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Evangelical Churches in Russia in the Context of Global Transformations

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2010
Support for evangelical churches in Russia, including their
social initiatives and widespread missionary activity, not only has local,
regional implications, but also global, strategic significance.
The post-Soviet landscape is one of social, economic, and
political instability.  In the absence of
a civil society and a lawful government, evangelical churches can play the role
of independent social organizations which defend the freedom of the individual
(first of all freedom of conscience) from infringement by neo-totalitarian
structures.
The Russian Orthodox Church regards the CIS as its canonical
territory and is intensifying its influence over social processes.  Evangelical congregations alone present the
only real alternative to the official church. 
The peaceful co-existence of the Russian Orthodox Church and evangelical
churches in Russia, the expansion of interfaith dialogue, and equal treatment
of all faiths by the government are the main indicators of civil and religious
freedom. 
Evangelical churches, which combine both Eastern and Western
Christian traditions, could become the catalyst for a cross-cultural,
theological synthesis and contextualization of Reformation ideas in an Orthodox
culture.  The weakening or assimilation
of evangelical churches would present the Russian Orthodox Church with a
monopoly of religious power over society, and could strain interfaith
relationships on a global scale. 
The existence of evangelical churches within the Orthodox
canonical territory serves as a historic precedent for the development of a
Protestant-Orthodox dialogue. In contrast to the politicization of the Russian
Orthodox Church, it is the Protestant churches that present an evangelical,
accessible form of Christianity. Any international assistance in the form of
humanitarian, educational, or missionary projects in the CIS can only be
effective with the participation of evangelical churches, which remain
independent subjects of public life.
The secularization of churches in Europe and America is
evoking rejection from post-Soviet evangelical believers who are looking for a
true middle ground between traditional religion and Western modernism.  The cultivation of a new identity for
evangelical churches in the CIS could serve as a positive example for the
global evangelical community.

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Because evangelical churches in the CIS still retain the
features of a marginalized sub-culture, partnerships with international
organizations and missions help them to recognize their role in society and to
discover new approaches for social ministry. 
The evangelical church in the CIS is experiencing a systemic crisis,
turning toward post-Soviet society and reconsidering the stereotype of its own
extremely conservative culture. 
International partnerships can assist with the formation of a new
generation of competent and authoritative ministry leaders as well as an “open”
church model which does not retreat into the past, but which embraces the experiences
of other churches and cultures.  By
focusing on a spiritual quest to meet the challenges of modern society, the
evangelical church in Russia can become both relevant and effective.

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