NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

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Implementing the religion law

REGULATION ON THE PROCEDURE OF REGISTRATION, OPENING, AND CLOSING REPRESENTATIVES OF FOREIGN RELIGIONS ORGANIZATIONS IN THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

Rossisskaia gazeta, 12 February 1998

1. The present regulation determines the procedure for registration, opening, and closing of representations of foreign religious organizations within the Russian federation.

2. A foreign religious organization is an organization that has been created outside of the boundaries of the Russian federation in accordance with the legislation of a foreign state.

3. A representation of a foreign religious organizations (hereafter called "representation") is a separate subdivision of a foreign religious organization, created on the territory of the Russian federation, and operating in its name and by its permission on the basis of indicated authorization. The representation is not a legal entity (juridical person). Several foreign religious organizations, by agreement among themselves, may jointly open a representation of these organizations within the Russian federation. A Russian centralized religious organization (hereafter called "Russian religious organization") registered in accordance with legally established procedure in the Russian federation has the right to have under its aegis the representation of a foreign religious organization.

4. The activity of the representations independent of their mutual relations with the foreign religious organization (organizations) creating them is conducted in accordance with the legislation of the Russian federation.

5. Representations may not be engaged in cult or any other religious activity and they do not have the status of a religious association established by the legislation of the Russian federation. Matters of the acquisition by representations of office and living premises, transportation, and any other property and services of a business and living character are settled by the foreign religious organizations that open them at their own expense and also on the basis of agreements with Russian religious organizations under whose aegis the representation has been opened.

6. A representation is considered open from the day of its registration by the procedure established by the present regulation.

7. Registration of representations is performed by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation and by agencies of justice of the constitutent elements of the Russian federation (hereafter called "registering agencies"). The Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation conducts registration of representations that are opened for activity on the territory of two or more constituent elements of the Russian federation and also representations opened under the aegis of Russian religious organizations, registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation. Agencies of justice of the constituent elements of the Russian federation conduct registration of representations that are opening for activity within the boundaries of the territory of the correspondint element of the Russian federation and of representations opened under Russian religious organizations registered by these agencies of justice.

8. For registration of a representation, a person authorized by the foreign religious organization for concluding in its name contracts for opening the representation presents to the registering organ
a. a declaration concerning the opening of the representation, signed by an authorized person (persons) of the foreign religious organization in which are stated brief information about this religious organization, its purpose and basic forms of proposed activity, location (address) of the representation and the area of its activity, and the number of foreign employees of the representation;
b. in case of the opening of a represenation under the aegis of a Russian religious organization, a corresponding petition from this organization;
c. decision of the authoritative body of the foreign religious organization (organizations) regarding opening its representation in the Russian federation and the appointment of the director of the representation (representative);
d. copy of the constituent documents and evidence of registration or other legal authorizing documents of the foreign religious organization. Documents of foreign religious organizations and institutions of foreign states are submitted in the state (official) language with a Russian translation, certified by established procedure.

9. The registering agencies have the right to request supplemental information and to conduct a determination of the accuracy of the information contained in the submitted documents.

10. The registration of the representation is performed within a three-month period from the day of the submission by the applicant of all documents listed in point 8 of the present regulation. In case the applicant is asked for supplemental information, the indicated period may be extended to six months.

11. Upon the decision regarding registration of the representation, the registering agency delivers to the applicant certification regarding the registration on the form in the appendix (published in the "Collection of Legislation of the Russian Federation"). The certificate is signed by an authorized official of the registering agency and contains the official seal.

12. Certification of registration of the representation is given for a period of three years. The term of activity of the representation may be extended another three years after appropriate declaration from the foreign religious organization and, in the case of the opening of a representation under a Russian religious organization, an appropriate petition from that organization.

13. The Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation maintains a register of representations of foreign religious organization opened in the Russian federation. Agencies of justice of constituent elements of the Russian federation send necessary information to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian federation for inclusion in said register within one month from the day of registration or liquidation of a representation.

14. The certificate of registration of a representation is the basis for the foreign religious organization that opened it for applications in diplomatic or consular institutions of the Russian federation for visas for entry into the Russian federation of foreign citizens for work in the representation and to offices of internal affairs of the Russian federation for registration of these citizens and members of their families within the Russian federation.

15. Personnel of a representation are appointed and replaced by the foreign religious organization in accordance with its own rules and standards from among the foreign citizens within the quantitative limits agreed upon with the registering agency at the time of the registration of the representation, and from among citizens of the Russian federation. Hiring of citizens of the Russian federation for work in the representations is performed in accordance with legislation on labor of the Russian federation. In case of the cessation of the activity of the representation ahead of time, the replacement of its leader (representative), and change of location (address) of the representation, the foreign religious organization or its representative must inform the registering agency of this within one month.

16. Foreign citizens who are employees of the representation, in case of their violation of the legislation of the Russian federation, are liable in accordance with the legislation regarding the legal status of foreign citizens in the Russian federation.

17. The representation may not be registered if
--the goals and activity of the foreign religious organization petitioning for opening its representation in the Russian federation contradict the constitution of the Russian federation and the legislation of the Russian federation;
--the constituent documents submitted do not conform with the requirements of the legislation of the Russian federation, the present regulation, or they contain false information.
The applicant is informed of the refusal of registration in writing.

