The founder of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, Blessed Theodore Yarchuk, was born in 1896 in the Ternopil region. At that time, part of the western Ukrainian lands were under the jurisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which in one way or another had its imprint on the religious map of Ukrainian confessionalism. Theodor Yarchuk was one of the first missionaries of the Augsburg religion in the Ukrainian lands, which closely linked the idea of ​​the Reformation among the Ukrainian environment.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of Ukrainians were and are Orthodox Christians, attempts to reform the church life in the midst of Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism were present. The low moral level of the clergy, the scrupulousness of religious rites, low education and awareness of spiritual problems forced to look for a certain lever among Ukrainians who would help to correct this problem. Since the days of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Protestantism has been well known in Volyn and other western Ukrainian lands. However, the religious life of Lutherans and Calvinists in Ukraine was an exclusively foreign phenomenon: the service was conducted in a foreign language that few people understood. However, Calvinism was very popular among the Ukrainian intelligentsia due to its high moral standards and norms.

Blessed Theodore Yarchuk is the founder of Ukrainian Lutheranism of the Eastern rite

Stanislav Orikhovsky, Hryhoriy Skovoroda, Taras Shevchenko, and Panteleimon Kulish were supporters of the internal development of church life, which needed the Reformation and internal renewal within the Ukrainian churches. However, the idea of the emergence of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church of the Augsburg religion dates back only to the beginning of the XX century. Theodore Yarchuk was an outstanding missionary who spread the Reformation among Ukrainians.

Teodor Yarchuk received his first education at the Franz-Josep Gymnasium in Ternopil. From an early age, Theodore was distinguished by his indifferent attitude to God and the church and showed a pious life. His inner spiritual pursuits led him to become a priest in the Greek Catholic Church. As a result, leaving his home, Theodore Yarchuk went to Rome to study at the seminary. 1926 – became significant in his life. It all started when, as a young man, he fell in love with the daughter of the pastor of the German Lutheran Church, Olga Keys. After talking once with Theodor Zeckler, Ph.D., he decided to leave Rome forever and study at the seminary, and went to Germany to study Lutheran theology. The young seminarian was very impressed by the knowledge of theology. While studying in Tübingham and Erlangen, Theodor Yarchuk begged his father to bless him as the pastor of a new phenomenon in the Ukrainian religious history of Ukrainian Lutheranism.

Teodor Yarchuk did not perceive Ukrainian Lutheranism as a phenomenon of foreign origin. Moreover, this church community was a Ukrainian call to the Ukrainian people for the Reformation, which is what the entire Lutheran Church around the world is calling for. Maria Gerasimov, who was the niece of Theodore Yarchuk, I remember the explanation of what the Lutheran faith is to my father. The whole difference shown by Theodore Yarchuk between Ukrainian Lutheranism and Greek Catholicism was the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the Pope. Ukrainian Lutherans, as Yarchuk assured, “do not trust the Pope.” “And they are doing the right thing. The Pope is not God, but man. I bless you, son “- the words were said by the father quite approvingly and confidently.

Teodor Yarchuk did not perceive Ukrainian Lutheranism as a phenomenon of foreign origin. Moreover, this church community was a Ukrainian call to the Ukrainian people for the Reformation, which is what the entire Lutheran Church around the world is calling for. Maria Gerasimov, who was the niece of Theodore Yarchuk, I remember the explanation of what the Lutheran faith is to my father. The whole difference shown by Theodore Yarchuk between Ukrainian Lutheranism and Greek Catholicism was the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the Pope. Ukrainian Lutherans, as Yarchuk assured, “do not trust the Pope.” “And they are doing the right thing. The Pope is not God, but man. I bless you, son “- the words were said by the father quite approvingly and confidently.

With special gratitude, Ukrainian Lutherans and supporters of the Reformation in general thank Theodore Yarchuk for the translation of Martin Luther’s Little Catechism into Ukrainian, “Servant” of the ULC with a review of the liturgy of John Chrysostom; he was also the author of pamphlets and treatises, the most famous of which was “Who is Martin Luther?”

The occupation of Galicia by the Red Army in 1939 was tragic for the lives of Ukrainian Lutherans and for T. Yarchuk. The leader of the Ukrainian Lutherans, Teodor Yarchuk, was arrested by the NKVD, and his personal and church property was confiscated. This was the beginning of brutal repression and persecution of Ukrainian Lutherans. Many of them were arrested, sent to the Gulag, tortured and shot. This period led to the almost complete annihilation of Ukrainian Lutheranism as a socio-religious phenomenon. Unfortunately, the fate of Teodor Yarchuk was tragic – in 1941 in Stanislaviv (Ivano-Frankivsk) he was shot.

Despite the fact of almost complete annihilation of Ukrainian Lutheranism by the Soviet authorities, the case of Teodor Yarchuk did not disappear from the face of the earth. During the persecution, Pastor Mykhailo Hiltaychuk managed to migrate to the United States in the hope of returning to Ukraine. However, the pastor died in migration and is buried in the United States. He was able to convey the ideas of Theodore Yarchuk through the mission “Thoughts on Faith” in America to Pastor Mikhail Tymchuk. At this point, the spiritual life of Ukrainian Lutherans froze until the time of Ukrainian independence.

Yaroslav Shepelyavets, who came to Ukraine from the United States in the 1990s, began active missionary work to spread the Augsburg religion (appointed by the Wisconsin Synod) and began the revival of the ULC. In 1994, the first ULC community was registered in Ukraine. It is the only Lutheran church in the world that uses the Eastern Rite liturgy and the Julian church calendar. Bishop Vyacheslav Horpinchuk currently heads the ULC communities. Today there are thousands of faithful ULCs and they operate in Ternopil, Lviv, Kyiv, Simferopol, Zaporizhia, Kremenets, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Sevastopol, etc.

In the middle of the spiritual life of ULC, Teodor Yarchuk is revered as blessed. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church honors his memory according to the Julian church calendar.

Dr. Eugene Raspopov