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Russian Lutheran archbishop visits US

Lutherans in Russia are strengthening ecumenical relations at home and abroad

by Michael Parker | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, pastor of Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow, is the first native Russian and the youngest person to be elected to lead the Lutheran Church in Russia. (Photo courtesy of Dietrich Brauer)

Archbishop Dietrich Brauer, pastor of Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow, is the first native Russian and the youngest person to be elected to lead the Lutheran Church in Russia. (Photo courtesy of Dietrich Brauer)

LOUISVILLE – Archbishop Dietrich Brauer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States (ELCROS) visited the U.S. September 9–18. Brauer visited Presbyterian and Lutheran churches in Topeka, St. Louis, Louisville, Chicago and Asheboro, North Carolina. Brauer came at the invitation of the Russian Mission Network, which held its 12th annual meeting at First Presbyterian Church in Asheboro September 15–17.

Speaking at a luncheon on September 13, held at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Brauer explained the history of ELCROS and its current challenges. He emphasized the need for theological education for the church’s pastors, the strengthening of ecumenical relations within Russia, and the continuing nurture of a uniquely Russian Lutheranism.

About three-quarters of the Russian population have been baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church, but only 3 to 4 percent are active participants in the life of the church. In Russia’s population of 140 million, less than one percent is Protestant. Most of these are members of the Russian Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists and ELCROS.

Germans entered Russia in large numbers in the 18th century with the encouragement of Catherine the Great. They established Lutheran churches, with the result that ELCROS has always been seen as an ethnic church. During World War II the Russian Germans were a suspect minority. Hence their churches were closed and most were exiled to Siberia and the Central Asian states.

Archbishop Dietrich Brauer leads a presentation about Lutheran churches in Russia at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville on September 13. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

Archbishop Dietrich Brauer leads a presentation about Lutheran churches in Russia at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville on September 13. (Photo by Tammy Warren)

With the fall of communism in 1991 and the resulting liberalization of immigration policy, much of the Russian German population emigrated to Germany. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were an estimated 3.5 million German Lutherans in Russia. Today the church membership has dwindled to about 20,000.

Brauer is the first native Russian elected as archbishop, previous archbishops having all been sent from Germany. Born in Vladivostok to a Russian-German family, Brauer spent his childhood in Moscow. As a student he trained at a music school and then began studies for a law degree. From 2001 to 2005, he studied evangelical theology at the Novosaratovka Theological Seminary, located just outside of St. Petersburg. After seminary, he and his wife, the Reverend Tatyana Petrenko, pastored a church in Gusev, in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia, formerly East Prussia. In 2010, he became the acting bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in European Russia.

On March 10, 2011, the 17th Synod of ELCER chose Brauer as its bishop, to succeed Edmund Ratz. In addition to being the first native bishop of the Lutheran Church in Russia, he also has the distinction of being its youngest.

On September 12, 2011, Brauer was elected by the General Synod of ELCROS in St. Petersburg as First Deputy Archbishop, and on September 18, 2012, at the age of 29, he was elected archbishop—the head of the Lutheran Church in Russia. He is also pastor of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in Moscow.

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Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

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