East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1993, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

The Prospects for Religious Liberty in Russia--And How Western Missions Can Enhance Them

by Mark Elliott

Russia's communist-era Parliament passed laws on July 14 and August 27 that would have seriously curtailed the free expression of faith.  In both instances, Yeltsin refused to sign.  In its last gasp, a rump Parliament overrode Yeltsin's objections and a make-believe "President" Rutskoi signed the restrictive legislation before his arrest.

While Yeltsin's disbanding of Parliament has short-circuited infringements on religious liberty for now, it would be surprising if the next twelve months did not witness renewed efforts in Russia to put limitations on freedom of conscience.

Orthodox Church support for restrictions on what it defines as "non-traditional" religions stems in part from Evangelical efforts in Russia that have been culturally insensitive.  At this point, many ministries have ample room to make amends.  Speaking specifically, winsome witnesses should:

Western church and parachurch leaders carry especially heavy burdens as they determine how much and what types of orientation are essential before ministry workers embark for Russia or other parts of the former Soviet Bloc.  In particular, it behooves church mission committees, denominational mission departments, and parachurch organizations to reevaluate the all-too-frequent practice of setting departure dates for missionary candidates before it is clear how long, not only fundraising will take, but how long given individuals will need to complete a proper program of study and orientation. 

Note:  While this editorial addresses recent legislative attempts to restrict religious liberties in Russia, both the threats to freedom of conscience and the recommendations for greater cultural sensitivity have ready application in many of Europe's post-communist states, where Orthodox, Catholics, and Lutherans (in Latvia and Estonia) once enjoyed a greater or lesser degree of privileged status as state churches.

Mark Elliott

Mark Elliott, "The Prospects for Religious Liberty in Russia--And How Western Missions Can Enhance Them," East-West Church & Ministry Report, 1 (Fall 1993), 16.

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1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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