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Pastor publishes book on Bible, teaches on Crimea

Tom Sorenson has recently put to use his studies in the complexities and difficulties of understanding history as it related to the background for the Bible and the dynamics in Ukraine.

tom sorenson

Tom Sorenson’s history studies helpful for book and class.

When he first started his ministry at Monroe UCC 16 years ago, he found there was no Bible study and started a 9 a.m. Sunday Bible study.

Three years ago, a member of that study brought a book he thought was a good introduction to the Bible.  The group decided that book was not what they wanted, but they did want an introduction to the Bible.

So Tom began an 18-month series teaching an introduction to the Bible.  Based on the class, he recently self-published a 688-page book, Liberating the Bible: A Pastor’s Guided Tour for Seeking Christians.

“The intention is to help people understand what the Bible is and is not, to look at what is really there and what is not there, and to identify what people may want it to be and say.  What does the Bible say and not,” Tom said.

“Many times, I hear about Christians reading the Bible cover-to-cover.  I doubt the value of picking it up on one’s own and reading it.  The Bible is a complex book.  It includes history, so people need to be educated on history, cultural context and language issues.  Those need to be understood to understand the Bible.  Most read it without understanding the complexities.

The self-publishing style Tom chose was print-on-demand through Archway Publishing.  It is now available on recently, and about 25 copes were printed.

From 2013 through 2014, Tom was co-pastor of Monroe UCC with his wife Jane, ending in December.  By reducing his time at the church, he had time to write the book. In January 2015, he began as half-time at First Congregational Church at Maltby between Woodinville and Monroe in a four-way covenant with the PNC, Kirkland UCC and the church.

He continues teaching a 9 a.m. Sunday Bible study there.

Two years ago, when tension arose about Russia taking the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine, Tom realized that few understood the history of that part of the world or the Russia-Ukraine relationship.

Tom spent a year from 1975 to 1976 with his late first wife, Francie, and son doing research for his doctoral dissertation on Konstantin Pobedonostsev, the overprocurator of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church from 1880 to 1905.

He earned a bachelor’s in history in 1970 and a PhD in history in 1977 at the University of Washington. Because there were only two full-time positions to teach imperial Russian history after he graduated, he entered law school at the University of Oregon in his hometown of Eugene, Ore.

He began to practice law in Edmonds, joining Richmond Beach UCC, and then in 1995, University Congregational UCC.  Burned out on law, he started seminary in 1997 at Seattle University’s master of divinity program, graduating in December 2000.

Tom, who has taught a few courses over the years on Russian history, updated his information so he could offer a Saturday morning class at Monroe UCC in 2014 on the history of the relationship of Russia, Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula for the church and community.  He offered it again at the Monroe Senior Center.

“The crisis was a manifestation of a long history of tension and Russian occupation of that part of the world back to the 18th century,” Tom said.  “In 1787, the Russian Emperor took it from the Turks.  The Russian Empire expanded to include Ukraine through the 19th century.  It did not recognize Ukraine as a separate language, culture or political entity.

“After the Communists took over in 1922, creating the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it created the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic,” Tom said.

Originally, the Crimean Peninsula was not part of the Ukrainian Republic, but the Russian Republic. 

Ukrainian history has been part of events that are central to Russian history and identity: the Crimean war in the 1859 between the British and Russia and the 1905 Revolution against the tsar including the Revolt of the Crew of the Battleship Potemkin.  There has long been tension from Russia saying Ukrainians were really Russian, he said.

In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took the Crimean Peninsula from the Russian Republic and gave it to the Ukainian Republic.  It was and is the home of the Soviet and Russian Black Sea Fleet, so most people there since World War II have been Russian, not Ukrainian, Tom explained.

“It’s not so surprising or outrageous for Russia to say Crimea is ours and take it from Ukraine.  It was illegal under international law.  In 1991, the USSR broke up and the 15 SSRs became independent nations, recognized by the UN and international community. One was Ukraine with the Crimean Peninsula,” Tom said.

“Russia was taking it back, illegally, but historically it is not hard to understand,” he said. “It’s important to build understanding and historical perspective, because we do not get it from the American press.  I do not justify what Russia did, but history is important in understanding what led to it.”

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Copyright © November-December 2015 Pacific Northwest Conference UCC News


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