||FIRST, THE NEWS:
UKRAINIAN QUESTION DIVIDES ORTHODOX WORLD
from: Moscow Times
(30 Jun) It took over 1,000 years to gather the religious leaders of the many Eastern Orthodox churches in one place, and still, when it happened, not everyone was in attendance. The week-long Holy Great Council, in the pipeline for 55 years, was supposed to bring together all the congregations of the Eastern Orthodox faith. But as the bishops gathered on a Greek island on June 19, some last-minute cancellations cast a shadow over the summit.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, was the last and most high-profile of the four religious leaders to pull out of the historic pan-Orthodox summit. To explain the cancellation, Moscow cited the absence of three other churches, also last-minute drop outs: the patriarchates of Bulgaria, Georgia and Antioch (based in Syria). More likely, however, was that the Russian refusal to attend was based in politics rather than theology. Geopolitics, after all, have prevented Orthodox bishops from uniting since their last meeting in the year 787.
Politics undermined the council even before it began. There was controversy over the summit’s location, originally planned for Istanbul, the former city of Constantinople and the birthplace of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Bad relations between Russia and Turkey made that location impossible, so Patriarch Kirill’s Constantinople equivalent, the ethnic Greek Patriarch Bartholomew, agreed to change the location to more neutral territory: Crete. Everything was done so as not to antagonize the Moscow delegation. But in the end, Russian priests never made it to the island. And the reason they pulled out of this once-in-a-millennium council lies in Kiev.
Even before the Maidan revolution tore a rift between Kiev and Moscow, Ukraine’s Orthodox believers were far from united. The Ukrainian church split in 1992: Part of the country’s parishes broke away from Moscow’s authority and formed the Kiev patriarchy of the Orthodox church. The current head of the Kiev Patriarchy, Patriarch Filaret, has stood at the front of a drive to recognize Ukraine’s independent religious authority ever since his appointment in 1995.
But the political and military conflict between Russia and Ukraine increased the animosity. The Kiev patriarchy sided with the Euromaidan movement from the start. The Ukrainian capital’s St. Michael’s Monastery symbolically opened its doors to protesting students when the violence first erupted in December 2013, protecting them from riot police. It served as a sanctuary for the injured during the bloodshed that followed in February 2014. [read more...]
BELARUS: STATE ENDS PRIEST'S 25-YEAR PARISH MINISTRY
by Olga Glace: Forum 18 News Service
(30 Jun) On Sunday 15 May, Polish priest Fr Andrzej Stopyra celebrated his last Mass before his enforced departure from his village parish in Lida District of western Belarus where he had been serving for a quarter of a century. One parishioner told Forum 18 that Fr Stopyra had been expecting such a refusal for at least five years before he received the document banning his further service in Belarus, signed by the government's Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, Leonid Gulyako.
On Sunday 15 May, Polish priest Fr Andrzej Stopyra celebrated his last Mass before his enforced departure from his village parish in Lida District of western Belarus where he had been serving for a quarter of a century. One parishioner told Forum 18 that Fr Stopyra had been expecting such a refusal for at least five years before he received the document banning his further service in Belarus, signed by the government's Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, Leonid Gulyako. The denial came as another Catholic priest - Fr James Manjackal from India, invited to conduct spiritual exercises over several days in July - was denied state permission for his religious visit to the country.
Fr Stopyra had served as priest of Descent of the Holy Spirit parish in the village of Berezovka in Grodno [Hrodna] diocese since 1991. The parishioner, who asked not to be identified, complained to Forum 18 on 17 June that church members were upset over having to part with Fr Stopyra and hoped to the last that the denial of permission to remain would be overturned. The priest preferred to leave quietly without making a fuss, the parishioner added.
"Foreign priests need to get permission to serve in Belarus," Fr Pavel Solobuda, spokesman for Grodno Catholic diocese, told religious news agency Krynica.info on 16 May. "The time came for him [Fr Stopyra] to obtain his permission for further work. But he was refused. And the reasons may have been explained only to him. As far as I understand, the reasons are not given to the public." [read more...]
KYIV PATRIARCHATE ISSUED A STATEMENT ON THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
from: Religious Information Service of Ukraine
(1 Jul) From June 16 to 26, 2016, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened on the Greek island of Crete, chaired by His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch. This Council was held subsequent to decisions of the Synaxis (assembly) of the heads of the 14 universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox Churches meeting in Chambesy, Switzerland in January 2016, while preparation for the Council, including selection of topics for consideration and creation of draft documents, was conducted over 55 years, since the 1961 Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes.
