Monthly Archives: October 2017

500 Years of the Protestant Reformation

I couldn’t let this anniversary pass without some reference here. It was on 31 October 1517 that Martin Luther is said to have published his protest against the abuses evident in the church of his day, the ‘Ninety-Five Theses’. Churches and ecumenical bodies around the world have been marking the anniversary this year, and some have issued statements, such as that from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Television, radio, and print media have all been delving into this epochal period of Western history. At a local level, I don’t suppose I am the only one to have taken the opportunity to preach a series of sermons on key Reformation themes, and to try to explain ‘how the (Western) churches got to be the way they are’.

And that highlights the point I want to make – that there is an ongoing need for education about the past, both our own past and that of others. Those of us who belong to churches which emerged as a result of those events half a millennium ago need to be alert to our own past, and how it shapes our present. Those whose churches did not undergo such a process of reform also need to know something of the Protestant past, just as Protestants have been encouraged to come to grips with the Orthodox past. Protestants (and Evangelicals among them) have a history.

And encounters between Orthodox and Protestants, or more particularly between Orthodox and Evangelicals, also have a history. During the Reformation era, Lutherans and Orthodox made contact. Evangelical mission workers encountered Orthodoxy in its home contexts, with varying results. A friend of mine who was a civil servant reckons that if we want to know where we should go from here, a good first step is to understand how we got to where we are. LOI’s goal is ‘to reflect constructively on the history of relationships between Orthodox and Evangelicals in order to work towards better understanding and healing where wounds exist’. Constructive reflection on the past with a view to setting our direction for the future seems an appropriate way of marking this anniversary. Please pray for LOI as we seek to encourage this – and get in touch to let us know how you are doing this.

 

Anglicans, Oriental Orthodox, the Holy Spirit and the Mission of the Church

An International Commission of Anglicans and Oriental Orthodox has just issued an agreed statement on the work of the Holy Spirit and its relation to the Church’s mission. For more on this story, see: https://dublin.anglican.org/news/2017/10/27/anglican-and-orientalorthodox-churches-sign. The story is given poignancy by the present situation and sufferings of many Oriental Orthodox Christians, for which concern was expressed.

How refugees trigger Sweden’s Orthodoxy boom

An unexpected aspect of the arrival of hundreds of thousands of displaced people from various Middle Eastern countries is the exponential increase in membership and attendance of Orthodox churches in parts of Western Europe. The Media Project, which reports on the role of religion in public life, has run an article on developments in Sweden, exploring how Orthodox from various jurisdictions are seeking to integrate into their new home. Let us pray for those churches, and for Christians of Evangelical and other traditions, as they seek to build strong relationships for the sake of God’s mission.

Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide

The Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide (CCCW; https://www.cccw.cam.ac.uk/) is seeking to appoint a Director to serve from January 2018. Applications are invited by 19 October 2017 from candidates who wish to promote the understanding of and engagement with Christian mission and World Christianity. This is an excellent opportunity for a creative and enterprising individual with a strong academic record to discern contemporary needs and develop the educational role of CCCW.

A Recent Doctoral Work on Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue in North America

Danut Manastireanu

Rev. Ovidiu Dorin Druhora, minister of a Romanian Pentecostal church in Los Angeles, has defended in 2016, at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University in Bucharest, Romania, his doctoral research titled ‘Protestantism and Orthodoxy in North America: Dichotomy and Ecumenical Dialogue’, realised under the coordination of Dr. Remus Rus.

The text, written in Romanian, is divided in five distinct sections. The first one presents the methodological approach of the author, which centres on the concept of koinonia as a dialogical model, with serious theological and hermeneutical implications for upholding the New Testament ideal of ecclesial unity. The second part presents a historical excursus on Protestant-Orthodox theological dialogue in N America and beyond. The third section of the thesis analyses what the Orthodox and Protestant Evangelicals hold in common, but also what still separates them. The fourth part of the work offers a suggestion for what the author considers to be the most fertile ground for the continuation of this dialogue, which, he suggests, should be found in models that predate the Great Schism and some recent neo-evangelical approaches (it remains to be seen how realistic this proposal is, and how these tenth-century models could be appropriated in the current context). The final part of this work sets the discussion in the contemporary postmodern context, and explores its possible future, not only in N America, but also in Romania, the author’s country of origin.

The author’s approach to ecumenical dialogue is informed by David Lochhead’s triad (in The Dialogical Imperative: A Christian Reflection on Interfaith Encounter, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 1988) – information, formation, transformation – which we commend as having a great inspirational potential for various ecumenical dialogues, including that initiated by LOI.

Those accustomed with the various Evangelical-Orthodox encounters will meet in the course of reading this text very familiar names, like Bradley Nassif, James Stamoolis, Kallistos Ware, Edmund Rybarczyk, Stelian Tofana, Emil Bartos, and others. The contribution of various key players and initiatives is presented and analysed.

One of the exploratory instruments used by Dr. Druhora in his research was an interview which consisted of three basic questions – dealing with uniqueness, the challenges and the future of Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue, which he addressed to 33 theologians and church leaders, mostly from the US, UK and Romania. He includes in full some of the responses to this interview, which gives readers the opportunity to taste the reality which the author has analysed in his research.

The doctoral work discussed here, with its concentration on the N American context, is really a premiere, and it deserves the full attention of those interested in ecumenism, particularly the interaction between Evangelicals and Orthodox, be it in theological or missiological terms. We welcome it and we hope that, in time, it will become available, in book form, in Romanian as well as in English.

Axios, Rev. Dr. Ovidiu Druhora!