Three Bishops ordained at Pentecost

 

 

from left to right: Bishop Stephen Platten, Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili,
Merab Gaprindashvili, Rusudan Gotsiridze, Ilia Osefashvili.

 

 

The day after the wedding was Pentecost according to the Orthodox calendar. The international guests, many who came from other Baptist Churches in Georgia, and of course Baptists and friends from Tbilisi were present for the ordination of pastors, deacons of EBC Georgia and of three bishops at the Cathedral Baptist Church.

The three bishops are:
Merab Gaprindashvili, Rusudan Gotsiridze, and Ilia Osefashvili.

The service began with a lively, impressive, and dramatic performance of the story of Pentecost (Acts2) by the group of liturgical dancers. BWA General Secretary Dr. Neville Callam preached.
Earlier that morning Dr. Callam also preached at the 2. Baptist Church in Tbilisi.
The ordination was executed by the Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili with the assistance of all international clergy present.

All the celebrations of this weekend ended with a reception at Beteli Centre.

The ordination of the three bishops was a great step forward in the history of EBC Georgia. Here are the statements of the newly ordained bishops:

Merab Gaprindashvili:
>> In my opinion, it is a great responsibility to be ordained as a bishop and lead the Baptist church in a traditional Orthodox country.  I know it is difficult, but not impossible.
For me, it is important to visit local churches in the regions. In the summer, I will try to work hard for the good of the local Baptist communities. I have already made a plan to visit with the ministers and lay sisters and brothers in small groups, speaking honestly to them, listening to their concerns and doing my best to respond to them. I appreciate the trust and support they have given me and I constantly and consistently invest the same kind of trust and support in them. I will continue to try to be a better servant and thus merit their support.

Three of us, newly ordained bishops, are ready to continue the work that archbishop Malkhaz started several years ago and make a great contribution in building a healthier society in Georgia. <<

 

Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili welcomes Merab Gaprindashvili

 


 Rusudan Gotsiridze:
"I could never imagine daring to take the responsibility of a Bishop. I grew up in a traditional Baptist Church were women were only allowed to sing and pray.
On that very Sunday when I was ordained while I was kneeling in front of the altar with a huge open bible over my head the only thing I could see was a bucket of the daises. The little flowers were looking at me. And I knew HE was there with me saying: do not be afraid my daughter, I will always be with you".

 

Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili welcomes Rusudan Gotsiridze

 

Ilia Osefashvili:
It is a great honour for me to be ordained as Bishop. This ordination means to me that I have a great responsibility before God and men. It is my sincere wish to preach the word of God faithfully and in truth. I want to take care for those in our society, who are suffering from different needs and who are neglected and overlooked by our society.

 

Archbishop Malkhaz Songulashvili welcomes Ilia Osefashvili

 

 

A Report from Heather Entrekin
Worship services at Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi are nothing if not long.  At home, I would be fidgeting and focused on the clock, but here I have surprising patience and endurance for long worship.  And Sunday’s service was long - almost three hours.  The congregation is less tolerant.  There is a lot of coming and going, more going than coming near the end.  Cell phones ring often.  Even during the exquisite new Georgian chants composed by church member, Ramaz Kemularia, and sung by a quartet of sisters, there is constant background movement and murmuring. 
Inside, however, something important happened.  Rusudan became the first woman ordained a bishop in the Republic of Georgia.  She, along with fellow ministers, Merab and Iliya, were blessed, anointed and called forth to serve in new roles of oversight and responsibility for and among the Body of Christ which is Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi, this crowded, daisy strewn, humble church on Pentecost. 

Lacking a worship order in English or any direction before the service, the dozen non-Georgian speaking clergy who participated took cues from Archbishop Malkhaz on the spot.  He motioned when to stand and sit, when to encircle the communion table, when to bless or pray.  The Anglican clergyman on my right was presented a bowl of incense from which to scoop two spoonfuls into the smoking thurible Malkhaz held before him.  “Well done,” I whispered.  “First time in my life,” he whispered back.

And Rusudan, my friend and colleague, this gifted, faithful, strong, and beautiful woman in ministry, became Bishop Rusudan.  Against all odds.  And here I am standing beside her to pray my blessing on this day and on days to follow, believing that God hears and rejoices to see Rusudan standing, kneeling, serving and leading.

A friend of Malkhaz and the church spoke during the service.  The clergyman on my left explained that he was formerly studying to be an Orthodox priest and hostile to Baptists until he attended an ecumenical conference and was assigned Malkhaz as a roommate.  Hours of conversation led to friendship and religious conversion.  It also led to loss of his vocation and excommunication from this faith community.  I heard him say Rusudan’s name.  My translator explained, “He is saying that we are all one in the eyes of God.”

 

Sermon by Dr. Neville Callam, BWA General Secretary with Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze.