Press coverage of the Billy Graham visit to Moscow last May highlighted an ongoing cleavage among Protestants in the Soviet Union. Some favor submission to state regulation in order to enjoy legally a limited freedom of worship. Others repudiate state regulation so as to exercise freedom of religion illegally in a wider sphere. Those following the first option are largely affiliated with the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUCECB; there are also Seventh-day Adventist and, recently, Pentecostal groups recognized by the authorities). A number of those who choose the second option are affiliated with the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (CCECB).

Two Russian denominations, the Evangelical Christians and the Baptists, merged at the end of World War II to become the AUCECB, or registered church. The dissenting group, referred to as unregistered or reform, organized in 1961. Both groups include Mennonites and other Protestants, but are often referred to simply as Baptists, since they are numerically dominant.

CHRISTIANITY TODAY interviewed Denton Lotz of the Baptist World Alliance to obtain the registered church perspective, and Georgi Vins, exiled representative of the CCECB, to obtain the unregistered church perspective. Their summarized remarks follow.

Denton Lotz:*

Don’t Suffer, Settle for Some

The question that divides registered Baptists and other evangelicals in the Soviet Union is theological. Do I have to suffer unnecessarily in order to be a Christian or can I work in a society even though it is not the ideal Christian society? How can I work prophetically in that society?

Remember that freedom is relative in every society. Also, it must be gauged within one’s own national and cultural ...

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