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An Appeal for Joint Orthodox-Protestant Efforts

Russian Baptists Respond to Orthodox Priest’s Violent Death

By Jeremy Reynalds

11/29/2009 Russia (ANS)-Daniel Sysoyev, a 35-year-old priest and father of three daughters, was shot at close range just before midnight in the yard of his Moscow church, on Nov. 19.

His choir director was seriously wounded.

In a letter addressed to Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, on the day after the assassination, Yuri Sipko, President of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB), appealed for joint efforts and prayer to “break the negative tendencies cropping up recently in our society.”

Speaking in a news release, Vitaly Vlasenko the RUECB’s Director of External Relations, asked “What is becoming of our society if even our priests are no longer safe on their own church property? Our church leaders must meet and discuss how best to confront the present danger.”

Commenting further on the killing, Ruvim Voloshin, the RUECB’s Missions Director, called for joint Orthodox-Protestant efforts in combating what the news release dubbed recent government initiatives to throttle mission.

The news release reported he said in a letter, “In the corridors of Russian power, new legislation on missionary activity is being prepared. How absurd! We pressure those who are not like us and persecute those who bless us.”

Voloshin quoted from Tertullian, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” and compared Sysoyev’s death to the slaying of the beloved priest Alexander Men in Sept.1990.

The news release said Voloshin’s letter closed with the assurance, “We shall meet again at the feet of the Savior.”

Vlasenko described the Baptist response in these two letters as an expression of profound grief.

Sysoyev was known as an Orthodox fundamentalist who frequently spoke out against “sectarians” such as 7th-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But Vlasenko commented that Sysoyev had a right to his opinion and could criticize whoever he wanted. “Father Sysoyev … had every right to criticize us or the Mormons. That can never justify his slaying! Our statements on his behalf should be understood as strong support for the right to freedom of belief.”

The RUECB news release said that despite expressions of sincere grief from the Patriarch, Sysoyev had not been an easy subject for the Orthodox hierarchy, as he operated beyond the boundaries of “political correctness.”

The news release said Sysoyev was active as a missionary among Muslim, Central Asian “guest workers” in Moscow and claimed to have baptized 80 of them. He described the Muslim world on occasion as the “green plague” and wrote a book condemning marriage between Christians and Muslims. He said he had received 14 anonymous death threats. Islamic nationalists were most likely responsible for his killing.

Muslim and Russian Orthodox hierarchies have traditionally divided up the populations of the Central Asian republics among themselves, and tacitly agreed not to proselytize each other’s “sheep.”

The RUECB news release commented that Sysoyev’s lack of “correctness” found sympathy in Baptist circles.

That’s because, the release continued, the evangelistic efforts of both Orthodox and Protestants stand in opposition to the traditional understanding of canonical “turfs” as stated by the Orthodox hierarchy. Orthodox and Protestant evangelization among the religious also run counter to the Russian Justice Department’s planned anti-mission legislation.