Nazarenes Prepare Contingency Plans for Russia
Contingency plans have been developed by the Church of the Nazarenes in the event certain provisions of the newly passed Law for Religious Freedom in Russia are enforced, according to Eurasia regional director Franklin Cook, who was in Moscow this week. The new law recognizes the Russian Orthodox Church as the country's preeminent religion and could severely limit activities of other religious organizations not present in Russia for at least 15 years.
The contingency plans were developed by the missionary team in Russia under the direction of Chuck and Carla Sunberg.
"The bottom line right now is that no one knows how this law will ultimately affect the work of the Church of the Nazarene," said Cook. "However, there is reason for optimism."
According to Cook, one provision of the law says that if an umbrella organization (such as the Church of the Nazarene) is officially registered in three or more places, it could conceivably be given similar legal status to the Russian Orthodox church. The Church of the Nazarene is officially registered in three places in Russia. However, Cook cautions that this apparent loophole may not be the final interpretation of the new law.
There is evidence that some provisions of the law are already being enforced. Several churches holding services in rented government facilities, such as schools or cultural centers, have been asked to leave. No Nazarene churches have been affected. Cook says, "Fortunately, we [the Church of the Nazarene] own some properties, and most feel that these will be protected."
In conclusion, Cook said, "I am very optimistic about our church here. We are one of the few denominations who entered Russia with long-term intentions of facilitating a Russian church, so our purpose, our methods, and our results are different from most organizations."
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