Ukrainian Methodists under siege

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Last year I was privileged to hear Bishop Eduard Khegay at the Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. He spoke passionately about his vision to plant churches and evangelize new populations with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Khegay’s duties cover both Russia and the Ukraine. A year ago, who could have imagined the situation he now finds himself in?

Two congregations were successfully planted in the Ukraine but today they are struggling in the face of a brutal Russian invasion. Russian Methodists are now taking offerings for the relief of their sister congregations in the Ukraine. The bonds of faith run deeper than the horrors of war. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has also been active in providing relief funds for Ukrainian Methodists. Khegay has publicly thanked Methodists around the world for their prayers and support.

Bishop Khegay is no stranger to suffering. He lived in Moscow during the break up of the Soviet Union. He remembers severe food shortages, long lines everywhere and dangerous streets. As a militant atheist his suffering led him to question the meaning of life. He wandered into a church looking for answers but was promptly escorted out because he was ethnically Korean and not of the predominant Slavic heritage. Not a very good start for Christian mission!

Miraculously, Khegay did not give up. He went into another church–Moscow United Methodist and found welcome among Africans, Russians, Koreans, Kazakhstanis, Indians and other groups. It was here that he committed himself to Jesus Christ and to a vision of Christian mission to all nations.

While grateful for U.S. missionaries who first shared Christ with him, Khegay has become deeply concerned over the moral decay and leadership failures in the United Methodist Church as it currently exists in America. Khegay has recently declared his intention to enter into the soon to launch Global Methodist Church. He writes:

What I observe in the countries with Western democracies is that worldly influence has gradually taken over some churches. Being moral and preaching holiness is not trendy anymore. Instead, individualistic desires to use marijuana freely, legalize weapons, redefine God-given understanding of family, and accumulate more wealth than one can use during a lifetime become modern idols. Many people living in other countries see this as the worldly attack on churches and Christian faith.

His strong criticism provides an important insight into how the rest of the world is coming to view Christianity in North America–not as a friend of the faith but it’s destroyer.