18. The activity of a representation is terminated
--upon expiration of the term for which the certificate of registration of the representation was given;
--by decision of the foreign religious organization that opened the representation;
--upon annulment of the petition of the Russian religious organization for opening the representation under it;
--in case of the liquidation of the foreign religious organization that opened the representation;
--by decision of the registering agency in case of the representation's performing activity that is prohibited by law or that violates the legislation of the Russian federation.

12 February 1998

Resolution of the government of the Russian Federation,
2 February 1998, no. 130

Moscow

Regarding the procedure of registration, opening, and closing of representations of foreign religious organization in the Russian federation, in accordance with the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," the government of the Russian federation resolves:

1. To confirm the Regulation on Procedures of Registration, Opening, and Closing of representations of foreign religious organizations in the Russian federation.

2. To establish that foreign religious organizations that have representations in the Russian federation are required within a six-month period from the day the present resolution takes effect to apply to the appropriate agency of justice for registration of the representation.

The representations of foreign religious organization that do not comply with this requirement and do not undergo registration, as well as institutions in violation of the Regulation on Procedures for registration, opening, and closing representations of foreign religious organizations in the Russian federation, confirmed by the present resolution, are subject to closure.

President of the government of the Russian federation V. Chernomyrdin

(tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Postanovlenie pravitelstva


Implementing the religion law

BAPTIST UNION TO CHANGE CHARTER IN KEEPING WITH NEW LAW ITAR-TASS, Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 13 February. The Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists of Russia plans to introduce changes into its charter because of the upcoming reregistration of religious organizations. The Council of Senior Presbyters made this decision. At a press conference today the union announced that the new constitutent charter will be adopted at the congress of representatives of Baptist congregations which will be held in March. The new charter will contain the possibility of expanding the circle of congregations that are members of the union and of the organization of new religious associations. At present the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists contains 850,000 members. The statistics show that in the past several years the number of Baptist parishes has grown and consists of 1,180 prayer buildings in various regions of Russia. Recently a new prayer building was opened in the city of Kimra, where by chance the dedication of the newly constructed building was held in the presence of the president of the union, Peter Konovalchik, with a festive prayer service and concert of spiritual music. A similar prayer building appeared in Byshnyi Volochok this past summer. Soon the construction of a house of prayer will be completed also in Syktyvkar. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

PROTESTANTS IN BLAGOVESHCHENSK
by Boris Lebedev, Radiotserkov

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, 13 February. On 12 February a bishop of the Christians of Evangelical Faith, brother Marchuk, made a one-day visit to Blagoveshchensk. The purpose of his visit was the ordination of four deacons and a presbyter for the "Good News" church.

Since the new federal law on freedom of conscience came into effect, complex times have begun for churches which have existed fewer than fifteen years. "Good News" is one such church in Blagoveshchensk. Ironically the church rents the most "communist" building of the city, the Palace of Officers. Services are being conducted among numerous sculptures of Lenin. The Good News church at present has more than 200 members. Twice a month the Good News church has a celebration where people receive holy baptism which is conducted in the pool of one of the city baths. Each time up to thirty persons have expressed their desire to become members of the church. Almost all protestant churches in Blagoveshchensk are experience a similar influx of new members. The leaders of Good News, in my view, are following a proper path, giving nurture in their services to both youth, through contemporary music, and to older members of the church, through serious preaching. (tr. by PDS)

REGIONAL RELIGIOUS NEWSPAPER CRITICIZES LAW
by Dmitry Suslov,
Radiotsekov, Kazan, 12 February 1998

It is not without purpose that we return to the publication of materials about the law "On Freedom of Conscience . . . ." And probably we will be returning to it more than once. For the law has gradually begun to take effect and specific confirmations have been appearing regarding whom this law serves and whose interests it reflects. A selection was offered by the Yaroslavl newspaper Ekklesiast.

TO GOD WHAT IS GOD'S AND TO THE DUMA . . .

The law on freedom of conscience and religious associations adopted last year almost unanimously by the State Duma of RF will have far-reaching consequences which, all things considered, were not foreseen either by the legislators, executive branch, or even its authors.

Yu.L. Belov, of the fraction of the communist party of Russia: "Even we, communists, convinced atheists, tried to defend the Orthodox church."

The Orthodox radio station Radonezh declared one of the parishes of the Russian Orthodox church "a totalitarian sect" simply because it conducted services in Russian.

V.V. Zhirinovsky, of the fraction of the Liberal Democractic Party of Russia: "We have to operate from the position of the Russian Orthodox church. If now someone from the patriarchate says to us: adopt the law, we will adopt it. If they say: don't adopt it, we will not do so." 19 September 1997

The immediate consequences showed up right away: there was an outbreak of indignation. People began to get together to express their concern not for the delay of their salaries but for the violations of what they consider to be their inalienable rights, guaranteed them by the consitition. The infringement of the religious rights and freedoms already had led (also within our country) to sharp conflicts. And it promises nothing good even now.

The account of the discussion and adoption of the law is a kind of absorbing thriller. There were many intrigues, deception, direct falsehoods and forgeries. The president vetoed the original draft because it violated the constitution. Then he signed a somewhat worse version that infringed upon the rights of a substantial portion of Russia's believers.

The adoption of the law demonstrated that the government had no intention of observing the constitutional principle of the supremacy of human rights. The law clearly advanced to first place not the individual, but religious association, considering believers to be only a part or adjunct of these organizations. The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and the right to choose and spread religious convictions. The law restricts this right.

