Timeline

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1990

  • July 6 – 13 – a group of American young Methodists travels to Russia. Dwight Ramsey, then Pastor of Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Shreveport, LA, and his family, Gaye, Kim, Jenny, and David, are part of the group. The group’s travels involve visiting the industrial capital of the Urals, Ekaterinburg, closed to foreigners until that very year. There, Lydia Istomina meets the Pastor for the first time, and the two families make a connection that sets forth all the events represented herein.
  • Summer – Vladislav Spektorov starts his activity in Samara after he established relationships with the Russian speaking congregation of UMC in Tallin, Estonia, where he became a Christian. He begins to distribute literature and organize house meetings in Samara, which results in formation of a UMC there.
  • September – from the initial handful of interested supporters of the idea to start a Methodist church in Russia, the number grows to 602.
  • October – official registration of the religious group, later the church now known as the First United Methodist Church in Ekaterinburg (FUMC).
  • November –a piece of land is granted by the city government for the building of the future church site.
  • December – the Rev. Cho Young Cheul is assigned to Moscow as a missionary by the New York Annual Conference; Bishop C. Dale White is assigned to serve as a pastor in Moscow to the congregation registered as the “Moscow-Soviet-American Korean Society of the Methodist Church.”

1991

  • January Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn and Dr. Randloph Nugent (General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, or GBGM) travel to Moscow and meet with leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, Soviet Peace Foundation.
  • February – Dwight Ramsey comes back with David Stone and others to visit the Fond Mira and the FUMC in Ekaterinburg. First worship takes place in the building of the Ural’s Medical Institute on Lenina Prospect, thanks to Raisa Istomina.
  • June – Pavel Istomin and Lydia Istomina fly out to Shreveport, LA for the Louisiana Annual Conference.
  • September – an American group comes to Ekaterinburg, Dwight Ramsey, Bishop Vaxby, and Bishop Oden are among them. Lydia Istomina is commissioned and consecrated as a local pastor, 196 people are baptized during that visit in the building of Sverdlovsk State Philharmonic Theater. Dedication of the land ceremony takes place, with Bishop William Oden and Bishop Hans Vaxbi participating. Soup Kitchen is founded. Prison Ministry begins.
  • December – Lydia Istomina goes to Moscow to meet Naina Eltsin. With Naina’s authorization, a military plane, AN-124, Ruslan, is authorized for transport of humanitarian aid being prepared by Methodists in America for the young Methodist congregation in Russia.

1992

  • January – a group from Broadmoor United Methodist Church comes to Moscow – Dwight Ramsey, Jim Wood, Paul Merkle, Dr. Larry Hiller are among them. They meet with Naina Eltsin; she officially confirms the humanitarian aid airlift for April of that year prepared in partnership with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Bishop Minor becomes Bishop’s Coordinator after being given the assignment by the Council of Bishops in their fall meeting of 1991. Moscow church “Singing Christians” is started with assistance of Lydia Istomina. St. Petersburg Church is registered with assistance of Roman Tzelner and Lydia Istomina
  • April 19 – Easter Broadcast from Moscow. First-ever transatlantic Telebridge Broadcast.
  • April 22 – Humanitarian airlift from American Methodists to Russian Methodists. First-ever landing of a Russian military aircraft, AN-124, to an American Air Force Base (Barskdale AFB).
  • May – UMCOR sends four sea containers with food and a van to the First UMC in Ekaterinburg to help with the social programs.
  • Summer – several churches spring up after American Methodists visit these places in the CIS: Kerch (on the Crimea peninsula) and Ulyanovsk (on the Volga River). Delegations from the GBGM and UMCOR evaluate ongoing work and discuss possibilities of future work. The UMC office is opened in Moscow by the GBGM as the main representation in the country. GBGM temporarily establishes a special desk within its Annual Conferences, as well as other Boards and Agencies, to link them with the Church in Russia. Dr. Bruce Weaver starts helping UMCOR, and it gave life to the Russian Initiative later.
  • June-July – A group of largest churches in the US, in consultation with the GBGM, forms a Consortium, and Dr. Dwight Ramsey is appointed by Bishop William Oden to the Mission in the CIS as a Director of the Russian Church Development. His task is mainly in church development and partnership building (see Bishop Minor’s report to the Council of Bishops, November 1992, p. 6). Lydia Istomina travels to the United States for speaking arrangements. Her children, Julia and Paul, accompany her. Their travels take them to several churches in Texas and Louisiana. The late Rev. Clinton Rabb comes to preach at the Ekaterinburg church in Lydia’s absence. At the General Conference in Louisville, KY, the Russian Initiative was officially established.
  • August – official “inauguration” in Moscow of the Episcopal area for the CIS.  this is where not only Ekaterinburg (over 1000 members), Moscow, Samara, Moscow Korean (500 members), Sevastopol, St. Petersburg methodists gathered, but also other Methodist groups – Pushkin (church of Andrei Pupko) – from Bishop Minor’s report to the United Methodist Council of Bishops at their fall meeting (p. 2)
  • September – Methodist School (Elementary-level classes) opened on Hochriakova street.  The first Methodist newspaper “The Light of Methodism” (“Svetoch Metodisma” or «Светочь Методизма») founded by Ekaterinburg church. Irina Istomina is sent to St.-Petersburg
  • October – First public worship service in Sevastopol (started by Ivan Kozlov with assistance of Lydia Istomina and Dwight Ramsey). First Eurasian Leadership Seminar is hosted by Samara UMC. 40 delegates attended from different Russian churches from Tallin in the West to Ekaterinburg in the East; from Syktyvkar in the North to Sevastopol in the South. Lydia Istomina is elected to represent Russia and the CIS as a Director of the GBGM; Vladislav Spectorov is elected to represent Russia at the European Conference.

