Ukraine to mark 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko supported the initiative by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and signed the Decree on Commemorating in Ukraine the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. (Image: president.gov.ua)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko supported the initiative by the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and signed the Decree on Commemorating in Ukraine the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. (Image: president.gov.ua) 

Analysis & Opinion, Culture, Politics, Ukraine

Two weeks ago, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree calling for the commemoration in his country of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in order to call attention to and reaffirm “the enormous contribution of Protestant churches and religious organizations … and to express respect for their role in Ukrainian history.”

Mykhailo Cherenkov  (Image: wipfandstock.com)

Mykhailo Cherenkov
(Image: wipfandstock.com)

That decree “opens enormous possibilities for the mission of Evangelical churches in Ukraine,” Mykhailo Cherenkov of the Baznica religious affairs portal says. But even more than that, it highlights the differences between Ukraine and Russia where Protestants are treated as little more than detested “sectarians.”

By choosing to commemorate the anniversary of Protestantism, Cherenkov says, Ukrainian officials are showing that they are seeking “the spiritual resources which could help them reform the country” as “everyone understands” that Russian Orthodox will not do that but rather will pull the country backwards.

At one point, the Orthodox Church sought to destroy the spread of the Reformation in Ukraine, just as it fought the spread of Catholicism both pure and in its Uniate form. The consequences of that, Cherenkov continues, are still having an impact and retarding change there.

As most people now recognize, “the Reformation concerns not only Protestant churches but Christianity as a whole and even more all of society, its culture, economics and politics. Ukrainian Protestants can provide a good example but for this they themselves must recall the heritage of the Reformation.” By his actions, Poroshenko is helping them to do so.

“During the years of Soviet power, Protestants weren’t given the chance to study and occupy any influential posts,” he continues. “Now everything is changing before our eyes as since independence, many thousands of young Evangelical Christians have received a higher education and begun successful careers.”

Such a generation, he says, “can be that force which will bring changes to society beginning in the workplace, the family, the church and via civic initiatives.” They need to recall the power of the Reformation and the way in which Protestantism as Max Weber observed contributed to the rise of capitalism and the modern world.

Cherenkov is the author of a 2008 book in Ukrainian, “The European Reformation and Ukrainian Evangelical Protestantism.” That book, although published in only 300 copies is essential reading for those concerned with the role of Protestantism in Ukraine, especially since 1991.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Alex George

    That seems sensible. Many of Ukraine’s supporters come from nations that were majority protestant including Sweden, Germany and the USA, so it makes sense for the government to speak well of protestants, as well as of catholics and orthodox.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      I disagree about Germany being a supporter. Merkel has constantly tried to delay the introduction of sanctions; most political leaders- e.g. Gabriel and Steinmeier (SPD), Gysi and Wagenknecht (die Linke), Petry (AfD) and Seehofer (CSU) want to end them regardless of what the dwarf does.
      The Ukraine’s only supporters are Poland, the Baltics, Sweden and the UK. Of these, Poland and Lithuania are Catholic, Latvia, Estonia and Sweden are Lutheran and the UK CofE, CofS and Catholic.

      • Alex George

        Then we will have to disagree. Germany is not as strong a supporter of Ukraine as Poland, but it has been a supporter. It is simply not true to say that the nations you mention are Ukraine’s only supporters.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          We certainly will. In my opinion Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Greece will happily throw Kyiv to the wolves if it means doing business with Moscow again. They have been adamantly oppsed to supplying Kyiv with anti-tank and other weapons. It’s OK for Dwarfstanian weapons to kill Ukrainian soldiers and civilians, but heaven forbid that even ONE Dwarfstanian soldier, mercenary or terrorist be killed by a German bullet. Merkel and Hollande betrayed the Ukrainians at Minsk I and Minsk II, and they will do so again at Minsk III, just as Merkel and Sarkozy betrayed the Georgians in 2008. The support for Kyiv of the other EU members can only be described as lukewarm at best.

          • Alex George

            In other words, you have admitted that they do provide support to Kyiv, which was my point. The fact is that if they didn’t support Kyiv, then EU sanctions would not exist.

            “They have been adamantly oppsed to supplying Kyiv with anti-tank and other weapons.”

            As have the USA and Britain.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Merkel and many other EU “leaders” only support sanctions to maintain unity, not out of solidarity with the Ukrainians. Without Poland, the Baltics, Sweden and the UK demanding a tough line plus MH17 there wouldn’t even be the paltry sanctions. The others don’t care what happens to the Ukraine.