The Charismatic Movement in Russia
The Charismatic churches that appeared in Russia in the early-to-mid 1990s are a new phenomenon in religious life in post-Soviet society. They differ from Pentecostal congregations founded in the Soviet era in their unique youth culture, their eagerness to organize and apply new methods of missionary and social ministry, and their willingness to speak out on social and political issues. Because of the missionary activity of Charismatics, Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations are now collectively the largest and most actively growing Protestant movement in Russia.
Unregistered Pentecostal Roots
Russian Charismatic ideology emerged from conservative Pentecostalism. Many Charismatic bishops came from unregistered brotherhoods that were the most consistent fighters against the restrictions of Soviet legislation on religion. In addition to unregistered Pentecostals, the followers of Bishop Ivan Fedotov of the United Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (CEF) became intransigent enemies of Soviet authorities, even to the point of refusing government registration. At the same time, a younger generation of Fedotov's followers (future Charismatics) enthusiastically engaged in missionary outreach in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A majority of preachers and bishops of new Charismatic churches founded in the 1990s were sons of pastors who had served in unregistered Pentecostal churches.
Many underground Charismatic churches and groups came into existence in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the era of Brezhnev "stagnation." One Moscow church that belonged to Fedotov's Union was led by Vladimir Govorushko, a native of western Belarus. The free style of Govorushko's preaching suggests that he was in fact leading a Charismatic congregation, according to Pavel Savelyev, a former member of the church who now serves as director of the Association CEF "Charisma." In the 1980s Western mission organizations working in western Ukraine and Belarus furthered the Charismatic movement, both in those regions and through their support for literature and missionaries from these regions to Russia. Also, the U.S. Assemblies of God conducted evangelistic work in western regions, and the Association of God's Congregations published Pentecostal literature in the Russian and Ukrainian languages (V. I. Leshan, Liki khristianskogo sektanstva [Faces of Christian Sectarianism], Kyiv, 1988, p. 75). Pentecostal services with a free Charismatic style of worship first rose to prominence in the 1970s in the Baltic republics of the Soviet Union. In the early 1970s Charismatic worship services took place in the historic Oleviste Church in Tallinn, Estonia. This medieval cathedral which served in turn Catholic, Lutheran, then Baptist believers, attracted Charismatic worshipers from all over Russia. However, in 1979 authorities banned Charismatic services in the Oleviste Church.
At the end of the 1970s the most prominent Charismatic churches in the Soviet Union were in Tallinn, Estonia; Riga, Latvia; Rovno, Ukraine; and Gatchina, just outside Leningrad. In the 1980s Pentecostals under the leadership of Bishop Fedotov sympathized with emerging Charismatics because both groups were uncompromising in their refusal to accept state registration and because Fedotov's followers welcomed Charismatic revivals, gifts, and revelations.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, when churches were free to preach as they liked and were free to conduct social work, traditional conservative Pentecostals and Charismatics parted company. Still, both groups held to basic Protestant doctrines, along with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. In Russia today three Pentecostal/Charismatic streams may be identified: traditional Pentecostals, who emerged in the Soviet period and who observe a strict code of conduct; conservative Pentecostals, who are less strict and who accept more emotional forms of worship; and Charismatics, who accept new revelations from church leaders and who have adopted decidedly emotional forms of worship.
While both Pentecostals and Charismatics practice the gifts of healing, prophecy, and revelation, their presence in worship differs. For example, unlike traditional and conservative Pentecostals, Charismatics may claim healing for an entire stadium audience, with many seeking healing coming on stage. Charismatics also seek an outpouring of the gifts of prophecy and healing at every service. In addition, Charismatics, unlike Pentecostals, typically embrace a more emotional, hard-edged style of preaching with full acceptance of a wide range of dramatic responses, including crying, laughing, and shouting. By contrast, traditional and conservative Pentecostal worship is more subdued.
