Dec. 17, 2007

Perkins alumnus elected president of Russian seminary

Sergei V. Nikolaev has been elected President of the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary in Moscow, Russia, by the Board of Trustees, effective January 1, 2008. In addition to his new presidential responsibilities, Nikolaev will continue to teach as the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at the seminary.

Sergei V. Nikolaev

“This election is a great honor. My vision is that the Russian seminary will assume a true leadership position in developing the United Methodist Church in Eurasia, strengthening the Methodist theological and spiritual identity,” said Nikolaev after the election.

A recent Ph.D. graduate of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, Dr. Sergei V. Nikolaev represents the spirit of the dynamically developing United Methodist Church in Eurasia. He combines aspiration for academic excellence with passion for ecclesial ministry, in the context of the United Methodist Church in Russia and other former Soviet Republics. 

Nikolaev’s research interests focus on Russian Methodism, especially on evangelism and Methodist-Orthodox relations in Russia. His doctoral dissertation explored the issue of Orthodox Church relations to non-Orthodox Churches. While at SMU Nikolaev was awarded various scholarships and fellowships including the Dempster Fellowship from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church and a Fellowship from the Foundation for Evangelism, as well as honors for his dissertation.

“The choice of Sergei Nikolaev as the next president of the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary is a bold and strategic step for the Russia Initiative. I was fortunate to get acquainted with Dr. Nikolaev as a student at Southern Methodist University and am grateful for his intelligence, his knowledge of Christian history, and his native knowledge of Russian culture. His willingness to serve in this capacity is a sign of great hope for the future of this school,” said Bishop Scott J. Jones, one of Nikolaev’s former professors at SMU and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Russian Seminary.

Dr. Sergei Nikolaev succeeds Rev. Tobias Dietze, a missionary from Germany, who had led the seminary since it opened in 1995. With residency and correspondence programs, the seminary seeks to be an integral part of theological education of United Methodist pastors for Eurasia. Pastors come to the seminary for training from as far away as Siberia and the Far East, Central Asia, Ukraine, and Belarus.  Over 100 pastors have studied at the seminary in preparation for service in the United Methodist Church.  The Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary is strategically located in Moscow, Russia, and the Episcopal office is located in the seminary building. This year there are over thirty students enrolled at the seminary.

Additional background

Dr. Nikolaev is an ordained elder in the Russia United Methodist Church.  Before coming to the United States for his doctoral studies Nikolaev served as pastor of Perovo UMC and the Director of the Moscow Evening Bible School for Laity.  He received his Ph.D. in the History of Christian Tradition. 

During his doctoral studies Dr. Nikolaev served as a visiting professor to the Russian Seminary. In 2005 he was appointed the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism in the Ruediger and Gerlinde Minor Chair at the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary, a position he held while finishing his dissertation research and writing. In 2006 Dr. Nikolaev, with the support of the Episcopal office and the Foundation for Evangelism, initiated the Competition for the Best Project of Evangelism, encouraging responsible evangelism in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. The Central Russia Annual Conference recognized his leadership by electing him this year as a delegate to the General Conference in 2008. At the recent Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies he was elected a co-chair of the Institute.

Nikolaev has been a member of ongoing Orthodox-Wesleyan Consultations since 2000. He specializes in the fields of evangelism; interchurch relations; the history and theology of the Methodist Church, especially in Russia; the Russian Orthodox Church; and the history of Christian thought. He has presented papers on these topics at academic conferences in the US, Russia, and Europe. His articles and book chapters have been published by professional journals as well as by the Russia UMC.  His current academic projects include revision of his dissertation for publication, editing of John Wesley’s standard sermons for publication in Russian, and preparation of a volume of essays commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of state recognition of Methodism in Russia.

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