The Lord has helped us to develop good relations with Russian Orthodox Church authorities. We have had repeated consultations with members of the bishop's cabinet, meetings held with the bishop's blessing. These have resulted in good mutual understanding and offers of cooperation at some levels. For example, we provided flannelgraph materials and training for Orthodox priests to engage in child evangelism. The bishop provided Orthodox priests as trainers to help orient our career missionaries and short-term missionaries in understanding what the Russian Orthodox Church stands for and is doing in Russia. Orthodox have also participated in a limited way in our youth programs and have offered us some of their air time on the government radio station.
How has our small, evangelical ministry developed a good relationship with the Orthodox Church and the government? In a number of ways. Perhaps most important, we have always taken the initiative to meet with the Orthodox to show respect and appreciation for the good things they are doing and to express our interest in learning from them and being cooperative. Some, perhaps many, leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church are skeptical and hostile toward foreign Protestant groups because of their fear of what we may be doing. That fear is sometimes validated by the insensitive activities of some groups and the presence of cults which lead people away from biblical truth. Our philosophy has been that what we are actually doing would be reassuring to the Orthodox, compared to what they fear we might do if they had no direct knowledge of our activities. Therefore, we meet with them and communicate with them in person and in writing about our history, our doctrines, our current activities, and our proposed activities. We show them respect as our elder brothers in Russia by asking them for advice about Bible translations, cultural issues, and how to avoid activities which would be needlessly offensive. And we avoid proselytizing Russian Orthodox Christians, directing our ministries instead toward the vast majority of practical atheists. We do our best to stress our common ground, without compromising biblical imperatives. Secondly, every Christian ministry should make full legal registration a matter of high priority, both at the federal level with the Ministry of Justice in Moscow, and at local levels as needed. This full legal compliance can open many doors, such as property ownership, visas, and partnerships with government agencies, such as youth and education departments.
Source: letter to Mark Elliott, 7 January 1997.
Russian Public Opinion Reveals More Religious Sympathy Than Religious Practice
A March-April 1996 survey of 1664 Russians by Moscow's Institute of Social Research revealed the following:
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© 1997 Institute for East-West Christian Studies