Research Associate Peter King invites us to consider how the recent Declaration on the “Russian World” Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church might speak to our own context. He has also produced six studies for individual or group use on this topic, which you can access here.

In a powerful theological response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Orthodox Christian Studies Centre at Fordham University in co-operation with the Vos Academy for Theological Studies have issued A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Ruskii Mir) Teaching of the Russian Orthodox Church [1].

The introduction to the Declaration helpfully explains the thinking behind the “Russian World” teaching, and makes clear the way in which some sections of the Russian Orthodox Church have both promoted it and drawn on it in order to justify and support the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  There then follow six points, each prefaced by verses from the New Testament.

Although it is addressed specifically to the situation in Ukraine, reading through the Declaration it strikes me that there is much in it which could speak to those of us in the West.   We too sometimes confuse God’s Kingdom with our own earthly kingdoms (Point 1); stand by while the state seeks to set the church’s agenda (Point 2); fail to speak up against populist attitudes towards minorities and the marginalised and are complicit in attitudes of national superiority (Point 3);  share in our culture’s demonisation of “the other” (Point 4); pray for peace without working for peace (Point 5); keep silent in face of unspoken truths (Point 6).

In much the same way that the Barmen Declaration of 1934 or the Pastoral Letter of the Dutch Church in 1943 both address a very specific situation yet also speak to us in our own time and place, so also with yesterday’s Declaration.  We too need to hear its affirmations and condemnations, for in very similar ways we too fail at times to fully understand the meaning and implications of Jesus’ message for our lives and for the life of our churches. 

It may be that amidst all the changes on a global level, this is also a time of Kairos for the churches.  As the South African Kairos Document put it in 1985, “The moment of truth has arrived”.  Perhaps it has arrived for us too in Western Europe and North America as we seek to respond to events unfolding around us.

So I would comment this Declaration to churches and individuals as part of their Lenten reading and reflection.   Lent is a time for taking stock, and what better way of doing so than joining in solidarity with those who journey with us in the Russian Orthodox Church in reading and reflection on the six truths of the Declaration, that together we might grow in our understanding of what it means to be the People of God in a violent and fragmented world.

[1]Our director has been pleased to co-sign this declaration.

Peter King trained at Bristol Baptist College and was ordained in 1988, serving for eight years at Eynsham Baptist Church, Oxfordshire. He now works for the Anglican Diocese of Chichester in adult theological education.  Peter’s work for the CSBV includes producing Bible study resources such as these, and running our preacher’s blog Sunday Sermon Monday Mourning.

Making Peace in a Violent & Fragmented World
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