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY OF THE USA
(29 Jun) The head of the Russian Pentecostals, the largest Protestant community in the country, is negative about legalization of homosexual "marriages" in the USA. "On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court declared that homosexual couples have a constitutional right to get married in any state of the country. Perhaps, it is the darkest and the most shameful date in the Christian history of the USA," Sergei Ryakhovsky said in his statement conveyed to Interfax-Religion. The bishop reminds that not long ago there were 14 states where adherents of traditional Christian values were standing for the Biblical attitude to the family. From now on, to fulfill the court decision, all 50 states are obliged to register homosexual "marriages."
"We witness the restoration of 'Sodom.' The things which the Church has always called sinful and awful are imposed on society," Ryakhovsky writes, stressing that "homosexuality does not combine with Christianity," and the Bible directly says this. The bishop also pointed out that for long years of the Cold War many Evangelical Christians considered the USA 'the promised land,' where everything is arranged in a Christian way. "What a dramatic change! Russia that has recently been considered a stronghold of atheist Communist ideology, 'the Empire of Evil' as Ronald Reagan put it, now leads the opposition to active promotion of vice and depravity." [read more...]
CRIMEA: "EXPERT CONCLUSIONS" FORCE STRUCTURE AND ACTIVITY CHANGES
by Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service
(26 Jun) "Expert conclusions" by Russia's Justice Ministry Expert Council have led to some Crimean religious organisations having to make changes to get re-registration under Russian law, Forum 18 News Service notes. The nine Catholic parishes had to formally cut ties with their Diocese of Odessa-Simferopol in southern Ukraine and are now in a Pastoral District of Crimea and Simferopol. Yalta's Augsburg Lutheran congregation had to remove a reference to pilgrimages in its statute.
Re-registration of Crimea's religious communities under Russian law seems to be proceeding slowly. It appears that fewer than 100 have been re-registered. As of 24 June (the most recent update), only 55 religious communities were listed on the Justice Ministry website in Moscow as having state registration. However, Forum 18 knows of at least another 30 registered communities that have state registration which have yet to be listed on the Justice Ministry website.
The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) expressed has concern about the consequences of the re-registration requirement for Crimea's religious communities. A total of 1,546 religious communities had state registration with the Ukrainian authorities at the time Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014. [read more...]
PATRIARCH FILARET TO UAOC HIERARCHS: SETTING FORTH NEW KNOWINGLY UNACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS IS AN ATTEMPT TO DISRUPT UNIFICATION
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(30 Jun) Patriarch Filaret is concerned about the possibility of disruption of the process of unification with the UAOC. According to him, September 14 is the ultimate date of the Local Unification Council. Any attempts to postpone it to a later date are indicative of the desire to overextend the process and to avoid association, stated in Patriarch Filaret’s message to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. In case the two Churches unite, he proposes to retain all the effective bodies of the UAOC - dioceses, vicariates, and deaneries. The hierarchs shall retain jurisdiction over the parishes they rule now.
As for the choice of the name of the unified Church, established on the basis of the UAOC and the UOC-KP, in this case he thinks it appropriate to take into account the nuances of Ukrainian legislation. “It should be understood that in this case all we need to proceed not only from our theoretical suggestions, but from realities of Ukrainian legislation. A complete change of the official name to 'the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate' implies for each diocese, parish and monastery, i.e. for more than 6000 registered religious organizations of both our Churches not only registration changes the statute, but the execution of new constitutions and entitlement documents – including the changes in the state register of legal entities, changes in title deeds for land, churches and other property, and the changes to the agreements for services and replacement of seals. I do not think, dear hierarchs, fathers and brothers, that you really want to undergo all the legal procedures anew only because there is an opinion that such name is better,” the hierarch states. [read more...]
BULGARIAN CHURCH JOINS CALLS FOR CANCELLATION OF SOFIA GAY MARCH
from Daily Mail
(26 Jun) The Bulgarian Orthodox Church joined anti-gay activists in calling for the cancellation of a gay march in the capital Sofia planned for Saturday, adding to tensions over an event which has faced threats from protesters. "Our irrevocable belief is that homosexuality is unnatural lust, which undoubtedly damages the individual, the family and society and causes detrimental effects on the physical, mental and spiritual state of people," the church said in a statement. Thousands of people in the Balkan country, including politicians, editors and publishers of leading media, sociologists, actors and sportsmen, wrote a letter to Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova, urging her to cancel the event.
