Archive for the ‘Evangelical’ category

Dreams and the Church in Turkey

November 16, 2011

The website of the European Baptist Federation http://www.ebf.org carried the following story  on Tuesday 15 November. Authored by Klaus Rösler

In Turkey, more and more Muslims are becoming Christians because they have dreamed about Jesus Christ. Recently, the pastor of the evangelical Agape Church in Samsun, on the Black Sea, Orhan Picaklar, reported such a case.
A young woman became a Christian after Jesus Christ appeared to her in a dream. But that’s not all: after she had been attending worship services, she brought her mother and her younger sister along with her in the mid-October. This is quite extraordinary, since in general, the families of converts are extremely critical of them. In a prayer letter, Picaklar wrote that after the worship service, the mother even promised to tell her husband that his daughter was now a Christian “at the right time”, so that he would not have a negative reaction.
Again and again, there are unexpected meetings with interested people. For example, at the market, Picaklar offers free Bibles and invites those interested to come and see his church. Recently, a woman came by. She told him that she had taken eight Bibles from the market and had given them to women in her neighborhood. She was delighted to have a Christian church in her neighborhood, although she herself was not a Christian. She urged Picaklar to make sure that the church remained in its current place, although there are no plans to move.
The church was planted in 2003. A short while ago, there was a baptism ceremony where four people were baptized. About 50 attend worship services each Sunday. The Agape Church is the only  evangelical church in the Samsun Region, which has a population of 1.2 million. It is in close contact with the European Baptist Federation (EBF). Picaklar is a former Muslim who became a Christian through reading the Gospel of John.

Georgia passes new freedom of religion legislation

July 9, 2011

On the 5th July 2011 the Georgian Parliament passed into law new legislation that ensures the religious freedoms of ‘religious groups recognized as religious organizations in member States of the Council of Europe or having close historic ties with Georgia.’

Initial drafts limited the freedoms to just five groups, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish and Muslim communities of Georgia, in addition to the special status still accorded the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The Baptist Archbishop in Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, reports that following the release of the first draft, Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze (Baptist), lobbied the parliament and requested that the legislation should be extended to all religious groups in Georgia. The draft was subsequently amended to meet this request. A press release from the Embassy of Georgia in London specifically refers to Evangelicals being granted the same freedoms.

According to the Embassy’s press release, lawmaker, Nugzar Tsiklauri, said ‘Georgia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country and every citizen of this country, regardless of what religion he belongs to, must have equal rights.’

Previously it has only been possible for the majority of religious organisations to register as a non-profit association. The new legislation now allows for registration as a religious association although the lawmakers have been careful to allow religious organisations to decide whether they want to continue as a non-profit association or register as a religious association. The legislation is designed to ensure maximum flexibility for such organisations.

A copy of the press release can be downloaded here.

Moscow’s ‘National Prayer Breakfast’ has a new format

April 1, 2011

europeanmission is to carry summary versions of press releases written by William Yoder, working among the evangelical commmunity in Russia. This is the first such piece from William Yoder and we are glad to be able to offer this service.

— On the 15th March, approximately 200 religious and secular leaders gathered in Moscow’s exclusive “President-Hotel” for the 11th Russian National Prayer Breakfast (established 1995). This year’s gathering, which was entitled “Russia – a Multi-National and Multi-Cultural Country”, was marked by Nikolay Svanidze’s impassioned call for Russian society to address the crying social and economic needs of its young. Svanidze, a prominent TV journalist and head of the state-run “Commission of the Public Chambre for Multi-National Relations and Freedom of Conscience”, decried the aggressive, xenophobic nationalism increasingly prominent among the nation’s young. Millions of youth are suffering from “poverty, crudity, violence and unjust courts and are seeking a release for their aggressive emotions”. He described the state’s propaganda for the young as promoting xenophobia and being “majestically-superfluous and nationalistic in character”.

Svanidze noted that Russia’s “patriotic” societies and media have described the earthquakes in Japan as just “punishment for encroaching upon our rights to the Kuril Islands” just off the Japanese coast. This is an expression of our total lack of pity for the needy of Japan and elsewhere. He branded this inhumane reaction “a result of our moral isolationism, a post-imperial syndrome”. He consequently appealed for a “national programme teaching respect for one another, something almost completely absent from our country”. “Social escalator” programmes could instil in the young a sense of hope for the future. Russians too must learn that all of us are first-of-all simply human beings without ethnic or confessional boundaries.

Unity was the order of the day. Sergey Melnikov, Head Secretary of the “Council for Cooperation with Religious Organisations at the Seat of the President of the Russian Federation”, cited the terrorist attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on 24 January which killed 37 and injured 180. He remarked that thanks to blood donations, “the blood in the veins of the survivors was merged with the blood of those from differing faiths”. This symbolises Russia’s existence as a united and single organism. Akhmad Garifullin, a deputy of Moscow’s head mufti, noted that the USSR’s victory over fascism was only possible because the nation acted as one organism irrespective of individual confession. Today‘s challenges demand a similar amount of unity: “Prayer is the weapon of the believers. We stand together in the struggle against terror.”

