Russia United Methodist Seminary Prepares
Leaders for World's Largest Parish
Falls Church, Virginia, February 28, 2006—The Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary describes itself as “preparing servant leaders for the largest parish in the world,” and that is a big job for a small institution.
The Moscow-based seminary trains clergy for the denomination’s Eurasia Area, which incorporates 11 time zones from the Pacific Ocean on the east to the heart of Central Europe on the west. Because of the expanse, the area has five annual conferences.
A workshop on the Russia Seminary and its future was a popular choice at the 12th Russian Initiative Consultation, held here (Falls Church) February 13-25. The full consultation of 280 persons from the US and Russia also heard and saw a presentation on the school that opened in 1994 and dedicated its own building last September.
The seminary is able to do the nearly impossible because of several factors identified by staff and former students during the workshop.
One of the strengths is the close relationship between the church and the school in the single goal of training pastoral leadership. “There is no separation between the head and the heart,” said Dr. Doug Strong, a professor at Wesley Theology Seminary, Washington, DC, who has taught periodically at the Moscow seminary and also taken groups of Wesley students to Moscow.
Another asset is the strong interaction between students and teachers; a third is that the seminary prepares men and women for leadership in a culture where United Methodism clearly forms a minority religious community.
The Rev. Andrey Kim, dean of the school and also the superintendent of the St. Petersburg District of the Church, described the course of study and operational challenges of the seminary’s mandate.
A majority of the students—23 at this point—are enrolled in a correspondence course that brings them to Moscow for a two-week residential course twice a year. These students, most of whom serve student pastorates, file their assignments by mail on periodic bases. Five students are now enrolled in the full-time residential program.
The correspondence course is four years in length; the residential program three years. All students begin the process of ordination after seminary graduation.
Tuition for correspondence students, including transportation to the Moscow sessions, is $600 per semester, or $4,800 for the course, compared to $6,000 per year, or $18,000 for the residential program.
Most students and their congregations cannot pay even the lowest figure, but all pay at least $35.00 per term, a very high figure in many instances. The remainder of the funds for tuition, faculty salaries, and building upkeep must be raised, usually through contributions from the US and Western Europe.
An advisory committee, headed by Dr. Donald Messer of Iliff School of Theology, Denver, has assisted with fund-raising, along with the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and the annual conferences and congregations that make up the Russia Initiative.
Dr. Messer, who took part in the Russia Initiative Consultation, said that the Russia Seminary is now at a watershed moment for the school in its journey to train indigenous United Methodist leadership.
Faculty is shared among several small Protestant seminaries in Moscow and a number of US schools of theology assist the Russia Seminary by providing visiting professors. Wesley Seminary in Washington has made a long-term commitment as a partner with the Russia Seminary.
The Russia Initiative is a partnership of United Methodists committed to mission in the Russian Federation, including the Ukraine, Moldova, and Central Asia. It is sponsored by the General Board of Global Ministries, the international mission agency of The United Methodist Church.
Date posted: Feb 28, 2006