Growth of Protestantism in Russia

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The collapse of atheism in the former Soviet Union, opened the doors to Christian missionaries to Russia.

A large number of missionaries operating presently operating in Russia are from Protestant denominations.[1]

According to a survey conducted at the end of 2013, 2% of surveyed Russians identify as Protestants or another branch of Christianity.[2]

Russia Watch in an article entitled Is Russia Turning Protestant? wrote:

Russia’s Justice Ministry has registered 14,616 Orthodox parishes, 4,409 Protestant parishes, and 234 Catholic parishes. But Anatoly Pchelintsev, a religion specialist and professor at the Russian State Humanitarian University, estimates that for every registered Protestant congregation, there are at least two unregistered ones.

Pchelintsev, who edits the Religion and Law publication here, concludes that Russia has about 15,000 Protestant congregations, roughly equal to the number of Russian Orthodox ones. He says the number of Catholic parishes is roughly the same as the official number.

In Siberia, long a land of dissenters and discontents, there are believed to be more Protestants in church on Sunday mornings than Russian Orthodox. On one recent visit to Khabarovsk, the second largest city of the Russian Far East, I went to a packed Baptist church, only a kilometer from a sparsely attended Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The massive Cathedral had been built with federal funds.[3]

In 2016, Christianity Today reported:

Yesterday, Russia’s new anti-terrorism laws, which restrict Christians from evangelizing outside of their churches, went into effect.

The “Yarovaya package” requires missionaries to have permits, makes house churches illegal, and limits religious activity to registered church buildings, among other restrictions. Individuals who disobey could be fined up to $780, while organizations could be fined more than $15,000. Forum 18 offers an analysis of the laws and their ramifications for Protestants and other non-Orthodox believers. World Watch Monitor compiled the worried reactions of Russian evangelical leaders and concerned observers. The new laws will “create conditions for the repression of all Christians,” wrote Russia’s Baptist Council of Churches in an open letter. “Any person who mentions their religious view or reflections out loud or puts them in writing, without the relevant documents, could be accused of ‘illegal missionary activity.’”

Russia’s Protestant churches are concerned but not panicked, reports independent journalist and Russian Evangelical Alliance consultant William Yoder. With more than 1,000 Protestant house churches meeting in Moscow alone, cracking down to the letter of the law will not be easy. He wrote:

Russian evangelicals have many decades of experience in dealing with a non-sympathetic state. There have also been frequent run-ins with the state since the mid-1990s. In fact, Belarus has had restrictive legislation very similar to the “Yarovaya Laws” in force since November 2002. Despite occasional incidents, non-registered Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to meet there and Minsk’s highly-visible and Charismatic “New Life” congregation keeps on meeting—illegally—in a rebuilt cow barn. Humanitarian work and evangelistic efforts continue.

Far-flung Russia will hardly be more “successful” regarding implementation of its new laws. Konstantin Bendas, deputy head bishop of the “Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith” (ROSKhVE), notes that over a thousand Pentecostal house groups are meeting alone in Moscow. Yet, sadly, a complex legislation of repression is now in place and could be put into practice if ever the need arises. That “need” would arise as a result of greatly-heightened East-West tensions—tensions which are also very much contingent upon Western behaviour. Western citizens can do something about this.[4]

Evangelicalism and Russia

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network:

The Orthodox Church's biggest competitors are the evangelical, charismatic congregations, which are experiencing tremendous growth.

"So many Russians are leaving the Orthodox Church and joining the charismatic churches and they don't like it," Ryakhovski said.

Ryakhovski gave CBN News a document produced by a leading Russian research group and backed by the Orthodox Church. The paper was titled, "Ways to weaken the potential of neo-Pentecostal sects and to help their victims."....

Once a persecuted minority, evangelical Christians in Russia and the surrounding countries that once made up the former Soviet Union, are now exerting more influence in society by displaying what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ.

"People are looking for meaning, they are looking for authentic lifestyles, authentic relationships," Sipko told CBN News. "And so in the midst of all the economic and social changes, we have the opportunity to demonstrate what a personal relationship with Jesus is like."[5]

External links

References

  1. US State Department Religious Freedom Report on Russia, 2006
  2. 2013 End of the Year Survey - Russia WIN/GIA
  3. Russia Watch, Is Russia Turning Protestant?, 2014
  4. Russia's Ban on Evangelism Is Now in Effect, Christianity Today, 2016
  5. Russian Evangelicals Leery of Orthodox Church