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Methodists hope signup law won't hurt work in Russia

Russian Methodists have expressed "guarded optimism" that a new Russian law requiring the registration of churches will not hamper their work in the region, a United Methodist meeting in the United States was told last week.

Critics say the law gives privileges to the Russian Orthodox Church and discriminates against other Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.The leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church reject these claims but say that they are concerned by what they describe as "proselytizing" - the winning of converts from among Orthodox believers - in the Russian Federation.

Since the launch of its "Russia Initiative" in the early 1990s, the United Methodist Church, based in the United States, has been engaged in one of the most extensive, long-range programs of any mainstream Protestant body in the region.