I pray that the people of Russia will return to the Christian faith which was inextricably woven into the very fabric of their society and culture centuries before the appearance of Western Christianity. I do not mean to be offensive and I am not accusing you of this attitude, but I am appalled at the arrogance of some Western Christians who view the former Soviet Union as a heathen land waiting to be evangelized. This is an insult to over a thousand years of Orthodox Christian influence, not to mention the dedicated Orthodox Christians who suffered mightily under the Communist yoke.
I am a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. I have to say that I find your e-mail to me attempting to sell subscriptions to a magazine which encourages Western Protestants to invade Russia and steal people from the Orthodox Church to be highly offensive. I strongly suggest that you and your Protestant friends attend to your own salvation, which is a somewhat moot point, rather than continue with your offensive activities in stealing people from the Orthodox Church. We do not recognize you as members of the Church founded by Christ, so please leave Russia alone and please do not send me any more of your offensive e-mail.
I pray that religious invaders will be frustrated at every turn and that the Church of Russia will be relieved from this evil. The Protestant and Papal invasion does nothing but promote the confusion that is the mark of Satan's activities everywhere. Where he failed to destroy Christ's Church by the Communists, he will try using Protestants and Roman Catholics. May I suggest that those Protestants and Roman Catholics who imagine themselves to be doing a good work with their invasion of Russia judge themselves now lest they be judged hereafter with Communists and others who oppose Christ's Church.
Hieromonk Michael Mansbridge-Wood, St. Petroc Monastery, Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, South Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
It is the editor's impression that most Western Protestant ministries working in the former Soviet Union focus on the unchurched and nominal believers, not practicing Orthodox. I personally believe that should be the focus. It is the best use of resources and one would hope that it would reduce Orthodox-Evangelical tensions. (See full texts of relevant East-West Church & Ministry Report articles, such as "Are Evangelicals Interlopers?," Vol. 1 (Summer 1993): 3-4, available from the Institute for East-West Christian Studies website: http://www.wheaton.edu/bgc/iewcs.) However, Orthodox very often support a territorial understanding of faith. Thus, if Russia historically was Orthodox, this territory, some claim, should be off limits to Protestants and Catholics, regardless of the secularization of the vast majority of the Soviet population. (See East-West Church & Ministry Report 5 (Summer 1997), 5-6.)
It is especially puzzling to receive letters from Orthodox in the West who, in their championing of the "traditional" Orthodox faith of Russia, are willing to sacrifice freedom of religion in the process. If the same standard applied in the West, there would be no possibility for "nontraditional" Orthodox to worship or witness either in Australia or in North America outside Alaska. Unfortunately, some Western Orthodox who are beneficiaries of religious freedom would deny it to non-Orthodox in Russia and Eastern Europe. Father Michael deplores "stealing people from the Orthodox Church," while the website of his monastery (www.rocor.org.au/stpetrocmonastery) states that its "primary task is to attract Anglo-Saxon-Celtic people to Orthodoxy." Where is the consistency?
The East-West Church & Ministry Report received a letter from Mr. Daniel Towle following publication of Paul Carden's article, "Cults and New Religious Movements," Vol. 6 (Summer 1998), 1-5, stating that the Local Church movement should not have been included in the article. The effect, Mr. Towle wrote, was "guilt by association." His letter in defense of the Local Church affirmed unequivocally that the movement is not a cult and that it is, in fact, evangelical.
Mr. Carden, a respected authority on new religious movements, along with many other evangelicals, believes that the Local Church movement is aberrant theologically." Other evangelicals would not make such an assertion. Litigation brought by the Local Church movement has led some organizations to retract assertions that the movement is a cult. For additional information on the Witness Lee movement see Nezavisimaia gazeta, 5 September 1996, available in English and Russian at the News About Religion in Russia website: http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/9609.html#04. See also the following Local Church websites: http://www.lsm.org and http://cti.itc.virginia.edu/~jkh8x/soc257/nrms/loca.html.
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