Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in Eurasia: History at a Glance
In 1994, Rev. René Léonian, the newly appointed Armenia Representative of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), the Armenian Evangelical World Council (AEWC) and the French organization “Hope for Armenia,” began to establish extensive ties with the Armenian Evangelical Churches of Georgia and Russia. After several visits to the mentioned countries, the relations gradually expanded and deepened. A year later at the General Assembly of Pastors in Yerevan, which was convened on August 21, 1995, Rev. Léonian was elected President of the newly formed Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches of Eurasia (UAECE).
On August 23, 1995, the UAECE addressed the President of the AEWC, Rev. Hovhannes Karjian, requesting a discussion of the membership of the UAECE in the AEWC at the forthcoming meeting of the Council. In October of the same year, the UAECE became a member of the AEWC.
The Goal of the Union
- To conduct research to determine the number of Armenian Evangelical families and attendees of Armenian Evangelical Churches in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union countries. Contribute to their spiritual and material well-being and the satisfaction of their needs. Assist these communities with spiritual literature if needed. Organize the visits of the pastors of the Armenian Evangelical Churches to the Armenian Evangelical families in the given areas, as well as to create means for their spiritual work in the given areas, if necessary. To help them establish and develop ties with the Motherland. Organize spiritual and cultural events in cooperation with the Armenian Apostolic Church in order to promote spiritual awakening.
- To create favorable conditions for the member churches and organizations, as members of the same confessional family, to promote Christian communication, cooperation, and mutual assistance.
- To provide means for member churches to train pastors, preachers, and leaders in Scriptures, theology, and Armenian national education.
- To develop fraternal and practical close ties with the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, as well as with other churches in favor of the Armenian ecclesiastical-national unity.
The highest body of the UAECE is the Conference of the Union, which convenes once a year. It consists of the ordained pastors of the member churches of the Union, church delegates, and representatives of its organizations.
The UAECE was established on the initiative and the vision of Rev. Dr. René Léonian, and the Executive Director of the AMAA Rev. Dr. Movses Janbazian (1987-2000).
The Areas of the Main Service of the UAECE are:
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Moscow has been operating since 1993. Reverend Vahan Frangyan was the Pastor. Meanwhile, Bible study groups were formed in Moscow with the support of the AMAA and with the participation of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In 2009, The Armenian Christian Evangelical Church of Moscow (ACECM), founded on May 5, 2002, joined the local Armenian Evangelical Church. The ACECM was founded by the guidance of the Lord, with the vision of Karpis Topchyan, Arman Badalyan and Masis Hakobyan.
Masis Hakobyan was officially ordained as Pastor of ACECM in 2009. Rev. Hakobyan was born on October 6, 1978, in Shahumyanovsk village of Shahumyan region in Karabakh. He graduated from the TCMI International Christian Institute in Austria with a Master’s Degree in Practical Service.
In addition to Sunday services at the central church, weekly house-to-house services are held in four different districts of Moscow. The Armenian Evangelical Church in Moscow has recently established regular church services in the cities of Narofominsk, Tardon, Ryazan, Lipetsk and Kursk in the region.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Sochi began to form in 1994. Before that, the local Armenians attended the Russian Evangelical Church, the Pastor of which was Rev. Ivan Chekhunov. Some time later, with the Pastor’s encouragement, the Armenians attending the Church formed a group, led by Sasun Karakhanyan, that began to have worship services in Armenian. Later in March 1997, the group was officially recognized as a separate church. In the same year, Sasun Karakhanyan was ordained the Pastor of the Church.
Today the Church has 50 members and supporters and the present Pastor is Rev. Sasun Karakhanyan. Services are held in the church every Sunday. Church members visit evangelical groups based in the villages of Vasilyevsa, Kruevo-Armyamsky. Two people from Sochi graduated from the Evangelical Theological Academy of Armenia.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Sochi has expanded its service to Khosda, Adler, Volkonka, Lazarsk and other districts.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Armavir is relatively young, its history began in December of 2015, when the President of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches of Eurasia Rev. Dr. René Léonian, and the Pastor of Sochi Rev. Sasun Karakhanyan visited Armavir. They met with local Armenian and Russian believers. As a result of the meetings, services started in homes under the leadership of the Pastor Armen Ghukasyan.
In November 2019, weekly services began. Home group services and visits continue.
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
The group of Armenian believers in St. Petersburg was formed after 3 years of evangelism, visits and prayers, through the efforts of Gurgen Poghosyan, an evangelist who moved from Armenia to St. Petersburg.
In 2016, a decisive visit was paid by the President of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches of Eurasia Rev. Dr. René Léonian, and two pastors of the Union Rev. Sasun Karakhanyan and Rev. Masis Hakobyan. This visit formed the small church and gave it the confidence to proceed. And the membership in the Eurasian Union, which took place in 2019, after a year of having observer status, it further strengthened that trust.
The Armenian Evangelical Church of St. Petersburg has 25 members, and the Pastor is the Rev. Gurgen Poghosyan.
