Guest / Limited Access /
The Baptist Bearing Robes and Incense
Image: Photo by Susannah Ireland

(Revised and Updated, 6/21/2013)

"There is a solemn procession to the altar. The choir is chanting. A bishop in a long, black robe and a full, gray beard swings an incense burner back and forth. We bow. We cross ourselves. It's a typical Sunday service at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.

"Yes. Baptist."

That is how Cuttino Alexander, an American pastor, recently described worship at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (EBCG), a denomination famous for its unusual method of contextualizing the gospel. The man behind those efforts: Malkhaz Songulashvili, archbishop of the EBCG.

For many citizens, being Georgian means being Orthodox; 82 percent of Georgia's 4.5 million citizens identify as Orthodox. Songulashvili, a Georgia native, says he could have created "a Baptist church for Baptists, or a Baptist church for Georgians." He chose the latter. Call it the seeker-sensitive approach in the former Soviet state.

Songulashvili claims a total community of 17,000, making it the largest Protestant denomination in Georgia. [Editor's note: According to the East-West Church and Ministry Report, statistics from Operation World give 2010 figures of 5,796 Evangelical Christian-Baptist members for Georgia, with a larger number including affiliates of 15,600.] Brian Wolf, a dissenting Georgia missionary with International Gospel Outreach, puts the number much lower, at about 2,000 adult members. Yet its contextual model is powerful. "I know of no other Baptist union or convention in the world that has exegeted its context for ministry as brilliantly and powerfully as [the EBCG]," claims Baptist theologian John Sundquist.

Many Orthodox view Baptists as a Western-inspired ...

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

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

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedCarys Parker, Raised Entirely Aboard Mercy Ships, Drops Anchor
Subscriber Access Only Carys Parker, Raised Entirely Aboard Mercy Ships, Drops Anchor
After a lifetime in West African ports, she's setting a new course at a landlocked Christian college.
TrendingMeet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
Meet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
J. R. Briggs sympathizes with church leaders who don't live up to expectations.
Editor's PickThe Hidden Blessing of Infertility
The Hidden Blessing of Infertility
Our inability to have kids turned into an ability to do so much else.
Comments
Christianity Today
The Baptist Bearing Robes and Incense
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2013

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