The government clearly showed that it is the government not of all law-abiding citizens but only of those who declare their adherence to Orthodoxy. And by no means to all of Orthodoxy but only that part of it which is administered by the Moscow patriarchate. "We are the majority and what we want is what we will do," say the supporters of the law.

But even with regard to the majority there are various opinions. Some experts consider that, for example, there are more practicing Muslims in Russia than active Orthodox. Second, long ago it was established that the standard of civilization is the defense of the individual and minorities, including religious minorities. But in our country the majority considers that it has the right to be "overwhelming." The Christian must remember the words of scripture: "Do not follow the majority into evil" (Ex. 23.2). That means the parliamentary majority also .

Many believers consider that now there rights are being trampled and infringed. The government has lost the moral right to require their loyalty, since they feel themselves citizens without complete rights. Now it is impossible to expect them to "lay down their lives" for such a government.

History should not be forgotten: in 1917 the government dealt with only one religion (for which, we note, there then was greater basis) and it all ended with the greatest catastrophe in the history of our country. Even before the bolshevik seizure of power official Orthodoxy had lost the support of a substantial portion of the people: when the Provisional Government abolished the requirement to perform the rituals and sacraments in the army, the number of soldiers who considered themselves Orthodox fell to a tenth. And this was at the front where death was nearby and, it would seem, a person is more likely to think about God. Several months later a large portion of Russians followed Lenin and Trotsky rather than the Orthodox icons and ensigns.

But the negative consequences will not be (nor have they been) only inside Russia. They will be catastrophic for foreign policy also.

The adoption of the law demonstrated the absolute incomprehension of both the legislative and executive branches of the international legal norms and principles. In the course of the discussion a dishonest approach often was used: "In Latvia..., "In Germany..." etc. And it always turned out that in Latvia and Germany and in all other civilized countries things were not in any way as was being claimed. Nowhere in Europe do the laws discriminate against and infringe upon the rights of citizens on the basis of their religious affiliation in the way that happens with the Russian law.

Actually, there is not complete unanimity in Europea regarding religious legislation. However Europe has adopted the Convention on Human Rights, and several European countries already have had to endure censure for the condition of religious liberties on their territory and to make appropriate changes in laws. Now their religious legislation has evolved toward a strengthening of the personal rights and freedoms of Europeans in all areas, including the religious. Only Russia has moved in the opposite direction.

The reaction of the outside world came quickly. The law did not escape the attention of American congressmen and even the Roman pope responded to it. Our so-called experts were genuinely elated: they right away accused the Americans and pope of interference in our internal affairs. And they surely could have known that the US congress and the Roman pope always have responded to the infringement of religious rights and liberties whereever it may happen--in China or Greece, Iran or Germany. And it was no more difficult to predict their reaction than to predict the rising of the sun in the east.

The law gradually will poison the whole international atmosphere. It will put in doubt Russia's participation in European affairs and threaten its isolation, which we will suffer inevitably instead of parity. It's fine to talk about a "greater Europe," but such a Europe cannot include a Russia that has this law on freedom of conscience.

There is only one outcome possible: with the adoption of the new law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" Russia has rejected the community of civilized countries within which it abode only briefly.

In conclusion, we recall the words of the apostle Paul: "The law creates wrath" (Rm. 4.15). He said them for another purpose, but they apply to this specific situation: both within and outside of the country there are too many negative consequences of its adoption. We should remember other words of the same apostle: "There must be a change in the law" (Heb. 7.12). --Anatoly Pchelintsev, director of the Institute of Religious and Law, Moscow (Ekklesiast, Yaroslavl, no. 1, 1998

To the President of the fraction of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, V.V. Zhirinovsky

Esteemed Vladimir Volfovich. I think you for your support of the principles contained in the new Russian law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." The Russian Orthodox church continues to insist upon the implementation of the basic provisions of this law. Under the circumstances we consider extremely significant the support of all political forces and public movements who are concerned about this complex situation that has arisen in recent years because of the attack of destructive sects, false religious cults, and foreign pseudo-missionaries. With regards and wish for God's help in every good work.

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus 27 August 1997 Religia i pravo, Moscow, no. 2-3, 1997/ Ekklesiast, no. 1, 1998

According to Russian specialist Dr. Mark Elliot, the outcry evoked by the new law which recognizes only those religious groups existing in Russia for at least fifteen years could have positive effects. "This may lead to an expulsion of missionaries as great at that which happend after the events of 1949 in China. It is difficult to imagine," Elliot says" but after the massive departure of missionaries in 1949 China experienced a great growth in the number of Christians." The period from 1988 to 1997 was relative propitious for the work of evangelical movements in Russia and "the evangelical infrastructure," which was erected, should help the churches to "weather the storm." Dr. Elliot thinks that the other fourteen former soviet republics, where 25 million Russians live, will attract the attention of missionaries in the future. He also considers the new law, adopted under substantial influence of the Russian Orthodox church, as a law which will have negative consequences for the Orthodox church itself in the long run because "history has shown that churches that receive privileges from the state lose their vitality." --Novaia zhizn, no. 11, 1997/ Ekklesiast, Yaroslavl, no. 1, 1998

NEW LAW IN EFFECT. FACTS WITHOUT COMMENTARY

The pastor of the congregation of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) Taras Saveliuk was summoned to the police department. When the pastor and his wife arrived at the department, the deputy chief of the department demanded that they close their bible school "Alpha and Omega," using such pressure tactics as handcuffs and threats of beating.