Alexander Torshin, First Vice-Chairman of the Council of the Russian Federation (Upper House), explained the traditional Russian aversion to the term “tolerance”. Along with the positive connotations of friendship and mutual respect, it is to the Russian mind also associated with undue acceptance of “injustice, crudity and lack of culture”. Tolerance can mean, in English terms, that “anything goes”.

The event’s new format

Some church leaders expressed concern that they were unable to make any contribution to the event. The Russian Prayer Breakfast has traditionally been a forum largely for the self-presentation of Protestant churches and organisations. So this year’s format, in which the lectures and greetings were limited to politicians as well as one Catholic, Muslim and Jewish representative, was a significant remake.

Thanks to its brand-new format, this smaller and briefer Prayer Breakfast was not without hiccups. In a vast departure from Russian tradition, the audience usually did not rise from their tables for prayer. The prayers from the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim speakers seemed to be more read than prayed.

Alexander Torshin, a veteran participant at Washington’s National Prayer Breakfast, explained in his short speech the intended future direction of the Russian movement. In agreement with the North American model, the Russian event is intended to become more of a presentation from and for politicians – not clergy. That is something quite different from the past Protestant event attended by a few politicians. Torshin regards Russian politicians publically testifying of their personal faith to be a distant dream, but he does believe that prayer gatherings will begin to take place within the Russian Duma and Parliament in the coming months.

Criticism of the Breakfast’s new format centers on the fear that the event may not remain explicitly Christian. Evgeny Bakhmutsky, Senior Vice-President of the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists”, stated in an interview that he missed Christ-centered praying among the Protestant speakers.

For the first time in years, not a single Orthodox cleric was visible at the event. The Moscow Patriarchate explains increasingly that the Prayer Breakfast’s format does not sync with Orthodox convictions. In the Orthodox tradition, public prayers need to be prayed by Orthodox clergy, and joint prayer with non-Orthodox Christians is now discouraged. Consequently, the Orthodox are championing their own inter-confessional forum. Its first public sessions may take place as early as Fall 2011.

However, Russia’s National Prayer Breakfast movement is far from dead. A similar Breakfast was held in St. Petersburg on 20 March; another will take place in Krasnoyarsk/Siberia in April. Next year’s Moscow event is scheduled for 13 March.

William Yoder, Ph.D., “kant50@gmx.de” or “rea.org@mail.ru

Evangelical Armenians in Georgia

March 29, 2011

Evangelical Armenians, resident in Georgia, have been actively involved in mission among other Armenians since the mid 1800s. Whilst protestant mission in Armenia was largely conducted without the presence of western missionaries, mission among Armenian residents in Georgia was carried out by European missionaries from Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. Early Swedish missionaries established a base in  Pyatigorsk and German Lutherans were effective in spreading protestantism in Tblisi and elsewhere in the Caucasus.

Independent evangelical churches were encouraged to form alliances under the wings of the American and British and Foreign Bible Societies and from 1870 onwards the American Mission Boards began offering support to evangelical Armenian communities in the transcaucasus region. Following initial growth and consoidation, the latter half of the 1880s saw opposition grow to the fledgling movement and leaders, including Vasili Pavlov, Nikita Voronin and Abraham Amirkhanyan, were arrested. Undeterred, Amirkhanyan and others, after release, continued to lead the protestant communities up until the 1920s.

Armenian Baptists and Armenian Lutherans were officially recognised by the Russian Government between 1914-1918. In 1926 the Armenian Evangelical Church was also recognised. Many of these communities combined to engage in missionary work among Armenians in Eastern Armenia, and established orphanages during the 1910s.

The Armenian Evangelicals work independently but they are included in the Evangelical union of Christian Baptists of Georgia, which has more than 5,000 members and is itself a member Union of the European Baptist Federation.

Today on the territory of Georgia there are six Armenian Evangelical organizations, five Armenian Evangelical churches (Tbilisi, Kumurdo, Sulda, Akhalkalaki, and Sukhumi), and one Armenian Evangelical brotherhood (established in Akhaltsikhe in 1993). There are about 60 Armenian Evangelicals living in Abkhazia. Since opening its office in Armenia in 1991, the Armenian Evangelical Association of America (AEAA) has been rendering assistance to the Armenian Evangelicals in Tbilisi and Sukhumi, particularly in the educational, cultural, social and organizational spheres.

For further information you can follow our link to the NORAVANK website to view the original article from which this summary is extracted.

 

British Director of ECM’s blog builds momentum

August 26, 2010

Kent Anderson, the new British Director for European Christian Mission (ECM), has begun blogging at ‘A Christian in Europe‘ about his personal reflections as he contemplates the new challenges he faces. His latest post is a reflection on the low numbers of evangelicals in Europe. ECM was founded in the 1920s by an Estonian and continues to deploy mainly European missionaries across other parts of Europe.

Kent’s approach is down to earth and reflects the traditional church planting and evangelism concerns of ECM. His posts this week have included reference to the ‘terrorist priest scandal’ in Northern Ireland and a report on church planting in France.