In the 1990s the writings of Pentecostals Catherine Cullman, Kenneth Hagin, and Rick Joiner circulated widely, while Charismatic evangelists Ulf Ekman from Sweden and Benny Hinn from the U.S. preached to large audiences in Russia. Under the influence of Western Pentecostalism, a substantial portion of Russian Charismatics came under the influence of "prosperity" theology. While all Pentecostals teach that baptism in the Holy Spirit brings blessings, the prosperity preached by many Western Charismatic evangelists and accepted by new Russian Charismatics holds that new believers can expect that "the Lord will set you free from illnesses, provide money, and solve all personal problems." In the 1990s a desire for fast results and maximum growth characterized Charismatic mass evangelism in open-air meetings, cultural centers, and stadiums. The eagerness to create an all-Russian network of Charismatic congregations as soon as possible sometimes led to oversimplification of Pentecostal and Charismatic teachings. The emphasis was on planting as many new churches as rapidly as possible. Many Western missionaries employed Russian and Ukrainian assistants who were recent students of American and Scandinavian Bible schools. Frequently, foreign Pentecostals and Charismatics paid the salaries of new converts to conduct missionary and pastoral work. However, financial aid did not always necessarily lead to the establishment of strong churches.
Bob Veiner, a native of Odessa, Ukraine, a naturalized American citizen, and director of Maranatha College, Watertown, Wisconsin, first visited Russia in 1987. Pavel Savelyev, pastor of Moscow's "Dew" Charismatic Church, relates that in his first meeting with Veiner, "He opened a map of Russia, circled all these cities in Russia with a marker, and said that we would go everywhere." From 1991 to 1993 Veiner conducted revival conferences for believers from all over Russia. At the same time, he actively participated in the establishment of "New Generation" Charismatic churches. Alexei Ledyayev, pastor of a large and wealthy "New Generation" church in Riga, Latvia, whose books were a standard resource for many Russian Charismatic pastors, became the leader of the"New Generation" movement.
A Proliferation of Charismatic Associations
The three major proponents of Charismatic prosperity theology in the former Soviet Union were the New Generation Church movement, the Word of Life church movement affiliated with Swedish evangelist Ulf Ekman, and the Embassy of God Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, headed by Nigerian-born Sunday Adelaja. Other associations of Russian Charismatic churches that emerged in the 1990s included the Golgotha (Golgofa) Church movement, launched by U.S. Calvary International; the Chasovnya na Golgofe Church movement, initiated by U.S.-based Calvary Chapel; the Global Strategy Association which began with three Charismatic church plants of Western missionaries in Ivanovo, Kostroma, and Nizhnii Novgorod; the Church of Faith Association, which includes Word of Life churches overseen by missionary Ishoel Maats-Ula, a follower of Ulf Ekman; the Good News Church movement led by Rick Reiner; and Vineyard Churches. All of these movements are members of the umbrella Russian Association of Christians of Evangelical Faith led by Sergei Ryakhovsky.
By the end of the 1990s Charismatic-style worship and "health and wealth" theology predominated over more traditional Pentecostalism in Russia. In particular, the promise of a variety of "gifts" appealed to worshippers who were for the most part living in poverty. In 1999, in the moderately conservative Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith-Pentecostals (UCEFP), a group of senior presbyters opposed pastors of large Charismatic churches for leadership posts in the UCEFP. In response, the Union leadership formed a reconciliation commission and stated publicly its opposition to such Charismatic innovations as female leadership and pronounced emotionalism in worship, including "holy laughter," "holy anger," and worshippers being "slain in the spirit" (collapsing on the floor).
Overcoming the 1997 Law on Religion
Charismatic membership in the UCEFP came about as a consequence of a loophole in the severely restrictive 1997 Law on Religion whereby membership in a centralized religious structure offered independent Charismatic congregations the opportunity to be legally registered, to hold worship in rented facilities, and to invite Western missionaries to speak. According to the 1997 law, a congregation could secure legal status only if it had existed for 15 years or if it belonged to a centralized association of churches.
The Russian United Association CEF (RUACEF), founded in 1998 in the wake of the restrictive 1997 Law on Religion, has assisted a great number of independent Charismatic churches to maintain a legal existence. The key figure in this "protective umbrella" has been Rev. Sergei Ryakhovsky of the Association "Church of God." RUACEF is a federation of organizations that are independent, but connected administratively and have Charismatic theology in common. RUACEF was the first and the largest Charismatic association and represents the growing Charismatic movement.
