Research by the sponsoring agencies prior to the conference identified nearly 50 established evangelical theological education initiatives. Another 16 programs plan to commence within the next 15 months. In addition, theological education by extension, in various forms, is estimated to be serving over 3,000 students throughout the former Soviet Union.
The greatest immediate need, according to the delegates, is quality theological literature. For example, Anatoly Bukovsky, a delegate from Kiev, noted that his program of theological studies, which began earlier this year, still lacks texts for eight of 15 courses.
Russian Ministries's Peter Deyneka noted that a number of potential texts, translated in the past, are no longer in print. Also, in some cases, it is unclear who holds the copyright. Delegates were enthusiastic about a proposal made during the day that Western agencies coordinate efforts to reprint quality literature as soon as possible.
School representatives agreed that the second most pressing need was for teachers. Numerous programs are relying at present on visiting faculty from the West and Asia. (Eleven programs are believed to be sponsored by Korean churches or mission agencies.) Russian-speaking teachers with an understanding of Slavic culture are especially welcome.
Dr. Mark Elliott, Director of the Institute for East-West Christian Studies and one of the conference conveners, expressed encouragement on several points. "Evangelical Christian-Baptist, Pentecostal, and Adventist delegates chose to stress their common concerns for training and equipping leaders, rather than their doctrinal differences. In addition, Western participants chose to listen at length to the priorities of Russian and Ukrainian representatives, rather than recite what the West thought best. Significantly, delegates took concrete action in forming a steering committee to plan for future cooperation and to launch a literature survey project to prioritize a list of key texts for immediate printing. I personally have never witnessed as much accomplished in a single day for the strengthening of evangelical faith in Russia and Ukraine."
Dr. Peter Kuzmic, Director of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Croatia, addressed the delegates on the subject of "A Vision for Theological Education in Tough Times." A pioneer among Protestant theological educators in East Central Europe, Kuzmic noted, "We have been winning the souls of East Europeans and former Soviets, but we are losing their minds." He warned that Protestants in the region must become serious in addressing the intellect of believers, and non-believers, in order to avoid becoming marginalized on the fringes of society.
Jack Graves is director of communications for the Overseas Council for Theological Education and Missions, Greenwood, IN.
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© 1993 East-West Church and Ministry Report