The late February fraternal gathering of six local Orthodox churches in Amman was instructive and at the same time disheartening. Instructive because the gathering exposed truths in global Orthodoxy; disheartening because it was a sad showcasing of Orthodoxy to the world (for the presumably relatively few outsiders who are still paying attention to us).
The first hard truth it highlighted is the lack of deference local churches have towards the Moscow Patriarchate. It exposed Moscow’s lack of spiritual maturity (phronema) to play a pan-Orthodox role that is divorced from its national self-interest.
During a conference on the crisis in Orthodoxy caused by the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, several participants used the concept of a “frozen conflict” to describe the “stable unresolved conflict” (Georgij Kovalenko). Given that the term is commonly used for several deadlocked conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union with crucial participation of Russia, it seems plausible to link the conflict around the Ukrainian church to this concept. Yet, at least in two regards, the description of the conflict in Orthodoxy as a “frozen conflict” fails. First, the conflict is not frozen. The conflict between the churches is quite hot, with both sides using all possible means to establish their superiority and blame the other for recent tensions. Moreover, the armed conflict in Ukraine continues and people are dying on the frontline almost every day—a fact we all must not forget. Second, the church usually refuses to be judged with political concepts, claiming that the way the church deals with conflict should transcend the worldly manner.
Nevertheless, the fact that theologians try to frame the conflict within the political concept of a “frozen conflict” points to the helplessness to find ways to make sense of this painful situation. Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at the concept to find out how experts construct perspectives for such deadlocked conflicts. I would like to focus on three noteworthy aspects. Continue reading →
Fernando Haddad attends a celebration of Divine Liturgy with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in São Paulo. Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo.
The recent elections in Brazil have once again placed religion and politics at the fore of public debates. Not surprisingly, the election of President Jair Bolsonaro has focused attention on the growing influence of Evangelicals in Brazilian politics. This factor is now frequently touted alongside the affirmation that Brazil is the largest Roman Catholic country in the world. While Bolsonaro is himself a Roman Catholic, his election campaign played to an alliance of Evangelicals and traditional Roman Catholics. In the final run-off, the Evangelical vote showed a 2 to 1 split in favor of Bolsonaro, while the Roman Catholic vote was equally distributed between both candidates. Bolsanaro’s opponent was the Orthodox Christian Fernando Haddad. Added to this, Bolsonaro’s immediate predecessors in the Presidential Office were both influenced by Orthodoxy. Orthodox Christianity is in the political mix in Brazil, although it is frequently misunderstood (in the case of Fernando Haddad) or overlooked (in the case of Presidents’ Michel Temer and Dilma Rousseff).
Following a campaign television appearance in which he cited the Bible, Fernando Haddad was savaged on social media and from Evangelical pulpits. Continue reading →
Opening ceremony of IOTA’s inaugural conference, National Theatre of Iasi, Romania
Just when we all thought that global Orthodoxy was in a state of deep crisis, God had a surprise for us.
Indeed, when four member churches of the Orthodox global family rejected the invitation of Patriarch Bartholomew to attend the Holy and Great Council of Crete, which had been in preparation for several decades, and when the saga of Ukrainian autocephaly unfolded before our eyes during the last few months, many felt that the worst stereotypes about Orthodoxy were coming true. And yet, in January 2019 in the Romanian city of Iasi, an impressive gathering of people took place. A mixed crowd of people who gathered for a four-day conference were people who had just the same right to represent the Orthodox Church as those whose names are usually preceded by numerous medieval titles but who need much less maintenance than the former. To be sure, there were all ranks of the Orthodox cosmos, those whose heads were decorated with miters and those whose were not. Yet, here was a gathering of intelligent, interesting, socially and ecclesiastically engaged, passionate, humorous people, some of whom happen to be bishops and priests. Here was IOTA.
When a little over a year ago I was asked to become a co-chair of a IOTA’s Asceticism and Spirituality section, I said yes and then asked, ‘And what is IOTA?’ I was not the only one who asked this question. Continue reading →