Conservative and moderate Pentecostals traditionally have avoided politics. In contrast, Sergei Ryakhovsky is quite vocal about his loyalty to President Vladimir Putin, supports democratic reforms, and condemns terrorism. By these sometimes controversial public stances RUACEF leaders hope to make Pentecostalism a full member of civil society, overcome the prejudices of the authorities, and dispel the social stereotype of Protestants as "sectarians" and "second class."
The Charismatic Association of Christian Churches "Association of Christians," led by Igor Nikitin and headquartered in St. Petersburg, is another large Charismatic grouping. It is characterized by energetic cultural and educational goals. As with RUACEF, Nikitin's association is not highly centralized: it does not have regional bishops and individual churches often combine membership in this association with membership in another Pentecostal association. Priorities of the "Association of Christians" include the development of Christian media and broad-based pastoral education, including the study of the humanities. Nikitin and other leading pastors of the Association hold to the belief that Protestantism and Pentecostalism have deep roots in Russian spiritual history, which helps explain the Association's serious interest in Russian Orthodox Church history and development.
A Blurring of Charismatic-Pentecostal Lines
Pavel Okara heads another large interregional Charismatic body, the Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (RC CEF), formerly the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith-Pentecostals. In the 1990s so many independent Charismatic churches and mission organizations joined this traditionally conservative association that serious tensions emerged over forms of worship. Differences arose over "new forms" in worship, including the place of emotional, ecstatic praise and the use of rock music. According to Pavel Okara, tensions have subsided in recent years as the appeal of "health and wealth" theology has waned. Okara explains that many Charismatics in his association have become more moderate and are less influenced than previously by more radical Charismatic expressions, such as the phenomenon of the "Toronto blessing" that spread from a dramatic season of revival at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church in 1994. He argues that in the RC CEF it is almost impossible anymore to distinguish between many Charismatics and Pentecostals who have adopted various "new forms of worship."
Today, not only American but Latin American, African, and South Korean Pentecostalism has influenced the Russian Charismatic movement. For instance, a number of Russian Charismatic pastors borrowed their teachings on "spiritual warfare" from Colombian preachers. Also, church growth through the development of "home groups," a method popularized by South Korean Full-Gospel Pastor Yonggi Cho, has been influential in Russia. In addition, many Pentecostals of Charismatic persuasion have developed an ardent patriotism that is quite striking. They openly declare their political opinions and somehow support both state authorities and movements of democratic reform.
Translated by Asya Arushanyan.
Roman Lunkin is a research fellow of the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. He also is on the research staff for Keston Institute's forthcoming Encyclopedia of Contemporary Religious Life in Russia.
Pentecostal and Charismatic Statistics and Why They Should Be Used with Caution
My best estimate for Pentecostals and Charismatics in the Russian Federation today is approximately 900,000 believers in four to five thousand churches and satellite group fellowships. However, more precise numbers are difficult to obtain for several reasons.