There were Armenian Evangelicals in Sukhumi even before the 1917 revolution. The Armenian Evangelical Church was founded here in 1960 by the efforts of 17 believers. The first Pastor was Rev. Ghevond Nalbandyan. He was succeeded by Rev. Onik Konolyan, then Rev. Mihran Torosyan. Since 2018, church services and other ministries are coordinated by the visiting pastor, and the Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Sochi, Rev. Sasun Karakhanyan.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Tbilisi was founded in the early 1880s. The first Pastor was Rev. Abraham Amirkhanyan and he conducted services in Armenian, Russian and German, as needed. Rev. Amirkhanyan preached the Gospel in Shushi, Baku, Shamakh and other regions. Famous authors such as Grigor Artsruni and Raffi praised the spiritual service of Rev. Amirkhanyan. After Rev. Amirkhanyan passed away in 1913, the Pastors of the Church respectively were Margar Ter-Asaduryan, Nerses Harutyunyan, Swedish L. Larton, Hovsep Khanoyan, Dr. Usher, Martiros Ter-Sahakyan, Hovhannes Margaryan, Tigran Apaghyan, Hovsep Zakaryan, Asir Asiryan, Asatur Harutyunyan, Suren Harutyunyan, Mkrtich Khachaturyan and Alexander Minasyan.
Today, Rev. Karen Khachaturyan is the Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Tbilisi. He began his service in 1997 in the camps organized by the Armenian Missionary Association of America as a leader, and Assistant Pastor to Rev. Alexander Minasyan.
Camps were organized in the Pasanaur and Kojor districts.
In addition to his service in the church between 1999-2005, Karen Khachatryan graduated from the Evangelical Theological Academy of Armenia.
Trainings were held for church servants under the leadership of Rev. Vigen Galustyan from the USA. He also facilitated a charity canteen between 2000 and 2007, benefitting 60 people.
In 2006, Karen Khachaturyan was ordained a pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Tbilisi, through the efforts of whom visits to different regions of Georgia are organized, worship services are held, and spiritual literature is distributed.
The Gumburdo Church was founded in 1990 by a group of 4-6 people on the initiative of Valeri Zakaryan. The first baptism took place on July 24, 1992, and 22 people were baptized.
The first small gathering took place in 1995. Until 2004, believers worshiped in a rented apartment. In 2004, with the help of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, an office was opened, in a space provided to the Armenian Evangelical Church for worship and general services.
Early in the year 2000, a small group of evangelicals was formed in the village of Sulda. By the end of the year, 10 people had already been baptized there. Currently there is worship, visits, Bible studies, and the “Good Samaritan” program is distributing aid to the lower grades at the school.
The Akhaltsikhe Church was founded in 1990 with the help of the Armenian Evangelical brothers of Tbilisi. Ten people were baptized between 1990 and 1992. There are Sunday services at church, visitations, a Sunday school, Bible studies, outdoor summer camps, hot meals are given to some of the elderly, and the “Good Samaritan” program distributes aid to school and kindergarten children.
The Pastor of the churches of the regions of Javakhk (the regional center of Akhalkalaki, the neighboring villages of Akhaltsikhe, Gumburdo and Sulda) is Rev. Valeri Zakaryan. In 1992 he was ordained as a deacon, and then as a pastor in 1996. He studied at the Tbilisi Theological Seminary and is assisted by three preachers: Kamo Mghdesyan, Meruzhan Saharyan and Sasun Margaryan.
The following is a general description of the services of the Armenian Evangelical Churches of Eurasia
Sunday services are held in all the Union churches. Believers of the Armenian Evangelical Churches actively participate in worship. They read the Bible, pray, sing songs, hymns, share their personal Christian testimony, and listen to meditations and sermons.
The Union churches highly appreciate the role of Christian Education in the upbringing of the younger generation and adults. They strive so all the believers receiving this education will grow in all walks of life (intellectual, social and caring), and become worthy children of our nation. For this purpose, Bible studies are organized for all age groups: teenagers, young adults and married couples. These studies help gain true Christian knowledge and appreciate the recognition and application of Christian values in the life of the individual.
Children enjoy recreation, eat healthy food and make new friends. Hundreds of children participate in camps every year.
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS
Every year at Christmas and the New Year, festive activities are organized in the above-mentioned churches, with the participation of children. During the holidays, the birth of Jesus is celebrated with joy. His birth continues to unite humanity around the noble concepts of divine love, peace, honesty and justice. Gifts are distributed to children everywhere. Churches are gradually expanding their areas of service and content.
- Since the 1990s, the Armenian Missionary Association of America has always focused on supporting Eurasian Union programs.
- The Eurasian Union and the Union of Evangelical Churches of Armenia jointly established the Evangelical Theological Academy of Armenia in 1997.
- The Eurasian Union organizes an annual conference for pastors and lay leaders in either Russia or Georgia.
- With the help of the UAECA and the AMAA, the Union’s pastors regularly participate in inter-church meetings and international youth camps in Armenia and elsewhere.
- On May 25, 2019, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, a concert-event organized by the Eurasian Union was held in Moscow attended by AMAA Executive Director/CEO Zaven Khanjian and his wife Sona.
* Rev. Dr. René Léonian is the President of the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in Eurasia.