Regretfully, under the influence of external secular considerations, the Churches of first Bulgaria, then Antioch, Moscow, and Georgia, announced just days prior to the Council the impossibility of their participation, demanding postponement of the Council for “further preparation”. Although the Churches of Bulgaria, Georgia, and Antioch each expressed somewhat different grounds for their withdrawal, there is little question that the position of the Moscow Patriarchate was a main factor in their decisions. Despite official assurances of wishing to gather the Council, the Moscow Patriarchate was not, and is not, interested in this. The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church meeting on the island of Crete established a precedent and mechanism for conciliar decisions within not just one local church or group of local churches, as has been the case over recent centuries, but within a Pan-Orthodox context.
Regarding the issue that is of greatest immediate concern to most Orthodox Christians in Ukraine, the recognition of the autocephaly of our Church, we emphasize that this decision is within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch and our Mother Church of Constantinople. It is to them, not to the Great Council, that appeals from both the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Verkhovna Rada (national parliament) of Ukraine were addressed. Having received confirmation from an official representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archbishop Job of Telmessos, that these appeals for issuance of a Tomos of Autocephaly will be considered by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we anticipate this review and are prepared to work towards a positive decision. [read more...]
UZBEKISTAN: THREE-YEAR IMPRISONMENT FOR RELIGIOUS LITERATURE?
by Mushfig Bayram: Forum 18 News Service
(28 Jun) Police in Urgench [Urganch] in Uzbekistan's north-western Khorezm Region appear about to hand to court a criminal case against a local Baptist to punish him for "illegal possession" of religious literature in his home under Criminal Code Article 244-3. Stanislav Kim could face up to three years' imprisonment if convicted. The Investigator who prepared the indictment refused to tell Forum 18 if Nikolai Serin, another Baptist questioned as a witness in the case, also faces prosecution. Courts routinely punish people for "illegal" religious literature as well as holding meetings for worship.
Khorezm authorities also raided a Baptist worship meeting in February. In late March the host and her non-believing husband were fined for possessing "illegal" literature in their home when the meeting was raided. Article 244-3 punishes "Illegal production, storage, import into the territory of Uzbekistan with a purpose to distribute or distribution of religious materials, committed after enforcement of an administrative penalty for a similar violation" with a fine of 100 to 200 times the minimum monthly wage or corrective labour of up to three years. [read more...]
MOSCOW PATRIARCHATE TELLS CONSTANTINOPLE DEMOCRACY IS IRRELEVANT IN CHURCH LIFE
(27 Jun) The Russian Orthodox Church reminds the Constantinople Patriarchate about incompatability of democratic traditions with taking decisions at the Council. The discussion started with the words of the Constantinople archbishop who made it clear that all decisions taken by the inter-Orthodox Council on Crete would be compulsory for all Orthodox Churches, including those who did not participate in it. "You come from a democracy. Everyone can vote. Now some people choose not to vote. Does that mean you don't live in a democracy?" Archbishop Job of Telmessos said resuming the results of the session on Friday answering the question of a Russian journalist.
"I understand that atmosphere on Crete is tense and it is tiresome to talk to journalists. But I believe comparing a Church Council to the democratic procedure is not successful and hardly relevant when voiced by the Council speaker," deputy head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate Archpriest Nikolay Balashov told Interfax-Religion. "There has not been democracy in the Church from the first centuries, and there won't be," he said, explaining that democracy is the rule of people, and power in the Church "belongs to God." [read more...]
UKRAINIANS DESERT RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH EN MASSE
(25 Jun) Russia’s continued meddling in Ukraine is driving Ukrainian citizens out of the Russian Orthodox Church. Instead, they are swelling the ranks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate. Traditionally, Ukraine has been home to the vast majority of Russian Orthodox Church members. In 1990, of the almost 12,000 Orthodox communities throughout the Soviet Union, more than 6,000 were in Ukraine; only 3,000 were in Russia itself.
When Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, a number of communities broke with the mother church to form the Kiev Patriarchate. The remaining churches renamed themselves the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. Through a series of agreements, as well as official favoritism by former President Viktor Yanukovych’s government, the vast majority of communities remained loyal to Moscow. There are 12,515 Moscow parishes, compared to Kiev’s 4,877 parishes.
