The Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (CCECB) was not legally recognized by the Soviet authorities, but this union gained a reputation for advocating radical separation of church and state, religious liberty, active priesthood of all believers, a thoroughgoing church discipline, and a costly discipleship that includes prison and a few martyrs. Were they the new Anabaptists of the 20th century? A Soviet sociologist, A. N. Ipatov, warned about the ideological links between Mennonites and these Initsiativniki (an initial designation). Their best known leader, Georgi P. Vins, was of Russian Mennonite lineage, but his grandfather had already cast in his lot with the Baptists. The only other nationally known CCECB leader of Mennonite stock was Kornelius K. Kreker, who led the Siberian branch and served on the national council until the mid-1980s, when differences with the increasingly authoritarian leadership style of the president, Gennadi Kriuchkov, caused him to leave.
Most Mennonite groups in the Soviet Union were just beginning to form as congregations after the upheavals of. the 1930s and 1940s, when the major split in Baptist ranks in 1961, precipitated by renewed state pressure, led to the formation of the Initsiativniki movement and its ultimate development into a counter-union to the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (AUCECB) in 1965. Hence, Mennonites found themselves choosing between the two unions when seeking broader fellowship and support, including literature. The choice depended on local conditions, since state pressure and the conformity or resistance of local leaders varied widely. Between 2,500 and 5,000 persons of Mennonite origin chose to support the CCECB morally, even if many remained formally uncommitted, and their congregations remained unregistered in any case. Nor did such supporters of the CCECB develop an explicit sense of being a Mennonite wing of the CCECB, as was true in the AUCECB.
Typical Mennonite names were more frequent than their number warranted in the prisoners' lists that began appearing systematically after 1962, when the Council of Prisoners' Relatives was organized. These were often also the persons active in the secret printing press Khristianin. Since many Mennonite preachers had been in prison, it was emotionally easy for them to identify with Baptists who were ready to be imprisoned for their faith.
After emigration to West Germany through the family reunification program developed (1970s), a disproportionately large contingent of CCECB preachers of Low German stock came to West Germany. There they soon organized more than two dozen large and active congregations and set about establishing the Friedensstimme mission, a name they remembered from turn-of-the-century Mennonite missionary days. This mission, led by persons named Penner, Janzen, Klassen, and Esau, soon became the official representative for the CCECB in Europe, acting as major distributor of the Samizdat (underground journals) that the CCECB continued to send with great regularity. Ties to the Mennonites were strained, but family relations to leading Mennonites and a sense of theological affinity invariably prevented a breakdown in relations, even if most Mennonites in the Soviet Union tended to reject their more confrontational style.
Sawatsky, Walter. Soviet Evangelicals Since World War II. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1981.
25 Jahre auf dem Weg: Kurze Geschichte des Bundes unabhaengiger Evangeliumschristen-Baptisten in der Sowjetunion, 1961-1986. Gummersbach: Missionswerk Friedensstimme, 1987.
Wardin, Albert W., Jr. "Jacob J. Wiens: Mission Champion in Freedom and Repression," Journal of Church and State 29 (1986): 495-514.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 310.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 126.
|Author(s)||Walter W Sawatsky|
 Cite This Article
Sawatsky, Walter W. "Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 29 Jul 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Council_of_Churches_of_Evangelical_Christians-Baptists&oldid=86947.
Sawatsky, Walter W. (1987). Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 July 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Council_of_Churches_of_Evangelical_Christians-Baptists&oldid=86947.
Herald Press website.
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