|Russian Conference Focus on Church Development|
Moscow, July 7, 2009--United Methodists across Eurasia are more interested in church development than in complaining about the economic shortages, according to Bishop Hans Växby, as he completes the round of 2009 annual conferences.
"I had expected the economic crisis to be the main topic at the annual conferences this year," he said in a report on the five conference meetings that stretch across the whole of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. "But in spite of the daily struggle for utility bills and the monthly budgets, the United Methodists in Eurasia are more interested the future development of the church."
The bishop, who is based in Moscow, said that Eurasia United Methodists are working on a local church culture of intentionality and accountability. "There are clearly identified expectations of growing in the areas of worship attendance, financial self-sufficiency, lay leadership development, Christian service to neighbors, and meeting annual ministry goals."
Congregations, he explained, are using a "road-mapping process" that asks, "Where do we want to be as a church in 2015?" and "How do we get there?" There are 116 congregations, each with an indigenous pastor, in the five conferences.
Each conference--one annual and four provisional annual conferences--engaged in a "dreaming session." Notes from the session will be compiled and presented when representatives of each conference meet in August.
"We know the mission of the church and the general direction we are going," said Bishop Växby. "We have learned from the experience in the local churches how important it is to formulate goals, and take concrete steps towards them. Now is the time for us as a whole United Methodist Church in Eurasia to be specific and clear about what we want to obtain in the next few years. We cannot afford to just hope that things will change for the better. We have to come to a common understanding of what we need to do, and make the commitment it takes to change our many 'we shoulds' into 'we will.'"
The development of indigenous leadership is a priority for the young church in Eurasia. In Northwest Russia, five new elders were ordained, a large number for a small conference. There was ordination and/or commissioning in all five conferences, the bishop reported.
An historic moment was celebrated in the East Russia and Central Asia Conferences, where the first three indigenous probationary members for Central Asia were commissioned.
In Ukraine, the missionary the Rev. William G. Lovelace completed 13 years of service as district superintendent, and was followed by the Rev. Sergei Bogomozyuk.
Each annual conference had an opportunity to reconnect with its pre-Russian-revolution history, as they celebrated the first Methodist congregation in Russia, organized in 1889, which the denomination officially recognized in 1909.
One of the main celebrations was held in St. Petersburg in connection with the Northwest Russia Conference. For a report on this event, click Centennial of Methodism in Russia Observed.
For more information, go to the Russia Initiative page. Click here to give to an Advance project in Russia. Click here to read the Russia Initiative Newsletter. Click here to read Bishop Dyck's account of her visit to St. Petersburg: Russian UMs on the Road to Growth.
Date posted: Jul 07, 2009