Missionary Work in the Orthodox Church

Historically, missionary work in Russia, unlike missionary work in the Western sense, has been focused primarily on people living within Russia, rather than on foreign countries and peoples. After all, the country has always been multinational, with a variety of different confessions, religions and teachings. It's a delicate question: How to bring the word of God to people in your own, native country? In the history of Russia, the most successful example of this is the so-called Altai Mission. Altai is a far eastern region of the Russian Federation.

The first missionary camp in Gorny Altai was opened by archimandrite Makary (Glukharev) in 1830. In the nearly 90 years of its existence, the Altai spiritual mission he founded created 30 camps there, opened more than 40 churches and houses of prayer, two monasteries and the Biysk Catechist School, where the first intelligentsia among the people of Altai were educated: teachers and priests. 

The mission played an enormous role in the cultural development of the people of Altai. The priests there created the first written script for the Altai language and published the first books using it; they healed their charges; defended them from the arbitrary rule of officials; and taught them trades and gardening. As a result of the mission's work, nearly 20 percent of the 68,000 people currently in Altai are Orthodox. Now Makary (Glukharev) has been canonized as a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Among the foreign missionary work, it is worth taking note of the mission to China. 

The second half of the 19th century was the initial period when Orthodoxy was being spread in China beyond the boundaries of the Empire's capital. The beginning of the 20th century marked the brief flourishing of the Beijing Mission.

The missionaries' main task in China was learning the Chinese and Manchurian languages. Chinese was studied, first of all, with the goal of leading sermons, and secondly to study and research the culture of China. During the course of the mission's existence, 37 churches were built (including churches in Beijing, Harbin, Tianjin, Shanghai, which stand out for their originality), more than 40 evangelical sites were founded, with five large dioceses. An Orthodox seminary was created along with 20 male and female schools. Religious teaching was spread, a library was opened, a printing house was founded and it began publishing in Russian, English and Chinese a magazine called The Chinese Evangelist, and charitable work was done. Alongside their work leading religious services, the missionaries studied Chinese astronomy, history, geography, culture, religion, national customs and much more. 

Over the course of several decades, many translations of the Holy Scriptures were done in Chinese, and the main religious texts and several works of the holy fathers were also translated. During those years, the Mission published both scholarly studies by members of the Beijing Mission and church books. In Beijing, the first Chinese monastery was founded. In Moscow and Petersburg there were town churches run by the Beijing Mission. 

The mission was closed in 1954, five years after the Chinese revolution.

Andrey Kuraev

Andrey Kuraev was born in Moscow on the day of the Purification of the Virgin in 1963. During his childhood, Andrey Kuraev lived for several years in Prague, where his parents worked. The Kuraev family was enirely atheist. Andrey Kuraev's father, Vyacheslav Kuraev, was the secretary of P.N. Fedoseyev, the primary philosopher and ideologist of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. 

In high school, Andrey Kuraev published the newspaper “Atheist”.

At the age of 16, he enrolled as a philosophy major at Moscow State University in the Department of History and Scientific Atheism. 

In the fall of 1982 he was baptized.

In 1984, he graduated from the university with a degree in history and the theory of scientific atheism, and entered graduate school at the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. There he did not graduate, however. In 1985, he became the secretary of the Moscow Spiritual Academy, and later he entered a Moscow seminary, fulfilling a long-held desire. He wasn't able to study there for long, though, because after a devastating fire in 1986 he had to work on the construction site. . After that, the academy's rector again took Kuraev into his staff.

In 1988, he graduated from the Moscow Spiritual Seminary and that same year, he was invited to a public debate at the Kolomenskoye Pedagogical Institute, where a dispute occurred between Kuraev and the professors (all of them professional atheists) and students. As a consequence, the Regional Committee of the Communist Party released a special decree about the poor state of affairs at the pedagogical institute and lobbied to have Andrey sent to study at the Romanian Orthodox Church.

In 1994, he defended his dissertation for a master's degree in philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1995, he defended his doctoral dissertation on theology at the Moscow Spiritual Academy.

In 1996, on the recommendation of the Academic Council of the Russian Orthodox University, Patriarch Alexy II granted him the academic title of Professor of Theology. On March 12, 2002, the Synod decided to include him among the editors of the compilation “Theological Papers”, and later (December 24, 2004) to include him in the “Synod Theological Commission”.

On February 15, 2003, Patriarch Alexy awarded him the order of St. Sergius of Radonezh, in the third degree.

He has a degree as a Professor of Theology; his primary employer is the Moscow Spiritual Academy and Seminary. He chairs the Department of Primary Theology and Apologetics of St. Tikhon's Orthodox University (until 2004 known as St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Institute), and he is also a senior research fellow for the philosophy of religion and religious studies at Moscow State University's Philosophy Department.

Patriarch Alexy II personally expressed his gratitude for his work as a missionary.