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Russia Initiative Newsletter

This occasional newsletter gives up-to-date information about the Russia Initiative, which includes the countries of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.

Dear friends and participants of The Russia Initiative, a program of the General Board of Global Ministries. We send you greetings in the season of Epiphany with warm appreciation for your interest and care for our brothers and sisters in The United Methodist Church in Eurasia.

This newsletter contains news and information about the following:
  1. Russia Initiative Consultation XIII
  2. Mission Initiatives Summit (April 17-18, 2008, Plano, Texas)
  3. Russia Initiative Mini-Consultations (April 14-15, Memphis, TN; Clinton, MS)
  4. Camp Voronezh, an UMVIM Worksite in Russia
  5. News from the Russia UM Theological Seminary
  6. Christian Education Resources for Children in the Russian Language
  7. Seminar on "Worship, Evangelism, and Wesleyan Hymnody"

1. Russia Initiative Consultation XIII

The Consultation held at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS, November 15-17, 2007 featured Bishop Hans Växby's address in the opening plenary in which he spoke of the "Next Steps" in the journey of the UMC in Eurasia. The consultation brought 290 people together. Sixty-seven delegates came from Eurasia, the largest team to attend one of our consultations. Twelve young women, "The Singing Christians" of Kurgan UMC, brought an incredible spirit of youthfulness and inspiring music. Moreover, 52 persons from US based churches attended the consultation for the first time.

Every consultation is a milestone in the growth and development of the mission. These gatherings help us to review our strategies and focus on new directions and ministries. This time, the theme of Bishop Växby's address was "Next Steps." Among those steps is a model for new church starts with a clear exit strategy. The model provides for a stronger funding support over the first two years, followed by decreasing funding levels over the succeeding four years when the new church should become mostly self-sufficient in its basic ministry. A pilot project utilizing this model will be introduced soon in the city of Rostov.

The Eurasia Leadership Development Plan was presented during the Consultation. It includes a plan for continuing education of active pastors and leadership development of the laity on each district. (See the new designation "Edu 2007 - 2012" on the Funds Transmittal Form.) A four year curriculum has been put in place for each district. The Eurasia UMC is looking for experienced volunteers willing to teach in these seminars. Please contact us for a copy of the curriculum.

There was a consensus at the Consultation to rename the "Supportive Congregation Program" to the "Partner Church Program," in order to give more emphasis to the mutuality of the partner relationships. Some of the participants are telling us that the plenary seating at table clusters according to Eurasia Annual Conferences helped them to network with each other and their Eurasian partners.

We want to thank everyone who participated in the consultation and for the generous support that brought so many Eurasian delegates to the event.

There are four excellent news articles about the Consultation that you can find on the Russia Initiative website, including Bishop Växby's opening address.

You can also find updated versions of the following documents:

Partner Church Program (formerly Supportive Congregation Program) A key document for churches thinking of becoming involved in the Russia Initiative. http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/initiatives/russia/partnerchurchprogram/

Funds Transmittal Guidelines Form, for use when contributing funds to The Russia Initiative, Advance #11510Ahttp://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/initiatives/russia/resources/

A description of Leadership Development in Eurasia has also been posted on the GBGM webpage. http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=4801

Let us take this opportunity to remind you of the next Russia Initiative Consultation XIV (March 5-7, 2009, San Diego, California.) Please put these dates on your calendar. Vladimir Shaporenko and I are traveling to San Diego later this month in order to make preliminary arrangements. There has been a considerable interest growing in the CAL-PAC Conference for the Russia Initiative, especially in relation to ministries on the Siberia Far East District. Our CAL-PAC friends are looking forward to hosting our next gathering.

2. Mission Initiatives Summit

A Mission Initiatives Summit will be held at St. Andrew UMC in Plano, TX (Dallas-Fort Worth area), April 17-18, a few days before the convening of the General Conference in Fort Worth on April 23. The Summit is a gathering of people participating in the eleven Mission Initiatives of the General Board of Global Ministries. This is the first time the Mission Initiatives of South America, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa will have an opportunity to come together to share ideas and encourage one another in this global effort. See all Mission Initiatives described at: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/work/initiatives/

Guest speaker of the Summit is Rev. Mike Slaughter, senior pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC in Tipp City, Ohio. He will share with us how to be a missional church in today's challenging world.

Each initiative will have its own session during the summit and Russia Initiative participants will meet on Thursday afternoon, April 17. We expect Bishop Hans Växby and the General Conference Eurasia delegation of ten pastors and laity to attend. We invite our Russia Initiative friends to join the gathering, especially those within several hours driving distance of the Plano area. For more details and registration go to: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/news/events/?C=2923&i=16762

3. Russia Initiative Mini-Consultations (April 14-15, Memphis, TN; Clinton, MS)

Bishop Växby will visit Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, TN on Sunday, April 13. A Mini-Consultation will also be held there during a luncheon meeting on Monday, April 14. On April 15, a Mini-Consultation will be held at First UMC, Clinton, MS in the Jackson area, also for a luncheon meeting. We invite everyone who is interested in the Russia Initiative to attend. It will be a great opportunity to hear a presentation by Bishop Växby on the current state of the UMC in Eurasia, engage in dialogue with him and each other. Furthermore, congregations exploring new mission partnerships can learn how to become involved in this ministry. Please help us extend the invitation to your neighboring churches and friends. More details about these Mini-Consultations will be made available in a later newsletter.

