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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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How the East Sees the West

The presence of multiple perspectives within the Christian faith is not a new invention of the 20th century. The split between the Western (Roman Catholic, then Protestant) church and the Eastern Orthodox church is well traveled by Christian historians, yet an understanding of the churches which grew from this cultural differentiation is not as common. In the infograph below, several theologians who are considered to be pillars of Western Christian thought are examined through an Eastern Orthodox perspective. (One of these three pillars is so esteemed, he even garnered an entry in our recent World Cup of Theologians – Augustine of Hippo!)UnsungInTheEast1-514x1024This infographic originally appeared at www.russianchristianclassics.org, a blog exploring Russian church history, the relationship between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, and introducing Russian Christian leaders to an English-speaking audience.

For more information about a leader in the Orthodox church, see our post on an interview with Thelophilus III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine.

World Cup of Theologians: Germany – Johann Metz

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.

metzJohann Baptist Metz (1928- )is a unique German theologian who learned first-hand both the devastation of human suffering and the furtherance of suffering caused by the silence of Christians. After World War II, in which he was an American prisoner of war, he returned to Germany and studied at the University of Innsbruck under Karl Rahner. He was a primary voice in the development of Political Theology, working to find meaningful theology after the collapse of humanism ideals seen in the Holocaust.

Metz is best known for his concept of the dangerous memory of suffering, an element of the Theology of Hope that stresses the role of Christian’s creating spaces for stories of suffering. Dangerous memory is also an essential part of our Christian experience because the memory of Christ’s suffering is one of our key catalysts for our salvation and the justice for all peoples that comes with that salvation. His ideas have been used to argue for an increased Christian presence alongside those with mental illness, survivors of abuse and genocide, and alcoholism.

Metz writes of the way memory is destroyed, in this instance for the survivors of the El Mezote Massacre in En Salvador in 1981:

The destruction of memory [in situations of injustice and violence] turns out systematically to hinder identity, to prevent people from becoming subjects or continuing to be subjects in their social-historical contexts. Uprooting slaves and deporting them always tends to destroy their memories, and precisely in this way serves as a powerful reinforcement of their state of being as slaves, their systemic disempowerment in the interest of effecting their complete subjugation. On the other hand, the formation of identity always begins with the awakening of memory.

Metz’s classic work, Faith in History and Society. Toward a Practical Fundamental Theology, expands on his understanding of political theology, with special attention to the implications of living out this distinctive expression of faith.

Zane Ridings is a Masters of Divinity student at Brite Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Eureka College, he completed an honors research thesis titled: Walking Alongside the Least of These: Liberation Hermeneutics and Praxis-based Missions in Guatemala. This work has been part of Zane’s theological exploration of questions concerning justice, politics, and Christian fellowship and ethics.

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: Mexico – Samuel Ruiz

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.

Samuel Ruiz (1924-2011) was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop serving among the indigenous Maya peoples in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Mexican state of Chiapas. He was an advocate for the rights of the marginalized peoples which led him into conflict, both within and outside the Catholic Church.

ruizEven though he was raised with a traditional and conservative view of the Church, he was heavily influenced by Vatican II’s desire to integrate the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with the culture and perspective of the local parish. This emphasis would mark his ministry and the Catholic faith that spread throughout the region.

To bring the Catholic faith to the Mayan people, he learned the dialects that were spoken widely and ordained Mayans into the diaconate and priesthood to further serve their communities. As he witnessed the injustices these people suffered, Ruiz championed the human rights of the indigenous people, calling for political reforms which led him into conflict with the leadership of the Church.

…we need to realize that we have a role to play in overcoming our own discrimination which is sometime very subtly held but that we do need to overcome it and see our indigenous peoples as brothers and sisters, not because we are legally mandated to do so, but because we genuinely see them as our brothers and sisters in our struggle for a better world.

For more information about the Mayan-led church in the Chiapas region and recent easing of anti-liberation policies, read more here.

For a coloring activity for children about Father Ruiz, click here (via doonething.org)

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.

 

 

Macrina: The Woman Responsible for the Trinity?

macrinaMacrina was born in 327 to a wealthy family living in Turkey. She was named after her grandmother, who had studied theology and been persecuted in the third-century. Macrina was the oldest of 10 siblings and responsible for educating her younger brothers and sisters. She was arranged to be married but he died before the wedding, at which point Macrina dedicated herself to assisting her mother before entering the monastic life.

Convincing her mother to relinquish her estate among her siblings after the death of her husband, the two women began a convent consisting of freed slaves. Their religious devotion would leave a greater impact than they could have imagined. (more…)

Listening to Jailed Justice

50 years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his poignant essay “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”. A watershed moment for the American Civil Rights Movement, King’s letter continues to be an entry point for understanding Christian opposition to systemic injustice. The stark realities of churches captive to cultural notions of superiority echo from its pages and should give us reason again to acknowledge our complicity in mistreatment of our neighbor (regardless their ethnicity, gender, or creed) and resolve to change ourselves and our communities.

In his address, King is writing to white pastors who were silent or resistant to the need for social justice regarding civil rights for African-Americans, and his call resounds to  Christians who are ignorant of the histories and current realities of ethnically and historically marginalized groups. Continuing to ignore the reality (or the identity-creating history) perpetuates the cultural divides that subtly (and not-so-subtly) influence contemporary Christianity.

Below is the letter in it’s entirety.

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. (more…)

Romero: A Seed of Freedom

“Que mi sangre sea semilla de libertad y la señal de que la esperanza será pronto una realidad.”

(Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.)

– Archbishop Óscar Romero

On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Óscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated while he was celebrating the mass.

Romero had become an advocate and champion of the poor in El Salvador and Latin America, which brought him into opposition with the right-wing military government. Following his assassination, he has been recognized as a candidate for canonization and is currently revered as a Servant of God.

The following music video was produced as part of The Project: Martyrs Prayers. Accompanying this is a three-part podcast examining the life and message of Father Romero by Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The podcasts are available here (Part 1: Introduction, Part 2: Present Reality of Martyrdom, Part 3: Ancient/Modern Understanding of Martyrdom).

Credits:

Musician- Michael Glen Bell

Film Maker- Owen Thomas
More information on The Project: Martyrs Prayers.

Florence Li Tim Oi and the Asian American Struggle

“Then he (Jesus) appointed seventy others and sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go… heal the sick and proclaim that the kingdom has come near.” (Luke 10:1-9)
Throughout history, God has called certain individuals or groups to become trail blazers, pioneers, explorers, discoverers, entrepreneurs, the avant garde of the march towards the future. Today, January 24, we celebrate the feast of Florence Li Tim Oi, the first woman to be ordained in the worldwide Anglican Communion. (Click to Tweet) We also read about the calling of the seventy disciples to go ahead of Jesus to announce that the kingdom of God has come near.

King’s Theological Resources

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for his accomplishments in the area of civil rights and fighting against injustice. He will always be remembered as a “drum major for justice” and as a man who had a dream of equality for all. What many do not know is that along with being an activist King was a theologian. King’s activism was rooted in a theology that was rich and deep and drew upon a variety of sources. Let’s take a look at what influenced one of the greatest Americans of all time.Martin Luther King Jr.

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