Homosexuality remains a sensitive issue across the Balkans, and the annual gay march in Bulgaria has a history of violence with clashes between homosexuals and conservatives. Ten years ago Bulgarian officials banned the country's first planned gay parade and about 60 far-right extremists were arrested for throwing a petrol bomb and trying to break up the march in 2008. An attack took place against a gay film fest in the southern city of Plovdiv in 2013 while last year's Sofia march was blocked by Bulgarian nationalists. "The Church strongly condemns any propaganda of homosexuality and opposes attempts to impose sinful acts as a norm, as a source of pride and an example to follow," the church said. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
BELARUS: COUNCIL OF CHURCHES BAPTIST PASTOR ALSO TO FACE CRIMINAL CASE?
from Forum 18 News Service
U.S. POLICY OF SPREADING SAME-SEX FAMILY VALUES TO FIND NO GLOBAL SUPPORT - RUSSIAN MP
PENTECOSTAL GENNADY MOKHNENKO DECLARED ON UKRAINIAN TV THAT HE WOULD LIKE TO PERSONALLY LIQUIDATE VLADIMIR PUTIN
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
SGA RESPONDS TO GROWING NUMBER OF UKRAINIAN REFUGEES
from Mission Network News
UOC(MP) HIERARCHS CONCERNED ABOUT CONSTANTINOPLE PATRIARCHATE’S ACTIVITY IN UKRAINE
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
UOC(MP) CRIMEAN PRIEST TELLS RUSSIAN TROOPS THEY DEFEND NOT ONLY RUSSIA BUT ORTHODOX WORLD
from Religiia v Ukraine
REPRESENTATIVE OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH ATTENDS CONFERENCE ON PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
THE ST. NICHOLAS-UGRESHSKY MONASTERY: REVIVAL OF A MUSCOVITE SPIRITUAL CENTER
from Russia Beyond the Headlines - Religion
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE’S LOSS OF UKRAINIAN CHURCHES WILL RENDER ‘RUSSIAN WORLD’ IDEA A PURELY MILITANT NATIONALISM, FALIKOV SAYS
from Eurasia Review
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As we see in several of the above articles, many Christians in former communist countries realize that the U.S. has taken a dangerous turn in its embracing of same-sex "marriage" - Russia, Bulgaria, and now Georgia - see Georgian Church Leader Says US Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling ‘Big Mistake’.
Many traditional Christian clergy in the U.S. have announced that they will only perform weddings for their own church menbers in good standing, and some have even stated they will only perform the Christian sacrament of marriage, they will no longer sign civil marriage licenses. But sadly, several liberal denominations have endorsed same-sex "marriage," announcing they will perform weddings for gay or lesbian couples, and some of such denominations have homosexual or lesbian pastors and bishops.
It is quite a reversal when a LEADER OF RUSSIA'S MAJOR PROTESTANT CHURCH CALLS THE DAY WHEN HOMOSEXUAL "MARRIAGES" WERE LEGALIZED THE MOST SHAMEFUL IN CHRISTIAN HISTORY OF THE USA. Christians in the West for decades were decrying the horrendous rate of abortions and alcoholism in the USSR, but now they are pointing out our own faults. Yet, as our second and fourth news articles point out, the new Russian government in Crimea is cracking down on non-Russian Orthodox religious organizations. It's a case of "the pot calling the kettle black." There appears to be a general, worldwide state interference in the practice of religious beliefs.
In our fifth news article PATRIARCH FILARET TO UAOC HIERARCHS: SETTING FORTH NEW KNOWINGLY UNACCEPTABLE CONDITIONS IS AN ATTEMPT TO DISRUPT UNIFICATION we see the UOC(KP) counter-argument to the UAOC's insistence that the word "Autocephalous" be added to the upcoming merger's name: it would cause a great deal more work for over 6,000 UOC(KP) legally-organized bodies to rewrite their constitutions and re-register with the state, than for the UAOC to re-register its far fewer organizations. But on the other hand, dropping the word "Autocephalous" entirely would signify the buy-out and absorbtion of the UAOC by the UOC(KP). We need to pray for a mutually-agreeable resolution of this question. It is important for Ukraine to have its own canonically-recognized Orthodox Church that is not controlled by a foreign country.
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You Shall Be Holy, For I Am Holy
In view of the recent U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex "marriage" in all 50 states, we Bible-believing Christians are now becoming fully aware that we are a distinct minority, a counter-culture in U.S. society. For about the first 200 years of U.S. history, from 1776 to 1976, a general Christian consensus held sway. It had begun to erode in the "Roaring Twenties" after WWI when the soldiers came home, and really started to unravel after WWII when returning homosexual soldiers and others formed openly gay communities in San Francisco and other cities. Then came The Pill, no-fault divorce, the sexual revolution and Roe vs. Wade in the 1960s and 70s.
The Christian worldview has been sidelined in the U.S. Immediately after this Supreme Court decision there were calls by a senator and by newspaper columnists to revoke the tax exempt status of church-owned property, tax exemptions for donations to religious organizations, and to limit the First Amendment's guarantee of "freedom of religion" to attendance at worship services, excluding the freedom to express and live out one's faith in society. This is virtually identical to the anti-religious policies of the old USSR! It seems clear that the lighting of the U.S. White House in rainbow colors, these calls to revoke tax exemptions and limit religious freedom required some advance knowledge of the Supreme Court's decision and a great deal of advance planning.
Of course, we must take a strong public stand to protect our rights to practice our faith in society - see "What Do We Do Now?" But also, it's time we as Christians remind ourselves that we are now in the minority and may well lose that battle too. Still, we must not conform to this world's value system, even if it means public shaming, confiscation of property, fines and imprisonment. We Christians are called to be holy, and holiness means to be "set apart" from our surrounding culture that is driven by human lust and passions, as St. Peter wrote:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ - as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Pet. 1:13-16).
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.