Anti-war sentiment shares minority status among Russian evangelicals and Orthodox

There is a small yet growing anti-war movement among evangelicals in Russia that matches that of their counterparts in the Russian Orthodox Church [see the cover article in this issue], write April French and Mark Elliott on the website Religion Unplugged (March 29). Russian evangelicals have traditionally been careful and passive in resisting and protesting in Russia because of their lack of religious freedoms in the country. They have been loyal Putin supporters for the most part, and even up to the war a large segment of Russian evangelical churches rejected the appeals of their fellow believers in Ukraine to speak out about the invasion. Yet nine evangelical leaders recently issued a statement opposing the war and asking fellow evangelicals to endorse it. As of late March, there were 500 signatories, mostly Russian Baptists and some Pentecostals and other Protestants. French and Elliot conducted a study of the signers of the peace statements from the two denominations. Among the 281 signers of the Orthodox statement, they found eight abbots of monasteries, 21 monks, 214 priests, and 38 deacons (no bishops signed). Most of the signers were from Russia, though there were few from east of the Urals, and there was also a contingent from Belarus, most of the members of which had actually resisted the fraudulent election of Lukashenko.

The signers of the evangelical statement were both from western Russia and from points east, including Siberia, due to this area being the site of “sectarian” exiles under both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Interestingly, women were far more represented in the evangelical statement than the Orthodox one, with evangelical women representing 35.3 percent of all who signed. “Despite pronounced patriarchal tendencies in Slavic evangelical communities, women have been de facto leaders in their congregations.” French and Elliot conclude that the signers represent a small part of the Orthodox and evangelical worlds of Russia, far outnumbered by the protests organized by civic organizations in the country. In fact, the war has intensified deep tensions in the Christian churches of Russia. “On social media, one can easily find Christians in Russia insulting each other for holding opposite views about what is actually taking place in Ukraine, prompting evangelical leaders to call for cessation of such activity. One point is clear: The war that Putin has unleashed, which is the life and limb of millions of citizens of Ukraine, is also fracturing the Christian communities of Russia—not only economically, but relationally.”

(Religion Unplugged,

Source: Russian Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith