The Communist government has stepped up its antireligious propaganda while loosening some restrictions on churches.
In September, the Soviet government helped facilitate the four-city preaching mission of evangelist Billy Graham. Last summer, the government provided limited assistance for a National Council of Churches—sponsored tour of more than 250 American Christians.
Those are recent examples of the Communist government’s recognition of religion within its own borders. In a country where atheism and the eventual evaporation of religious belief are government policies, many churches are thriving.
Young people have been turning to the church in large numbers despite stepped-up efforts to propagate atheism in Soviet schools and a media campaign aimed at stemming the religious tide. New churches are opening. Innovative one-on-one evangelism is working. Choirs have membership waiting lists. Churches are crowded during three or four services each Sunday.
Spiritual renewal is under way in some sectors of the Russian Orthodox church, which may claim the loyalty of more than 50 million of the USSR’s 270 million citizens. Orthodox leaders say they hope the movement will grow quietly and gradually. A sudden upsurge, they fear, would ignite extensive countermeasures by the government.
Most Orthodox churches hold services daily. They center on a liturgical observance of Communion. Many younger, educated members—careful not to criticize the liturgy—are asking for more Bible-centered preaching. Priests with a strong preaching ministry generally attract large audiences.
The going is slow among evangelicals, but more churches are opening. In southern Siberia, for example, the All Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUCECB) has ...1
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