The Orthodox Challenge to Methodism in Russia

Sergei V. Nikolaev

in The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199696116
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 The Orthodox Challenge to Methodism in Russia

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Even prior to the 1905 Imperial Law on Freedom of Conscience, there were Methodist Christians in Russia. From 1889 to the end of the 1930s, and from the early 1990s until the present, the Methodist Church in Russia has existed side by side with the Russian Orthodox Church. This more than fifty-year history of Methodism in Russia is presently leading to the emergence of a particular Methodist identity – Russian Methodism, a form that raises questions in the fields of ecumenism, ecclesiology, and theology, and about other aspects of Christian ecclesial life in Russia that also have bearing on the Christian community around the world. This article argues that applying a three-sided conceptualization of Methodist–Orthodox relations in Russia – the Russian Orthodox Church, American Methodism, and Russian Methodism – provides a more effective methodology for understanding the phenomenon of Russian Methodism than the simplistic, currently dominant two-sided concept of American Methodism and Russian Orthodoxy. It attempts to go beyond politically based accusations of proselytism and engages the ecumenically oriented thought of the period between the two world wars of such Russian Orthodox theologians in exile as Sergii Bulgakov and Georges Florovsky. Before exploring questions of the possible theological and ecclesiological engagement of the Russian United Methodist with the Russian Orthodox Church, the article highlights some contextual realities that characterise the Russian Orthodox conversation regarding Russian Methodism.

Keywords: Russian Methodism; Methodist–Orthodox relations; Russian Orthodox Church; American Methodism

Article.  8325 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity

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