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Evangelism? Or proselytism?

14 August 2010

I’ve heard of “Christian businessmen”, and “Christian witness in the workplace”, but this seem to be taking things too far. I think it certainly crosses the line that separates evangelism from proselytism, and goes a long way into proselytism territory.

And I’m pretty sure that in South Africa it would be unconstitutional.

Russian Would Fire Abortion-Compliant Employees, Seeks ‘Orthodox Transfiguration of Russia’:

MOSCOW, August 13, 2010 ( – The head of a large dairy company near Moscow has informed his 6000 workers that company policy will require all employees to closely follow the teachings and precepts of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Vasily Boiko-Veliki, director of Russkoe Moloko (Russian Milk), told Ekho Moskvy radio that the company was established to promote the Orthodox revival of Russia, and the rules were meant ‘to prevent future sins by employees.’

‘We have about 6,000 employees, most of whom are Orthodox, and I expect them to be faithful and to repent,’ Boiko-Veliki said.

Hat-tip to Ad Orientem: Repent or you’re fired.

Has anyone heard of anything similar being tried elsewhere? Was Cadbury-Fry, the Quaker chocolate maker, ever like this?

I suppose I encountered one thing that could perhaps be compared, though I think it was much more positive, I think.

It was back in the early 1970s, in the Anglican Church in Namibia.

The bishop, Colin Winter, was visiting South Africa, and spoke to a group of people in Durban, and urged them to come to Namibia, and help the church there.

One of them, Ed Morrow, said, “I’m just a builder — what can I do?”

And Bishop Colin said, “Come anyway, we’ll find something for you to do.”

So Ed resigned from his job at Murray & Roberts, one of the biggest building firms in Durban at the time, and he and his wife Laureen let their house, sold their car, and bought a second-hand Volkswagen Kombi, loaded their few remaining possessions into it (including a stove) and set off for Windhoek. A venture in faith.

When they arrived, the church set up a building construction firm. They wanted to call it Ikon Construction, but the Registrar of Companies said that was too similar to another firm’s name, so they called it Noki Constuction instead. It had 200 shares at R1.00 each, of which the diocese owned 198, Ed Morrow 1, and the Diocesan Secretary 1.

Then they asked the clergy in Ovamboland if there was anyone in their parishes who was interested in learning the building trade, and got three people to join them. They started doing building repairs on church property, but also took on small outside jobsm alterations and so on, to make a bit of money. The travelled around in Ed’s old Kombi, with bricks and cement. They also went to church together, and had parties together. It wasn’t just a business, it was a Christian fellowship.

After a year, Ed Morrow reported to the diocesan synod. He said that they had dhown that it was possible to run a business of Christian lines and still make a profit. They paid three times the going rate for building labourers in Windhoek. They tendered fair prices and did a good job, and their outside customers were satisfied.

But this was not evangelism. The employees recruited were already good Anglicans, and at least part of the aim was skills training. There was no pressure on them to go to church services, because they wanted to do that anyway.

The Russian example sounds somewhat different, with a lot of top-down pressure. It strikes me that it is not the “fear of God” but the fear of man that would provide much of the motivation. Repentance that doesn’t come from the heart is not true repentance.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 August 2010 9:20 am

    An interesting story but other sites have noted any action towards redundancy or sackings under such terms would be unconstitutional.

    Perhaps this is just an odd offshoot of the resurgence of the presence of the Orthodox church in Russia. I was looking at some photos of their airborne forces day recently, orthodoxy has certainly become part of that group.

    • 14 August 2010 12:21 pm

      This is not just an odd offshoot of the Orthodox resurgence – the guy in the question is beyond “freak” and soon will meet us on the other end of normalcy scale 🙂
      Take for example his last name: Boiko-Veliki. When he was one of many “new Russians” who obtained by semi-criminal means his wealth in 90s he was just Boiko. After he was imprisoned for a short period of time for shady real estate deals he claimed that he found the Christ and legally changed his name from Basil Boiko to Basil Boiko-Veliki (the Great) in honor of the Basil the Great
      I’m not sure how he functions as the owner of the company but he’s a known case of a not very sane person.

  2. Errol Narain permalink
    14 August 2010 6:54 pm

    It looks like there is a phenomenon of orthodox evangelicalism even in the Russian Orthodox Church, a kind of emergent orthodox-evangelical. Maybe there needs to be conversation between this group, renewalists and social activists for healing and wholeness.
    I suspect that the evangelical-orthodox will continue in their evangelical bubble. For them, I assume, it makes good political and economic sense.
    Evangelicals in the United States align themselves with centers of power. The result- conservatism on all fronts and economic neo-colonial wars.
    God bless evangelicals.

  3. 15 August 2010 3:08 am

    There are ways and way of doing things. I think if the so-called “Christian” business acts in a legalistic and heavy-handed way – it could all back fire one way or another. Whereas becoming a model consultative, loving and just employer might mean that no one would ever touch you, legally. The other thing though is why, when there are significant numbers of Christian employees, cannot suitable non-Christian employees come into the business. If they find they are not a fit with the culture of the company, they will decide of their own accord to go elsewhere. But a truly Christian business could be a great influence.

    And then there is the real world.

    I used to be a union organiser. I organised across a very wide range of industries. It included the sorts of service industries that the three mainstream churches – Catholics, Anglicans, and Uniting Churches – were involved namely education, aged care, and health services. I have to tell you that my top worst three employers were as follows:

    1. A hotel owner who was sort of the Mafia in miniature. A nasty piece of work – even on the admission of the representative of the Australian Hotels Association who knew the family well.

    2. The Uniting Church – was even lied to by them let alone the injustices some of my members faced.

    3. The Anglican Church – actually I nearly had two Anglican Church enterprises before the Industrial Commission at the same time but there was a limit to my time and energy. The case I did take was dreadful and had amazing repercussions and further injustice from the Diocese of North Queensland – and before too long the Bishop retired as well.

    As for the Catholics – it just depended. In some enterprises, the employees were treated so well that I couldn’t sign up a single member. Other places, not so good and one had always to be on watch to see that employees were being treated equitably.

    BTW, I might add that most of my union members could best be described as the working poor and most of those were women.

    In the church facilities there tended to be two classes of employees – the professionals, such as teachers, and nurses and the ancillary staff – cooks, cleaners, nurses aides, gardeners etc. I didn’t cover teachers and only rarely nurses.

    At the time I was working there were generous tax deductions for employers with regard to training. Generally what happened was that most of the training budget went to the professionals. In some cases, none went to ancillary staff or, if there was a training budget for them, it was spent on “mickey mouse” courses like stress relief! Nothing to do with their actual work function.

    In fact, it seemed that the attitude was that women were born knowing how to cook and clean, etc. The one exception to all this was Sheraton Hotels who did provide proper work-relevant training for their hotel services staff. They knew how to do it – but clearly the churches couldn’t figure it out at all.

    Nearly ended poorly at the Uniting Church’s Garden Settlement (Aged Care facility) one day! A cleaner was cleaning a particularly dirty large floor space. A nurse happened along to find the cleaner almost ready to pass out. Turned out that because of the state of the floo,r the cleaner thought she would attack it aggressively and mixed two domestic cleaning products together – Handy Andy (ammonia based) and Snow White (chlorine based)! No proper training let alone regard for occupational health and safety at the Garden Settlement! Churches really can be the worst of all employers.

    Oh, and BTW, I won’t repeat the stories from my mother’s cleaning lady who had been a Salvation Army officer. How she was treated probably would have filled a book!

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