The East-West Church & Ministry Report: History, Coverage, and Readership
Editor's Note: On 22 November 2002, approaching the tenth anniversary of the launching of the East-West Church and Ministry Report, founding editor Mark Elliott presented a paper on the Report at the national convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, in Pittsburgh, PA. The full text is published in the June 2003 issue of Religion in Eastern Europe. Excerpts printed below give summary data on the Report's history, coverage, and readership.
As founding editor of the East-West Church and Ministry Report, this writer seeks to be an objective and independent observer of developments in the post-Soviet orb. Yet at the same time as the Report aspires to dispassionate analysis, it naturally is influenced by its editor's own participation in the drama that has unfolded in the wake of glasnost and perestroika. Like the great majority of Soviet and post-Soviet specialists who entered the field at any point prior to 1989, I have seen my research methodologies, travel, contacts, and career dramatically transformed since 1989. My graduate work in modern European and Russian history (University of Kentucky, 1969-74) began with a decided focus on political and military affairs. And my revised dissertation, published in 1982 under the title Pawns of Yalta: Soviet Refugees and America's Role in Their Repatriation (University of Illinois Press), dealt with political, diplomatic, and social history. Meanwhile, in my early visits to the Soviet Union (1974, 1981, 1985, 1989), I took what opportunities came my way to worship with fellow believers and was deeply moved by the tenacity and perseverance of Christians under siege. Those church visits ultimately drew me into an exploration of Russian church history and church life that continues to this day.
With glasnost and perestroika came a flood of new opportunities for travel, research, and cross-cultural collaboration in Soviet and then post-Soviet territories. What was true for academia and business was also true for churches and ancillary mission agencies, often referred to as parachurch missions. The early 1990s witnessed an explosion of East European mission activity. In 1991 alone, public meetings dealing with East European missions numbered at least 16.
It was at just such a gathering at the Chicago O'Hare Sheraton Hotel in June 1992 that various church and mission representatives urged the publication of a newsletter as a clearinghouse for information relating to Western Christian missions in Eastern Europe. Individuals who were key catalysts in the launching of what became the East-West Church & Ministry Report included Peter and Anita Deyneka (Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries), Billy Melvin (National Association of Evangelicals), and Peter Kuzmic (Evangelical Theological Seminary, Osijek, Croatia).
From Subventions to Subscriptions; From Print to Internet
While Wil Triggs, Deyneka staff member and founding coeditor, and I decided questions of coverage, format, and frequency of publication, Billy Melvin provided key contacts that led to foundation grants that saw the Report launched, with the first issue published in early 1993. In 1995, after two years of substantial grant support, the Report began to wean itself from dependence upon outside funding. It managed to survive the transition to a subscription-based newsletter and has maintained a stable, if modest, circulation to the present. 1996 brought additional change with the introduction of an E-mail subscription option. As expected, print subscriptions declined, but steadily growing E-mail subscriptions have more than compensated. Since mail service is problematic for much of the Report's intended constituency, E-mail has permitted the Report to reach a much more geographically dispersed audience. It has also tremendously simplified the process of communication with writers as well as subscribers. Since 1997 the Report Web site (www.samford.edu/groups/global/ewcmreport) has posted the full text of all issues more than one year old. These back issues on the Internet are available without charge, while a keyword search function expedites use of the Report for purposes of research.
In its first ten years of publication the Report has addressed three issues more than any others: (1) mission case studies and advice for cross cultural missionaries, including examples of effective and ineffective outreach; (2) the interface of Orthodox and Evangelical Christianity in theology and in practice; and (3) East-European religious demographics, including statistical breakdowns by confession and denomination, by membership and attendance, and for missionaries, by country,organization, and terms of service.
Articles on Missions
Mission case studies and articles offering advice on best practices have included the following: Christian ministry to particular groups: women, youth, orphans and street children, alcoholics, prisoners, and Roma (Gypsies); medical ministries; sports ministries; and humanitarian aid guidelines.
The article in this genre that has generated the greatest editorial response from readers is "Collectivism in the Russian World View and Its Implications for Christian Ministry" 6 (Fall 1998): 12-14; 7 (Winter 1999): 9-10. The author, Steve Chapman, served as a missionary with the Evangelical Free Church in a Muslim region of Russia and is married to a Russian currently enrolled in a U.S. medical school. Another well-received contribution of this type, one that stresses both Orthodoxy's positive and problematic influences upon Russian culture, is a two-part article, "Perceptions of a Great Country," 8 (Spring 2000): 1-3; 8 (Summer 2000): 11-12. The author, Peter Lowman, is a British academic and pastor who frequently spoke to Russian student groups in the 1990s. It was reprinted in Moscow in 2002 in a Russian-English diglot, together with memorial tributes to highly respected missionary Peter Deyneka, Jr. (1931-2000), who first urged the wide distribution of Lowman's reflections.
