Does Eastern Orthodoxy have a "Protestant Problem"?

I’m curious if there is any substantial encroachment of Protestantism in Eastern Orthodoxy areas. Any info appreciated.

Protestants have started going into former Eastern bloc countries, trying to “evangelize” them. Some are quite gracious, actually directing the people they evangelize to the native Orthodox Church. Others are basically out to take converts for themselves. It occasionally just so happens that Protestant ministers who go into Orthodox countries with the intention to convert the Orthodox to Protestantism wind up converting to Orthodoxy themselves. I guess the situation is multifaceted.


I’ve known evengelical protestants who are working hard to convert Russians to their vision of christianity. A close friend of mine from college actually married a Russian during her ‘mission’ work and has emigrated there. I used to get regular updates from her (in spite of her puzzlement over my stubborn Romishness) and never heard of any of their team remotely considering Russian Orthodoxy. Fom her reports (hideously biased, I’m sure based on they way she perceives catholicism) from Novosibirsk, I got the impression that the local RO parishes were almost exclusively old folks going through ritual motions. Admittedly it’s been a few years since I heard from her, but that’s one snapshot of how evangelical protestants view EO. (Again, I’m sure a rather biased one)

The CIA World Factbook gives the following statistics for traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries*:

Belarus: other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)

Bulgaria: other Christian 1.2% (2001 census)

Cyprus: other (includes Maronite and Armenian Apostolic) 4%

Georgia: other 0.8% (2002 census)

Greece: other 0.7%

Macedonia: other Christian 0.37% (2002 census)

Moldova: Baptist and other 0.5% (2000)

Montenegro: other 0.6% (2003 census)

Romania: Protestant (various denominations including Reformate and Pentecostal) 7.5% (2002 census)

Russia: other Christian 2% (2006 est.)

Serbia: Protestant 1.1% (2002 census)

Ukraine: Protestant 2.2% (2006 est.)

Most of the above countries have negligible Protestant populations, with Romania and Russia far ahead in this area, numerically speaking. Not all of the Protestants in these countries are recent converts, either–for example, Lutherans and Baptists have had a notable presence in Russia for a few centuries now, if I am not mistaken. So, not a lot of souls are being won over to American Low-Church Christianity, without–we can be sure–for lack of trying.

*I was not entirely certain what to do with such a state as Kazakhstan, where the Christians have historically been Eastern Orthodox but missionaries from the West have made some inroads recently (in this particular case, Protestant 2%).

My wife’s mother’s family came to the U.S. from Belarus a few years after WWII. They were sponsored by a Baptist Church organization, and so were expected to become practicing Baptists when they came to the States. They were of Russian Orthodox heritage. Together with the other families who were sponsored at that time, they settled in a small town and formed a “Russian Baptist” church. Nothing like a Bible church with icons!

Wow, hahaha! What a sight to behold that church must have been!

Hmm, I wonder what they did about the vodka… :slight_smile:

The bigger issue tends to be Orthodox in North America who are surrounded by the Protestant culture who fall away.

Protestantism is a huge problem in Ethiopia, though they have been successful in converting and planting native churches among the Oromo and other people who were converted (often by force, as under the persecutions of Ahmed Gragn) several centuries ago to Islam. Still, as usual, they usually pit themselves against the Orthodox, so…definitely a double-edged sword, and of course I prefer the Orthodox.

Oromo Gospel “Mezmur” (Protestant)

Oromo Mezmur “Kidane mihret” (Orthodox)

Protestant song in Amharic

Its Orthodox equivalent

And of course, Protestants are missing out on the traditional Lenten music of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, roo. Very sad.

Other Orthodox countries outside of Europe are probably less affected, though I hear there are a lot of Protestants in India (there’s a lot of everything in India, though, so I doubt that really means much).

Could that be, in part, because of the scarcity of Orthodox churches in some areas, and perhaps the ethnic nature of some?


