Russians bust Lutheran “extremists”

The religious freedom organization Forum 18 tells of a police attack on a Lutheran church outside of Moscow:

Police in the town of Kaluga south-west of the Russian capital Moscow raided the Sunday morning service of St George’s Lutheran congregation on 28 February, Kaluga police, prosecutor’s office and the church's pastor Dmitry Martyshenko separately confirmed to Forum 18 News Service. Pastor Martyshenko told Forum 18 that eleven police officers armed with automatic weapons and accompanied by police dogs burst into the service, looking for alleged “extremist literature”. “Our explanations that the Bible and books of the [Lutheran] Augsburg Confession have nothing to do with extremist literature didn’t seem to convince them,” he told Forum 18 from Kaluga on 12 March.

Pastor Martyshenko told Forum 18 that when the armed officers burst in, they blocked the church doors to prevent anyone leaving or entering. They said they had received a report that “extremist literature” was present at the church. “They told us it was an anonymous call, but that they had to follow up on it.” While one officer openly filmed the search, another officer sat at the back filling in forms which she did not show to the congregation. “All the officers showed a highly negative attitude towards us,” Martyshenko told Forum 18.

Pastor Martyshenko said the police checked the only literature present at the church – Bibles and hymnbooks – as they hunted for the alleged extremist literature. He added that late-comers to the ordination service were prevented from entering to join the fifteen or so church members inside. He said the search lasted about one hour.

The service was also attended by Archbishop Iosif Baron of the Augsburg Lutheran Church, who had come to the church in Kaluga to ordain Martyshenko. Church members continued the service despite the interruption. . . .

While the congregation has been able to worship undisturbed since the 28 February raid, Pastor Martyshenko complained to Forum 18 of what he described as “hostility” to the Lutheran community locally. He said he believes this has stepped up since the community acquired its own worship building in December 2009.

He pointed to several negative articles in local newspapers since the beginning of 2010, particularly a 7 March attack in the paper published by the Kaluga branch of the United Russia political party. It described the community as a “Catholic sect” which has recently stepped up its “proselytism”. It described the 28 February raid as confirming accusations against the community, and particularly criticised Gorbatin.

via Forum 18 Search/Archive.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    Sounds like they must be doing something right at St. George’s.

  • Pete

    Sounds like they must be doing something right at St. George’s.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s funny that some American Christians want our government to get more religious, to more reflect their views … and yet, never seem to envision something like this happening to them. The presumption is that the government will always be on our side when it is influenced by religion.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s funny that some American Christians want our government to get more religious, to more reflect their views … and yet, never seem to envision something like this happening to them. The presumption is that the government will always be on our side when it is influenced by religion.

  • Jonathan

    tODD, that’s profound, actually, The genius of not having a national church is that the government does not reflect the views of any particular religion (and thus punish the views it does not reflect), except perhaps culturally. But the US has long had to adapt (sometimes quite badly) to new religious cultures, e.g., catholicism, unitarianism, islam, etc.

  • Jonathan

    tODD, that’s profound, actually, The genius of not having a national church is that the government does not reflect the views of any particular religion (and thus punish the views it does not reflect), except perhaps culturally. But the US has long had to adapt (sometimes quite badly) to new religious cultures, e.g., catholicism, unitarianism, islam, etc.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Good points, tODD & Jonathan. In this case, the pressure seems to be from that implicit but non-official national church of Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church. Notice that the Lutherans are lumped together, quite correctly in a way, with “Catholics.” The Orthodox are always accusing the Catholics of proselytyzing and just hate that. The Orthodox church pushed through a law in Russia forbidding missionaries from any religious groups that did not already exist in Russia before the Revolution. So Lutherans were permitted, as were Baptists, but most American-style evangelicals are still forbidden.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Good points, tODD & Jonathan. In this case, the pressure seems to be from that implicit but non-official national church of Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church. Notice that the Lutherans are lumped together, quite correctly in a way, with “Catholics.” The Orthodox are always accusing the Catholics of proselytyzing and just hate that. The Orthodox church pushed through a law in Russia forbidding missionaries from any religious groups that did not already exist in Russia before the Revolution. So Lutherans were permitted, as were Baptists, but most American-style evangelicals are still forbidden.

  • George A. Marquart

    Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

    Let us pray to our heavenly Father that He would strengthen the persecuted Lutherans of Kaluga so that they are able to endure their suffering as a witness to Your love even for their enemies. Help them not to hate their persecutors but to pray for them, as Your Son prayed on the cross for those who tortured Him to death. Amen

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

    Let us pray to our heavenly Father that He would strengthen the persecuted Lutherans of Kaluga so that they are able to endure their suffering as a witness to Your love even for their enemies. Help them not to hate their persecutors but to pray for them, as Your Son prayed on the cross for those who tortured Him to death. Amen

    Peace and Joy,
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Preaching the sermon at the raided service was Pastor Igor Knyazev from Moscow. Two days later, he wrote an article drawing on his experience, “How to behave during raids” Here is the last paragraph:

    “But the main thing is – pray, pray, pray!

    Nothing helps one’s inner equilibrium as do prayer and hope in God. We are not the first and we are not the last. For as long as Christ’s Church will exist, we will be persecuted. Our reward is in heaven!

    May God keep you!

    Pastor Igor Knjazev,
    Mocow,
    Pavlova-Posad”

    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Preaching the sermon at the raided service was Pastor Igor Knyazev from Moscow. Two days later, he wrote an article drawing on his experience, “How to behave during raids” Here is the last paragraph:

    “But the main thing is – pray, pray, pray!

    Nothing helps one’s inner equilibrium as do prayer and hope in God. We are not the first and we are not the last. For as long as Christ’s Church will exist, we will be persecuted. Our reward is in heaven!

    May God keep you!

    Pastor Igor Knjazev,
    Mocow,
    Pavlova-Posad”

    George A. Marquart

  • A.D.P.

    It’s kinda a shame that this article got “buried” under all of the health care stuff- didn’t notice it right away.

  • A.D.P.

    It’s kinda a shame that this article got “buried” under all of the health care stuff- didn’t notice it right away.


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