The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans (Пятидесятнические истоки Славян-Американцев), by Anton Goroshko. [English and Russian language versions both in one volume] Renton, WA: National Slavic District Council, 2009.
What is the future of Christianity? Demographers predict that it will look more Pentecostal and less Western. While Western Europe and North America long viewed themselves as the center of the Christian world, cultural and religious decline among people of Western European origin, combined with the robust growth of Christianity (and in particular Pentecostalism) among non-Westerners, portend a significant shift in the religious landscape.
American observers do not have to travel overseas to witness these changes. Most U.S. cities are now home to large immigrant communities, and these immigrants have added their own languages, churches, and values to America’s cultural mix.
Slavic immigrants from the former Soviet Union are among those who have been growing in visibility and influence in the United States. Since the 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev began to allow Pentecostals – who long suffered persecution in the Soviet Union – to leave, many put down roots in America. For the most part, these Slavic Pentecostals initially kept to themselves and did not integrate into the broader American society. They grappled with their newfound freedoms and cultural challenges, reasserting their cultural boundary markers as a means to retain their religious and familial values. Many of these immigrants are now well-established in their communities, and their children who were born and raised in America often feel just as home in America as they do in their ancestral communities.
An estimated 300,000 Slavic Pentecostals now live in the U.S., mostly in congregations that are either independent or loosely affiliated with one of several Slavic Pentecostal unions. Increasing numbers of Slavic Pentecostal leaders are recognizing the value of being in fellowship with non-Slavic Pentecostals in America. In 2002, several Slavic Pentecostal churches in California joined the Assemblies of God and formed the Slavic Fellowship, which provided both a structure for Slavs to organize themselves within the Assemblies of God and also representation on the Fellowship’s General Presbytery. In September 2008, the leaders of the Slavic Fellowship, in addition to other Slavic Pentecostals interested in affiliating with the Assemblies of God, came together in Renton, Washington, and organized the National Slavic District. This new district gives greater strength and visibility to Slavic Pentecostals, both within the Assemblies of God and within the broader society.
Slavic Pentecostals have an important story to tell. American evangelicalism is at a crossroads – its close identification with declining American cultural and political themes has led some to question evangelicalism’s identity and future. However, the character of Slavic Pentecostalism has developed along a quite different trajectory. This story has been largely inaccessible to English-speakers. To help remedy this, Anton Goroshko, a Slavic Pentecostal minister and historian who emigrated from the Ukraine to America in 1990, has written a small book, The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans, published by the National Slavic District, in conjunction with the Intercultural Ministries Department of Assemblies of God US Missions and the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
The Pentecostal Heritage of Slavic-Americans includes Goroshko’s account in Russian and translated into English, written “at the request of the many Slavic Pentecostals in North America who have expressed a desire to learn about the origins of the faith and ministry of their forefathers” (p. 5). Goroshko begins by placing Pentecostalism within the context of Christian history in the Ukraine. He proceeds to tell the stories of two heroes of the faith – Gustav Herbert Schmidt and Ivan Efimovich Voronaeff. Both men were born in Slavic lands, immigrated to America about 100 years ago, and returned to Europe as Assemblies of God missionaries. Schmidt helped to organize the Russian and Eastern European Mission and Continue reading