The U.S.-based organization led by Andrey Shapovalov inspires several Russian churches. It has been declared “undesirable.”
by Massimo Introvigne
On June 8, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Russia declared “undesirable” the Transformation Center Church International, a large nondenominational Slavic Evangelical community based in Seattle, Washington.
Shapovalov is an associate of Pastor Aleksey Ledyaev, the founder of the Latvian New Generation Church, whose Russian communities in Chelyabinsk, Moscow, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Krasnodar, and Sochi were raided by special forces on August 15, 2022, and whose pastors continue to be arrested and sentenced.
Being labeled “undesirable” was somewhat less dangerous than being considered “extremist” before the Ukrainian war, but things changed in 2022. Article 284.1 as amended in 2022 after the aggression war against Ukraine deals precisely with organizations that have not been labeled as “extremist” but as “undesirable.” Organizing, participating in, and even promoting or simply displaying symbols of undesirable organizations on social media are now crimes punished with jail or labor camp penalties.
According to the Prosecutor General, the Transformation Center Church and its influence on Russian pastors “poses a threat to the foundations of the constitutional order, the defense capability and security of the state. The organization has its representative offices in several parts of the Russian Federation.”
The Prosecutor General claims that, “Under the guise of spreading religious teachings, the founder and head of the organization, US citizen Andrei Shapovalov, created a destructive association whose activities are aimed at suppressing the personality of followers in order to raise funds.”
If this is the typical charge that Russian anti-cultists raise against organizations they label as “cults,” the Transformation Church Center is accused, like New Generation, of much more serious crimes. The Prosecutor General states that it “collected, including on the territory of Russia, donations that were used to support the armed forces of Ukraine and Ukrainian terrorist organizations, as well as information coverage of anti-Russian actions around the world. The efforts of the association, in addition, are aimed at trying to change power in an unconstitutional way and change the spiritual and moral values of the Russian Federation.”
For those who know the Transformation Church Center, the accusations of cooperating with “Ukrainian terrorist organizations” and trying to organize a coup are ridiculous. The truth is that any church or religion perceived as a competitor of the Russian Orthodox Church may be accused of operating to “change the spiritual and moral values of the Russian Federation,” declared “undesirable,” and liquidated.