From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Partnerships provide key to church's Russia Initiative

Date 27 Feb 2001 14:38:56

Feb. 27, 2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212)870-3803·New York

By Suzanne Calvin*	

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. (UMNS) - Partnership has been the key to growth for the
United Methodist Church's Russia Initiative since the program began 10 years
ago, according to the Rev. Randy Nugent, who heads the denomination's
missions agency.

Nugent, general secretary of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, said the partnership formula, establishing a relationship
between U.S. congregations and people in Russia, has resulted in multiple
gains. He described those in remarks to 340 people gathered for the ninth
Russia Initiative Consultation, Feb. 22-24.

The Russia United Methodist Church began with five congregations in 1992. At
last year's annual conference gathering, Bishop Ruediger Minor, who leads
the denomination's Eurasia Area, appointed pastors to 88 congregations. 

In addition to the growing number of churches, Nugent cited other
·	The establishment of the Russia United Methodist Provisional Annual
·	The development of strong, positive local leadership.
·	The formation of diverse congregational ministries.
·	The establishment of the Russia United Methodist Theological
Seminary with links to effective support systems.
·	The development of an ecumenical relationship, though limited, with
the Russian Orthodox Church. 

Through the Russia Initiative, churches, districts and conferences establish
supportive-congregation covenants to handle salary and program expenses for
designated local United Methodist churches in Russia and Ukraine. The U.S.
churches and Russian congregations are connected through the Russia
Initiative office in Dallas. The Rev. R. Bruce Weaver, director, said the
average amount needed annually is $6,000. This provides a pastor with a
monthly salary of $150 to $250, and allowances for housing, health care,
pension and ministry site. 

U.S. partnership churches also commit to sending to the Russian congregation
two teams during each of the first two years of the relationship. These
teams engage in diverse ministries, such as Bible study, leadership training
and working with members of the Russian congregation at orphanages, prisons,
hospitals and addiction rehabilitation centers.

The Russia Initiative has pioneered work for mission elsewhere, Nugent said.
"The partnership church model -- not only for financial support, but for
church development, leadership development, mutual relationships,
evangelization, Bible study -- is a model now readily being put into place
and applied to other mission situations."

The Russian United Methodists are themselves doing mission outreach for
those in their own communities in the six districts stretching from the
Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. They are responding to need in other parts
of the world. 

For example, Holy Trinity United Methodist Church, a 54-member church in St.
Petersburg, recently sent a gift of $50 to help the church in El Salvador
with post-earthquake recovery, said the Rev. Teri Erbele, Board of Global
Ministries' financial representative for Russia. "This may seem like a small
amount, but it represents two months' income for most Russians."

In sending the gift, the Rev. Oksana Petrova, pastor of Holy Trinity wrote:
"When we learned about the terrible disaster in El Salvador, we decided to
send our little donation. ... There are no political connections between
Russia and El Salvador, but we can build bridges between common people
through our church."

Bishop Marion Edwards, who leads the denomination's Raleigh (N.C.) Area,
told the audience that he dreams of the day when Russia will have 2,000
United Methodist churches.  

"Those in the West yearned for the day when the wall to the East would come
down," he said. "The window is now open. It is now time to make this
[evangelism in Russia] happen."

However, he noted that "we can't grow churches unless we can train pastors."
In asking support for the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary in
Moscow, Edwards and rector Andrei Kim reported that 18 students are studying
at the school, and 42 students are enrolled in the distance learning

The seminary's U.S. advisory committee is conducting a $2 million capital
campaign to renovate a facility that will house the school and serve as the
United Methodist Center in Moscow, and also to create an endowment for the
seminary. Edwards, honorary campaign chairman, has challenged the North
Carolina annual conferences to raise $250,000 during the next three years.  

Such a challenge to go the second mile must be made throughout the entire
church, he said. "We may never have another moment in the history of United
Methodism like this one."

In the closing session, Minor said the Russia Initiative requires getting
involved. "We are doing our service, but we are not deciding the outcome,"
he said. "We are to be faithful in the ministry and leave the results to the

More information about the Russia Initiative is available by contacting
Weaver at 6116 N. Central Expressway, Suite 200, Dallas, Texas 75206; phone:
(214) 273-0330; e-mail:

# # #

*Calvin, a free-lance writer, resides in Denver.  

United Methodist News Service
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