Letter to the Editor
Thank you again for publishing my research on cults in the former Soviet Union. In reviewing the article as it appeared in final form (East-West Church & Ministry Report 6 (Summer 1998), 1-3), I found two things especially worthy of comment. First, on page 3, I question the wisdom of using Peter Brierley's figures, which are evidently out of date (i.e., a 1997 book with numbers "derived from the 1995 update of the database used by Patrick Johnstone in Operation World") and which diverge widely from those used in Jehovah's Witnesses' own publications. (For example, the number of cultists in Moldova is given as zero, whereas in their 1997 Service Year Report, the Witnesses report a peak of 14,415 publishers! In contrast, the statistics given for both Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses in Ukraine are grossly inflated.)
Second, on the same page you write: "It is the editor's impression that, paradoxically, many Western and Russian Evangelicals and many opponents of Evangelicals tend to exaggerate the influence of cults in Russia." On the one hand, I agree that estimates of cult membership and growth have been blown out of proportion by some parties. As I note in the article, the wealthy and powerful Mormon church has found Russians remarkably unresponsive to their missionary efforts, although it should be added that 1) their political clout enabled them to gain full registration ahead of many indigenous Christian churches, and 2) Ukraine is proving to be far more fertile terrain for them, as evidenced by both membership growth and the recent decision to build a temple in Kyiv.
On the other hand, the article examines only a small sampling of the cultic and aberrant groups now active in the former Soviet Union, so the actual number of adherents of such movements is likely to be much larger. Beyond this, such groups have an impact beyond their immediate membership. Based on our five years of experience at the Center for Apologetics Research, the perceived need for information about such groups among Christians and the general public is high; this reflects not only a reaction to sensational reports in the mainstream press, but the reality that many families and churches are being troubled and genuinely harmed by anti-Christian and antisocial religious sects.
Again, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to present this research to readers of the East-West Church & Ministry Report and hope that, despite these areas of disagreement, it will be of great value to those seeking information on the growth and influence of cults. The section on "Christian Resources on Cults in Russian" is especially important.
The Centers for Apologetics Research
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© 1998 East-West Church and Ministry Report