In the Poselka village of Penza region, on the initiative of the local adminstration, there was begun a court case against the community of the Russian Orthodox Free Church aimed at confiscation of the church that had been granted to the community. The "parallel" community of the Moscow patriarchate wishes to have the church.

By decree of the first vice mayor of Tula, A.N. Fedotov, the "Word of Life" church of the Russian association of Christians of Evangelical Faith was forbidden to celebrate the opening of its Sunday school in the premises of the Rodina movie theater. In addition, the procurator of the central district of the city required the administration of the theater to refuse to rent to the church the premises for the services. The administration's actions came after a telephone call from a certain citizen who was unhappy about the event.

The mayor of the city of Noiabrsk in the Yamalo-Nenetsky autonomous region sent to the president of the state court an appeal in which he claimed that one of the judges, Galina Pitkevich, could not perform her duties since she is a "sectarian." In fact the judge is a member of a congregation of Christians of the Evangelical Faith. --Religiia i pravo, Moscow, no. 2-3, 1997/ Ekklesiast, Yaroslavl, no. 1, 1998

And finally: Radiotserkov has just learned about the opening of a campaign of pressure against protestant churches in the Amur region. The administration of justice of the administration of Amur region distributed a letter over the signature of the director of the administration of justice of Amur, L.F. Bavriliuk, addressed to the Pentecostal churches, which required the pastors immediately to present to the administration of justice minutes of their meetings and planned activities for the year and reports of the directors of the religious associations for auditing and legal action of the churches and religious organizations. The leaders of the churches are perplexed and upset inasmuch as, according to the words of the pastor of the Rodnik church in Sadovoe Nikolay Mukhachev to the Radiotserkov reporter, "We have never written out our plans or minutes. We have a single plan, God's plan, to preach the Kingdom of God." But the bureaucrats who are following the letter of the law hardly can understand this. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 16 February 1998)


Baptist charges soviet-style persecution

WHO ARE THE WITCHES?
by Alexis Markevich,
deacon of the church of Evangelical Christians Baptists
Russkaia mysl, 27 January 1998

The 5 January issue of Moskovskii komsomolets published an interview [see below "Repentance at the sexodrome"] with a man who owns a public house. Such materials are not news and, probably, hardly are worth bringing attention to this publication if it were not for one circumstance. This man called himself in the interview a "preacher" and the "president of the Khotkov Bible Society." It is said that along with the usual services of a house of indulgence, he distributes Bibles. Such a strange combination was explained by the interviewee by his training: it seems his grandmother, who was a Baptist, participated in orgies twice a year on a certain "Day of Veneration," and generally Baptists always were a sexual minority.

Having read such nonsense one can only shrug it off and imagine that either the author of the publication or his interlocutor is not fully in possession of his faculties. But this was published in a paper with a million circulation and which many people read and which has great influence on public opinion. Besides, several weeks before this publication an article was published in a regional edition of MK, in Nizhny Novgorod, that claimed Baptists perform infant sacrifice. And in St. Petersburg material came out about a certain protestant pastor who was a murderer. This is too much nonsense for a few weeks.

Strangely, perhaps within journalistic circles there has appeared a kind of virus of psychological illness that bears the label "mania of persecution of the Baptists." But, as was noted by one of the stars of a famous movie: "people get sick together only with the flu; they go crazy alone." Therefore it is more likely that this is explained by the special interest shown by the mass media toward the end of last year to little known religious organizations in connection with the adoption of the new law on freedom of conscience. And this interest can include sensational tales about the horrible Baptists (or, as one newspaper wrote it, Babtists--connecting them with "babas" [witches]).

Unfortunately, it may be even a bit worse. Articles published in our country in the 60s and 70s are still fresh in memory. But at that time there was no irony. At that time there was deliberate insult spread like a horrible slander apparently based on the idea that the more horrible and unlikely the lie, the sooner it will be believed. Although the KGB, which spread this slander, was not its original author.

These methods are old--even very old. In the first decades of their existence, Christians were accused by pagans of immorality and human sacrifice. The early Christian defenders of the new doctrines had to compose many works responding to these accusations. As regards Russian protestants, similar absurd allegations came from the depths of the Holy Synod at the end of the nineteenth century, which later the soviet security agencies seized upon.

So there is nothing new in this "new" sensation. It is sad that someone is trying to revive the old methods and, apparently, the old procedures. Who is doing this? Are they new KGB men or new zealots for the purity of the church? Is the "image of an enemy" really needed in order to unite people in a fight against it?

Incidentally, in his recent address on television, the hierarch of RPTs Metropolitan Kirill again warned gullible people against fellowship with sects and pseudoreligious movements. In doing this he did not cite a single example: who falls into these categories and who does not. And why should he cite them since it is much easier to raise the spectre of a new threat that applies to all of "them," that is, according to the metropolitan, all non-Orthodox. The chief sign of "them" is their foreign origin. Thus the metropolitan called an unnamed pastor from Africa a sectarian simply because he came to preach in Ukraine from a far-off tropical continent. That's like saying there are no Christians in Africa but simply some "false religions."

Such statements are becoming rather frequent on the lips of those who are responsible for the external outreach of RPTs rather than constructing fences around themselves. And what is happening? Has a new season on witches been declared or are the witches themselves out on the hunt? (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: A ved'my kto?

