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Renewal in the Orthodox Churches: the diaspora

16 January 2011

It is quite unusual for Western theological or missiological journals to publish anything written by Orthodox theologians and missiologists, or about Orthodox Christianity. But Studies in World Christianity (Edinburgh University Press) edited by Alastair Kee has just published an entire issue devoted to the theme “Renewal in the Orthodox Churches: the Diaspora”.

Here are abstracts of the articles in Volume 16, Part 3. They are listed below in alphabetical order of the authors of the articles.

Hayes, Stephen, 2010. Orthodox diaspora and mission in South Africa, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 286-303.
The Orthodox diaspora has, paradoxically, spread Orthodox Christianity throughout the world, but has not contributed much to Orthodox mission. Even after the third or fourth generation of immigrants, church services are generally held in the language of the countries from which the immigrants came. This is certainly true of South Africa, where most of the Orthodox immigration has been from Greece and Cyprus, with smaller groups of Russians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Lebanese and Romanians. Though there were immigrants from these countries in southern Africa in the middle of the nineteenth century, it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that Orthodox clergy arrived, and churches were built, first in Cape Town and then in Johannesburg. It was only in the twenty-first century that clergy began to be ordained locally in any numbers. The churches therefore tended to be ethnic enclaves, and apathetic towards, or even opposed to mission and outreach to other ethnic communities.
Lim, Michelle Sungshin, 2010. Adversity and advance: the experience of the Orthodox Church in Korea, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 304-319.
The development of the Orthodox Church in Korea and her philanthropic works have evolved like a three-act play, ridden with the hardship and sorrow of modern Korean history. That history dates from around 1848 to the late 1980s, evoking a long and sad tragedy narrative of MinJung that began in 1852 and continued to the early 1980s. The “Han” memory of Korean ancestry contains a prolonged painful and shameful past during the collapse of the JoSeon dynasty, which ushered in the imperial Japanese occupation, followed by a brief respite at the time of the Korean independence movement in 1945. Finally in the aftermath of the Korean War from 1950-3 at last, in the name of democracy and industrialisation, many young women were exploited and sacrificed under the two oppressive structures – patriarchy and capitalism – under the rule of the totalitarian government from 1953 to the latter years of the 1980s, including the KwangJu massacre on 18 May 1980.
Makris, G.P., 2010. The Greek Orthodox Church and Africa: Missions between the light of universalism and the shadow of nationalism, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 245-267.
The present article considers the socio-political conditions and the character of the Greek Orthodox Church’s missionary activities, taking Nigeria as a case par excellence of the hopes and tensions inherent in the project. As such, the analysis touches only lightly upon the subject of Eastern Orthodox presence in Africa in general, as that would have meant an extended study of the relationship between the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the various Greek immigrant communities, and the multiplicity of local Christianities. The latter are discussed from the point of view of the Church hierarchy in Greece as well as in Nigeria. For this reason the article is meant as an introduction to the issue and should be complemented by ethnographic material from Nigeria.
Persoon, Joachim, 2010. The planting of the Tabot on European soil: the trajectory of the Ethiopian Orthodox involvement with the European continent, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 320-340.
This article relates the concept of the Tabot, the central symbol of divine presence in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the European diaspora experience. The tabot represents the ark of the covenant in Solomon’s temple and is likewise associated with Noah’s ark. Thus the Church is conceptualised as facilitating the traversing of the “ocean of troubles” to reach the “safe haven” of the divine presence. This is experienced in an especially intense way in the diaspora context. Beginning with the concept of diaspora the article gives an overview of the history of the establishment of Ethiopian Orthodox Churches in Europe and explores related trajectories. The Church is experiences as a place of memories, and is also a place where the sojourner can feel at home and belong. It facilitates the preserving of identity and culture, re-creating morals and values, and through aesthetics creates a hermeneutic frame of experience, satisfying the “fourth hunger”.
Saad, Saad Michael, 2010. The contemporary life of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United States, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 207-225.
The present state of the Coptic Orthodox Church in America could not have been imagined fifty years ago. As an integral part opf the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, the young archdiocese in America evolved from non-existence to a formidable 151 parishes, two monasteries, three seminaries and many benevolen, educational and media organisations. Waves of immigration from Egypt brought not only Copts, but also a wealth of Coptic art, music, architecture, literature and spirituality. These treasures are being preserved and promoted by the immigrants and the second generation in the homes, churches and community centers; and covers the above topics and discusses a few of the challenges that come with immigration and assimilation, especially when the community desires to maintain the depth and diversity of an ancient religious culture.
Takahashi, John, 2010. The beginning of the Orthodox Church in Japan: the long-lasting legacy of Saint Nicholai, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 268-285.
Japanese Orthodox Christians faithfully preserve the legacy of St Nicholas as a great help in living the Orthodox Christian life today. Especially regarding evangelisation in Japan, St Nicholai’s thoughts and missionary activities are studied and referred to just as the Church Fathers are referred to to find answers for theological questions. In this sense he is considered to be a modern Church Father by Japanese Orthodox Christians. ZAlthough detailed study of his thoughts and activities is still in progress research findings will benefit both clergy and the faithful in any church when they encounter modern-day problems as Christians. The secret of his success is found in the fact that he always remembered to bring Orthodox Christianity within the context of everyday life and culture.
Varghese, Baby, 2010. Renewal in the Malankara Orthodox Church, India, in Studies in World Christianity, Vol. 16(3). Page 226-244.
The Malankara Syrian Ortrhodox Church, which belongs to the family of Oriental Orthodox Churches, proudly claims to be founded by the Apostle St Thomas. Its history before the fifteenth century is very poorly documented. However, this ancient Christian community was in intermittent contact with the East Syrian Patriarchate of Ctesiphon, which was discontinued with the arrival of the Portuguese who forcibly converted it to Roman Catholicism. After a union of 55 years, the St Thomas Christians were able to contact the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, thanks to the arrival of the Dutch in Malabar and the expulsion of the Portuguese. The introduction of the West Syrian liturgical rites was completed by the middle of the 19th century. The arrival of Anglican missionaries in Malabar at the beginning of the 19th century provided the Syrian Christians the opportunity for modern English education and thus to make signficant contributions to the overall devlopment of the state of Kerala.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. 19 January 2011 7:20 am

    It is amazing to hear of the Lord’s doings in th “Orthodox” world. It has been my understanding in the past that the traditions of men are somewhat lifeless, but since acquiring some history lessons mysle I have a deepr appreciation for the old church traditions, God speaks through church traditions too dont you think?

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