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Moscow Anglicans are doing a heroic job, says Bishop in Europe

08 July 2022

Robert Innes

Dr Robert Innes (back row) and Canon Malcolm Rogers (back, right) with confirmation candidates at St Andrew’s, Moscow

Dr Robert Innes (back row) and Canon Malcolm Rogers (back, right) with confirmation candidates at St Andrew’s, Moscow

THE Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, has made a pastoral trip to the Anglican chaplaincy in Moscow, where he confirmed a dozen members of the congregation, including one Ukrainian.

The four-day trip had been planned before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On Thursday, the day after he returned, Dr Innes said that the Chaplain of St Andrew’s, Moscow, Canon Malcolm Rogers, and his wife, Alison, were doing a “heroic job in maintaining ministry in challenging times”.

The congregation of St Andrew’s has been depleted by the departure of diplomats and businesses from the Russian capital, but those who remain are “in good spirits”, he reported.

While in Moscow, Dr Innes confirmed 12 members of the congregation. Many of the candidates were Russian, Dr Innes said, but the group also included people from sub-Saharan Africa, Britain, and Ukraine.

Moscow felt much as it had on his previous visits, before the invasion, Dr Innes said, the only difference being that there were no visitors from the West.

He had expected to see more signs that the country was at war, but there had been very few. “There’s nothing like the equivalent of all the blue and yellow flags” in England, he said.

St Andrew’s is located just ten minutes from Red Square, and during the Soviet era was used as a recording studio. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was returned to Anglican use, but the building remains owned by the city — a common arrangement for churches in the diocese in Europe.

Work is currently under way to replace the roof, a project sponsored by city funds — again, not an unusual situation in Europe, Dr Innes said.

One elderly member of the congregation with whom Dr Innes spoke told him that her Russian husband considered the war a “clash of civilisations” between the “secular West and Orthodox Russia”. The woman, who is from a Western European country, said that this was a common view among Russians of her generation.

Dr Innes said that the conversation reinforced the importance of making it clear that the war, and the part played by the UK in it, was not viewed as “a crusade against Russia”, its people, or its Church, but that the quarrel was with the “unacceptable actions of political leaders who sponsored an illegal war”.

Last month, the central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine in strong terms, but cleared the way for representatives from the Russian Orthodox Church to attend the WCC Assembly at the start of September (News, 21 June).

Dr Innes emphasised that the WCC was “committed to dialogue and encounter and to inclusion”, and that the suggestion of excluding the Russian Orthodox Church had “not been considered warmly”.

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