To all churches and AUC ECB educational institutions
Greetings to all Pastors of the Brotherhood!
The development of spiritual education has always been among the priorities of our Brotherhood. We thank God for every school and every leader and teacher who has devoted himself to teaching and preparing ministers for churches, as well as to comprehending contemporary challenges in the realm of theology and contributing to the development of Bible based theology regarding historical peculiarities of the Holy Spirit movement in the churches of the Ukrainian Evangelical-Baptist Brotherhood.
With this open letter, we would like to inform you about our attitude on the decision of The Master’s Academy International leadership to stop financing Irpin Biblical Seminary in general and the master’s program in particular, and the initiative to establish a new training centre by a team of former teachers in the master’s program at Irpin Biblical Seminary. We would also like to relate to you our overall assessment of this issue and the decision taken by the AUC ECB Council.
The master’s program has been fully funded and based on the theology and doctrine of The Master’s Academy International, which is associated with John MacArthur’s name, well known to all ministers of Ukraine.
A number of incidents have revealed a divergence of views on a significant list of theological and moral-ethical issues, leading to a conflict between the seminary leadership and the team of master’s program teachers.
The team of the master’s program teachers has decided to leave IBS as a result. American partners have completely stopped financing the seminary as a result of the conflict, and the team of teachers informed the AUC ECB leadership about their intention to establish a new educational institution and to continue training ministers from Ukraine and European countries. During the AUC ECB leadership meeting with The Master’s Academy International leadership, we received a proposal on further cooperation without IBS participation. Such an offer could not be accepted, since IBS is an integral part of the Union.
In this current situation Slavic Gospel Association has decided to find new sources of financial support for the seminary. Therefore, the seminary continues to work without interruption and is guided by the official doctrine of the AUC ECB.
Unfortunately, this situation is the culmination of tensions and theological disputes that have been observed over past years. Therefore, this cannot be left without our attention and decision. We are viewing the situation at IBS not just as the issue of the seminary’s rector position, but as the evidence of a wider problem that has emerged during recent years that touches certain trends throughout the Brotherhood.
We consider it important to note:
1. The ministers of the Brotherhood have always been open to Evangelical and Baptist church representatives. Certain differences were sometimes obvious, but we have always built our fellowship and theological agreement on the basis of Christ- centeredness.
2. We seek integrity of theological thought; therefore we work on convergence of positions and views on the basis of things that affect our differences (West-East, philosophical preferences, holiness or love, God and man, etc.).
3. We do not believe that discussion between Calvinist and Arminian traditions (which often leads to controversy and polarizing views) requires us to take one of those two positions several centuries afterwards. Theology based on Bible texts and early Christian writers, beyond the limits of this dispute, is not only possible but even more productive. Moreover, theological extremes, radicalism, proselytism and the spirit of separatism are not acceptable to us.
4. Theological dialogue and the joint search for the most accurate and relevant wording of biblical doctrine is possible only through humility before the Word, openness to the Holy Spirit’s action in each one of us and mutual respect. Truth does not exist without love.
5. We know and always knew about the differences between us and our American brothers in certain points of theology (Baptists and others). However, this did not prevent us from having communion in Christ and carrying out various services for spreading the gospel and God’s kingdom together. We appreciate all that our friends and partners have done, and hope we have become a blessing for the Church of Christ in the world also.
Things that worry us and what we cannot agree on:
1. Tendency to extremes in theology and the persistent advancement of the issues we have never shared (limited Atonement as an example).
2. Attempts to form a Christian worldview and theological understanding through the printing and distribution of books by almost exclusively one single author.
3. Separation from the Brotherhood churches. Some of the teachers of the previous master’s degree program of the IBS and the churches they belong to are not joining or had no desire to join the AUC ECB.
4. Criticism from some of the teachers and graduates regarding theology and practice of the Brotherhood as well as the tendency towards division and new churches being founded with no intent to enter the AUC ECB.
5. Use of financial support as a means of pressure to change decisions on matters of doctrine in seminaries.
6. Creation of a ministers’ community (MC) that positions itself as a separate group with different theological views.
7. The spirit of separatism and division. We do not want the situations we observed in Slavic churches of the United States, Russia, and a number of Baptist unions in Europe (on which we were receiving information from responsible ministers) to be repeated in Ukraine. We highly value the unity of God’s people and do not see sufficient and well-founded reasons for the policy of separation. We do not share the views of so-called «biblical separatism.»
8. The intention to create a new training center that has nothing to do with the AUC ECB yet plans to teach the ministers of our Brotherhood.
After researching this issue and holding meetings and consultations with all interested parties,
the AUC ECB Council have decided that it would be impossible to continue cooperating with The Master’s Academy International under these new conditions, as well as to create a new study center with a team of former IBS teachers and to agree on the use of our churches as bases to spread information in the churches. Also the AUC ECB Council does not consider it possible to recommend that church members and ministers of AUC ECB study at this center in case of its formation.
We call all our theological schools and gifted church ministers and theologians to work on further understanding and the formation of healthy, whole, evangelical theology, which corresponds to the historical work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God in churches of our Brotherhood. We invite everyone to think and work in the spirit of unity, openness, mutual respect and humility before The One Who is Truth and Love, the Alpha and Omega of our salvation.
For everyone called by God for teaching that fulfills their calling in the spirit of unity, in accordance with the teachings of the AUC ECB, they will always be invited in the Brotherhood seminaries.
We pray and hope these distortions will be eliminated. We respect all God’s workers and expect proper respect for God’s work in Ukraine and in all the of Evangelical-Baptist Brotherhood churches.
AUC ECB Council