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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:

LOI 2017: Theological Formation for Mission

LOI’s 2017 consultation begins tomorrow, 5 September. For the programme, go to: 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.

Searching for Mystery in the Mission of God

A review of The Mission of the Church: Five views in conversation edited by Craig Ott                  (Published by Baker Academic 2016)

MOTCIn the style and tradition of “Three views of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism” edited by Brad Nasif et al., Craig Ott has now brought together five significant missiologists from major Christian traditions to reflect on the Mission of the Church.

This fascinating volume invites the five authors to first state there understanding of the Mission of God and then to respond to their fellow authors. The book has its weaknesses but contains much to stimulate debate and set an agenda for further inter-confessional enrichment. The two major drawbacks of this collection of essays are firstly, as Ott admits in his introduction, that of the five chosen authors four are North American men, and secondly that the Orthodox input is limited to a contribution from an Eastern Orthodox Church in North America with no voice from Eastern Europe or the Oriental Orthodox Churches. That said the five authors do bring to the table Roman Catholic, Conciliar, Evangelical and Orthodox perspectives. They are Stephen Bevans, Darrell Guder, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Edward Rommen and Ed Stetzer.

The focus of the debate is clearly missiological but this inevitable leads into an exploration of soteriology, Christology and eccleciology. All authors are agreed that there has been, over the past fifty years, a very significant convergence between their traditions which has placed both Trinitarian theology and the Missio Dei centre stage. Related agreements around the primacy of the church in mission, apostalicity as its primary characteristic in mission and the missional significance of (Eucharistic) community are also very much in evidence and are explored at some depth.

When it comes to embracing the holistic nature of mission there is often a greater sense of agreement between our Roman Catholic, Conciliar and Latino conversation partners than between the two evangelicals with Stetzer still wishing to retain an element of ‘priority’ for the verbal proclamation of the Gospel. Ion Bria’s language of “the liturgy after the liturgy” as an expression of a commitment to ensuring that our mystical union with Christ embraces the broken world with healing and reconciling life, is not only used by Rommen.

The area of greatest difficulty appears to be ecclesiology, something we have experienced during several of the LOI consultations. What, or who, constitutes the church and how; the relationship between the church and the Kingdom (or reign) of God; and the relationship between church and mission are all warmly, if not hotly, contested. Rommen in particular adopts a rigorous approach to apostalicity which, he maintains, can one be achieved through verified apostolic succession. He suggests that only such apostolic churches have the capacity (and ecclesial authority) to engage in mission. He asks of all mission movements “are [your] staff members legitimate successors of the apostles or simply hired help?” It is interesting that none of his conversation partners directly challenge this point or offer alternative approached to legitimate apostalicity.

Finally, my greatest disappointment was that what I had expected to be the Orthodox gift to this debate is in fact missing. There is none of that rich vein of apophatic faith which helps us grasp, or rather be grasped by, the mystery of the mission of God – the unknowability of the working of God’s Spirit amongst his people. Perhaps the North America bias of this volume has led to a rationalistic debate that robs us of the wonder of knowing that the God who is eternally in mission is also eternally a God of surprises, of paradox and of mystery. It is this that, for me, makes that divine-human relationship, which as Rommen so powerfully reminds us is both the fulfilment and content of mission, so intoxicating impossible to resist.

Mark Oxbrow  (International Director, Faith2Share)

Healing – a Neglected Aspect of Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue?

Over the years, I’ve read quite a few accounts of people transitioning (I don’t want to use the word ‘converting’, as conversion is to Christ) from Evangelicalism to Orthodoxy. There don’t seem to be many published about folk moving in the opposite direction, but if there were I’d devour those too. (Suggestions, please!)

A friend recently raised with me the possibility that healing may be a neglected aspect of Evangelical-Orthodox dialogue. Yes, we seek to heal relationships at the corporate level, encouraging groups to work together where they can to serve God’s mission in our broken and hurting world. Part of that is through creating a space in which positive relationships can be built, providing a context for addressing some of the issues which cause such pain to members of one tradition or the other. And by God’s grace LOI seeks to encourage joint efforts in areas where communities need to see God at work bringing healing.

