The St. John UMC of Harris

East Ohio Conference > 3Cs > Russia > HISTORY


Methodism in Russia dates back to the late 1800s when the first Methodist pastor from Finland established a mission in St. Petersburg.The Rudssia Initiative began in the winter of 1991-92 under the leadership of the General Board of Global Ministries. Its primary purpose was to deliver food to Russia’s Moscow Region. Later Global Ministries expanded the project to include the re-establishment of Methodism in the former Soviet Union. Eurasia Annual Conference was established in 1997, with expansion to four annual conferences in 2003 and a fifth annual conference in 2005.

The Russia Initiative assigned willing American United Methodist churches, districts or annual conferences to Russian cities that had social institutions in need. Time after time Russians wondered out loud why American Methodists were making such an effort, giving up their time and money, helping the Russian people. The answer was, and is, God, God’s direction to us through the Bible. The Russians were told about the one God, the triune God, the God who is the basis of Russian Orthodoxy as well as Methodist theology.

Church growth exploded over the next several years. Besides churches arising from some of the partner relationships, which had support from their American partners, Russians were also getting into the act. New graduates from the Moscow seminary started new churches. New churches split off from established churches. Members and friends went to home communities to start new churches. The Russia Initiative now concentrates on matching these Russian churches with American “Supportive Congregations,” which they need in order to survive. The Eurasia Annual Conference, is made up of 125 churches, and numerous Bible groups scattered from Russia’s European western border to its far eastern border to Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

American United Methodist church teams visit their Russian partner communities not just once but again and again after their first fact-finding visit, usually once a year or more. United Methodists have sent or brought humanitarian aid; UMVIM teams have worked with the Russians to help in children’s homes and orphanages, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals. They have gained credibility and trust, not an easy feat with Russians, because these Methodists meant what they said; they came back. They have modeled dedication, faithfulness, and respect for each other as well as for the Russians.