So, what is behind these words – “United Methodist”?..
Let us go to the England of 18 century, to the Oxford University, where two brothers John and Charles Wesley had studied.
Being born in the family of the priest,
they received the classical humanitarian education in the childhood, they knew well the Holy Scripture and Christian belief. The Anglican Church, state Church of England, after breaking up with Rome and followed by that two hundred years of religious struggle was experiencing the heavy fall of morality.
In this hard period young theologian John Wesley tried to find assurance in Salvation, peace with himself and with God, doing good deeds and strictly following the commandments of the Holy Scripture. However harsh discipline, self-denying work and hours, spent in prayer and reading the Scripture did not bring to his heart peace and assurance. Being throughout a few years in the heavy spiritual crisis, John Wesley met Moravian Brothers, who were talking about central place of Christ in salving faith. This is how the root change in understanding of justification by John Wesley happened. His personal experience that let him to experience assurance in salvation is related with the event on Aldersgate street on May 24, 1738 and feeling “unusual heart warmth”. This is how he himself describes this event in his diary:
“In the evening I went , very unwillingly, to the society on Aldersgate street; they were reading preface of Luther to the edition of Letter to Romans. About quarter to nine, when it was talking about the change, that God is making in the heart of man through faith in Christ, I felt in my heart unusual warmth. I felt that I entrust my salvation to Christ, to Christ only; and I was given the assurance that He redeemed mine, even mine sins and saved me from the power of sin and death”.
This experience made a deep impact for the whole future life of John Wesley. In one of his sermons he said: “The Spirit Himself witnessed to my spirit, that I am – the child of God!..” Assurance in salvation, as after that experience John Wesley understood – is assurance in salvation, based on justification only by faith, faith not common and vague, but personal, aspired to Christ. But together with that, until the end of his life John Wesley would speak about huge responsibility of man in the work oа his salvation – his dedication, his diligence, his spiritual discipline.
Together with his brother Charles and comrades in University John Wesley organized the group of adherents of pious life, that made it’s goal to live according the Gospel – in fasting, prayer and good deeds. They gathered together for common prayer, confession, Bible study and receiving Holy Communion; visited sick, poor, imprisoned and gave from their income as much as possible , providing the charity help. For this strict way of life other students were teasing them: “Enthusiasts”, “Holy club”, “Methodists”. The last one “stacked” on them. The word “Methodists” when time passed by became the name of the movement, established by brothers Wesley for spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church, revival of England. Unfortunately it didn’t find a great support among the clergy of Anglican Church in that time, and then John Wesley became a traveling preacher, acclaimed: “Whole world - is my parish!”
Methodism in England started to become strong.
Approximately at the same time it started to spread in America, there with Good News about Jesus Christ went another Anglican priest – George Witfield. There were not enough priests and John Wesley insisted that the Anglican Church would sent A Bishop to America in order to do the ordination. But even that did not solve the problem, and then he, believing that the san of presbyter gives him such right, started to ordain people for ministry in the Church. And (as well as in England) to help preachers “with education” came lay people.
After death of John and Charles Wesley, who stayed as Anglican priests, crisis between the Anglican Church and new movement inside of that became even more obvious and followers of Wesley established the Methodist Church. First Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America were Francis Asbury and Thomas Cook.
Differentiations in opinions on questions of distributing church leadership between clergy and lay, problem of slavery, working out one liturgy lead to creation of several churches: Methodist Protestant, Wesleyan Methodist, Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist, Christian Methodist, Evangelical churches and the Church of United Brethren. XX century brought peace and unity. From 1904 started the process of unification of the Church. In 1939 several branches created the Methodist Church. In 1946 the Church of United Brethren and Evangelical Church created Evangelical Church of United Brethren. And in 1968 the Methodist Church and Evangelical Church of United Brethren created United Methodist Church.
Methodism as the movement of spiritual revival came out of borders of England and America and now , all around the world there are about 60 millions of those, who carry the name Methodists and reviling God’s love, call people to go the way of holiness.
So, the Methodist Church, being born in England in 18 century, first came to Russia in 19 century – first from Scandinavian countries, then from United States of America and countries of Europe. Now in its membership there are people from more than 17 nationalities, living in Russia and former Soviet republics. As in the beginning, today the Church was and is “home for everybody” – home, there everyone can find God and through that find himself.
So who are they – United Methodist?..
In this name there is a special meaning. Methodists are those, who neatly and in an organized way, step by step help the needy, witness about God’s love not by words, but by deeds. We, United Methodists, - those, who wants unity and cooperation, not division and strife; who want to work together with all people, willing to bring the Gospel into this world.
John Wesley wrote: “Keep the unity and do not allow divisions to come in. Is your heart sincere to me, as mine to you? If so, give me your hand. I will not ask you any more questions. Because of beliefs and logomachy we don’t have a right to destroy God’s work. Do you serve Him with all your heart? If so, it is enough. I extend to you my hand for unity. If you have an admonition in Christ, consolation in love, fellowship of Holy Spirit, manifestation of heart love and compassion, then we want to struggle for the Gospel with you in unity and humbleness, in humility and patience, walking on the way of life worthy of our calling… We want always remember that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, Father of all, Who is above all.”