But isn’t it true that some of us have been affected by our experiences in moving from one Christian community to another, whether those experiences were good or bad? How does that skew our perception of the community we have left? How does it affect our ability to work with, and relate to, that community? And how can a dialogue process between two Christian traditions take this dimension into account? It would be good to hear what you think …

Jetlag and Interviews

Jim Stamoolis, Leslie Doll, Tim Grass, Nathan Hoppe, and Mark Oxbrow of the planning group.

Jim Stamoolis, Leslie Doll, Tim Grass, Nathan Hoppe, and Mark Oxbrow of the planning group.

Tim was in Chicago from 19-26 April for a week’s meetings about LOI, and he and others were interviewed by John Maddex for an Ancient Faith Radio podcast. You can listen to it at:
The group planning our consultations had a productive day advancing preparations not only for this year’s gathering in Cambridge but also for our planned North American regional consultation in Boston in June 2018. We plan to look at the topic of discipleship, something close to all our hearts as Christian servants. More anon!

LOI Committee excited by the future

The committee at work. Some members joined us by Skype.

The committee at work. Some members joined us by Skype.

The LOI does much of its organization during a 3-day residential committee each year. We met at the Coptic Centre, Stevenage, from 16-18 January, at the kind invitation of His Grace Bishop Angaelos. The welcoming environment and home cooking provided an excellent setting for us to pray, think, and discuss together.

Among other things, we discussed:
– a consultation for theological educators (present and future) to be held in Cambridge from 5-8 September this year;
– a regional consultation for North America, to be held in June 2018;
– how we can make the work of LOI better known, and develop relationships with supporters, partners, and donors;
– and how we can engage with some of the ‘hard to reach’ places, both Evangelical and Orthodox.
Hard work, but we came away excited at what lies ahead, and thankful to God for his hand upon us.

New doctoral thesis on the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius

The Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius has provided many in the English-speaking world with an excellent meeting-point for Christians from Eastern and Western traditions, and in particular between Orthodox and Anglicans. A new Ph.D. thesis by Dimitrios Salapatas, a student at the University of Winchester, outlines and evaluates the bridge-building work of the Fellowship. I was interviewed regarding the dialogue between Orthodox and Evangelicals held under the Fellowship’s auspices until 2014, and it is a pleasure to bring this work to the attention of a wider audience, with the author’s permission. Below is the abstract.

The Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius: Quest for Truth, Quest for Theology, Quest for Unity
An Exploration of Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Ecumenical Theological and Ecclesiological Relations from 1927 until 2012

This thesis aims to examine the Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, an ecumenical body that promotes relations between various Christian denominations. Despite being founded on the grounds to promote relations and dialogue between the Anglicans and the Orthodox, it has widened this scope, introducing new churches in its life, conferences, publications and history. In the first and second chapters of this thesis the first eighty five years (1927-2012) of its history are explored, identifying the Society’s strengths and weaknesses in achieving its objectives, whilst studying its theological approaches to the reunion work, understanding that this body has been a progressive fellowship, theologically and ecclesiastically. The third chapter investigates the life and the theological, philosophical and historical views of Nicolas Zernov, who had as a life goal to foster relations between the churches, whilst also promoting Orthodox and Russian topics to a Western audience. The final chapter examines two themes by two important members of the Fellowship, Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia’s ideas on deaconesses and women priests and former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams’ views on icons. These two topics are interesting and current for the continuation of the relations between the Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion, trying to further understand each other in order to eventually achieve what many in the Fellowship profess and what the Bible promotes, ‘that they all may be one’ (John 17:21). The conclusion of the thesis assesses the work of the Fellowship, whilst also looking into the post 2012 objectives and achievements of the Fellowship and the future goals of the Society. Therefore, this paper is a quest for truth, a quest for theology and a quest for unity.