Some More "Witnesses" Have Burst Into Moscow

"In the conditions of freedom Orthodox clergy have not prevented the spread of sects." Thus concluded participants in a conference on problems of totalitarian sects and the occult.

Nezavisimaia gazeta-religii, December 8, 1999
By Maria Kozlova

The first Moscow area academic and practical conference on problems of totalitarian sects and the occult took place on 25-26 November in the cities of Zhukovsky and Ramenskoe. It was conducted under the auspices of the Ramenskoe deanery of the Moscow diocese. Participants included clergy and laity from Moscow, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Tver, and Yaroslavl. The opening address to the participants in the meeting was delivered by State Duma deputy Sergei Popov, a member of the Committee on Security. He provided data about the totalitarian information war being waged against Orthodoxy. In his words, the Congress of [the] USA has allotted 40 million dollars to an anti-Orthodox campaign in the press, and 30,000 members of the sect of "Jehovah's Witnesses" were sent into Russia as "agents of influence" with the goal of destroying the Orthodox church and the Russian government. The war in Yugoslavia and Chechnia, in Sergei Popov's opinion, does not have a religious basis. The opposition between Orthodox and Muslims in these conflicts bears a provocational character.

The greater portion of the reports was devoted to the activity of totalitarian sects which have been introduced into Russia from the East: from Korea (Unification Church, Moonites), from India (Brakhma Kumaris, Sakhadj Yoga), and from China ("Witness Lee"). Whereas much is known about the Jehovah's Witnesses, some participants in the conference were hearing about "Witness Lee" for the first time. The sect, which arose in the 1920s in China, has been spread throughout the world quickly since the end of the 1940s. Its centers are located in America, Australia, Germany, Nigeria, Egypt, and India. Since the beginning of the 1990s the sectarians have been active in Russia and a number of Muslim countries. They call themselves simply "Christians," hating church hierarchy and rejecting the church, calling it Babylon and a whore. In their doctrine the adherents of the Chinese sect do not distinguish among the persons of the Holy Trinity. For them God the Father was incarnated, becoming God the Son. After his ascension the Son became the Holy Spirit. The leader of the sect, Witness Lee, who died recently, is considered to be a pipeline or channel of the Holy Spirit. One million seven hundred thousand dollars were spent to publish for distribution in Russia the so-called "reconstructed translation" of the New Testament comprising 1500 pages, the greater part of which is commentary by Witness Lee. According to data of conference participant Fr Peter Ivanov, a historian and sinologist by secular education, the sect of Witness Lee is trying to create its center in Moscow.

Fathers Konstantin Bufeev and Mikhail Dubovitsky called attention not only to sects that have come into Russia from outside but also to sectarianism within the Orthodox church. They declared the activity of the parish of Fr Georgy Kochetkov, who has been banned from ministry, sectarian. In doing so the priests cited the first rule of Bishop Vasily the Great, containing the definition of the concepts "heresy," "schism," and "self-ordained assembly." Fr Konstantin Bufeev declared that members of Fr Georgy Kochetkov's parish fall under the definition of all three concepts: they are "heretics," "schismatics," and "self-ordained."

A methodology for struggling with sectarians was proposed by Deacon Andrei Kuraev, who heads the department of apologetics at the Saint Tikhon Theological Institute. As the foundation he took the Orthodox doctrine of soteriology, expounding the essence of and path to salvation of a person.

"When we discuss with the adepts of other religions and sectarians, we can easily determine how they are deceived after we learn their notion of how the salvation of a person for eternal life happens," Fr Andrei said. The concluding document of the conference, read by the chairman of the Evangelism Commission of the Moscow diocese, Archpriest Mikhail Redkin, took note of the extraordinary need for the creation of a legal basis for liquidating numerous sects which threaten the national security of Russia. (tr. by PDS)

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