Forum 20

Rachel Schupack

November 18-19, 2011 an international conference, Forum 20, brought together 160 participants from 12 countries. Participants heard 22 speakers from a variety of churches and denominations in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Central Asia, who shared their analysis and perspective on the past twenty years of missions work in the former Soviet Union as well as their thoughts on the future. A lot of difficult questions and problems were discussed. The Association for Spiritual Renewal published a volume of papers by the speakers ahead of time and distributed it to participants as well as making it available online, allowing for a more knowledgeable and in-depth discussion of the problems facing the Evangelical Church today in the former Soviet Union and the ideas presented. “The Church should be in a process of continual reformation and spiritual renewal,” remarked Vice President of Association for Spiritual Renewal Dr. Michael Cherenkov during the Forum’s opening. “Without renewal within the church, there will be no spiritual renewal in society. This is important to us today, twenty years down the road.” He also emphasized that if problems and mistakes arise, they should be discussed openly in order to arrive at solutions more quickly. Over the course of two days over twenty speakers, including Sergei Golovin, Maksim Balaklitsky, Victor Lyakhu, Alexander Zaichenko and Ales Dubrovsky, talked about the successes and failures experienced by the Evangelical Church during the first twenty years of religious freedom in the Former Soviet Union. Much has been done, but the results are not always impressive. Ruslan Zagidulin from Kyrgyzstan offered a different look at the mission of the Church and church members’ participation in that mission. Alexander Negrov, President of St. Petersburg Christian University, talked about leadership at the intersection of generations, while Sergey Gradirovsky spoke of some of the challenges which the Church will face in the next 20 years. The second day began with a multilingual time of prayer for the future, with prayers offered in Russian, Ukrainian, English, German, Spanish and other languages. The day continued with talks by Pavel Begichev on the strengths and weakness of post-Soviet theology, Andrei Puzynin on the condition of the Christian worldview, and more. Both days participants had the opportunity to participate in discussion groups, where participants could more actively discuss the past, present, and future of the Evangelical Church in the former Soviet Union, Christian education, leadership, and more. In conclusion, speakers offered solutions to the marginalized state of the Evangelical Church in society, and creating a new identity. In his closing remarks, Vice President of the Ukrainian Baptist Union Igor Bandura emphasized the importance of introspection, so that the Church can take into account mistakes of the past and be more effective in its ministry. Forum 20 asked necessary, if unpopular questions, and though the Forum may not have provided all the answers, it laid a foundation and set the tone to move forward. Boris Volkov, from Journey Through the Bible – Ukraine: “Thank you for a Forum with meaty content offered by diverse, informed and interesting speakers. As a leader, servant, and Christian I was encouraged, strengthened, sobered, and informed through this Forum. Thank you for providing a space for the coordination of partnership between churches and organizations moving forward.” Anatoly Belonozhko, Bishop of God’s Embassy churches: “I believe that this was a very important and necessary event, which united Protestant churches of a variety of denominations. It was very important that it contained an analysis of the mistakes and achievements of the past, as well as looking towards the future. I personally gained a lot through the presentations and discussions, as well as fellowship with other participants.”

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