Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the re-introduction of Methodism into Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, the UMC has encouraged partnership relationships between United Methodist churches in the United States and new United Methodist congregations in the Russia and Eurasia region. These partner church relationships reflect an understanding of mission that focuses more on relationship-building and mutual exchange than on Westerners sending resources and expertise overseas.
Through these partnerships, American churches have by and large tried to foster mutual relationships that will contribute to the long-term growth of the church in Eurasia and not create dependence, but there are still challenges. Old ways of thinking about mission persist, and the economic disparities between the US and Eurasia make completely equal partnership a goal more than a reality.
It is interesting, therefore, to see that the Eurasia Mission Initiative's next meeting, to be held May 15-17, 2015, entitled the "50/50 Partnership Summit." I think that title indicates a clear commitment to the goal of true equality but also perhaps a tacit recognition that it remains a goal. In one step towards a 50/50 partnership, though, the summit is being held in Russia for the first time.
I hope American churches who have been involved in the various mission partnerships related to the Russia and Eurasia region will still consider attending this meeting, despite the travel involved. The Eurasia Mission Initiative has been an important forum in which the UMC has grappled with what it means to create true, equal partnerships between older American churches and new churches elsewhere. I am sure this conference will be a rich opportunity to continue that learning process.