I knew a young lady who had gone to Russia to evangelize. On her way back through Germany she was baptised into Holy Orthodoxy at a ROCOR parish.

After settling into Chicago (where I met her) she joined the OCA cathedral parish, then she was offered and accepted a job with the Ukrainian Catholic University offices in Chicago. :slight_smile: She told them that she was Orthodox and they said ‘that’s good’. She told Archbishop Job (Memory Eternal!) that she was offered the job and he said ‘that’s good’.

An amazing sojourn.

It might in part, although it seems to be an issue in areas where they are plentiful and there are major non-ethnic parishes - such as the city I live in.

Our church just had a speaker who was from Russia (and previously Orthodox) who was introduced into Protestantism by a Mission funded English program. So they create these programs to teach them English, and try to convert them at the same time. I’m really not sure how I feel about this. It seems wrong to me on a certain level. I think you should be open about your intentions when trying to convert people and not cover it up by pretending you’re only trying to teach them English.

That’s curious. It seems like, at least for some Lutherans (such as Pelikan), the path to Orthodoxy is easier than to Rome, and easier than the path from Orthodoxy to Lutheranism.


Interesting. Are there any articles or books you can recommend on this effort to revive the faith in the communities of Muslims converted only a few centuries ago? (I seem to recall reading in the past couple years about one or more Protestant evangelists working among Ethiopian Muslims who were killed in retribution. I’m surprised such work is even attempted; as far as I know there isn’t much outreach to Muslims happening in Russia, with its millions of at least-nominal Muslims.)

Still, as usual, they usually pit themselves against the Orthodox, so…definitely a double-edged sword, and of course I prefer the Orthodox.

Of all the traditionally Eastern and Oriental Orthodox countries, Ethiopia by far has the largest Protestant population: the CIA World Factbook gives a figure of 18.6%! I wonder how many of them are converts from Islam?

Other Orthodox countries outside of Europe are probably less affected, though I hear there are a lot of Protestants in India (there’s a lot of everything in India, though, so I doubt that really means much).

I believe the Pentecostals are pretty active in India… but don’t know enough to comment further. One hopes a CAF member from India can speak to whether they’re proselytizing Catholics/Oriental Orthodox or Hindus/Muslims/Sikhs.

My wife comes from a city in eastern Russia and after the USSR fell a number of Protestant missionaries moved in. Some were well meaning but ill informed (oh so very ill informed indeed in many cases) regarding the history of Christianity in Russia, but there were others who as time went on put the back of the locals up badly. Some groups who went around saying that they were because Russia had been punished and now had to learn American values including Godliness caused real anger as the city was a closed city under Soviet rule and there was a prison camp there where many Orthodox and Catholic clergy and monastics were imprisoned and died and a number of the locals were descended from forcibly resettled members of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches. Matters over this got so heated the Orthodox Metropolitan and Catholic Bishop had to urge people not to respond physically or in anger.

The other group that was unpopular were the Mormons as they started offering to sponsor people to join them and as the area was in financial chaos for several years many people did. They are now banned from activity in the area as matters went downhill very badly.

I’ve never undestood sheep stealing. :mad:


Many, probably most, of the Evangelical Protestants who engage in this sordid practice consider Eastern Orthodox, along with Oriental Orthodox and Catholics, to be idolatrous pagans who still have not heard (the North American, twentieth-century version of) the gospel:

“Recite the Sinners’ Prayer and–no strange man-made rituals like baptism necessary [wait, wasn’t that an ordinance instituted by Christ?.. Let’s not think on a stumper like this too hard, or else our whole theological house of cards will come crashing down!]–your salvation is 110% guaranteed! Even if you commit the sin of alcohol consumption [forget about the wedding at Cana!]… or adultery [the Ten Commandments don’t apply to Christians]… or apostasy [wait, what does that even mean?.. It isn’t the Russian term for ‘blathering ignoramus visiting from abroad’, is it?].”

:)“still have not heard (the North American, twentieth-century version of) the gospel:”:slight_smile:

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