Is the Russian Baptism a religious phenomenon, what are its national features and traditions, why can't the Russian Baptists imagine themselves without having a large family and doing social activities? The head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Evangelical Baptist Union Vitaly Vlasenko told about this to Interfax-Religion.
- How many communities does the Russian Evangelical Baptist Union include now?
- Last year we celebrated the 140-years anniversary of our organization. Our Union is the largest one of the Christian denominations in Russia and has gone a long historical path. The baptist word comes from the Greek baptistos which means baptized upon the faith. At the present time our Union includes 1750 communities all over the Russian Federation's territory from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok. Most communities are located in the European part of the country while the largest, mightiest communities are in Siberia. Some time the Soviet authorities exiled our forefathers to Siberia, yet instead of having died they formed new communities - very powerful and successful ones. As the famous Russian scientist Lomonosov told that Russia would increase due to Siberia, so the Baptist Union increases due to Siberia too. Total number of our Church's members is over 80 000 persons, in terms of adults, 18 years old and more. For holy watery baptizing office at Evangelistic Baptist-Christians is performed at an adult stage of the life. The developing trend of communities is positive. It's small, yet growing. Surely compared to the 1990s, when the people had particular spiritual thirst, the growing, one could say, has decreased a little bit. We expect a new turn in growth after the period of revising their life values when many peoples thought, well, if we were given enough money or else we needed the good economy, then we would have had everything ok. People already perceive that spiritual values are of more significant then economic welfare.
- What particular character do the Russian Baptist have today compared with the ones in Europe, in the USA? Are there any peculiar traits of national character?
- We are Russian Baptists that explains everything. There was always the opinion, that our Russian society was more spiritual. In my opinion, the Russian Baptists are self-sacrificing, they believe in God in spite of any obstacles. It was witnessed by the history when our forefathers were jailed for their religious views and exiled to Siberia, they obeyed resignedly, and their wives like the Decembrist's wives followed them too. There is such wording: Christianity came to Greece and became a Church, Christianity came to Rome and became a state, and Christianity came to Russia and became a culture. So we stick up for Christianity to be a heart's devotion, personal faith in God through personal relations than otherwise. I think communality is a particular characteristic of us. All our churches are joined and ready to offer theirs support. Our religious principles are the same, yet we are particularly conservative, more hard-edged in the Holy Scripture - Bible trust issues than our Western brothers and sisters. Born and grown up in Russia we are imbibed with the Russian history, Orthodox tradition. We are not eager to separate from our adherents in other countries, but to save our cultural feature, to be just one of the general Christian range, as the Gospel has got no limits.
- There exists opinion that the Western Baptist are more modernist compared with the Russian ones, that the Russian Baptist are devoted to the common values, for example, in issues related to the traditional family, denial of homosexual marriages.
- It is probably true. Our communities like our society are more conservative. It historically turned out that we imbibed both Orthodox Church traditions and Western human approach. Our Churches are anxious about Evangelical-based organization principles for the community than about some modernism.
As for homosexuality I assert that the Russian Baptists accept neither homosexual marriages nor homosexual relations. It is a sin, and we will stick it out. The Bible clearly and definitely states the impossibility of such relations. We identify with the approach of the Russian Orthodox Church's approach which denounces the like relations.
It is possible there are single communities in the West, which slip a little into modernistic way. I have not personally learnt that some Baptist Church has proclaimed such position. We do understand as well that for such persons there is still possibility of salvation and abandoning this sinful experience. In the West many our Baptist pastors denounce the popularization of the homosexuality. You could probably heard than in Norway a pastor has been banned and sent to jail for he publicly called things by their proper names. Although the trial discharged him later. One should not slander everyone without any proof. In Russian all the Protestant Churches, and not only the Baptists ones, share one opinion on this issue. The issue was discussed at the Protestant Advisory Council in Russia. We clearly stated that our society could not accept it and it was but the sin.