The protests and demonstrations surrounding Ukraine’s election in December has activated the nation’s evangelical churches, reportsCharisma magazine (February).
When the pro-Moscow candidate Viktor Yanukovych was declared the winner, crowds took to the streets protesting that the election was rigged, resulting in a new vote bringing in pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko. Christians ranging from Ukrainian Orthodox to evangelical and charismatic were firmly in Yuschchenko’s camp, leading and organizing prayer vigils for the cause, reports J. Lee Grady. The “non-political“ evangelical churches were “swept by an urge to pray for change,” and even to directly engage in politics. One charismatic woman pastor has created a Christian political party.
Behind much of the evangelical change is the 25,000-member Embassy of God Church in Kiev. The church, said to be the largest evangelical congregation in Europe, is led by Sunday Adelaja, a Nigerian. The second largest church in Kiev is led by Henry Madava, a Pentecostal from Zimbabwe. Both churches and other evangelicals had faced pressure from Yanukovych supporters and other officials who claim they exhibit cultic tendencies. Grady adds that evangelicals have grown from 250,000 to 3 million today.
The Christian Century (March 8) reports that the divisions between the various Orthodox churches, mostly over leadership and jurisdictional differences, were clear during the elections. During the conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate was the only one firmly behind Yanukovych, with some priests campaigning from the pulpit. But even without religious unity, the pluralism in Ukraine–due to the absence of a state religion because of the schisms among the Eastern rite churches — may be a democratizing agent in itself, according to sociologist Jose Casanova of the New School for Social Research in New York.
Such pluralism is unique in much of Eastern and Western Europe and approximates the voluntary, denominational system of the U.S. In an interview with RW, Casanova added that this denominational system may also be creating a more open environment for Ukrainian evangelical growth and political involvement.
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