REPENTANCE AT THE SEXODROME
by Alexander Nikonov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 5 January 1998

The sins of one preacher

The advertisement in one of the papers promised a lot: "The Nirvana Club of the Friends of Sex invites intelligent people for spiritual fellowship. You will find an atmosphere of cosiness, elegance, and beauty, games, slow masturbation, etc. An individual approach for all. Sergiev Posad. Mikhail."

Of course, I telephoned. Who would not want the individual approach! What sane person would reject elegance and beauty! God knows, nobody. So the next day I went to entry 3 of building 9 on Mikheenko street in the village of Khotkov, near Sergiev Posad. That is where I was told to meet the mysterious Mikhail after a brief telephone conversation.

"Conspirator," I thought, jumping on the ice in the entry and recalling the piercing, high voice on the phone. It already was thirty minutes after the agreed upon time and nothing like a Mikhail had come by. Then someone looks out of the window and decides whether I am okay. The night beofre Mikhail had explained that they do not admit just anybody into their club but only good people. Because the club is not a commercial operation but, even though one must pay money for fellowship with the girls, it does not compare with the hourly fee in Tver.

"Will you come by car?" Mikhail asked last night on the phone. "By number nine?" That's fine. We don't like someone showing up in a Jeep Cherokee. We want to live modestly. And we don't like "New Russians." They think that they can buy everything. We don't need their filthy money. We have a religious aesthetic sex club. My wife and I will be happy for you to come.

Finally, when I was frozen stiff and was about to leave for home, the leader of the religious aesthetes appeared.

"Are you Alexander?"

The thin voice of the thirty-five-year-old Mikhail was complemented by his childish, fat face, awkward movement and meek demeanor.

"Let's go to the store, dear Alexander. You must buy something to eat. Visitors must eat. That's our principle. Sorry.

Inside the story Mikhail collected a big plate of all kinds of delicacies and turned to me and asked: "Do you want wine?"

"I'm on duty."

"Me too. Girl, a bottle of wine for us. What a beauty. I don't drink vodka. First, it is a sin and second, it's bad for your health."

The trip to the store ended when Mikhail summoned me with his finfer to the counter and said: "Pay, dear Alexander."

I cursed to myself and reached into my pocket.

The apartment of Mikhail and his wife was what I had expected--carpets, curtains, tiger skins, and other trinkets.

"I love warmth," peeped Mikhail, falling into a chair. "And I love sex. It is my greatest love in life. I even have suffered because of my love. Lara is my fourth wife. The other three just did not understand my life philosophy and we quickly parted. It made sense for me to say, 'Dear, let's find some girl and make love as a threesome,' and then I realized that again I had not found understanding and the breakup was inevitable. But Lara and I were made for each other. We have no limitations. I am not jealous of her and she is not jealous of me. We are artsy people and both have higher education. I sculpt wood and she works in lacquers. I am skilled with the knife. I don't do well with fine stuff."

"And about the friends of sex club," I zeroed in. "How does it work?"

"Quite well. A man calls and comes and we give him a feast. Lara feeds him well. We show videos. We have many games. I call three girls. We would never have a client with only one girl. Three! The girls are good, museum guides, teachers--all my good friends. And we do not restrict the time of fellowship. Relax to your content! Five hours means five hours. And this costs one hundred dollars. Earlier, under socialism, we worked for free, for love, but now it has become difficult and we must collect money. I give the girls 100-150 thousands each and the rest if for me. I have to buy the girls lengerie. But money is not the main thing, but human relations. That here someone can simply relax spiritually, in a family manner. We have not clients. We have only friends. Permanent friends are a great possession. This is voluntary sexual sacrifice. Even bandits who tried to find me left with nothing: I have no money. And the commander of the local OMON is my friend. I have a wide circle of friends. Priests from Sergiev Posad constantly come to our place. They come from Moscow, from the FSB and the MVD, soldiers, priests from the patriarchate. They are all fine, intelligent people."

"And how do you recruit the girls for the service.. of .... friends?"

"My girls are people with problems. They have no husband, children, or income. When I spot such a girl, I always give her my card and ask her to bring her problems to me and turn to the Bible."

Mikhail gave me his card. It said: "Khotkov Bible Society. Father Mikhail." And the telephone number.

"Who made you a 'father'"?

"Nobody. I made myself. Because I want to help people. I am a profoundly believing person. You see, I lived with my grandmother and my grandmother was a Baptist. Twice a year the Baptists got together, about 100 people, and they had a massive sex orgy. It was a group activity. I remember that Baptist families from Germany and America even attended these orgies. This happened in one of the Alexandrov villages. It seems they called them the "Day of Veneration."

"This is the first time I have heard of such a thing!'

"Naturally. They only invite the devoted. This is a very important religious ritual. You know, God is love. And what is love in its highest form? Sex! Dear boy, eating together, drinking, and sex unite people. And unity is very important for small groups. Otherwise they cannot survive. Baptist and Evangelicals always were a religious and sexual minority. They need strong emotional unity. And sex consists of strong positive emotions. Many of the obscure sects practice group sex."

Besides his close pastoral work among Khotkov girls with problems, Mikhail is the unnamed representative of the local Bible society. In this capacity he distributes sacred scriptures to those who want them, which he orders from abroad. The Bible in leather covers is more expensive than paperback. He gives videos to nursery schools for free.

"Besides, I regularly bring together people who are interested in the Bible in some apartments and I show videos."

