By Editorial Staff
Published June 1, 1988
ROANOKE, VA (NIRR) – Americans following developments surrounding the millennial observances of the Russian Orthodox Church, including eyebrow-raising changes in church-and-state relationships, may have been short-changed by the press.
Many of the foreign reporters were exhausted from coverage of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit. Their editors back home seemed to want little more than an advance background story on the church, with maybe a refusenik-oriented glance at the overall religious scene, plus tid-bits on the doings of the Vatican delegation in town for the Orthodox celebrations. As a result, some key stories were not published, and some were never even covered.
One of the under-covered events was the visit of evangelist Billy Graham, June 8-17. The evangelist’s trip was highlighted by the following:
- Addressed audiences of top Russian Orthodox Church clergy, religious leaders from around the world, ranking government figures, and others at the main Orthodox jubilee observances at the Bolshoi theater in Moscow and the Shevchenko theater in Kiev – the first time in over 50 years major religious events were permitted to be held off church premises;
- Preached to overflow crowds at Baptist and Orthodox churches in both cities, including St. Vladimir Cathedral in Kiev, where a throng estimated by church officials at between 12,000 and 15,000 heard him – his largest audience in the Soviet Union so far, and apparently the first time large loudspeakers were allowed outdoors for religious purposes since communists came to power;
- Met privately with key Soviet officials to discuss, among other topics, changes in church-and-state relationships as a result of the new government policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness), and he heard candid acknowledgments that the state was “wrong” in some past dealings with the church.
The celebrations, which brought together perhaps the largest array of heads of religious bodies ever, received heavy coverage by Soviet television and the press, another first for Soviet churches. Almost every night for more than a week Soviet TV aired major documentaries or movies on the church. Graham himself was interviewed by Soviet journalists.
The evangelist is fairly well-known in the Soviet Union: the “Hour of Decision” is broadcast across the land by short-wave radio, his books are circulating among Christians, and he has preached there before.
A guest of honor of the Orthodox Church, Graham told reporters he was pleased by the changes he found since his visits in 1982 and 1984, and he expressed hope that progress will continue in church and state relationships. Some new policies, including the lifting of import restrictions on Bibles and other Christian literature, were among reforms he suggested in letters and private meetings with officials in his earlier visits. He also said he is still pressing for greater opportunities for Soviet Baptists, including the right to build and operate a seminary.
In Moscow, Graham joined other religious leaders for a rare meeting in the Kremlin where Andrei Gromyko fielded questions, some of them confrontational, on religious freedom. The evangelist conferred informally with many church leaders from around the world, exchanged pleasantries with Raisa Gorbachev and met pastors of unregistered churches and Orthodox activist, Gleb Yakunin.
Graham also met privately with key Gorbachev advisers, Anatoliy Dobrynin and Boris Ponamarev, but declined to disclose details of their talks.
Additionally, he preached at a Saturday night service at the picturesque Kolomenskoya Russian Orthodox “Church of the Czars” in a semi-rural setting on the banks of the Moscow River at the city’s southern edge. Awaiting his arrival, crowds lined both sides of a dirt road leading to the church. A number of children and young people were among those squeezed into the sanctuary – another new development for many Orthodox churches. The evangelist exhorted his listeners to “open your heart in a new way to Christ” and to be faithful witnesses at work and school.
On Sunday, he made a surprise visit to the city’s main Baptist church. “You are entering a new period of history for the nation,” he told the capacity congregation. “In past years, you faced many difficulties, but your faith has become strong,” he observed, adding: “You could help lead a revival throughout the world.”
The high point for Graham personally was his three-day visit to Kiev, a beautiful city of 3 million perched on verdant bluffs overlooking the Dnieper River – the place where Prince Vladimir in the year 988 baptized the people of Rus, which later became Russia, into Christianity. Here, the evangelist was hosted by Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev, the top Orthodox churchman in the Ukraine.
“As Prince Vladimir changed and turned from idols, you must change and turn to Christ,” the evangelist told the thousands jammed into St. Vladimir Cathedral and thousands more under rainy skies outside. Metropolitan Filaret, resplendent in a red-and-gold robe and miter, stood at his side throughout the sermon, symbolizing the church’s approval of the evangelist’s message. Mobile military generators, manned by Soviet soldiers, provided power for the television lights and sound system, which could be heard for more than a block.
The scene was repeated to a lesser degree the next evening. Graham met with a group of Ukrainian Baptist, Pentecostal, and independent pastors, then went to the Yamskaya Street Baptist Church, where a crowd of thousands greeted him. (Just two or three years ago, such a crowd would not have been permitted to assemble.) A number said they had traveled hundreds of miles to see and hear him. Most had to listen to his sermon on loud speakers outside. When he concluded his sermon, some raised their hands in response to his appeal to follow Christ. A teen-age girl in the front row fell to her knees and wept.
Also in Kiev, Graham met with regional political leaders and attended an outdoor dedication service at the Monastery of the Caves, a highly revered site recently returned to the church by the government. The service, which climaxed Orthodox celebrations in Kiev, attracted tens of thousands.
At the very beginning of his 10-day visit, the evangelist traveled from Moscow to the nearby city of Zagorsk to witness the final day of deliberations of an important Orthodox council meeting. While there, he met with Patriarch Pimen, who is suffering from diabetes and other afflictions, and assured the venerable leader of his prayers.
Graham also met in Zagorsk with Konstantin Kharchev, head of the Council for Religious Affairs, the powerful government body that regulates churches in the U.S.S.R. In a conversation characterized by warmth and candor, the government official noted that Graham is well known in the Soviet Union, then briefed the evangelist on many of the changes affecting the church. At one point, Kharchev said the government is trying to correct mistakes made earlier. “Thousands of churches were closed in the past,” he said, “but the believers remained.” He said 150 churches (about 60 of them Orthodox) have been opened within the past few months.
In a press statement issued upon his departure from Moscow, Graham noted a need for “new and stronger bridges of friendship and understanding” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He suggested churches can make a crucial contribution by promoting stronger contacts between believers in the two countries.
Such contacts were already begun by thousands of American Sunday-school children and members of church youth groups who made and sent congratulatory cards to the Russian church on the occasion of its thousandth year. Some were on display at Graham’s hotel in Kiev. One child’s colorfully decorated card declared simply, “Happy birthday, Christians!” Another from South Carolina said, “Thanks for being Christians for so long. Keep up the good faith. I love you.”
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Russia, Ukraine and former USSR
Your comments are welcome!
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 219 pages
Foundations in Biblical Orthodoxy
Driving down a country road sometime, you might see a church with a sign proudly proclaiming: “No book but the Bible — No creed but Christ.” The problem with this statement is that the word creed (from the Latin: credo) simply means “belief.” All Christians have beliefs, regardless of whether they are written.
Yet a single book containing the actual texts of the most important creeds of the early Church will not often be found. Out of the multitude of works on the evangelical Christian book market today, those dealing with the creeds of the Church are scarce.
Why Creeds and Confessions? provides a foundation of biblical orthodoxy as a defense against the false and truly heretical doctrines advanced by the spirit of this age.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion
This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.
Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.
“… an extraordinary statement … a powerfully articulate presentation about what abortion really means, and why a great and moral nation like the United States must not allow the slaughter to continue.”
— Congressman Robert K. Dornan
Running time: 85 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
$49.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)