Eastern Europe's Evangelical Hub

A scholar discusses the development of evangelicalism in Ukraine.

Catherine Wanner, associate professor of history and religious studies at Penn State, first went to Ukraine in 1990 to research the nation-building process, and ended up seeing that Ukrainians' attention was turning not so much to politics as to spirituality. "There is no denying the simultaneity of the resurgence of religion and the demise of socialism," she writes in her newest book on Ukraine, Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism. Since the early 1990s, Ukraine has become not just the "Bible Belt" of the region, but a hub of evangelical church life (such as Sunday Adelaja's Pentecostal megachurch), education, and missions.

How did evangelicalism become such a big deal in Ukraine?

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and a discrediting of an atheist policy and a realization that the secularization of Soviet society was perhaps a mistake, there was renewed interest in a variety of religious traditions.

Evangelicalism in particular garnered a lot of interest after the collapse of Communism, first because it was so anti-Soviet — in the former Soviet Union as well as elsewhere, such as in the United States — and secondly, because huge numbers of American and other Western missionaries came to the former Soviet Union. That assisted in the development of not just awareness of evangelicalism, but even of evangelical infrastructure like seminaries and printing of all kinds of religious literature.

The third reason I would say was the charitable outreach of both evangelical missionaries as well as of evangelical communities, and that charitable outreach was very much appreciated and urgently needed, given that after the collapse of Communism, the social service sector pretty much suffered a ...

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