Brothers Wesley desired spiritual renewal of England.
This is what is behind these , unusual at the first glance, words – United Methodist Church.
The history of UMC Eurasia
You can learn more in details about Russia United Methodist Church through visiting our congregations, and also through the book “Russia United Methodist Church”.
Below there are some passages from the book “Russia United Methodist Church”.
Russia United Methodist Church…
Familiar to so many words are in such an unusual combination.
The end of XIX century…
In our restless time, when all unfamiliar frighten away, let us take a look at this name in order to see beginnings of the Methodism in Russia…
Uneasy for our country time, contradictive and perturbed, full of hopes and expectations. And then to small Swedish congregation of Saint-Petersburg from Sweden came pastor Carl Lindborg. It was in 1882, and in 1889 in Saint-Petersburg first Russian Methodist congregation was established. People who served there were mostly from Sweden and Finland. It was still far to the day when the Methodist Church was officially recognized…
The April of 1905 had brought changes in the life of protestants, including Methodists. “The manifest about toleration” was published in Russia. This document allowed Methodists to work more freely.
In 1906 pastor Hialmar F. Salmi, who was born in Saint-Petersburg, received official appointment to the ministry. He had a theological education, spoke Russian very well, could speak Finish and Swedish languages. All these served as а new impulse of the development of the Methodism in Saint-Petersburg and in the region. In March of 1907 he received official permission from the state for public work of the Methodist Сhurch.
In October of the same year the American missionary George A. Simons joined him. He became the pastor of Finish and Peterburg’s Mission of the Methodist Church. These two people had formed a new direction of the Methodism development in Russia. Under the guidance of George Simons the intensive publishing of periodical editions of thу Methodist Church: “Methodism in Russia” (in English) and magazine “Christian Defender” . Also some Methodist publishing editions: “Canonical catechizes”, “Doctrines and disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal church”, “Methodists: who they are and what they want”. Also the brochure of John Wesley “Character of Methodist” was published.
Saint-Petersburg’s magazine “Christian Defender” – is the first publishing organ of the Methodist Church. It was consisted of 10 sheets and from January 1909 it was published monthly in Russian language. Its yearly edition had reached 15 thousand copies. Notable that copies of this magazine still kept in annals of Russia national library of city Saint-Petersburg! Turning over the pages of this magazine we can learn about how worship services of first Methodists in Russia were held, in what they believed, how they saw their mission in the society; to feel hardships and joys of their daily service to people.
The life of first Russian Methodists was very full. On Sundays they held worship services in 6 (!) languages: Russian, German, English, Swedish, Finish and Estonian. They had Sunday school for children. Throughout whole week Bible studies for adults in different languages were held.
The year 1909 became significant for the history of Russian Methodism for one more reason – in this year the Methodist Episcopal Church in Russia was registered officially. It received the name “First Peterburg’s Methodist Episcopal Church”. The congregation united 132 people of 9 nationalities under the guidance of the pastor D.A. Simons. In the house # 37 tenth line of Vasilievskiy Iceland, in rented place, there were daily meetings that attracted city inhabitants.
By 1910 the Methodist congregation had about 500 constant members of different nationalities already.
Apparently such a quick spreading of Methodism was stimulated by priority spheres of their functioning:
- Social help
- Missionary work
First Methodist of Russia kept these three features that characterize Methodism of any country and their followers had carried it to the present days.
From the very beginning care about poor, sick and those who needed help was an important part of their ministry. So in September of 1908 in house # 44 in the third line of Vasilievskiy Iceland during the time of epidemic cholera the congregation of deacons “Bethany” with the head of their mentor Anna Aklund started to function. Archimandrite Augustine (Nikitin) of Saint-Petersburg witnessed that the opening of this congregation became a newsmaker in the life of Northern capital. Today one of the United Methodist Churches in Leningradskaia area has the name “Bethany”.
First Russian Methodists paid special attention to missionary work. The testimony of that is that being a very small congregation they gathered 175 rubles for missionary work in China and city Mariinsk.
To the fast growth of Methodist congregations contributed Bible studies where people independently studied Bible under the leadership of experienced ministers.
In January of 1911 in city Kovno (it was the name of city Kaunas until 1917) Methodist prayer house was opened and in July of 1912 the first meeting of Russia mission district was held. From that time the Russia mission became the independent branch of the Methodist Episcopal Church. On that moment in the northern part o of Russia were 13 preachers, 15 Methodist congregations, 9 Sunday schools (where studied more than 700 children), 2 chapels and two prayer houses that were in the process of building. First Russian preachers appeared – A.I. Ivanov and N.P. Smorodin.
In 1914 in Saint-Petersburg on Bolshoi prospect, house # 58 the building was bought. On that place on March 1, 1915 the Methodist church was consecrated. Here also was located the Methodist Central Bureau in Russia and editorial office of “Christian Defender”.