1993

  • January – UMCOR representatives and Lydia Istomina meet with Naina Eltsin and the Minister of Social Justice in Moscow.
  • March – Norway election. Bishop Minor is elected at the Northern European Conference in Bergen, Norway; representatives from Russia and the CIS Lydia Istomina and Andrei Kim speak up against this nomination. Bishop Vaxbi declines their request to become the Bishop in Russia. Dwight Ramsey is asked by the Nomination Committee to become the Bishop for Russia and the CIS, yet declines. After that, the Nomination Committee goes on with the only nominee, and Bishop Minor becomes the Bishop of Eurasia United Methodist Church.
  • April – Lydia Istomina is a panel speaker at the Global Gathering in Indianapolis.
  • July – 3rd Anniversary of the church. Dr. Ken Lutgen comes for the first time.
  • December – Lydia Istomina organizes another meeting with Naina Eltsina and the Minister of Justice. Ella Pamfilova is invited to speak at the GBGM Board meeting in April 1994. Various programs are discussed: vaccination program, pure water project. Dr. Kenneth Lutgen visits several orphanages in the Moscow area.  Dr. Randolph Nugent and Kenneth Lutgen meet with the Patriarch Aleksii II in this home at Peredlkino.

1994

  • Februarythe FUMC in Ekaterinburg splits and the church Return UMC (Vozvraschenie) starts with its base out of prison. Elena Stepanova, former member of the FUMC, becomes a pastor. Bishop Minor supports the new group.
  • April – Dr. Kenneth Lutgen, Dwitgh Ramsey, and Lydia Istomina meet with Naina Eltsin and Ella Pamfilova. Ella Pamfilova is invited to speak at the GBGM spring meeting.
  • July-August – Lydia Istomina is brought to Saint Paul School of Theology to be trained, as some indicate toward becoming a Russian Bishop one day.
  • October – first United Methodist Women’s conference organized by the GBGM Women’s Division. As part of her battle for financing all pastors in Russia, Lydia Istomina refuses to take her salary for six months until all pastors are paid. The consequences of her position were severe: Bishop Minor accuses Lydia Istomina in having four bank accounts in Switzerland and practicing “feminine style of work.” A committee, consisting of General Secretary Randolf Nugent, Bishop Hern, Deputy General Secretary Kenneth Lutgen, and other bishops, is created to investigate. The committee gathers in New York to question Lydia in regard to the accusations. After investigation, the case is dismissed.
  • December – Lydia Istomina organizes another series of negotiations with Naina Eltsina. The First Lady is upset that the United Methodist Church chose to send humanitarian aid not through the UM church in Russia but through the organization that didn’t support the President of Russia, the Peace Foundation (Фонд Мира). Randolph Nugent tells Lydia that GBGM prepares her to become a Methodist Russian bishop some day.

1995

  • April –Lydia Istomina hands a written complaint against Bishop Minor to Randy Nugent. In response, she is told that if she sues Minor, she then sues him and the church organization, because he is in charge of it all.
  • June – Randy Nugent flies to NY to meet Lydia, offers her a job in America. She signs paperwork that effectively stops her status as a pastor of Ekaterinburg church. After she signs it, Randolf sends her a letter stating that her position as a director of the GBGM is discontinued.