Monday, October 14
Twenty years ago, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the new Russian Federation adopted a constitution that guaranteed “the right to freedom of conscience, to freedom of religious worship.” But memories fade slowly. As I meet with Presbyterians and others across the U.S., I am regularly asked, “Is there religious freedom in Russia today?’’ And my responsibility is to honestly answer, “Yes and no.”
For members of the Russian Orthodox Church, the dominant expression of Christianity, the answer is a firm yes. For members of Baptist, Lutheran, or Catholic churches, the answer is generally yes, with regular restrictions, impediments, and annoyances. And for Jehovah’s Witnesses or Scientologists or some Muslims, the answer is a decided no, with bans on literature and difficulties in official registration.
Our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is deeply connected with some of the historic denominations that continue to renew themselves. Where invited, our connections with the Russian Orthodox Church are warm, mutually respectful, and focused on lifting up “the least of these” in society. Our connections with Baptists are broad and strong, with deep supporting ties particularly at the congregational level. And our connections with Lutherans are grounded in the heritage of the Reformation and a shared view of men and women and of clergy and lay in the life of the church.
In the year ahead, we will continue to find ways to connect as brothers and sisters in Christ—addressing racism, loving orphans, strengthening marriages, caring for the people who are most marginalized—and with hearts and voices sing, “How Great Thou Art”!
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) People in Mission
Gary Payton, regional liaison for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, and Poland, World Mission • Ellen Smith, coordinator for congregational twinning, Euro-Asiatic Federation/Unions of Evangelical Christians, Russian Federation of Evangelicals-Christians-Baptists
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Virginia Robbins, PMA
Sheila Robinette, PMA
Let us pray
Gracious God, we prayerfully ask your guidance as we seek to do mission in partnership across the walls that once divided us. Be with us as we build bridges, love and care for each other, and overcome what has so long separated us as your people. Amen.