"Pornographic?"

"No, inspirational, on biblical topics. Although I myself am not a Baptist nor Orthodox. I simply very much love religion and the Bible. The money I make for sex I devote to the Bible society and religious books. Sex helps me love the Bible. And the Bible gives me great help in sex. If a woman is interested in the Bible. . . First I sleep with this woman myself and then, my friends. And the women are happy. We all love each other. Here. Take it. I give it sincerely.

Mikhail offered me a small leaflet. It is titled: "Sin. What do you think?" (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Pokaianie na seksodrome

(posted 8 February 1998)


Governor opposes Yeltsin over tsar's burial

PRESIDENT HAS SAID WHERE TO BURY TSAR
Yury Senatorov
Kommersant, 6 February

An historic decision was made at yesterday's meeting of the president and the first vice premier Boris Nemtsov, who heads the commission on identification and burial of the royal remains.

Boris Yeltsin agreed with the point of view of the majority of members of the commission and the opinion of descendants of the Romanov family about the propriety of burial of the remains in St. Peterburg. Moreover, that was the wish of Nicholas II himself, who ordered in 1911 that a special structure be built for this purpose at the Peter and Paul cathedral. Inside of the church itself there is no room for a burial.

The president told Nemtsov that he intends to discuss all organizational questions connected with the funerals with Patriarcn Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. As far as is known, the patriarch now has left the capital for two weeks.

In order not to waste time, Yeltsin authorized the first vice premier to prepare a draft of a resolution of the president of Russia regarding the burial of the royal remains in St. Petersburg. Our reporter was told that in Boris Nemtsov's staff a new commission will be created to organize the funeral. By 1 March it should compose and agree upon the full list of guests and participants in the funeral (several hundred persons), and also decide the matter of security of the transport of the remains and their burian in the Peter and Paul cathedral. Responsibility for this has been given to FSB and security services.

The reporter was told that the procedure for the funeral was worked out in 1995 by the State Heraldry Service of the presidency of Russia. At that time it was planned to place the remains of the royal family in coffins and send them by special train from Ekaterinburg to St. Petersburg. The procession was to make a stop in Tobolsk, where the family of Nicholas II was exiled. In Petersburg the funeral train would be met by gun volleys and an honor guard. That is exactly how the ceremony will by conducted on 17 July of this year.

In an attempt to disrupt the plans of Yeltsin and Nemtsov, the governor of Sverdlovsk retion Eduard Rossel made a sensational declaration that he knows where the remains of another two representatives of the royal family are lying, the heir Alexis and the grand princess Maria. In it necessary to conduct immediately another analysis, the governor says, to identify the bones and bury them with all the others. But not in St. Petersburg, but in the place where the murders happened--in Ekaterinburg.

But Rossel's voice will not likely be heeded in the Kremlin. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 7 February 1998)


Fight on ecumenism threatens Orthodox schism

INTERNAL CHURCH OPPOSITION SHARPLY CRITICIZES ECUMENISM
by Sergei Chapnin
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 6 February 1998

Dialogue with non-Orthodox has become a serious matter of church politics.

Yesterday the fifteen-day visit to Russia of the delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC), headed by General Secretary Konrad Raiser, officially ended. The visit included conversations of leaders of the ecumenical movement with the chief bishops of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs). Today the positions of the sides are substantially different in their understanding of the organizational structure and principles of WCC memebership. As is known, RPTs has proposed a new system of membership, which instead of ordinary membership of individual churches would introduce the principle of "confessional families," proposing equal representation of the four basic Christian traditions: Orthodox, Catholic, traditional protestant, and free-evangelicals. RPTs has tied the continuation of its membership in WCC with the resolution of this question and thus has put the leadership of the council in an extremely difficult situation. On the one hand, Konrad Raiser does not want to change the organizational forms of WCC, since this would lead to a reduction in the role of its leading agencies. On the other hand, against the backdrop of the general crisis of the ecumenical movement WCC is extremely interested in the development of cooperation with RPTs as one of the largest of its members. In all likelihood, RPTs will not compromise and WCC will try to "sink" this initiative in various bureaucratic procedures.

However events develop in the future, it may be affirmed that the chief result of the visit was on a completely different plane. While the conversations of theologians and church diplomats proceeded according to protocol, the reception of the ecumenical delegation at informal meetings was much more harsh than was expected. The sharpest antiecumenical position was declared at the meeting of Konrad Raiser with students of the Moscow seminary and academy in Sergiev Posad, the most prestigious academic institutions of RPTs. The future priests openly declared that they consider participation of Orthodox churches in the ecumenical movement treason against the Orthodox church and categorically insist on the withdrawal of RPTs from the council. True, it turned out that their opinion was based not on an analysis of concrete documents of WCC but in the main on distorted or inexact facts and the repetition of others' opinions.

However, the problem of the antiecumenical mood is not only the shortage of information. In church life antiecumenicism is actively engaged in a struggle with the episcopacy which is accused of "betrayal of the interests of Orthodoxy." And from this point of view the polarization of opinions could put RPTs on the brink of church schism. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 6 February 1998)

World Council of Churches Press Release
For Immediate Use
6 February 1998

Visit of WCC Delegation to the Russian Orthodox Church
30 January - 5 February 1998

A delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC), headed by its General Secretary Rev. Dr. Konrad Raiser, visited the Russian Orthodox Church 30 January-5 February 1998.