The number of churchgoers tells a different story, however; approximately 15 million Ukrainians identify with the Kiev Patriarchate, while only 10 million remain loyal to the Moscow one. And the numbers of defections are growing. Archpriest Heorhiy Kovalenko, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, explained in 2014 that there had been transfers of individual parishes to the Kiev Patriarchate since the mid-1990s, but no mass transfers. But in that year alone, 30 parishes switched allegiances, according to the Kiev Patriarchate. [read more...]
OTHER NEWS HEADLINES:
"NOT FINISHED OFF YET" - CONVERSATION WITH A BAPTIST PASTOR IN MOSCOW
from Russian Evangelical Alliance
PROTECTING CHRISTIAN VALUES IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE AND BEYOND
from Religious Information Service of Ukraine
ANTI-TERRORISM: A NEW RELIGION FOR RUSSIA
from Mission Network News
RUSSIAN SECURITY COUNCIL NOTES ACTIVE USE OF RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS BY FOREIGN SPECIAL SERVICES
REPRESENTATIVE OF FSB IN TIUMEN PROVINCE UPSET BY ACTIVITY OF PROTESTANTS
from Center for News and Analysis
MOSCOW ROUND TABLE ON ‘WHY THE COUNCIL ON CRETE HAS NOT BECOME A PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL?’
from Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate
SHINING A LIGHT ON THE STREETS OF TBILISI
from Mission Eurasia
MONKS OF KIEV CAVES LAVRA HELP FAMILIES WITH MANY CHILDREN
ARMENIA: PAPAL VISIT TO FOSTER “CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY”
MOLDOVAN CLERGY CEASE COMMEMORATION OF PATRIARCH KIRILL
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NOW, OUR VIEWS:
(22 Jun) On this date, I announced my candidacy for U.S. President. After listening to the two main presumptive candidates and getting sick to my stomach, I knew somebody had to do something. But it seemed those who were more experienced in politics had just thrown in the towel after Trump won in the primaries. Perhaps I'm foolhardy for even trying, but it's better to do something rather than simply give up. That only makes a terrible outcome inevitable.
So, if you've been feeling that the 2016 campaign looks like "a choice between the lesser of two evils," choose neither! Don't just sit there and wring your hands! YOU can take action - YOU Can Make A Difference! Go to my website RDHosken-for-President.com, click on the menu items Here's How YOU Can Help! to print some flyers to give out to your real-world friends, and click on Share My Social Media Posts to share my posts with your online friends and contacts: do something! You can't do everything, but you can do something: it doesn't give you an excuse to do nothing!
Over the past 40 years, I've helped get imprisoned Russian religious dissidents exchanged for Soviet spies arrested in the U.S. for espionage. I've led a team to produce a revision Russian Bible and distributed about a million copies in electronic format as well as two printed editions. Cheryl and I have ministered to dozens of disabled people in Russia and we've trained hundreds of people to do the same. And we did it all on a shoestring budget. Now it's time for YOU to get on board and help turn things around. TOGETHER WE CAN DO IT!
Henry Ford once said - "There are two kinds of people: those who think they can't, and those who think they can. Both are right!" Which one are you?
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"Sloppy Agape" - Phony Love
It's become rather common these days for preachers - and lots of other people - to say that we should all just "love one another" and "love your neighbor as yourself." Of course, these are good and true teachings by our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, He taught His disciples that loving our neighbor is equal to the command to love God with all our being:
"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Mat. 22:37-40)
- and -
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
Our love for God and our neighbor should be unconditional: God sends His rain on the just and the unjust alike, He bestows His grace on sinners like me who don't deserve it, so we should love even our enemies. But should a Christian ever hate? Our love should not be indiscriminate: "Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate that which is evil. Cling to that which is good." (Rom. 12:9) Some things and activities must be avoided: sexual immorality, greed, filthy language, just plain stupid talk, making fun of others, idolatry, etc. -
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same?" (Mat. 5:43-46)
- and -
"Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance. But sexual immorality, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be mentioned among you, as becomes saints; nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks. Know this for sure, that no sexually immoral person, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God." (Eph. 5:2-5)
As we approach the end and society becomes worse and worse, those who follow Christ and strive to do what is right will come under increasing pressure. People will hate us precisely because we try to love them even when they do ugly and perverse things, but we must endure to the end, keep on loving the sinner while hating the sin:
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Please remember to pray for Christians in the former Soviet bloc countries, and for...
Bob & Cheryl
p.s. Thank God for the gift of each day: that's why it's called "the present."