February 5, 2009

Russian Orthodox Elect New Patriarch

On Sunday, February 1, Metropolitan Kirill was installed as the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church following the death of Patriarch Alexy II who died this past December. The leadership of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) was invited to participate in the celebrations surrounding the enthronement of Patriarch Kirill.

According to William Yoder of the RUECB Department for External Relations, the election of Kirill on January 27 “can be interpreted as a clear vote for openness and dialogue. The Russian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (ROC) has chosen as its new head the leader best-known – and most-criticised – for his openness to other confessions.”

In a statement released by the RUECB, Vitaly Vlasenko noted, “I am very optimistic. Kirill is the ROC’s most brilliant metropolitan. In our short personal meetings he has always been very kind and respectful. Most top-level Protestant contacts with the Moscow Patriarchate have occurred through him.”

The Associated Press also noted, “Kirill served for years as the church's external relations chief. He is seen as a modernizer more likely than his rivals to seek a measure of independence from the state and better relations with the Vatican.” (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090127/ap_on_re_eu/eu_russia_church_patriarch)

Although the RUECB is the largest unified Protestant Church in Russia, a membership of approximately 80,000 adult believers in a country of 142 million citizens underscores the reality that Baptist theology and ecclesiology remains a minority position within Russia.

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