4. Camp Voronezh, an UMVIM Worksite in Russia

During the Russia Initiative Consultation in November, the UM Volunteers In Mission Workshop focused on the Camp Voronezh renovation project. Many UMVIM teams are needed over a period of several years for the renovations at the camp. A number of team leaders and coordinators pledged to develop an ambitious program of sending 24 teams to work at the camp over the next four years. The camp needs our help. Tom Clark, the West Virginia Conference UMVIM Coordinator, will serve as the contact and coordinator for scheduling teams traveling to Camp Voronezh. Please contact Tom if you wish to lead a team to work at the camp, or learn about teams that are planning to work there. Email: tomclark@oakhillumcgroup.com or telephone: 304-872-4688.

The Southeast Jurisdiction UMVIM (Nick Elliott, Director) is enlisting a team to travel to Camp Voronezh May 21 to June 5, 2008. Nick Elliott and Jim Athearn will lead the team. See information on the SEJ UMVIM website at http://umvim.org/home.htm

You may also indicate your interest by contacting

Nick Elliott at Nick_Elliott@umvim.org (404-377-7424),

or Jim Athearn at jimathearn@gmail.com (540-662-2066).

A power point presentation with beautiful photos of scenes, activities and plans of the Voronezh Camp ("Camp Crystal") has recently been posted on the Russia Initiative website at:


5. News from the Russia UM Theological Seminary

Calling 2007 in April attracted young people from the whole Eurasia area, to reflect and share about the calling to ministry in the Church and to learn about the seminary's program. Seven students graduated this summer. All of them are serving under appointment within the Eurasia area. Four new students were accepted to the residence program and 16 to the distance study program. Students now total 6 and 28 respectively in the two programs. The seminary is now beginning its campaign to raise an endowment fund which will secure the ministry by providing salary support for faculty, scholarships and program expenses.

Goals and Needs:

Thirty students each in the full-time program and in the distance study program

Russian-speaking faculty who have outstanding spiritual and scholarly qualifications.

Study resources and a good infrastructure for the students.

Gifts to help secure the operating ministries of the seminary (Advance #12174a)

Gifts for the endowment (Advance #12176b)

Tobias Dietze wrote in his December letter: "I was privileged to represent the Seminary at the XIII Russia Initiative Consultation in Kansas City and to report about the seminary's development and plans for the future. To meet old friends and to make new ones was a great blessing. I praise God for the commitment many United Methodist Christians have for our mission in Eurasia... With the end of this year I will hand over the presidency of the seminary to Sergei Nikolaev. Sergei, a graduate from the seminary, has been serving at the seminary in the capacity of professor for Evangelism since 2005 and just this month received his Ph.D. With this step I see the fulfillment of the mission work I started in 1995 and I praise God for this achievement. I myself will still continue to serve the seminary and the Church in Eurasia for a little more time."

6. Christian Education Resources for Children in the Russian Language

Christian Education Resources for children are being developed for the emerging churches in most of the countries of the Mission Initiatives. The resources, developed and produced by local project teams within the specific country's own context and language, are culturally appropriate for each of the respective countries. Six books of the curriculum design have been published in Russia in the Russian language and will be distributed throughout the Eurasia Area on CD's. You may visit the web pages describing this project at: http://new.gbgm-umc.org/about/us/me/

Contributions in support of Christian Education Resources for children in the Russian language may be directed to Advance #14274A. Jodi Cataldo, Executive Secretary, Emerging Churches Resources is directing the project from the General Board of Global Ministries. Please contact Jodi for more information at JCataldo@gbgm-umc.org

7. Seminar on "Worship, Evangelism, and Wesleyan Hymnody" (Excerpt from a press release by ST Kimbrough)

With representatives from the Russia United Methodist annual conferences and Bishop Hans Växby in attendance, Dr. S T Kimbrough, Jr. led a seminar on "Worship, Evangelism, and Wesleyan Hymnody" on Nov. 29 and 30, 2007 at the Russia United Methodist Seminary in Moscow, Russia, which concluded with a Charles Wesley Hymn Festival celebrating the 300th anniversary of the hymn writer's birth (Dec. 18, 1707). The festival highlighted fourteen hymns of Charles Wesley in Russian translation. The seminar addressed the history of worship in the Methodist tradition and the evangelizing and missional emphases of the Wesleys in and through worship. Central to the discussions were the roles of music and hymn singing in the birth and development of the Wesleyan revival.

The seminar was sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

We celebrate and give thanks to God for all the partnerships bringing brothers and sisters together through the Russia Initiative for the sake of ministries empowered by His spirit. Thank you so much for your prayers and your sharing in the ministries.

Jim Athearn

Dr. W. James Athearn
Coordinator, Russia Initiative
116 Frasher Drive, Clear Brook, VA 22624
Tel: 540-662-2066 Fax: 540-662-6998