By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LOVES PARK, IL (ANS – July 5, 2016) – A well-known American missions leader is appealing for urgent worldwide prayer following the news that the Russian Baptist Union has appealed controversial new religious legislation in the Russian Federation.
Dr. Robert Provost, President of Slavic Gospel Association (http://www.sga.org), said in a message to SGA partners, “I’m writing today to ask you to pray regarding a new bill passed by Russia’s parliament last week that — if signed as is by President Vladimir Putin — may sharply increase restrictions on churches and missionary activity.”
Pastor Alexei Smirnov, president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, has also formally written to Mr. Putin to express the churches’ disagreement with the new bill’s provisions.
The bill, Dr. Provost added, is “purportedly an anti-terrorism measure,” and was originally introduced by Duma deputy Irina Varovaya and Senator Viktor Ozerov.
According to Russia’s TASS news agency and other media, the parts of the bill potentially impacting churches include:
* Missionary activity would be off limits to anyone but representatives of registered organizations and groups, and individuals who have entered into formal agreements with such bodies.
* When preaching, every missionary must carry documents with specific information proving their connection to a registered religious group.
* Lawmakers want to ban any kind of missionary activity in residential areas, except prayer services, ceremonies, and sacramental rites. Foreign missionaries would only be able to operate in the regions where their inviting organizations are registered.
Dr. Provost stated that there are other provisions of the bill that cause concern. In his formal letter to President Putin, Pastor Smirnov expressed the churches’ disagreement with the new bill’s provisions, saying, “The draft law is anti-constitutional as it violates the basic rights of its citizens and does not coincide with the current Constitution of the Russian Federation.”
Pastor Smirnov added, “It [the bill] was not discussed with the Duma Committee on Public and Religious Organizations, there was no public discussion of the draft law. In such a way, religious organizations lacked the opportunity to express their opinion. We categorically do not agree with the given draft bill. The amendments suggested will touch the basic constitutional rights and freedom of millions of Russian believers, and de facto will eliminate one of the most basic rights and freedoms—religious freedom.”
Dr. Provost stated, “The Russian Orthodox Church is proposing some revisions to the law, but not enough to keep the door open for free proclamation of the Gospel. In fact, Sova—a Russian human rights organization—believes the missionary provisions could threaten even some Russian Orthodox missionaries.
“We are deeply concerned about this matter, and ask that you join us in prayer, asking the Lord to intervene. We pray that Mr. Putin will heed the concerns of evangelical churches as expressed by Pastor Smirnov, and refuse to sign the bill. Regardless of what happens, SGA’s service to the churches will continue, and our Russian brothers and sisters are firmly committed to carrying out the Great Commission as commanded by our Lord.
“Thank you in advance for praying with us.”
For a more detailed story on this topic, please go to: http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=2195
About Slavic Gospel Association:
Slavic Gospel Association (http://www.sga.org) traces its history back to 1934 and the city of Chicago. Its founder, Rev. Peter Deyneka, had come to the United States from the former Soviet republic of Belarus at the age of 15. A few years later, Peter repented of his sins and trusted in Christ as Savior during a worship service at Chicago’s renowned Moody Church during the pastorate of Dr. Paul Rader.
The SGA website says, “After his salvation and graduation from St. Paul Bible School in Minnesota, Peter returned to Chicago with an overwhelming burden to see his people won to Christ. In 1925, he went back to his homeland and traveled extensively, sharing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. But in the early 1930s, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin intensified persecution of the churches and it became no longer possible for Peter to travel to his homeland. Convinced that there were ways to help the churches from here, he and a small group of Chicago-area businessmen met in the back of Hedstrom’s Shoe Store and founded the Russian Gospel Association later renamed as Slavic Gospel Association.
“For many decades, SGA covertly distributed millions of Bibles and Christian books under the Iron Curtain into the hands of believers throughout the Soviet Union, while producing and broadcasting thousands of Christian radio programs over the Iron Curtain. The first Russian language Bible institutes in the world were established to train the Russian immigrants in Toronto, Canada; Temperley, Argentina; and other parts of the world. The mission also had an extensive ministry to Russian-speaking refugees and immigrants living in various countries throughout the world.
“Throughout the Cold War era, Peter Deyneka traveled the globe holding prayer meetings, often overnight, encouraging the Lord’s people to pray for the opening of the Soviet Union for the preaching of the Gospel. His motto became, ‘Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, no power!’ His powerful preaching resulted in the nickname, ‘Peter Dynamite.’ Having poured out his life in service to the Lord, the Lord called him to his heavenly reward in 1987. Then, in 1989, the Lord answered Peter’s lifetime prayers and brought the Iron Curtain crashing down — surprising the entire world. SGA leaders and missionaries immediately began to seize the unprecedented new opportunities for reaching the people of the former Soviet Union for the glory of Christ.
“Since those early days, SGA has grown to become an international ministry with autonomous offices in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and England.”
It concluded, “Today, our mission works primarily in the former Soviet nations of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. In addition, we sponsor Bible training for Russian churches in Israel, and assist there with training initiatives, conferences, and Russian-language publications.
“We provide Russian-language Bibles and Christian literature, provision of solid Bible training for pastors, church planters and church workers, sponsorship of church-planting missionaries, and sponsorship of youth and children’s ministries including outreach to orphans. SGA partners also help provide funds to help churches purchase occasional humanitarian aid on an as-needed basis.”
Photo captions: 1) SGA President, Dr. Robert Provost. 2) Baptist leaders, who had gathered in St. Petersburg, pray for Pastor Alexei Smirnov, president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. 3) Vladimir Putin with His Holiness Alexei II, the former Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. 4) Throughout the Cold War era, Peter Deyneka travelled the globe holding prayer meetings, often overnight, encouraging the Lord’s people to pray for the opening of the Soviet Union for the preaching of the Gospel. 5) Norma and Dan Wooding on a reporting assignment for ANS. (Bryan Seltzer).
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. In addition, Dan has a radio program and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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