Guest / Limited Access /
The Russian Orthodox Church is facing one of its biggest crises since it was freed from the restrictions of Soviet life a decade ago - the refusal of many church members to accept the government tax identification numbers known as INN.

Critics describe the bar codes on application forms for the ID numbers as a sign of the Antichrist referred to in the Book of Revelation. The problem, which has caused widespread consternation and even the threat of a church schism, has forced the church's head, Patriarch Alexei II, to address his flock in an unprecedented pastoral message, which was signed on March 4 and will be read in churches on Sunday, March 11.

The message, written after two days of discussion late last month by theologians and bishops in the church's Theological Commission, stops short of condemning the anti-INN movement as heretical, though some had hoped the patriarch would do this. The patriarch stated instead that acceptance or refusal to accept the tax number "is a citizen's free choice, but in no way is it a doctrinal matter."

But he made it clear that laymen and clergymen who urged people not to accept the INN were undermining the unity of the church.

"With all sincerity, love and pastoral care I would like to tell you: you have nothing to fear," the patriarch said in message, released by the Moscow Patriarchate on March 5. "If anyone, even the most eloquent person, continues to sow in your hearts false fears and doubts, do not believe him. Believe the church in its wisdom."

Russia's INN problem began about two years ago when the government began introducing the tax identification. The application form included a bar code which, as is required by international regulations, has three pairs of thin parallel stripes, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedMore Important Than Christmas?
More Important Than Christmas?
Why pro-life Protestants don't say much about the Annunciation—or the unborn Jesus.
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickHow God Became Jesus—and How I Came to Faith in Him
How God Became Jesus—and How I Came to Faith in Him
Bart Ehrman’s narrative suggests the more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe. My life proves otherwise.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2001

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.