Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Cults in Eastern Europe
With the collapse of Communism and the disintegration of the Soviet Union came an open door to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As reported earlier in these columns the Back To God Hour of the Christian Reformed Church will be heard on Soviet radio. Other churches are sending missionaries to Eastern Europe. Bibles and other Christian literature are being widely distributed throughout these countries. A growing number of Soviet students and professors are linking up with U. S. Christian colleges as part of an exchange program adopted last year by the Christian College Coalition (CCC) and Russian universities. Twelve students from Yaroslavl Polytechnic Institute spent three weeks this January at two CCC-affiliated schools in Penn-Sylvania: Geneva College in Beaver Falls and Messiah College in Grantham. Last December, three business professors from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, presented fifteen lectures to students at Leningrad Technological Institute in St. Petersburg. They taught principles of free market economics as well as how Christian ethics can be incorporated in the business world. Last year when the exchange agreement was formulated a top Russian official asked the CCC to help Russian schools restructure their business and economic curricula to include an emphasis on free enterprise. The CCC is now close to completing an MBA (Master of Business Administration) curriculum which will be used in twenty-seven Russian institutes and universities.
For these open doors to the gospel we ought to be thankful. No one would have dared to imagine that this could happen one year ago. It is now possible to preach the gospel freely and openly in countries which promoted Atheism and persecuted the church for decades.
Regrettably the cults are also aggressively at work in these same countries and gaining adherents among their peoples.
Kathleen Mickelsen’s eyes panned the crowded music hall in Leningrad as her church choir performed. “Halfway through the concert, my eyes were drawn to a woman in the audience Land I noticed her eyes were drawn to me,” recounts Mickelsen. “‘She just melted at our singing of ‘Love So Amazing, So Divine,’ a song about Christ on the cross. We kept looking at each other through the rest of the concert – and I sang the songs as my testimony to her with all my heart.” Mickelsen’s testimony? She’s a Mormon, a member of the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which completed a highly successful tour through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union last summer.
As of October 1991, the Mormons reported six to seven hundred active members in the former Soviet Union. The Mormons had missionaries to Eastern European refugees in Vienna before the Berlin Wall fell.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that altogether more than 370,000 attended conventions in the summer of 1991 in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania, and the Soviet Union. A total of 18,293 converts were baptized during thirty convention gatherings.
Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, an avid opponent of communism, met privately with Mikhail Gorbachev on April 19, 1990, and promised to help finance the ailing Soviet economy. In exchange, Moon was allowed to fly an estimated 1,400 “elite students” from Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, and Tashkent to the U. S. for field trips and indoctrination in Moon’s teachings.
A number of New Age groups are already based in Moscow alone. Among them are five National UFO study centers; four astrology study centers; the Russian Theosophical Society; two national parapsychology schools; eight centers for studying folk medicine and natural healing techniques; and five yoga training centers.
Soviet Armenian psychiatrists now recommend transcendental meditation to their population for dealing with stress and pain. In February of 1990, a group of Western experts trained over 12,000 Armenians in TM. As of the end of 1990, there were more than 1,000 avid practitioners in Moscow.
The Hare Krishna cult and the Christian Scientists have also made deep inroads into Poland especially, but also elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
While we regret the influence of these aberrant and unorthodox groups on the peoples of Eastern Europe, we are certain that God has His church in these countries. Jesus Christ will also gather His church out of these nations by His Word and Holy Spirit. But Jesus will do that by means of the preaching of the Word. Our prayer is that the church will be faithful to Jesus’ call to make disciples out of all nations, the nations of Eastern Europe as well!
National and International
The GKN and the Reformed Ecumenical Council
At its meeting in Harare in 1988, at the request of several member denominations, the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) instructed its Interim Committee to examine, in four major areas, the position of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands, hereafter RCN. This is the denomination where many of us have our spiritual roots).
First the committee considered the documents on Scripture which the RCN has published in recent years.
Second, it examined the RCN’s current position with respect to homosexual members. The REC had requested the RCN to rescind its acceptance of homosexual practice. The RCN decided not to rescind the advice it gives its churches. The RCN will continue to encourage its congregations to accept those homosexual members who are living in loving and faithful relationships. They declare that they want their church to-have “room for homophilical brothers and sisters.”
Third, the Interim Committee discussed and analyzed the RCN’s response to the REC Hermeneutics and Ethics report.
Fourth, the committee discussed the RCNs own view of its future within the REC. The RCN pointed out that the REC is the only confessional body that it belonged to. They repeatedly told the Interim Committee that the RCN wished to remain in the REC.
In the last section of its report, the Interim Committee concludes that the RCN has not violated the Constitutional Basis and Purpose of the REC. The committee noted that there had been a departure in “some degree,” but the committee declared it “could not say without any doubt that we have reached the limits in regard to RCN membership in the REC.” The Interim Committee is advising the REC to continue discussions of these issues.
Already several denominations, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church among them, have withdrawn from the REC because of its persistent refusal to terminate the membership of the RCN. We wonder, will others follow suit after the 1992 Assembly of the REC meets?
REC News Exchange
A Church Split?
A new nationwide diocese, led by conservative bishops, was announced at a meeting of the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA), November 8, in Fresno, California. The ESA claims there are two religions in the Episcopal Church, “one accepts the gospel, the other the ways of the world.” The ESA is opposed to liberal theology, to admitting homosexuals to the ordained ministry, and to ordaining women. It claims not to be schismatic, but Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning and his ninebishop Council of Advice called on the ESA u to cease from implementing this plan which clearly points toward schism.”
Will this cause a split in the Episcopal Church? We shall see.
National and International Religion Report