The future remains uncertain
L a d u s h k i n – “Carry on as best you can.” That seemed to be consensus after the Baptist “Moscow Theological Seminary” (MTS) lost its appeal for re-registration on 27 February. The court cited formal, bureaucratic reasons for the rejection, leaving observers in the dark regarding the actual reasons. Only two Protestant theological institutes in Moscow region can presently legally engage in classroom teaching: “Zaoksky Adventist University” located in Tula region to the south and Alexander Tsutserov’s “Moscow Evangelical-Christian Seminary”. Tsutserov’s continued success is attributed to his access to the upper echelons of Russia’s political circles.
One instructor explains that legal loopholes allowing some form of teaching are being sought. Teaching in the name of Russia’s Baptist Union remains legal, yet its very own seminary cannot do so. Both MTS and the ROSKhVE’s seminary (“Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith”) are applying for the right to offer advanced studies to those who already have an initial theological degree. The seminary of the ROSKhVE is also attempting to shift to non-theological vocational and pedagogical training. The Baptists will be attempting to teach legally in venues beyond the walls of their own seminary. The Baptist musical institute “Logos” for ex. engages in theological teaching without being a part of MTS.
Further legal appeals can be expected and the quiet support of some Orthodox circles makes Baptists optimistic. Yet the future does not look particularly promising: A “Tass” release from 6 April reports on possible upcoming legislation further restricting the work of foreign NGOs on Russian soil. “Tass” specifically refers to non-political, foreign-funded educational programmes as NGOs likely to be subjected to additional sanction and scrutiny. As reported in our release of 15 February 2020, Protestant Bible institutes and seminaries are indeed heavily dependent upon foreign finance.
These are essentially all topics for the foreseeable future. Since late March, Zaoksky and Tsutserov’s institution have also been closed due to the world-wide pandemic.
CCD reprinted with permission.