Christian Mission in Orthodox Context



The Orthodox Faculty of the St Kliment of Ohrid University, Sofia, and the International Baptist Theological Seminary, are jointly hosting a conference on “Christian Mission in Orthodox context: Canonical territory, religious freedom and issues of proselytism” (08 – 12 February 2009).

With over thirty participants from Orthodox, Baptist, free evangelical, Pentecostal, Anglican and other Christian traditions the conference represents a major initiative of the two institutions. The Co-Chairs of the conference are Professor Doc Dr Emil Trajchev (Dean, Faculty of Theology, Sofia) and the Revd Doc Dr Parush R Parushev (Academic Dean and Pro-Rector, IBTS, Prague).

The plenary speakers addressed the tree focal points of the discussion: canonical territories, religious freedom and issues of proselytism as viewed by Orthodox churches and minority Christian communities in the Orthodox context. Docent Dilyan Nikolchev from Sofia delivered a paper on “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the united Europe: challenges and Opportunities”. Dr Petros Malakyan from Yerevan, Armenia, spoke about “Enabling ecclesial leadership in the Orthodox context of Armenia and Ethiopia”. The Revd Darrell Jackson, formerly of the Conference of European Churches, now at Redcliffe College, Gloucester, spoke on “A comparative and Contextual Study of the Discourse of Canonical Territory in Russia, Western Europe and North America”. Renowned Mennonite scholar, Dr Walter Sawatsky presented a paper on a “Perspective of Orthodox communities interacting with the Latin churches”. The issues of human rights and religious freedom from evangelical and Orthodox perspectives were addressed by young Bulgarian scholars Dr Viktor Kostov in his presentation on “Freedom of Conscience and Religion: Missiological Implications and the Post-communist Context” and by Kamelija Slavcheva in her paper on “The Importance of Knowing Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Bulgaria.” Doc Dr Bozhidar Andonov from Sofia pointed “Towards Integration of the European Christian Roots”. Dr Danut Manastireanu from Iasi, currently with World Vision in Eastern Europe and the Middle East presented views on proselytism in his paper “A Protestant View on Christian Proselytism in Orthodox Contexts”.

Other issues explored were issues of shared language and metaphors; social ministries; Orthodox missional identities and the role of millet system in the understanding of Orthodox mission in Bulgaria and Armenia; on shared spiritual roots of Bulgarian and Russian evangelical and Orthodox believers and their effect on evangelical preaching, education and spirituality as well as an examination of Dostoevsky and embodied Russian Orthodox theology.

IBTS Rector, the Revd Dr Keith G Jones commented: “We are delighted at the developing cooperation between ourselves and St Kliment of Ohrid University in Sofia. It compliments the partnership we have had for the past decade with the Orthodox Academy at Vilemov in Moravia on the theology of creation care. Internationally the Baptist World Alliance has sought conversations with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, but as yet these have not been inaugurated. Within the context of Europe, Baptists and Orthodox scholars have been more able to make these connections. The Revd Dr Docent Parush R Parushev, Pro-Rector of IBTS and a Bulgarian, has been a trail blazer in this desire to improve Orthodox and Baptist understanding and was the driving force behind this highly successful event.”

At an informal social event on the final night, Professor Doc Dr Emil Trajchev and Rector Dr Keith G Jones, exchanged gifts as a sign of the continuing partnership.

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Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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