Malkhaz Songulashvili

A Baptist Minister

The photo on the left is that of a Baptist minister.

I’m sorry, I’ll read that again: The photo on the left is that of a Baptist minister.

This is Malkhaz Songulashvili, the leader of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (EBCG).

Here’s how Alexander Cuttino, an American pastor, recently described worship in a EBCG service: “There is a solemn procession to the altar. The choir is chanting. A bishop in a long, black robe and a full, gray beard swings an incense burner back and forth. We bow. We cross ourselves. It’s a typical Sunday service at the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia.”

Malkhaz Songulashvili is the Archbishop of EBCG. He said he could have created “a Baptist church for Baptists, or a Baptist church for Georgians.” It is clear which approach he chose.

This is a church that accepts women’s ordination (one of the bishops is a woman), marriage of bishops (the marriage of Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili in 2008 “included 60 foreign guests from 14 countries. More than 600 Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Armenian Apostolic, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and Baptists—including the general-secretary of the Baptist World Alliance”), and liturgical dance. Here we have a community that is Baptist in theology and both Georgian and Orthodox in culture.

There is much to reflect on: how we inculturate Christianity into our local context; the value of the five-senses approach in worship epitomised in good Orthodox/Catholic liturgy; ways of creating bridges between theology and cultural expression;…

Thanks to a friend who let me know about this article which started my interest in this community.

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