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.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueChristians, Retreating Isn't a Failure of Nerve
Subscriber Access Only Christians, Retreating Isn't a Failure of Nerve
We need a tactical withdrawal to regroup the church for the days ahead.
RecommendedWhat Evangelicals Living Under Putin Think of Trump
What Evangelicals Living Under Putin Think of Trump
Protestants and Orthodox alike are mostly hopeful about America’s new president.
TrendingWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
Editor's PickChallenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Challenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Black Southern Baptists weigh in on the issues around removing Sho Baraka’s album.
Christianity Today
Russian Church Reassures Members Who Fear Codes Signify 'The ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2001

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