Russian Baptists meet in St Petersburg

Russian Baptists meet in St Petersburg

EBF Press Service - May 30, 2014

The 34th Congress of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists has taken place in St Petersburg from 28-30 May. After an opening celebration in a local theatre the 400 or so delegates settled down to the main business of the Congress, to elect the Union’s leadership for the coming four years.

Alexei Smirnov who has served one term as President was proposed for re-election. In a lengthy address to the Congress he discussed the role of the 1.800 or so churches belonging to the Union in the contemporary Russian society. He emphasised local churches as the main agents of mission. In the past mistakes had been made in seeing outside mission agencies as mainly doing this work. The mission agencies are still needed but in a supporting role for local churches in the witness to the Gospel in their own context.

Questions to the President-Elect followed, some of which pointed out that the Union has seen a further decline in its membership to around 68.000 members and this is a cause for concern. There was a desire for concrete proposals for new initiatives in evangelism and church planting.

When the vote was taken, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of Alexei Smirnov continuing as the Union President. The vice presidential election resulted in the appointment of Sergei Sipko, a younger pastor from Omsk as the new Vice President. He succeeds Evgeniy Bakhmutski who was not seeking re-election.

The Congress business was framed by music and worship, Bible study and preaching. On the final evening an evangelistic service was addressed by Viktor Hamm, a Vice President of the Billy Graham Association.

International visitors included John Sundquist representing the Baptist World Alliance, Tony Peck and Helle Liht, General Secretary and the Assistant General Secretary representing the European Baptist Federation, Charles Jones representing the American Baptist International Ministries, Ákos Bukovszky from Baptist Union of Hungary and Michael Rohde representing the German Baptists.

Also present was Igor Bandura, Vice President of the Baptist Union of Ukraine. He spoke of the desire of the Ukrainian Baptists to keep unity with their Russian Baptist brothers and sisters despite the current political crisis between the two nations.

The Congress meetings took place in the First Baptist Church in St Petersburg, which has an unusual building reflecting the fact that it was a former Orthodox Church.

1. Commissioning prayer for the re-elected President Alexei Smirnov.
2. Congress delegates and quests in the First Baptist Church in St Petersburg.