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Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia
The History and Transformation of a Free Church Tradition
Malkhaz Songulashvili, former Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (EBCG), provides a pioneering, exacting, and sweeping history of Georgian Baptists. Utilizing archival sources in Georgian, Russian, German, and English—translating many of these crucial documents for the first time into English—he recounts the history of the EBCG from its formation in 1867 to the present.
While the particular story of Georgian Baptists merits telling in its own right, and not simply as a feature of Russian religious life, Songulashvili employs Georgian Baptists as a sustained case study on the convergence of religion and culture. The interaction of Eastern Orthodox, Western Protestant, and Russian dissenting religious traditions—mixed into the political cauldron of Russian occupation of a formerly distinct eastern European culture—led to a remarkable experiment in Christian free-church identity. Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia allows readers to peer through the lens of intercultural studies to see the powerful relationships among politics, religion, and culture in the formation of Georgian Baptists, and their blending of Orthodox tradition into Baptist life to craft a unique ecclesiology, liturgy, and aesthetics.
“This story keeps surprising. In a rather open and humble style, Songulashvili describes how he and fellow leaders discovered to what contextualizing the gospel calls serious Christians, and what it can cost. Above all, this book presents a probing evangelical Protestant missiology that demands serious reading by western Catholic, Orthodox, and Evangelical missiologists…Songulashvili’s book needs to be on a list of absolutely necessary reading in preparation for the dialogues that must come.”
—Walter Sawatsky, Occasional Papers on Religion in Eastern Europe
“Unique indeed is this account of the way in which the Baptist community in Georgia has responded in its life, liturgy, and mission to the peculiar context of the Georgian nation, which has been powerfully shaped by the Georgian Orthodox Church. In a work of rich significance for theologians, church historians, and missiologists, Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili draws attention to the indigenous roots of the Baptist movement in Georgia, its development under both Tsarist and Soviet rule, and its courageous attempts to engage in culturally relevant mission today.”
—John Briggs, Professor Emeritus, the University of Birmingham and former Director, Baptist History and Heritage Centre, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford
“Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia is a truly remarkable and original book. Songulashvili’s skills as a historian and theologian have produced essential reading not just for those interested in the life of Baptists, but for all who are concerned with the Christian church during and after the Soviet era in Eastern Europe.”
—Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford and Principal Emeritus, Regent’s Park College, Oxford
"This is by far the finest book on the evangelical movement in the former Soviet Unionthat I have ever read... In this formidable work, Songulashvili offers the most comprehensive study of the evangelical movement in Georgia yet to have appeared in the English language."
—Joshua T. Searle, Studies in World Christianity
“This book is essential reading for Western Christians."
—Stephen Platten, Church Times
"A significant addition to the field of Eastern European evangelical research”
—Toivo Pilli, Baptistic Theologies
“More than an ethnographic or even a historical report, Songulashvili's vivid historical narrative highlights the centrality of God's mission in an indigenous culture, demonstrating how the triangle of church, mission, and culture have interacted to energize non-Western missionaries to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’”
—Ashti Mamash, Fides et Historia
“Drawing on a wealth of hitherto unused primary material, Malkhaz Songulashvili recounts the history of the Baptists in Georgia and discusses their sufferings, their dilemmas under Soviet persecution, and their subsequent embracing of Orthodox spirituality and ecclesiology. As a former archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, Songulashvili writes with unique authority about this astonishing synthesis of Evangelical activism with Eastern Christianity.”
—David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling
Malkhaz Songulashvili is Associate Professor of Comparative Theology at Ilia State University and Metropolitan Bishop of Tbilisi for the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia. Dr. Songulashvili received the 2015 Shahbaz Bhatti Freedom Award, given to a person for his or her outstanding work in promoting religious and minority rights around the globe. He resides in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
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Books in Series:
Studies in World Christianity
The Making of Korean Christianity - Protestant Encounters with Korean Religions, 1876-1915
China, Christianity, and the Question of Culture
Converts to Civil Society - Christianity and Political Culture in Contemporary Hong Kong
Evangelical Christian Baptists of Georgia - The History and Transformation of a Free Church Tradition
The Evangelical Movement in Ethiopia - Resistance and Resilience
Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic - Tuskegee, Colonialism, and the Shaping of African Industrial Education
Missionary Christianity and Local Religion - American Evangelicalism in North India, 1836-1870
The Rise of Pentecostalism in Modern El Salvador - From the Blood of the Martyrs to the Baptism of the Spirit