Monday, November 10, 2014

The Orthodox Church in Russia

In 1917 (year of the Russian revolution) the Orthodox Church had 50,000 parishes, a thousand monasteries and 60 theological schools.  By 1941, (World War II) Russia had 150 – 200 parishes, no monasteries or seminaries.  The Soviet Union collapsed about 25 years ago, and now in 2014 the Orthodox Church in Russia has 30,000 parishes, 800 monasteries, and over 100 seminaries and theological schools.  Christmas and Easter are again federal holidays and churches are overflowing on those days. Churches that had been turned into state or secular buildings like clubs, movie theaters or museums, have been returned to their former glory.   In just two decades since the fall of Communism, the church has become Russia’s largest and most important non-government organization.  Despite very poor regular participation (about 4%), about 80% of Russians claim the baptism of the Orthodox faith.  Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow, is leading the “in-churching” movement of Russian society, taking the good news of Jesus (and the Orthodox faith) to all segments of Russian society—bikers, drug addicts, and political candidates.  He believes the church can re-Christianize a secular society built by the Communists.  Popular testimonies are “how I went from being a good Communist to being a good Christian” and a book about the faithful with scars and warts called “Everyday Saints” is a best seller.

From In-churching Russia by John P. Burgess, May 2014 First Things

Since the church in Russia supports Putin, some think the regrowth of the church is a pact with the devil.  If it is, what can we say about the church in the U.S.  In many ways, the U.S. is becoming more secular, but the churches still chase the government for grants to support their  “good works,” and concede on gender issues in the name of “social justice.”

The church photo is from our trip to Russia in 2006.  This is the interior of The Church of the Spilled Blood which was closed by Stalin to store opera sets, and in 1970 it became a museum. These are not paintings, but mosaics.

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