- Christianity entered Georgia in the first century c.e., and an autonomous Georgian orthodox Church emerged in the fifth century. The Armenian orthodox Church also dates to ancient times, serving a large population of ethnic Armenians in Georgia. Roman Catholics began missionary work in the 13th century. in the course of the 19th century, czarist Russia annexed the country, eventually moving to incorporate the Georgian church into the Russian orthodox Church. An independent Georgian church reappeared in 1917.The first Protestants in Georgia were Molokans exiled by the Russian authorities. in 1862, a German Baptist, Martin Kalweit (1838-1918), settled in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, and began work among German-speaking residents. one of his converts, Vasilov G. Pavlov (1854-1924), studied in Germany and returned to become the leading force in building the Baptist church. Baptists organized in 1919, but after the Soviet conquest were integrated into the larger Russian Baptist movement. In the Stalinist 1930s, all Baptist churches were closed. some were allowed to reopen in 1944, though all Free Churches were forced into a single organization, the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. Only after the collapse of the soviet Union in 1991 were the Georgian Baptists able to revive their own organization.Among other Protestant groups are the Lutherans (primarily German-speaking), pentecostals, and Jehovah's Witnesses, who with upwards of 15,000 members have emerged as possibly the largest of the Free Church groups.Opposition among the Orthodox majority to prosetylizing by the Free Churches turned violent in the 1990s; the local press reports church burnings and mass assaults against worshippers. As a result, Georgia and the Orthodox Church of Georgia have come under sharp criticism from human rights spokespersons.Further reading:■ David Barrett, The Encyclopedia of World Christianity, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)■ Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, Operation World, 21st Century Edition (Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster, 2001).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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