East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 9, No. 4, Fall 2001, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Letters to the Editor
More Responses to World Christian Encyclopedia Statistics:

I certainly agree that the numbers listed in the World Christian Encyclopedia need closer scrutiny and criticism, especially with regard to Protestants.  When it comes to the number of Orthodox believers in Russia, however, I think there are some difficult issues involved that we should consider.  For example, some scholars would argue that, based on recent sociological surveys such as those by Andrew Greeley and the All Russian Survey Center (see Religion News in Brief, 6 April 2000), the World Christian Encyclopedia's numbers are too low.  Greeley found that 58 percent of the Russian population identify themselves as Orthodox.  Conservatively speaking, that would mean over 80 million Russians are Orthodox.  Furthermore, both the editors of the Encyclopedia and Greeley's numbers are less than the estimates of the Russian Orthodox Church hierarchy, which consistently claims that 70 percent of Russians are Orthodox.  Greeley and the Encyclopedia editors are using the criterion of self-identification and the Russian Orthodox hierarchy is likely using the number of those who acknowledge being baptized in the church as infants.

While most Evangelicals think different standards should apply (e.g., the number who claim to have accepted Christ as Savior or acknowledge that Christ died on the cross for their sins), these criteria use evangelical Christian markers that would be inappropriate to apply when attempting to discern who is a nominal or devout Russian Orthodox Christian.  We probably need to ask committed Orthodox outside the hierarchy, "What criteria do you suggest for identifying committed or even nominal Orthodox Christians in Russia?," and then see what the numbers reveal.

Perry Glanzer
Russian-American Christian University
Moscow, Russia

[Barrett's] figures are all too slippery.  My impression when I visit the typical provincial town in Russia is that perhaps one percent of the populace are in churches of all kinds combined--Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox--on a typical Sunday.  A couple of years back the Moscow city police did an estimate of the numbers attending Orthodox Easter services: their figure was about 100,000, which of course is pathetically small in a city of ten million.  As Philip Walters observed recently, we should not get carried away by the dramatic increases in the number of denominations and congregations legally functioning in Russia.  A city can have scores of new religious entities but still be a place in which only one percent of the populace actually attend worship services every week.  Like it or not, today's Russia looks a lot more like Sweden than the American Bible Belt. It is a profoundly secularized society.

Lawrence Uzzell
Director, Keston Institute
Oxford, England

Barrett's estimates look wildly optimistic to me.  His one [estimate] for Orthodox in Russia must be about 50 percent or so.  The official police figure for Easter service attendance in 2000 (including those standing around church buildings) in Moscow was just over 125,000.  Even if you allow this figure some leeway, it is still hard to turn it into even a double-figure percentage, and this for the most important Orthodox festival of the year.

Geraldine Fagan
Keston Institute
Moscow, Russia

"More Responses to World Christian Encyclopedia Statistics," East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Fall 2001), 12.

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© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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