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Ecumenical Progress: 5 Thoughts on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration - AP

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration – AP

Leaders of two major branches of world Christianity joined together on November 30, 2014 to issue a joint statement about the need for shared theological reflection, commitment to common purposes, and dialogue with other religious groups to establish understanding and justice. Special consideration was also given to Christians living in war zones in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, are pictured here signing the resolution. Below are excerpts from the text (inset), with comments following major sections.

For more on these perspectives, see past posts The Impact of Pope Francis and How the East Sees the West.

1. There is a common lineage and history, even if they have been estranged for centuries. By establishing these models at the outset, the statement invites an atmosphere of familial ties.

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

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World Cup of Theologians: Algeria – Augustine of Hippo

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

augustineAugustine of Hippo was born on November 13, 354 in the Numidian city of Tagaste (present day Souk Ahras, Algeria). As a young man prone to following his passions, Augustine famously prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

After converting to Christianity and being baptized in 387, Augustine went on to become one of the most influential Church Fathers of the Western church. He is most well known for his spiritual memoir Confessions and his lengthy philosophical work, City of God.

In this well known quote from the Confessions, Augustine reveals how his perspective on desire has changed, having been made new by the love of God:

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

Download the free audiobook of Confessions here.

You can read St. Augustine’s full biography here or here.

Tim Hoiland blogs at timhoiland.com and tweets at @timhoiland. It took him months to read through City of God last year, and he pretends he understood it.

World Cup of Theologians: Greece – Theophilos III

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Theolphilos III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, has been the leader of the Orthodox Church in the region since 2005. In a region of such religious, cultural, and political tension, his leadership of a church with longest historical continuity but a smaller physical presence puts him in a unique position to advocate for religious mutuality and co-existence.theophilos

In 2011, Patriarch Theophilos III sat with Anna Koulouris of the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture for an interview about the role of the Orthodox Church in the region.

How much of a role does the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate play in speaking about Palestinian rights, especially with its close proximity to areas like Silwan? Does the church feel a responsibility to take a political stance on the issue?

We try not to interfere or turn ourselves into politicians, but at the same time this does not mean that we do not have compassion for the suffering and the affliction through which the people are passing here. And this is why the churches here have established a kind of council to discuss issues of common concern. We are addressing issues like the recent shooting in Silwan and others. Our purpose is to try, from our position, to contribute to mutual respect and understanding and to peaceful coexistence and symbiosis. This is the duty of the church. This is why we as churches have officially and repeatedly made statements and expressed our position over the status of Jerusalem.

Our position on Jerusalem is that we want it to be an open city, to be accessible to everybody, and that Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate all religious communities. We say it is enough for us to be allowed to visit and venerate the places that are commonly holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Even if we do not have claims over the site itself, we have claims to the holiness and sanctity of the place. The Temple Mount is an example. Another example is King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion. When we have our holy day of Pentecost, which we celebrate in our monastery and at the school on Mount Zion, after the service we go in our liturgical vestments in a procession to King David’s Tomb, which is a synagogue. There we go for worship, to say our prayers and leave. This is what we want. This is our understanding of the holy places. This is why I have said Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate everybody.

Politically speaking, everybody has claims over Jerusalem and everybody wants Jerusalem to be his or her own capital. But from the religious point of view, Jerusalem is the capital of God. And my personal position is that Jerusalem breathes with three lungs: a Christian lung, a Jewish lung and an Islamic lung. And those lungs, they breathe harmoniously. This is how we see the future of Jerusalem.

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Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

Islam and Global Theology

We have had several posts related to Islam over the past year and had been asked to compile them into one post so that they would be more accessible to people during the seasons of Ramadan and the Eid. Feel free to connect with us via our Contact Page or find ways to Get Involved as a guest contributor or regional editor.

A Christian Perspective of Eid al-Fitr

For many Christians living in non-Western contexts, Islam is a very present religious community. Outside of homogenous cultures, multi-faith communities share life together in meaningful ways. Through interaction with the religious identity of others, we can come to a fuller understanding of ourselves.

Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic holiday that is a celebration to mark the completion of Ramadan. It is a three-day celebration of purification and thanksgiving for Allah’s strength to complete the preceding month of fasting.

My question is, what can Christians appreciate from this celebration and how can we better understand ourselves in light of it?

