East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 5, No. 3, Summer 1997, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

News Notes

On 20 May 1997 the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church voted to withdraw its membership from the World Council of Churches.  Four monastic leaders had threatened to split the church if WCC membership continued.  General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches Jean Fischer blamed the move upon "fundamentalist forces" within Georgian Orthodoxy.  Other churches in the former Soviet Union which left the WCC in 1997 are the Armenian Apostolic Church and Russia's Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.  In recent years WCC membership has also been the subject of heated debate within the Russian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Source: RFE/RL Newsline, 21 May 1997; Ecumenical News International Bulletin, no. 13 (9 July 1997), 14 and 30.


The Prague-based Open Media Research Institute (OMRI), funded by the Soros Foundation, was created in 1995 to provide information and news reports from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.  Beginning 1 April 1997 it drastically reduced its operations.  As a result, many OMRI employees left and OMRI ceased publishing the Daily Digest, an electronically distributed summary of news reports from the region.  Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which had published a daily report until OMRI took over the task, returned to daily electronic publishing on 1 April with RFE/RL Newsline.  OMRI's biweekly magazine, Transition, published its last issue on 6 April.  It is scheduled to be relaunched as a monthly after undergoing changes.

Source: ICFJ Clearinghouse on the Central and East European Press, No. 27 (May, 1997), 424.


An Orthodox group in Moldova has prepared a dramatic production, "The Gatherer of Stones," based on the life of the Apostle Paul.  For further information, contact Ion Drutse, President, The House of the Apostle Paul, ul. 31 Avgusta, 123-20, Kishinev, Moldova; tel: 7-095-930-11-96 (in Moscow); fax: 373 2 23-33-91 (in Kishinev); e-mail: 100547.3412@compuserve.com.


On 25 March 1997 the Romanian Minister of Cults circulated a letter to the country's mayors with a list of 15 recognized religions authorized to build houses of worship.  In addition to Eastern religions and cults, churches not permitted to build include Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the Salvation Army.  Orthodox beatings of nine Baptists in Ruginoasa in March and acts of violence against Eastern-Rite Catholics by Orthodox militia this year make it clear that even churches theoretically permitted to build lack basic protection from the authorities.  "Human Rights Without Frontiers and the Romanian Helsinki Committee share the opinion that Romania cannot be accepted as a member of the European Union as long as its religious legislation contravenes the European Convention and if a programme of education to religious tolerance and equality is not quickly implemented by the authorities."

Source: Press release, Human Rights Without Frontiers [April 1997].

What exactly is the status of freedom of religion in Bulgaria? It is a mixed bag.  Adherents of certain faiths may run full force into suppression by the state.  Evangelical believers are apt to encounter resistance and inconvenience, but not the direct physical confrontation of the old days.  But the Orthodox faithful can go about business as usual.  Attention must still be paid to this issue in Bulgaria, even though there is a ray of hope in the avowed intentions of the newly elected government.  Most Bulgarians can practice their religion--and the speech that comes with it--without fear, but Bulgaria still has a way to go before one can confidently say they protect freedom of religion in keeping with Helsinki Principles.

Source: Chadwick R. Gore, "Bulgaria and Freedom of Religion," CSCE Digest 20 (May 1997), 51.

News Notes, East-West Church & Ministry Report, 5 (Summer 1997), 14.

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1997 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664

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