Charismatic Church Associations in Russia
NUMBER OF CHURCHES AND LOCATION
RUSSIAN UNITED ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIANS OF EVANGELICAL FAITH
|Sergei Ryakhovsky, bishop and chairman|
|MEMBER ASSOCIATIONS OF RUACEF|
"Church of God"
|Sergei Ryakhovsky, chairman|
Association of Churches CEF "Worship"
|Ruslan Belosevich, bishop||Approximately 30 churches and more than 100 groups in Republic of Khakasia, Tyumen' Region, Republic of Tyva, Altai Region, and other regions|
|"Churches of Faith"
5th Parkovaya ul.4-6
Tel: 786-76-56; 786-76-57; 786-76-62
|Yelena Krylova, executive director||175|
|Independent Churches CEF
Nezavisimye tserkvi KhVE
109369, Russia, Moscow, Lyublinskaya ul.104
Tel: 349-33-22; Fax: 349-32-16
|Alexander Karpachev, executive director|
107564, Russia, Moscow
Krasnobogatirskaya ul. 38/2
Tel: 963-35-11; 963-37-33
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.i4j.net/charisma
|Pavel Savel'yev, president||More than 50|
|"Kingdom of God"
129085, Russia, Moscow, Godovikova ul. 9/25
Tel: 730-32-44; 730-32-45; Fax: 721-24-44
|Manuel Morales, chairman||Nearly 15|
131000, Russia, Moscow
Varshavskoye Shosse 37
|Nataliya Zhedrivaya, president||Approximately 100 congregations, mainly located in Central Russia, Tatarstan, and Bashkiriya|
153000, Russia, Ivanovo
|Mark Leonard, president
Dmitryi Blagoyev, executive director
|Headquartered in Ivanovo. Largest congregations operate in Ivanovo, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Moscow|
2nd Freznaya ul. 4
|Rick Reiner, president
Nikolai Kulakevich, executive director
|Association of Christian Churches "Union of Christians" (ACC
Assotsiatsiya Khristianskhikh Tserkvei "Soyuz khristian" (AKhTs SKh)
196105, Russia, St. Petersburg, Box 275
Tel: 812-316-14-14; E-mail: email@example.com
|Igor Nikitin, president||Approximately 300 churches located in northwestern Russia; headquarted in St. Petersburg.|
|MEMBERS OF ACC AC ASSOCIATION|
|Association of Churches "Vineyard"
Assotsiatsiya tserkvei "Vinogradnik"
Tel. in Moscow: 958-59-66; 118-76-05
The largest congregation: Russia, Krasnoyarsk Region, Krasnoyarsk, Robespier ul. 30, kv. 13
Tel: 3912-22-71-36; 45-36-31; 44-92-45
Web site: http://church-v.chat.ru
|Roland Abadier, senior pastor in Moscow
Alexander Mishin, pastor in Krasnoyarsk
|Approximately 20 churches and groups.|
REGIONAL ASSOCIATIONS THAT ARE MEMBERS OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH OF CHRISTIANS OF EVANGELICAL FAITH
|Perm Diocesan Administration CEF ("New Testament" Church)
Permskoe eparkhial'noe upravlenie KhVE (Tserkov' "Noyi Zavet")
614001, Russia, Perm, Ordzhonikidze ul. 90
Tel: 3422-37-21-18; 37-18-64
Web site: www.nzv.narod.ru
|Eduard Anatolyevich Grabovenko, bishop||Approximately 400 churches and groups located in Perm Region, Tatarstan, and Bashkiriya|
|Murmansk Regional Church Association
Murmanskaya oblastnaya assotsiatsiya tserkvei
184530, Russia, Murmanskaya Oblast
Olenegorsk, Murmanskaya ul. 5
Web site: www.northchurch.ru
|Pyotr Semeonovich Makarchuk, senior presbyter||15 churches and several dozen groups in Murmansk Region|
|Pskov Regional Association RC CEF (Church CEF "Emmanuel")
Pskovskoe Regional'noe ob"edinenie Rts KhVE (Tserkov' KhVE "Emmanuil")
180000, Russia, Pskov,
Krestovskoye Shosse 86
Tel: 8112-16-67-89; Fax: 8112-16-67-48
|Nikolai Igorevich Zalutskyi, senior presbyter||Approximately 20 churches in Pskov Region|
|Association of Churches of the Republic of Karelia (Christian
Center "New Life")
Soyuz tserkvei Respubliki Kareliya (Khristianskii Tsentr "Novaya Zhizn' ")
Russia, Petrozavodsk, Moskovskaya ul. 1
Tel: 8142-74-75-72; Fax: 8142-74-75-72
|Feodor Vladimirovich Akimenko, senior presbyter||More than 50 churches and groups in Karelia|
|Krasnodar Association of RC CEF (Christian Church
Krasnodarkoe ob"edinenie Rts KhVE ("Khristianskaya tserkov' "Vifaniya")
350057, Russia, Krasnodar
Pashkovskyi, Yugo-Vostochnaya ul. 19
Tel: 8612-39-18-71; 38-27-72; 38-28-72
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Web site: www.vifania.ru
|Sergei Yuryevich Nakul, senior presbyter||Approximately 300 churches and groups in cities and villages of Krasnodar Region.|
Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.
© 2005 East-West Church and Ministry Report