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Guidance and Light

This shows an Islamic starburst tile pattern (which traditionally symbolizes the spread of Islam throughout the universe), a lighted lamp and the first half of a verse (5:46) from the Qur’an which states:

Sample Images from “Guidance and Light” by Scott Rayl

“And We (God) sent, following in their footsteps Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which was before him in the Torah, and gave him the Gospel, in which there is guidance and light…”

So, in this painting the lamp and the tile pattern both represent the guidance and the light of the Gospel enlightening the world.

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Qur’an Christology?

Adrian Warnock has a post about 11 things Muslims agree with Christians about Jesus. How can  a functioning Christology be made out of this to turn the corner from interfaith dialogue to ecumenical dialogue?

Or, to put the initial question a different way, what differentiates Islam from Christian groups which hesitate in differentiating members of the Trinity (like Unitarians) or hold a low-Christology or elevate their founding teacher’s interpretations on par with other scripture (like Lutherans or Calvinists)?

What roadblocks stand in the way to distinguishing an authentically Islamic Christian Theology?

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Challenging Islamophobia – A Christian Duty

In this article, Ray Gaston of Birmingham, UK argues for a radical interpretation and implementation of 1 Corinthians 13 in response to Islamophobia in the West.

…I want to present not an analysis or apology for Islam, I leave that to Muslims themselves, neither will this be a potted description of the practices of Islam for Christians. (There are other good resources for Christians to find out about Islam and to find out about the particular communities of Muslims that reside in the UK.) Instead I want to argue for a Christian praxis within this context of rising Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime. This praxis is founded upon two sources – one Islamic and the other Christian – that seek to generate a two-fold agenda for Christians in relation to Islam and Muslims. Firstly, founded upon an Islamic story about the first recorded encounter between Muslims and Christians, the priority for Christians is to seek to build the trust of Muslims. Secondly, rooted in the Pauline understanding of the practice of love, a call to self examine the hatred and fear in our own hearts and as a counter-cultural practice, actively to seek, through a dialogical spirituality, what is good in Islam, thus subverting the barrage of negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims in the media.

Follow for the complete article.

Qur’an Christology?

Adrian Warnock has a post about 11 things Muslims agree with Christians about Jesus. How can  a functioning Christology be made out of this to turn the corner from interfaith dialogue to ecumenical dialogue? (more…)

globaltheologyadmin:

A quick thought from a friend about the significance of non-Europeans in the foundation of continental theology. He hits the nail on the head that theological reflection is not restricted to Europeans and provides the opening of a larger conversation about how contemporary non-Western theologians can be more adequately incorporated into the life of the church.

Originally posted on Job and the Storm:

Some (small) food for thought:

Much of orthodox Christian theology owes its success to the work of African and Asia-minor thinkers. Regarding the former, one need look no further than the North African theologians. Augustine, Tertullian and Cyprian are just a handful (and what a handful!). One could also throw in there for good measure Origen (from Alexandria, Egypt) and Athanasius (Also Egyptian. Fun fact: he was derisively nick-named the “black dwarf” because of his physical appearance). And the Asia-minor thinkers? Look no further than the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nanzianzus), residents of what is now Turkey and undisputably important theologians.

All of the thinkers mentioned above are powerhouses who contributed enormously both to Orthodox theology and Western thought generally. And none of them are European. Before Barth, Tillich, Multmann, etc. there were the African and Asian thinkers who laid the foundation for…

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Journal of Global Theology: Call for Submissions

Foundation University is sponsoring a new scholarly journal project called the Journal of Global Theology. See below for information about the inaugural volume :

Global theology in the internet era: an examination of the importance of the internet as a tool for the promulgation of Christian theology

The Journal of Global Theology (Foundation University) seeks to provide insight into the study of Christian Theology from a decidedly Global perspective. We offer readers an opportunity to view theology from various viewpoints while at the same time maintaining both an orthodox Christian viewpoint and an openness to differing Christian traditions. We seek contributions from every corner of the globe and encourage especially contributions from Asia, the Pacific Rim, the African continent, and the Middle East. Nonetheless, contributions from North and South America and Europe are also welcome.

Journal of Global Theology is aiming to promote scholarly discussions, contributions and dialogue in the following fields:

  1. •Contextual Theology
  2. •Intercultural Theology
  3. •Inter-religious Dialogue
  4. •Theology and Internet
  5. •Peace and Justice

The Journal of Global Theology accepts submissions in English, French, German, and Spanish.

If you would like to contribute, please send your essay to our Editor, Dr. Jim West, at drjewest@gmail.com and note in the subject line ‘submission for the Journal of Global Theology’. All submissions will be subjected to ‘blind peer review’ and those accepted will be notified accordingly.