Visitors asked to be gentle with faith in Russia

Canadian Anglicans visiting former Soviet Union countries are being asked not to engage in activities that could be interpreted by Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches as proselytism. The request is in keeping with a 1950 commitment by World Council of Churches’ members not to try to “convert” members of other member churches. In a Faith, Worship and Ministry committee report to a recent Council of the General Synod meeting the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, was asked to remind diocesan bishops of Anglican Consultative Council, Lambeth Conference and General Synod concerns affirming Anglican partnership with historic Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches in the former Soviet Union. Council members were told the committee discussion touched on the “reality that people can be brought to Christ through other churches or groups, who might otherwise not have responded to the Gospel.” Concern was expressed by one committee member that the committee’s action could be seen as lending support to the actions of the Russian parliament in “restricting religious freedom.” The Russian parliament has adopted legislation that essentially registers historic Christian denominations and inhibits the activities of other, newer religious groups. Archbishop Peers said that while some may find the rhetoric form the Russians hard to accept because it sounds paranoid, it should be noted that Russian churches have adopted something of a siege mentality after decades of operating in a closed society.

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