Special Theme Edition on the Current Ukrainian Crisis:   Volume 22, No. 3  (Summer 2014)

The East West Church &  Ministry Report has issued a special theme edition examining the impact of the current Ukrainian crisis on the church and ministries in Ukraine and Russia.

This theme issue is now available in pdf format in English,  Russian, and Ukrainian.

Read more about the East West Church & Ministry Report  in EnglishRussian, or Ukrainian 

Charley Warner

The Euro-Asian Accrediting Association—EAAA(www.e-aaa.info/), held its biennial meeting, “Theological Education—10,” 24-28 October 2011,with representatives from 40 schools in attendance. EAAA and Overseas Council International—OCI,(www.overseas.org/), jointly sponsored this year’s meeting at the Center for Christian Life of Ukraine in Irpen, just outside Kyiv. The Religious InformationService of Ukraine (www.risu.org.ua), an Internetnews agency based in Lviv, Ukraine, reported online during the conference.

EAA by the Numbers

EAAA is made up of 52 evangelical theological schools in Eurasia (the former USSR). While most member schools are from Russia and Ukraine, representatives from schools in Belarus, Lithuania, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan were also present. During the second half of 2012 EAAA will open a Research and Resources Center in Lviv, Ukraine.

EAAA Executive Director Sergei Sannikov opened the meeting with a report on the activities of the Association, noting several landmarks for 2011: the twentieth year since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the fourteenth year since EAAA’s founding in1997, and this conference marking the tenth in a series on theological education dating back to 1992.Sannikov reported that as of October 2011 the52 EAAA schools with full membership represented over 8,000 students, plus two other associate member organizations. This is an increase of 21 schools since the EAAA began in 1997. EAAA membership currently includes 24 Baptist, 20 Pentecostal, and 8interdenominational institutions. Thirteen schools have received full accreditation with three more in the process. Over 1,780 students have received degrees accredited by EAAA and 971 students are presently enrolled in accredited programs. Thirteen accreditation visits have taken place since the last biennial meeting in 2009.

 Five Trends

Sannikov listed five important trends that have developed over the last two years which are exerting an influence on evangelical theological education in Eurasia: 1) a growing interest in theological education among Pentecostals and Charismatics; 2) a growing interest in master’s-level programs--EAAA hopes to finalize master’s degree standards by the middle of2012; 3) the search for different ways to overcome these-called “admissions crisis” through, in particular, the development of distance education and extension study centers and new educational programs which are geared more to the needs of the church; 4)significantly increased interest in foundational research and the raising of teachers’ academic qualifications; and 5) professionalization of EAAA administrative work and the strengthening of EAAA’s influence.

The International Council for Evangelical Theological Education

Australian Roger Kemp updated the conference on the work of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education—ICETE (www.icete-edu.org), which is part of the World Evangelical Alliance and one of EAAA’s most important international relationships. ICETE is a worldwide fellowship of eight regional associations which altogether represent872 evangelical educational institutions from 110countries representing over 110,000 students. EAAA became a member of ICETE in 2004 and is ICETE’s regional association for Eurasia. It has benefited greatly from the advice and counsel of evangelical educational leaders within ICETE’s network of schools. Kemp announced to participants that the 12thtriennial ICETE consultation will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, 15-19 October 2012. EAAA hopes to send approximately 20 participants to the meeting. Kemp also took note of ICETE’s Program for Academic Leadership (IPAL). This service provides specialized training seminars for academic deans and others in academic leadership at evangelical theological schools. EAAA hopes to participate in upcoming IPAL training.

Religious Trends in Ukraine

Another participant, Yuri Reshetnikov, former head of the Ukrainian State Committee on Nationalities and Religion in the governments of Yulia Tymoshenko and Victor Yanukovych (June 2009-December 2010),gave a plenary address on the current state of religious affairs in Ukraine. Reshetnikov, a lawyer by training, is a member of the Christian Democratic Union political party (http://kds.org.ua/en/) and is also a graduate of Odessa Theological Seminary, a Baptist Union seminary in the Black Sea city of Odessa.

