Ten years ago, Victor Fomin was a proud atheist. His plans to become a leader in the Communist party were dashed when the Soviet Union collapsed. But in ways he still doesn’t fully understand, Christ entered his life, and at the 2012 annual conference Fomin was ordained an Elder in The United Methodist Church.
When Russians became able to practice their religious freedom in 1991, Fomin visited the Russian Orthodox Church and found it to be “too much like a museum.” He crossed the street, he said, to avoid visiting Protestant evangelists who tried to share the Good News.
“The world I knew collapsed,” he said. In the Soviet Union, there was no unemployment. Then millions of people had no job. Alcoholism became a problem in many families and moral systems that were based on Soviet values seemed to be in jeopardy.
“My whole world view was ruined,” said Fomin. “I fell into depression. Inside of me, I despaired. But God came to help me — God and members of a United Methodist church,” which he began attending just to refute their arguments for faith.”
His spiritual journey began and in 2000, he was baptized and eventually found himself at Moscow Theological Seminary of The United Methodist Church.
He shared his story, a history of Christianity in Russia and information about the seminary with the group from the Baltimore-Washington and Virginia Conferences.
Moscow Seminary also had its start in 1991, following 73 years of Communism. The facility, built and funded primarily by United Methodists in the United States, educates leaders to lead Russia’s 120 United Methodist churches.
With an annual operating budget of $400,000, the seminary has trained more than 90 of Russia’s pastors.
Currently they’re are piloting a “modular system of education,” which draws 28 students and their professors together for one intensive week of class work a couple times a year. If it is successful, this system is expected to be a model for United Methodist seminaries outside the United States, Fomin said.
“Russia makes up one-eighth of the globe. But there is a great distance between United Methodist churches. The seminary binds churches together,” said Fomin. “It is the heart of Methodism in Russia.”