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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.

October 2011

To friends and participants of the Russia Initiative, a mission program of the General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church:

Dear Friends,

With this newsletter I am announcing my retirement as Coordinator of the Russia Initiative effective December 31, 2011. The new Partnership Coordinator for the Russia Initiative will be named in a news release from Global Ministries in the next few days.

It has been a joy and an honor to serve the church in this role over the last seven years. I am so grateful for the many U.S. churches that have participated in partnership with the United Methodist churches in Eurasia. Some of you have maintained these partnerships since the early 1990's and have demonstrated the value of long-term mission relationships. Remember our experiences with all the mission teams, exchange visits, consultations, the modeling of faith and Wesleyan wholistic ministries, Bible classes, theological education and leadership development. Consider how all of this has empowered our brothers and sisters in Eurasia to take their emerging church to the next level with their own practical vision and their own roadmap to the future. It has been a unique opportunity to help encourage and facilitate these partnerships and to share in this remarkable journey with all of you.

I must say that it has also been a special privilege to work as a team with Hans Växby, Bishop of the Eurasia Area, and Vladimir Shaporenko, Executive Secretary at the General Board of Global Ministries. We have been a special trio. My wife, Mary Ashton, has been an invaluable support to me in more ways than I can count. I want to thank the pastors and laity of the five annual conferences and the churches in Eurasia for welcoming me into your lives and your rich fellowship. I will keep you in my prayers with earnest hopes for your continuing journey in faith and ministry. You are an inspiration and a joy in my life.

Now, our view of the transition is that beginning in January 2012 the new Partnership Coordinator will work with Bishop Växby for a year, and then carry forward with the new bishop of Eurasia to be elected at the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference toward the end of next year. Programmatically, the Russia Initiative will shift into the Mission Initiatives area within the Global Ministries structure, under the supervision of Patrick Friday, Director of In Mission Together.

I want to thank the General Board of Global Ministries that has given me this special opportunity of service. And thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me in this venture. There is yet some work to do until the end of December when I will commend to the new coordinator all the wonderful Russia Initiative people and the unfinished work of the mission.

Grace and peace,


Reminders of October Events:

Central Asia Consultation – East Coast in Washington DC, October 7-8, 2011
Wesley Theological Seminary
4500 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20016
Friday-Saturday, October 7-8, 2011
The consultation will be led by Bishop Hans Växby, Eduard Khegay, and others involved in Central Asia ministries.
Time: The Consultation will begin on Friday 12:00 noon with lunch and adjourn on Saturday at 11:00 am.
Registration fee: $30 (for the meals at the Seminary on Friday lunch and dinner and Saturday breakfast).
Hotel: Holiday Inn Rosslyn Key Bridge, 1900 Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, VA 22209. Cost per room is $124. Call the hotel directly for room reservation under the CAM room block: 703-807-2000 ext. 222.
Register Now: Contact Rev. Patrick Friday. Email: pfriday@gbgm-umc.org. Phone: 212-870-3860

Mid-Atlantic Russia Initiative Mini-Consultation in Maryland, October 15.
Bethany United Methodist Church
2875 Bethany Lane
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Phone: 410-465-2919
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Bishop Hans Växby and other Eurasia pastors will lead the consultation.
Time: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
The meeting will include lunch at $10.
RSVP for meal reservation to Olivia Gross at ogross@bwcumc.org.

Grace and peace,
Dr. W. James Athearn
Coordinator, Russia Initiative
The United Methodist Church
116 Frasher Drive, Clear Brook, VA 22624
Tel: 540-662-2066  Fax:  540-662-2093