Reshetnikov’s  presentation on “Religious Tendencies in the Context of Ukraine” included statistical information on Ukrainian denominations and theological training institutions as well as on important legislation concerning religion. He noted the importance of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which represents 19religious associations and 95 percent of all religious organizations in Ukraine. He also made reference to over 200 religious-related schools in Ukraine with over19,000 students, some 3,000 of whom are studying at Baptist schools.

EAAA Administrative Changes

Several important issues were discussed during the meeting. For many years EAAA has been growing and expanding its ministry. While maintaining its core work in the accreditation of post-secondary, evangelical theological schools in Eurasia, EAAA finds that research, training, and online resources(both courses and libraries) have become increasingly important. In order to meet these needs, EAAA announced during the meeting a change in its leadership structure, shifting from a single executive officer to a “3 + 1” arrangement consisting of three directors and one president.

Dr. Sannikov, formerly the executive director of EAAA, now serves as president, overseeing all operations of the Association. Taras Dyatlik is now the EAAA Educational Development Coordinator, based in Rivne, Ukraine. Since January 2011 he has worked part-time with EAAA and part-time as regional director for Eurasia for OCI. Roman Soloviy is director of EAAA’s Research and Resources Center, based in Lviv, Ukraine. At the end of the meetings anew EAAA Board was chosen which will serve for the next two years.

The Development of National Authors

EAAA increasingly emphasizes the development of national authors. EAAA’s publishing effort, the Bible Pulpit Series, has been strategic in translating key evangelical theological textbooks into Russian. Since it began in 1993 the Bible Pulpit Series has assisted in translating and publishing over 40 key textbooks with over 260,000 books in print. Now the focus has shifted to the development of books by national authors from the region. Several of these books have already been published with more on the way. The EAAA journal, Bogoslovskie razmyshleniya/Theological Reflections, also provides national authors with opportunities for publication. In addition, EAAA is partnering with Pieter Kwant of Langham Partnership Literature to produce the Slavic Bible Commentary. This major work by evangelical scholars in Eurasia should be ready for publication by the fall of 2015.

Accreditation Issues

Government recognition of theology as an academic subject was another topic discussed at the conference. In this regard, Ukraine continues to be the frontrunner of countries in Eurasia, with recognition of theology as a separate subject in which a student may receive a government-recognized degree. (The Russian government also recognizes theology degrees but not at the doctoral level.) On 14 December 2011 the Public Council of the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science established a working group to develop standards for the profession of theology. EAAA’s Taras Dyatlik serves on a government ministry committee which recognizes theological education diplomas.

Overseas Council International

Another important international relationship for EAAA has been its long-term partnership with Overseas Council International, Indianapolis, Indiana. One of OCI’s ministries is holding training institutes for evangelical theological schools around the world. This year’s OCI Institute for Excellence in Christian Leadership Development centered on the theme of “Financial Sustainability and Organizational Change.” The goal was to assist theological schools in maintaining their stability while developing more flexibility in responding to the needs of churches and the spiritual needs of society. Issues addressed in this year’s Institute included modern trends in the religious context; the basis for organizational change and financial sustainability; and theories of and practice in organizational change and the achievement of financial sustainability.

Special Institute guest speakers from abroad included: Ted Rodgers, Executive Director of Russian Leadership Ministries, spoke on fundraising; and Phill Butler, author of Well Connected, addressed the development of creative partnerships; Jason Ferenczi, who at the time was OCI Vice President of International Partnerships, spoke on “Worldwide Tendencies in Theological education;” and OCI Dean of Leadership Development Scott Cunningham discussed “Finding the Sweet Spot: Financial Sustainability of the Seminary.”

Next Steps

EAAA will face several challenges before its next scheduled biennial meeting in October 2013, which most likely will be held in Russia:

1. Successful implementation of its leadership transition. (At this point signs are positive, but much work still needs to be done.)

2. The effective launching of a large-scale network of online courses in theology. (Early enthusiasm has been tempered by economic, educational, technological, and time constraints.)

3. The prospect of post-Soviet Eurasian government accreditation of evangelical schools. (What might such accreditation mean for EAAA’s program of accreditation?)

4. The prospect of EAAA’s continuation as transnational association or its breakup into national accrediting associations. (Presently approximately60 percent of EAAA member schools are located in Ukraine.)♦

Charley Warner was the International Assistant forth EAAA from 1998 to 2011. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been missionaries to the former Soviet Union since 1987