The East-West Church & Ministry Report also frequently tackles point/counterpoint mission theme debates, examples of which include Western funding of indigenou missionaries: 4 (Winter 1996), 2-5; bribery: 5 (Winter 1997), 8-11; language study methodologies: 4 (Fall 1995), 4-6; and the pros and cons of Western subventions for East European Christian publishing: 8 (Spring 2000), 3-8, 16, 15.
Articles on the Orthodox-Protestant Interface
After articles on missions "per se," the second largest number of articles in the Report treats Eastern Orthodoxy, especially its uneasy relationship with Protestants in Eastern Europe. A sampling of articles exploring the Orthodox-Protestant interface includes a summary of five Protestant perspectives on Orthodoxy: 3 (Spring 1995), 5-7; an article that notes the frequently overlooked affinities of Eastern Orthodox and Slavic Evangelicals, in contrast to Western Evangelicals: 3 (Fall 1995), 16, 15; tributes to Father Aleksandr Men: 7 (Summer 1999), 1-5, 16; the debate over what constitutes evangelism and proselytism: 8 (Fall 2000), 1-3; and the troubled troika of The CoMission, the Russian Ministry of Education, and the Russian Orthodox Church: 8 (Summer 2000), 1-5.
Articles on Demography and Religion
The Report also has frequently entered the murky waters of demography and religion. Enumerating the region's believers and missionaries is fraught with multiple, methodological dangers. But, hopefully, attempts at balanced, educated guesses are preferable to no figures at all, and preferable to wildly divergent, contradictory claims by various parties. The Report's estimates of the number of East European missionaries have prompted reactions of both "too high" and "too low," which, on balance, is some comfort: 2 (Winter 1994), 5; 3 (Fall 1995), 3. Attempts at quantifying church allegiance have been at least as problematic and contentious an exercise: 9 (Summer 2001), 1-12, 16. Perhaps the biggest debate in the Report to date on church statistics has centered on the new second edition of David Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia which, in this editor's opinion, frequently overstates Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic allegiance in post-Soviet territories: 9 (Summer 2001): 4-5, 16, 9; 9 (Fall 2001): 11-12.
Additional themes receiving ongoing coverage in the Report include: (1) state and majority faith interference in religious minorities' exercise of freedom of conscience; (2) Protestant theological education; (3) East European Catholicism; (4) Christian themes in East European film; and (5) new religious movements in the post-Soviet era.
In the future, subjects this editor would like to address more fully include Pentecostal and charismatic church growth, church finances, church- and mission-sponsored microenterprise development projects for the benefit of indigenous churches and charities, and Christian ministry to the handicapped. As for geographic regions, the editor hopes to publish more on the Balkans, Central Asia, and Siberia.
The Report also carries reviews of books, videos, and Web sites dealing with religion in post-Soviet states. Its annotations for one-hundred-plus religion Web sites have been collected from various issues of the Report and have been posted on the East-West Church & Ministry Report section of Samford University's Global Center Web site under the heading of links: www.samford.edu/groups/global/ewcmreport.
The East-West Church & Ministry Report is a member of the Evangelical Press Association and received EPA Awards of Merit in 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001. It is indexed by OCLC Public Affairs Information Service (formerly PAIS), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Zeller Dietrich (formerly Zeller Verlag).
A Subscriber Profile
Based on surveys conducted in 1998 and 2001, a profile of the typical subscriber is as follows: male (86%), in his 40s or 50s (60%), Protestant (94%), holding an M.A. or doctoral degree (64%), who uses a computer 20 or more hours per week (62%), and who regularly uses the Internet (98%). The typical subscriber is most likely to be a missionary (42%), a mission administrator (42%), an educator (36%), or some combination of the above.
A major goal of the East-West Church & Ministry Report from its inception has been (1) to publish material from academic sources that could benefit the understanding and ministry of East European missionaries and church administrators in East and West; and (2) to publish material drawn from the experience of missionaries and indigenous Christians in post-Soviet territories for the benefit of academics with an interest in religious life in Eastern Europe. Letters to the editor and anecdotal evidence suggest that the Report is reaching both an academic and missionary audience. The Report's goal for its second decade of publication is to develop a much wider readership among both academics and the church and missions community.
Mark Elliott is director of the Global Center, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, AL, and the founding editor of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.
Mark Elliott, "The East-West Church & Ministry Report: History, Coverage, and Readership," East-West Church & Ministry Report 11 (Spring 2003), 14.
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© 2003 East-West Church and Ministry Report