Frequent readers may know of my fascination with the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. Here is an interesting Associate Baptist Press article about that body’s often strained relationship with its Russian counterpart.
When war erupted between Russia and Georgia in 2008, repercussions included more than the 2,000 deaths and tens of thousands of refugees attributed to the conflict. Casualties also included relations between the two countries’ Baptist fellowships, torn between patriotism and historic spiritual ties.
Russian and Georgian Baptists later pledged to “facilitate the process of forgiveness and reconciliation between our peoples.” But the dispute highlights one of many challenges political realities pose for Christians around the world in balancing love of country and loyalty to a higher authority.
In the 15 years before fighting broke out in the Caucasus, friendship between Baptists in Russia and Georgia was strained by the collapse of the Soviet Union and Georgia’s subsequent independence. Georgian Baptists’ new national loyalty led them out of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and to the creation of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.
The brutal war might have severed ties completely. But in November 2008, Baptist leaders—Malkhaz Songulashvili and Merab Gaprin-dashvili for the Georgians, and Yuri Sipko and Vitaly Vlasenko for the Russians—set aside nationalism in order to “promote mutual cooperation in the mission of God.”