Accompanying the General Secretary were Archbishop Jeremiasz of Wroclaw (Polish Orthodox Church), Bishop Hendrik Svenungsson (Lutheran Church of Sweden), Prof. Nicholas Lossky (Russian Orthodox Church, France) as well as two WCC staff members. It was the most extensive and high-level visit that a WCC General Secretary has made to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The delegation was in Russia at the invitation of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and All Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The purpose of the visit was to show support for the Russian Orthodox Church's involvement in the WCC and the ecumenical movement at a time when there is criticism of such involvement from some sections within the church. The meeting was hosted by the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church (DECR). In a series of meetings, the possible future direction of the relationship of the Russian Orthodox Church and the WCC was discussed in detail.

The intensive programme of the delegation included attendance at the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Moscow Kremlin on Sunday, 1 February, followed by a reception and private audience with Patriarch Alexis II. The General Secretary and his team also had a meeting with permanent members of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, where the involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church in the work of the WCC was reviewed.

On Tuesday, 3 February, the delegation participated in the plenary session of the Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church, where Dr Raiser presented a paper on 'The Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC: the ecumenical movement in transition'. Subsequent discussions examined the theological basis of the participation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC, and examined some issues on the WCC agenda considered as controversial. In a separate meeting, the delegation had an exchange of views with students and professors of the Moscow Theological Academy and Seminary.

The General Secretary and the delegation also held talks with Archbishop Sergei of Solnechnogorsk, head of the Department of Church Charity and Social Services, and with Rev. Ioann Ekonomtsev of the Department of Religious Education and Catechism. During these meetings the existing collaboration with the WCC was reviewed, and areas of priority for continued practical cooperation were identified. In addition, a public discussion was held with students of the St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Institute, and the ecumenical team visited some examples of church social activities in Moscow. At the request of the delegation, an informal meeting was held with young people from parishes in Moscow, in the parish church of St. Catherine.

In a private meeting, members of the delegation also met Pastor Konovalchik, Chairman of the Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptists of the Russian Federation. During the meeting, the current status and activities of the church, which has no formal WCC membership, were presented and discussed.

During the concluding encounter of the visit, Metropolitan Kyrill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad emphasised the exceptional importance of this high-level visit to Russia. The Metropolitan affirmed to the delegation the long-standing and continuing strong commitment of the Russian Orthodox Church to the WCC. He reminded the group of the existence of internal tensions and growing opposition to ecumenical involvement in Russia at this time, much of which was based on a lack of information and deliberate misinformation about the WCC. However, he also recognised that for a number of Orthodox churches, including the Russian Orthodox Church, there were also fundamental questions about the direction, form and level of ecumenical cooperation of the Orthodox churches in the WCC.

In reply, Dr Raiser told Metropolitan Kyrill he recognised the historic significance of the whole visit, which had allowed a timely, frank and open exchange about the concerns of the Russian Orthodox Church in the WCC. The visit had given the WCC a deeper understanding of the present situation of the Russian Orthodox Church and the nature of the critical questions raised about its participation in the ecumenical movement.

The General Secretary welcomed the invitation of the Russian Orthodox Church to the WCC to initiate discussions about the future implementation of a policy statement adopted by the WCC Central Committee in 1997: "Towards a Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches". Dr Raiser suggested that further serious reflection about new forms and methods of ecumenical cooperation, as well as about a reshaped constitutional framework for ecumenical commitment, would enable the WCC, its member churches and other ecumenical partners to respond better to the challenges of the 21st century.


Date of tsar's burial may be problem

PRESIDENT AWAITS PATRIARCH'S OPINION
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 6 February 1998

Yesterday first vice president Boris Nemtsov reported to President Boris Yeltsin the results of the work of the state commission for investigating questions associated with the reburial of the remains of the royal family. What is left for the president, who has received all suggestions as to place and date of the funeral, is simply to publish the final decision. However, Boris Yeltsin declared that this can happen only after his consultations with Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus. This should occur by the end of the month.

Moreover, the official position of the church remains unknown, which should be formulated at the sessions of the Holy Synod scheduled for 22-23 February. In all likelihood, the conversation of the president and patriarch can occur only after that date, and while it is unlikely that any disagreement about the place of burial will arise, since the St. Petersburg version already seems beyond doubt, the matter of date will be more complicated. Members of the commission recommended to hold the funeral in July, although the opinions on this were divided. Several suggest to mark the eightieth anniversary of the murder of 17 July with the burial, while others consider that the funeral should occur in accordance with Orthodox customs, on the third day. It is this question that Boris Yeltsin and Alexis II must agree upon. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 6 February 1998)


Siberian official calls Baptists to observe law

CONFERENCE OF FAR EAST BAPTIST LEADERS
by Boris Lebedev
Radiotserkov

BLAGOVESHCHENSK, 3 February. On 31 January the conference of the presbyters of Evangelical Christian Baptist churches of Amur region met. A consultant on religious affairs of the administration of the region, Ivan Markiianovich Veklich, attended the conference. The agenda included two questions: discussion of the new law on freedom of conscience and the internal life of the churches and their activity. Ivan Markiianovich called the presbyters to get the documentation of their churches in order and to regulate carefully the work of the churches, which must not transgress the boundaries of action set by their charters. He also insisted on the need, in accordance with the new legislation, for annual accounting of the activity of religious organizations and reregistration of the charters of the churches. In response to participants' questions why the government adopted the law on freedom of conscience and religious associations, Veklich answered: "On the wave of the democratic transformations, there was opened the possibility for creation of any religious groups and associations, which sometimes violate the laws and constitution of Russia. Whereas before 1991, in Amur region there were about 32 religious organizations, now there are 110. And this includes about fifty religious denominations, which evoke not only concern for their members but also a real danger. Because their fundamentals include refusal of military service, of medical treatment, like blood transfusion and surgery, and of voting."