Methodism was spreading in other regions of Russia. In the fall of 1921 the building of the Methodist church in Vladivostok was consecrated. In the city Nikolsk-Ussuriisk by the church schools for boys and girls were opened.
The Methodist congregations in Latvia and Estonia started to function. In 1906 in Lithuania first church was officially registered.
So, from two different sides – form the West and from the East – the spreading of Methodism in Russia had started.
The revolution changed the destiny of our country dramatically.
On December 25, 1931 because of the started persecution from the side of new power the church that was located on Bolshoi prospect, house # 58, stopped to function.
Unfortunately there is no copies of “Christian Defender” after 1917, so the information about Methodism of that time are fragmentary. The Nikolsk church in the city of Ussuriisk was erased. But what is remarkable, today in the city of Ussuriisk there are few Methodist congregations and among them there is the church “Hikolskaia” – heiress of that first church.
In 1924 the publishing house of “Christian Defender” published the book “Ritual of the Methodist Episcopal Church” in city Viborg. Published in Russian language it was consisted of following sections: “Sacrament of baptism”, “Sacrament of the Holy Communion”, “Accepting to the congregation new members”, “Wedding”, “Funeral”, “Dedication and ordination”, “Laying and consecration of the church”, “Worship service”.
In 1935 the Estonian Methodist Church received the status of the independent church. For the period from 1943 till 1973, after Estonia formed the part of the USSR, the Methodist congregations had grown from 1242 people to 2300. In 1991 Union republics received independence, but Methodist churches in those countries continue their existence up to this day.
After the fall of Soviet regime, in the border of 80s -90s, in spite of all difficulties, development of the Methodist Church in Russia continued with new strength. This time it happened because of missionaries from United States of America, Germany, Korea and Liberia. It was Cristina Hena, Yong Chol Cho and Susanna Cho, William and Grace Wornok, Tom and Nancy Hoffman, Terence and Evelyn Erbely, Son Le Kim, Gerald and Natalie Tyson, Joon Sung Park and Helen Park, William and Helen Lavlais. The Estonian Methodist Church had a big impact on the second wave of the Methodism in Russia. The biggest centers of the revival of Methodism became Moscow, Samara and Yekaterinburg.
Pastor Yong Chol Cho established the Central United Methodist Church in Moscow that later gave birth to first Methodist Churches of Moscow – Mytischy, Vnukovo, Perovo. Ludmila Garbuzova started the ministry as a result of which the present church “Singing Christians” was formed. In Samara the establisher and first minister of United Methodist Church was Vladislav Spektrov – graduate of Estonian Methodist seminary. Duait Ramsy was the head of the ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Yekaterinburg, it was continued later by Lidia Istomina.
In 1992 Rev. Cho together with missionaries of other denominations organized the work of United Theological Seminary where studied first ministers of the modern Russian Methodism: Ludmila Garbuzova, Eia Lee, Lidia Pronina, Olga Pokrovskaia, Vera Schepak, Andrey Kim, Viacheslav Kim, Dmitriy Lee, Vladimir Makarov, Eduard Khegay. The missionary Christina Hena lead the medical program of Russia United Methodist Church.
In 1993 Russia United Methodist Church received state approval, confirmed in 1999 by Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation. The Church was given the status “Centralized religious organization”. The first Bishop of the Russia United Methodist Church was Rudiger R. Minor.
In 1995 the Theological Seminary of Russia United Methodist Church started its work. It was preparing pastors and ministers for the church. Graduates of the seminary, starting from 1997, receive appointments and carry pastoral ministry on whole territory of former Soviet Union.
In 1999 the distant study course of the seminary was opened. It was headed by the rector of the Seminary Andrey Kim.
In the Russia United Methodist Church again started publishing of the periodical press and restarted publishing Methodist books in Russian language.
The work is held on the territory from Western part of former Soviet Union (Kaliningrad) to the Pacific ocean (Vladivostok), from the North (Archangelsk) to the South (Kazakhstan), in Ukraine and Moldova. After 15 years of work in the structure of Russia United Methodist Church 12 districts were created: Volga, Moscow Southern, Moscow Northern, Saint- Petersburg, Western, Novgorod, Ural, Siberian- Far East, Central Asia, Northern- Caucuses, Central Black Soil, Ukraine and Moldova.
In the structure of RUMC there are more than 100 churches and Bible groups, the number of which is constantly growing. 70 appointed pastors , 30 of those – ordained presbyters, carry the ministry in the churches. In accordance with the principles of United Methodist Church the Annual Conference of Russia United Methodist Church was organized.
Today, after 100 years, for us, Methodists, there are still important the three principles of ministry: mission work, education and social help to the needy – poor, sick, lonely. United Methodist work in hospitals, jails, orphanages, with people who drug or alcohol dependant, carry charity ministry, proclaim Good News of God’s love to people. Wу believe, that such things as these will bring spiritual revival of Russia.
Principles of the United Methodist Church are stated in the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.