Posts Tagged With: Adventist Church

Pastor Abducted During Worship Service

Church leaders call for prayer while seeking to learn Litovchenko’s whereabouts

September 30, 2014 | Silver Spring, Maryland, United States | Andrew McChesney/Adventist Review

A Seventh-day Adventist pastor is missing after being abducted by gunmen during a communion service last Sabbath at a church in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine, local church leaders said.

Unidentified men carrying machine guns and wearing camouflage burst into the church in the city of Horlivka on September 27 and seized Pastor Sergei Litovchenko, the Ukrainian Union Conference said.

“They interrupted the worship service and forced the worshipers to disperse,” it said in a statement. “They ordered Pastor Sergei Litovchenko to close the church, forced him into a car, and drove away in an unknown direction.”

The incident occurred as the pastor was leading the congregation in a communion service in the small, rectangular church located at 1 Ulitsa Horlovskoi Divizii. Adventist churches around the world commemorated Jesus’ Last Supper on September 27 as is customary on the last Sabbath of each quarter.

The Horlivka gunmen justified their actions by saying that “this is Orthodox land and there is no place for various sects here,” the conference statement said.

They refused to say who they were and what right that had to disrupt the church’s activities, replying bluntly to church members’ questions, “It’s none of your business.”

The Ukrainian Union Conference was trying to establish the whereabouts of the pastor.

“Where he is and what has happened to him is unknown,” said Vassily Nichik, director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department of the West Russian Union Conference, which borders eastern Ukraine.

“Please pray for him,” he said on his Facebook page.

The abduction is a troubling development for the Adventist Church in eastern Ukraine, where clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian government forces have killed more than 3,500 people since April. Separatists, who support the Orthodox faith and have spoken critically of Protestantism as a sect, have detained several church members in the past but always released them quickly.

No Seventh-day Adventists have been injured or killed in eastern Ukraine, where the conflict de-escalated into an uneasy ceasefire on September 5. Only one church building has suffered major damage.

John Graz, director of the Adventist world church’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department, expressed deep concern over the kidnapping and said he was puzzled over why anyone would target the pastor.

“Our church is officially recognized in Russia and Ukraine, and we expect our members and pastors to be respected by the authorities on the territory of eastern Ukraine,” Graz said Monday. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not involved in politics, and we don’t understand why it should be attacked.”

Categories: Religious Liberty | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

War Against Spanish Christian Churches Heats Up



Adventists Sue Over Church “Registration”

Measure mocks First Amendment, attorney says.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church has filed a lawsuit against the city of Las Cruces in the U.S. state of New Mexico over an ordinance church lawyers say violates religious expression and unfairly targets pastor-led faith groups, especially Latino churches.


Earlier this year, city officials threatened to take legal action if the Las Cruces Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church failed to comply with the requirements of the business registration ordinance.


Las Cruces Ordinance No. 16-131 defines a business as “any profession, trade or occupation and all and every kind of calling,” including the work of pastors, priests, rabbis, bishops, imams, and other religious leaders.


The ordinance ostensibly requires all pastor-led churches within city limits to register with the city, pay a registration fee, and pass a discretionary review process before gaining approval to conduct worship services or provide pastoral care. Faith groups that are lay-led rather than clergy-led are not subject to the requirements, lawyers said.



CHURCH REGISTRATION OPPOSED:  The Seventh-day Adventist Church has sued the city of Las Cruses, New Mexico, over an ordinance that requires pastor-led churches to register and pay fees. Church lawyers say the ordinance violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Texico Conference headquarters, shown here, is located in Corrales, New Mexico. [PHOTO: Sue Hinkle]

According to a complaint filed by the church in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico, there is no time frame for an approval and no avenue for appeal if the city denies an application.


“I’ve never seen anything like this. It blatantly goes against the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Todd McFarland, an associate general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.


Further troubling church lawyers, the ordinance requires separate registrations for each location that business is conducted. Lawyers said this stipulation could require pastors to obtain special permission before visiting sick members, providing off-site counseling, or conducting evangelism.


“Such religious speech and activities frequently occur in private homes, public meeting places, hospitals, and funeral homes as a result of regularly occurring life events with very little if any advance notice,” the complaint stated. “It is impossible for an applicant subject to the ordinance to provide accurate information because many pastoral activities are a response to unpredictable events.”


Church lawyers also said the ordinance is “impermissibly vague” because it fails to specify what actions fall under the definition of “calling,” thus requiring separate advance approval.


A list of exemptions to the requirements, including certain athletic officials and artists, “favor nonreligious speech over religious speech,” the complaint stated, noting that the ordinance “overturns” protections provided by Article II, section 11, of the New Mexico Constitution.


According to the complaint, “these protections were intended to provide religious speech with more, not less, protection than speech related to a ball game or a portrait of a family pet or other ‘art’ product.”


Meanwhile, Las Cruces city officials maintain that the ordinance is meant to benefit citizens.


“The City of Las Cruces believes that its requirements to have businesses, including churches, within city limits have a business license meets the city’s obligations to provide its citizens with fire and police protection and comply with the Constitution,” William Babington, Jr., deputy city attorney for Las Cruces, said by e-mail.


“The city trusts that the courts will agree with its position,” Babington added.


There are more than 100 churches within Las Cruces city limits, but the ordinance, Adventist lawyers said, has been applied to only a small percentage of these churches and, according to the complaint, “disparately applied to single out Hispanic and Latino churches.”


In June the Las Cruces Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church was first notified that it had seven days to comply with the requirements or face “court action,” according to a letter from the city’s Codes Enforcement Department. However, the Las Cruces Central Seventh-day Adventist Church, a majority non-Latino congregation, received no such notice. (The “white” or Anglo church was exempted.)


“This problem came to us; we didn’t go looking for it,” said McFarland, who is representing the Las Cruces Spanish Adventist Church and the Texico Conference.

The U.S. District Court of New Mexico has not yet set a trial date.


The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Texico Conference oversees church operations in west Texas and New Mexico, where it maintains 80 churches and supports a membership of 12,000.

(BY ELIZABETH LECHLEITNER, Adventist News Network)

Categories: Religious Liberty | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at