Baptist Affairs in Russia
By W. O. Lewis, T.D.
The Baptist World Journal, 1908
It was interesting to see the Russian brethren at the European Baptist Congress in Berlin. There were a goodly number of national or native Russians, as well as many representatives of the German-speaking churches in Russia. Things have moved rapidly in Russia in the last few years. War is terrible, but Japanese guns and a reign of terror at home have not been unmixed evils to Russia. Religious freedom is a fact. The Reformation, though 400 years late, is beginning in real earnest. In many places there is such a hunger to hear the Word of God, that evangelists must preach until exhausted, the throngs being willing to listen umtil two or three o'clock in the morning.
In all this great movement, Baptists are permitted to have a large and honorable part. For some years past, the non-Russian Baptists of Russia - such as the Germans, Esthonians, Livonians, Lithuanians, Letts and Finns - have had churches and were to work unmolested. These were organized into five associations, with a union by means of which all of them could co-operate. But since the edict granting freedom, the Russians proper have come out of their places of hiding and have also formed a national Baptist union.
This very success brings more complicated problems with it. It is going to be difficult to find a location for the theological seminary that will please all. It seems to have done a good year's work in its temporary quarters in Lodz in Russian Poland. However, the older union (largely German) and the Mennonites seem to be working hand in hand with the national Russians. All are co-operating at present in the support of 50 evangelists besides the regular settled pastors. A conservative estimate puts the number of Baptists among the Russians proper at 20,000. There are still others who have not been heard from by the gathered of statistics, and there are some who though Baptists in reality will not take the name of Baptists.
The story of the persecutions they have undergone, would fill a large volume. Many of the brethren at the Congress had been in exile and had lost all their goods. They told of cases where children had been torn from Baptist parents and were given to members of the Orthodox church to be brought up in that faith. Young Baptist women who had married men of other villages were torn from their husbands and in some cases outraged. While Pobiedonostzev was in power at court, they had "trial of mockings", and "bonds and imprisonments". They were "destitute, afflicted, ill-treated of whom the world was not worthy" wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and the holes of the earth". But in spite of all the persecution only a few denied the faith. One old brother at the Congress, who had been a Baptist 50 years and had been often in exile, when asked whether he regretted having cast in his lot with God's people, declared with tears that he would gladly suffer more than ten times as much as he had, rather than give up his faith.
St. Joseph, Missouri.
[From The Baptist World Journal, October 8, 1908, p. 8; via Baylor U. digitized documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on Russian Missions
Baptist History Homepage