Nation Probes US Evangelical—Russian Orthodox Links

Somehow I managed to miss January’s Nation article by Adam Federman on links between US Evangelicals and what the magazine calls “Russia’s ‘Pro-Family” Right”. Federman takes a particular interest in Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, who chairs the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department of External Church Relations:

In February 2011, the 47-year-old Alfeyev traveled to Washington, where he met with prominent evangelical and “pro-family” leaders; and then to Dallas, where he addressed thousands of members of the Highland Park Presbyterian Church and emphasized the importance of “creat[ing] new alliances”, especially around issues of marriage, abortion and the family. Alfeyev also visited the Dallas Theological Seminary and had an hour-long meeting with George W. Bush. 

…Alfeyev’s visit was organized by Jerry Fullinwider, an oil executive and elder of the Highland Park church who, until recently, had business interests in Russia. Fullinwider, a member of the Koch brothers’ circle of major donors—those who have given more than $1 million to Koch-related causes—met Alfeyev through his friend Bob Foresman, head of Barclay’s Capital in Russia.

The Dallas Morning News reported on the 2011 trip at the time, while the Presbyterian Church (USA) website later mentioned that it had been organised by Foresman and “John Bernbaum, an American evangelical who is founder and president of the Russian-American Institute in Moscow”. Foresman’s own involvement with the Institute was noted in a 2011 Agweek profile of Howard Dahl, a businessman who sells agricultural equipment in Russia:

Dahl breakfasts with Bob Foresman, Russian country head for Barclay’s Capital. The two are board members of the Russian American Institute, a Christian liberal arts college. They and others have invested some $22 million into a facility for the purpose of turning out undergraduates. The college opened in 1996, but it recently has faced demographic and economic challenges. They talk about how they can partner with the Russian Orthodox Church and train people for “family support” work – family ministry, social work and English language.

Foresman was also present during at a 2011 meeting between Alfeyev and Michael McFaul, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council. Alfeyev was accompanied by Alexei Timofeyev, of the Russian Embassy in Washington.

Fullinwider, meanwhile, has been involved in the oil business in Russia since the end of the USSR, and his VF-Russia, Inc also has a presence in Iraqi Kurdistan (full profile here).

The Nation further notes that Alfeyev later visited the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which has provided funding for the St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation, an initiative of “Alfeyev, Russian billionaire and pharmaceutical magnate Vadim Yakuni [of Protek], and Leonid Sevastianov, a 35-year-old international business consultant and head of Stratinvest.ru”. Alfeyev sees the St Gregory Foundation as part of “a strategic alliance with the Catholics”, and in 2012 he had a meeting with Pope Benedict.

Other sections of Federman’s article examines the World Congress of Families and Vladimir Yakunin (not apparently related to Vadim), subjects I have looked at a number of times now (including an event held in London with Christian Concern).

The WCF responded to the Nation with a counter-article emphasising opposition to abortion and suggesting that there is “a huge incentive for Russians to think seriously about what it will take to reverse their nation’s demographic slide”.

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