THE FOUNDING AND MINISTRY OF RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP MINISTRIES
AND THE MOSCOW THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
In 1905, Baptists from around the world gathered in London, England to organize the Baptist World Alliance. Attending were church leaders from Russia who asked the delegates to pray that they might have their own seminary. These Russian believers always believed that theological education was essential for the church. Without educated leaders, they knew the church could be tempted to fall into heresy. Sadly, the tragic events of the 20th century, World War I, the Russian revolution and World War II were obstacles that blocked the prayers for a seminary.
Several attempts in the 1970’s and 1980’s to start a seminary were made. In the early 1990’s during “perestroika”, when religious freedom was granted, a seminary was finally organized, but established in Odessa, Ukraine.
In 1993 Ian Chapman, then president of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois, brought a group of friends to Moscow. When the group heard the Russian church leaders’ dream for a seminary, they were moved by this need. With their prayers and initial help, in October of that year, the Moscow Theological Seminary (MTS), opened its doors with seventeen students, under the presidential leadership of Alexander Kozynko.
From its beginning the seminary was established to be a school taught by Russians, in Russian, for Russians. It has never been organically connected to any Western denomination or ministry.
The seminary began its ministry in the Russian Baptist Union headquarters building in Moscow. Space was at a premium and had to be shared with others, so it became obvious that the future of the seminary was limited if it remained in the Union building. President Alexander Kozyno worked diligently to find a suitable building that would meet the needs of the growing seminary. Finally, he found an abandoned kindergarten that held promise for the future seminary. Dr. Chapman raised awareness and friends around the world caught the vision of the mission, and the seminary was ultimately able to purchase and renovate the building.
It was a glorious event when the seminary community and friends from around the world gathered on Sunday, September 1, 2001, to dedicate the building to the Lord. The prayer of the Russian church leaders in 1905 had been answered!
New challenges were to confront the seminary however. In 2006, after serving as president for thirteen years, Dr. Kozynko resigned. Dr. Kozynko was deeply loved and it was hard to imagine the seminary without his leadership. Later that year, another challenge was presented by the president of the Russian Baptist Union. He informed the MTS Board that the Moscow Theological Institute (MTI), a Bible training school with a distributed, modular approach, was in danger of closing because of financial difficulties. The MTS Board of Trustees recognized that the MTI teaching strategy of establishing satellite campuses 1,000 kilometers apart would benefit MTS, and in 2006, MTS and MTI merged faculties, student bodies and MTI moved to the seminary campus.
In 2007 Dr. Peter Mitskevitch became the president of the seminary. With the new strategy and his incredible energy and creativity the MTS student body grew rapidly. As of 2018 the student body increased to nearly 1,000 with classes being offered in nine Learning Centers. Currently there are 1500 alumni.
In order to motivate and continue prayer and support for the ministry of MTS and the church in Russia, Russian Leadership Ministries was formed in 2001. Today, RLM continues to serve and encourage the ministry of MTS, as a primary friend and partner in this essential ministry for the church in Russia.