A Russian Prayer Breakfast Met in St. Petersburg

The Winter Palace, a landmark in St. Petersburg
The Winter Palace, a landmark in St. Petersburg
By William Yoder, Ph.D.April 19th, 2019

M o s c o w - On 12 March, the St. Petersburg branch of Russia's Prayer Breakfast movement celebrated its tenth anniversary. The topic was the German blockade of WW II., and elderly guests told emotional stories about their efforts to survive and the need for current solidarity. Moscow's Vitaly Vlasenko, an ambassador to the Orthodox for the „World Evangelical Alliance", found the descriptions helpful. He reported that the city's German consul, Eltje Aderhold, was moved nearly to tears in her response.

Yuri Sipko, the Russian Baptist Union's president until 2010, was of a different opinion. On 15 March, he used his Facebook page to condemn Protestant collusion with the current Russian state. „It was sad, I must say in all honesty. Spiritual leaders fell into the trap which they themselves had created. Intending to influence the government, they succombed instead to its influence and followed its lead. That is clearly a tactic for losing. That tactic has already lost out in Moscow; this year's Breakfast there will not take place. Playing with Lucifer does not lead one up the holy mountain."

Peter Sautov, the head of the small "Russian Association of Independent Evangelical Churches", has been removed as chairman of the national Prayer Breakfast movement. He has been replaced by Orthodox businessman Andrey Vassilevich Gaidamaka, a long-tme manager with „Lukoil". Apparently, the Breakfast's board is committed to giving the movement a more Russian face. Sautov had been known for his strong contacts to North America. Reports state that a Moscow Prayer Breakfast may still take place in May - two months later than usual. But the likelihood of this occurring is decreasing.

Commentary: Franklin Graham in Moscow

After conferring with Metropolitan Hilarion and other Orthodox leaders, Franklin Graham, head of the „Billy Graham Evangelistic Association" and the humanitarian „Samaritan's Purse", met with a select group of Protestant leaders in Moscow on 4 March. The press service of the major „Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith" (ROSKhVE) quoted its president, Bishop Sergey Ryakhovsky, on 15 March: „There are many persons in the USA who speak out against confrontation and for dialogue. I am certain that joint projects attempting to protect persecuted Christians and to help the needy are the best we can do in the current situation."

Though Graham spends most of his time in Russia with Orthodox dignitaries, his organisation does retain its headquarters in Moscow's „Second Baptist Church". But Protestants feel left out. One frequent reaction can be described as: „Graham's efforts barely affect our circles, but it is good that he is still coming. We need voices supporting understanding between Russia and the West." Graham continues to envision a coalition of conservative North American evangelicals with Russian Orthodoxy for the cause of protecting and supporting traditional family values. Russian evangelicals usually support the same view. 

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