‘Stalinism’ within Russian Pentecostal Church


Eastern Europe

William Immink, RD

Pentecostal worship in Russia. Photo Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith

Two Pentecostal bishops (CEF) in Russia have clashed digitally over their support and disapproval for the "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Friction had been around for some time within evangelical Pentecostal church circles in Russia. The church union of Russian Evangelical (Pentecostal) Believers (CEF), led by Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky, was previously faced with the secession of a Ukrainian branch, because the head bishop had not spoken out loud enough against the war in Ukraine.

At the beginning of July, friction arose within the church leadership in Russia itself. Tyumen Bishop Sergei Lavrenov spoke out in disapproval about fellow Bishop Alexey Novikov (from Lipetsk) who openly promoted support for Putin's "special military operation". Bishop Lavrenov criticised his patriotic colleague bishop, Novikov, saying: “I consider this a moral and spiritual crime.”

Lavrenov called on the CEF Church leadership to give Novikov a warning for his political stance. “After all,” he said: “To me the letter 'Z' sign symbolises violence, war, bloodshed, rape, and the invasion of a sovereign state. I am categorically against that.”

Lavrenov is said to have compared the support of Bishop Novikov – and everyone in such positions – to the support of churches for Nazi Germany in World War II: “It is as if I were going to my neighbour with an axe, and butcher his children, saying, I thought you wanted to kill me, so I myself came first.”


In turn, Novikov decided to write an official letter to church leader Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky, calling for Lavrenov to be reported to the authorities as “discrediting the Russian army” which, according to the recently passed law, will be worth about three to 15 years of penal colony. According to a Finnish journalist, Andrey Matinga, who covered the whole story in the Christian media of Russia, this is a typical example of 'contemporary Stalinism'.

According to Russophile Novikov, whose roots also lie in the Donbass, the geopolitical situation is quite different: "I trust the official information about the 'special military operation', and many refugees from Ukraine I speak to, confirm that there has indeed been a genocide of the Russian population in the Donbass. They had been waiting for the arrival of Russia for eight years.”

At the same time Novikov made these threats against Lavrenov, that he might be arrested, Lavrenovs car was stolen. According to Albert Ratkin, spokesman for the CEF Church Union, this has everything to do with Novikov's warning letter. Ratkin was annoyed with the two arguing bishops: “The last word has not yet been said on this.”


At the end of the week, however, the two bishops decided to bury their hatchet and came with a joint statement. According to Novikov and Lavrenov, it is important at this time not to allow for the polarisation of society, but rather to strive for peace and to show the love of Christ. Currently, “dialogue” and “forgiveness” are very important, even to those who think differently on political issues.

Nevertheless, this thorny issue within Russia's Pentecostalism shows the division within Russian Protestant circles over the "special military operation." The consequences of speaking out against the “special military operation” are significant.



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.