In a video message shown at the opening of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Busan, South Korea, His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, called on Christians to “pray for the peace of the whole world and for the unity of all”.
More than 2,000 participants from around the world will participate in the WCC Assembly this week which has the theme, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”.
During the assembly the WCC will adopt its new policy on Mission which has been developed and discussed with member churches over the last two years.
As the next General Assembly of the World Council of Church (WCC) approaches some Orthodox missiologists have been reflecting on the WCC and particularly its understanding of mission. The General Assembly will be held in Busan, Korea, from 30 October – 8 November and one of the major documents to be considered will be their new policy statement on mission “Together towards life: Mission and Evangelism in Changing Landscapes“.
In preparation for the discussions in Pusan many responses to this document have been written. Three by Orthodox leaders, including one by a member of the LOI Steering Group, Archpriest Vladimir Fedorov (pictured), may be of interest and are available for download here.
Vladimir Fedorov – on WCC Mission Statement
Petros Vassiliadis on WCC Mission Statement
Petros Vassiliadis on Mission and Dialogue
Stephen Hayes has just written an interesting short article on the differences between evangelism and proselytism – from his Orthodox perspective – on his blog. Click here to read it. If you have not come across Stephen before he is an Orthodox missiologist based in South Africa who hosts a missiology Yahoo group and writes regularly on mission related topics.
The current edition of the Sacred Tribes Journal is also devoted entirely to the topic of “The Ethics of Evangelism” drawing quite heavily on the work of Elmer J Thiessen (see his book The Ethics of Evangelism: A Philosophical Defense of Proselytizing and Persuasion) but also including a hard hitting attack on evangelism by a Hindu scholar, Bart Abbott, and two Christian responses. You can download a copy of the complete Sacred Tribes Journal at Academia.com using this link if you are a member (or join on line). If you are not a member and would still like a copy write to Mark Oxbrow.
We have just heard this encouraging news from Albania.
Last week Orthodox and Evangelical leaders who work in prisons in Albania were able to meet together (perhaps for the first time?) to share common concerns and learn from each other. One Evangelical leader comments, “It was a very pleasant time together, studying several aspects on the main theme: how to be more effective in our ministry.” The same person also reflects on the LOI consultation in Albania last month saying, “I so hope it will appear to have been a turning point in our cooperation with the Orthodox church for reaching out to the Albanian people with the liberating gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.”
The International Prison Chaplains’ Association (IPCA) has a strong history of bringing together chaplains of many different Christian traditions to work together in prisons. The European branch of the IPCA was very active a few years ago in restablishing prison chaplaincy in many majority Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The next IPCA International conference will be held in Sydney, Australia from 19-24 September 2015 with a Europe conference being held in Cambridge, UK from 11-15 September 2017.
Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Church leaders meeting in the UK have shared their fears about the future of Christianity in the Middle East. This was the first Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission in 12 years. The dialogue’s central topic was the Holy Spirit, but Christian persecution in countries across the Middle East was inevitably a key issue. During the consultation the Co-Chair of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, said, “We gather to remember our brethren in Egypt, Syria, and throughout the Middle East, where many continue to suffer persecution for their faith. Some suffer even to the extent of losing their lives, yet their faithful witness in the Middle East is a blessing to the whole Church, and to the whole world.”
In the midst of such sadness and concern there was also joy and hope that believers from different traditions had so much to share with one another. The Rt Revd Christopher Hill, the Church of England Bishop of Guildford said, “When Christians welcome each other it is a mutual welcome because God in Christ welcomes us. Bishop Angaelos echoed these ecumenical sentiments, “We are blessed to have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also sharing in our vision. There are differences, but the things we have in common are far greater, and far more important. …We are faithful to the one flock, one Shepherd.”
On Sunday 6 October, the Commission members welcomed Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd Justin Welby to the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court, for its Feast of Dedication. Archbishop Welby said there was “an urgency and an importance” to the Commission’s meeting not least because of the need for its members to seek “God’s powerful hand” to deliver their brothers and sisters from persecution.
We have just received news from Ventislaz and Zlatina Karavaltcheva (Bulgarian Orthodox missionaries who have worked previously in Georgia and Ukraine) that the first stage of an imprtant reseource for Bulgarian schools has been released. This year nearly 2,000 first graders in Sofia and other parts of Bulgaria will have the opportunity to learn the basic concepts of Christianity as well as about the most significant religious holidays through this interactive teaching kit. Using the lives of Biblical characters and saints as the starting point of each session pupils will learn about the Christian understanding of family, community, joy, courage, Easter, and much more. Eventually this will be a four year resource for teachers working in Bulgarian schools. More information (in Bulgarian) at http://dveri.bg/xywkw
LOI are sad to hear of the attack on the Coptic bishop, Bishop Makarios of Minya, in Egypt, on Monday morning (30 September) when he and his vehicle came under fire. The bishop, according to a statement issued by the Minya Diocese, was visiting the village of Garees in Abu Qerqas to offer condolences to the family of Karim Samir Lamaee, a Christian resident of the town who had sold property to donate to the Church and was subsequently killed. Full report at http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/09/30/minya-bishop-escapes-assassination-attempt/