In the course of the meeting, not only the rights and obligations of the churches were discussed, but also those of the administration. In particular Veklich affirmed that he will take an active part in helping to settle conflicts among denominations. Throughout the meeting there was a constructive atmosphere and, judging from the mood of the representative of the administration, the government of the region intends to work for implementing the new law without infringing on the rights of believers. Representatives of the churches, in their turn, expressed confidence in the regional administration and unanimously recognized the justice of the law from a juridical point of view as well as a religious one. On this optimistic note the first part of the conference ended.

The second part was a business meeting. First were heard short reports about the activity of the churches. They all began similarly: they talked about the shortage of means for ministry, shortage of ministers, and unsatisfactory discipline in the churches. But when the reporters got to the accomplishments and spiritual victories, the meeting was transformed and cheered up. Very many ministers are former officers which shows in their carriage and punctuality. Much was said about work in regiments, and work with libraries was noted positively.

Amur region can be proud, in the best sense of the word, of its Bible institute BII. Recently it changed its name to the BII Academic Center. The director, Alexander Kovalenko, described the center's work. He noted that unfortunately not all churches wish to participate in courses, despite the very high level of the spiritual results for people who study the institute's curriculum and the production of educated leaders in every field.

At the conclusion of the conference it appeared that one day is too little to resolve all current question. At the same time one cannot help but be happy that the spiritual atmosphere of such conferences has improved, and this is because God has given each presbyter his own field of activity so that when he is busy with his work each can spend less energy and time on disagreements and relationships. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 4 February 1998)


Threatened Lutheran mission prospering

COURT REJECTS PROCURATOR'S ATTEMPT TO CLOSE MISSION
by Yuri Kolesnikov,
Radiotserkov

NOVOSIBIRSK, 3 February. "The case has not been resolved," declared the priest of the Evangelical Lutheran mission in the village of Tuim of Khakassia republic, Fr Pavel Zaiakin, in a telephone conversation with a Radiotserkov reporter. The second hearing of case number A74-68/98-C2 for declaring the state registration of the charter of the Evangelical Lutherian mission of Khakasiia illegal occurred on 30 January 1998. [see "Meaning of law in application"] Fr Pavel stated that after a long conference the arbitration court of the republic of Khakasiia rejected the suit of the procurator of the republic against the ministry of justice as "not falling within the competence of the arbitration court." The arbitration court deals with suits regarding financial claims. In this case the judges decided that the plaintif had no financial basis for bringing suit and adjourned the session.

Such a turn of the case obviously did not please the procurator, so obviously he will file an appeal. As regards the mission, Fr Pavel said: "This pleases us, although we understand that it will be hard for the procurator to be satisfied. The rejected suit against the ministry of justice touches upon the "honor of the regiment." While the two "bears" were fighting, Pavel Zaiakin suggested to the ringleader of the frecas, the head of the village administration Viktor Kachaev, to reach a settlement and, instead of the mission's taking him to court for "defence of personal honor and dignity," to come to a Sunday service and apologize before the parishioners for violation of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." Having reviewed the facts, V. Kachaev agreed and according to Fr Pavel said that he had been put up to this and that he "regreted" the entire scrape.

Radiotserkov already has noted in its reports that the attempt to close the Lutheran parish in Tuim village has made the mission famous far beyond the boundaries of the republic [see "International support helps Lutherans"]. But it is much more important that it has become famous in the neighboring villages and settlements. Thus, in the settlement of Vlasievo, located fifty kilometers from Tuim, Fr Pavel managed to organize a second Christian congregation. And now, altogether, classes for studying the Bible and worship services that he conducts are being attended by around sixty people. "The majority of residents treat us cordially," Fr Pavel said, although until recently it was very difficult to reach agreement, for example, with the administration of the school for making visits for evangelism. But now, while the slander which was raised against the mission has been dispelled, with God's help, relations with the school teachers have been set right so that the forces of darkness against their will have given us "publicity," Pavel Zaiakin summed up the conversation and promised to keep the Radiotserkov reporter informed about further developments in the case. (tr. by PDS)

Link to Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 4 February 1998)


Large Orthodox public organization formed

PARTING WORDS FROM THE PATRIARCH
by Alexander Korolev
Trud, 2 February 1998

"We hope to perform our work successfully laboring exclusively in a spirit of concern for peace in our fatherland, in public, and in the church." These were the parting words from Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus to the participants in the Union of Orthodox Citizens which was founded on 29 January. It includes forty parties and public, educational, charitable, and other organizations of Russia and the near abroad who are striving in all areas of life to affirm the spiritual principles of which the Russian Orthodox church is the preserver. The members of the union retain their individual internal autonomy.

The Union of Orthodox Citizens differs from the majority of public and political association in that he does not pursue the goal of participating in the struggle for power, according to the coordinating secratary, Valentin Lebedev. The union's task is to be a active aide for all those who, sharing the Orthodox worldview, are working in politics and in the power structures. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 4 February 1998)


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