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!

LOI 2017: too good to keep to ourselves

The papers and podcasts from last week’s consultation are now available for download from the website under the ‘LOI 2017’ tab. Together they form a body of material on the topic of theological formation for mission which we hope will stimulate increased co-operation between our two Christian traditions. We hope that you will find them helpful. Please share them with colleagues and friends, bring them to the attention of your students, and feel free to add hyperlinks to the page.

And there’s a gallery of pictures too!

Passion for Mission: LOI 2017 consultation

At least seventy church leaders, mission workers and seminary teachers, including a number of younger leaders, gathered at Selwyn College, Cambridge, last week for four days of prayer, study and conversation around the topic of ‘Theological Formation for Mission’. Coming from places as diverse as Alaska, South Africa, and South Korea, they were able to form new friendships, share experiences, disagree with one another in love, have their thinking stimulated, and focus their vision to see people formed to share effectively in the Mission of God to our world.

We will shortly be uploading the papers to the website under the tab for the consultation, and also links to podcasts made by John Maddex of Ancient Faith Radio. They include assessments of how new approaches to the teaching of the Apostle Paul can help us grow together and work together; reflections on experience of working together in seminary and mission contexts, and reports on the situation in various parts of the world. Together they form a valuable body of material exploring on how we are formed theologically, and how we form others, to share in the mission to which God has called us.

The Orthodox Church in America has a story on the consultation on its website, which also features the group photo taken in front of the college chapel: https://oca.org/news/headline-news/oca-represented-at-orthodox-evangelical-consultation-in-cambridge-uk.

LOI 2017: Theological Formation for Mission

LOI’s 2017 consultation begins tomorrow, 5 September. For the programme, go to: http://www.loimission.net/loi-2017/. We eagerly anticipate a feast of good things, but we also want it to issue in practical action.

We hope to make some of the papers available after the consultation, and will also post a full report.

Please remember us in your prayers. Pray especially that Orthodox and Evangelicals will find ways of doing mission together which are marked by love, integrity, and mutual respect.

Rethinking Missio Dei in Eastern Europe

Recently published in a series of monographs from Langham Partnership is Vladimir Ubeivolc’s Rethinking Missio Dei among Evangelical Churches in an Eastern European Orthodox Context (ISBN 978-1-78368-104-4). The context is Moldova, and the author argues that the concept of Missio Dei offers a key place where the Evangelical and Orthodox traditions can not only dialogue but also work together. We shall be carrying a review of this significant work in due course.