Category Archives: Religious Education

Scholars Not Priests

by George Demacopoulos

In a seminal essay in 1990, the eminent scholar of early Christianity, Elizabeth Clark, demonstrated that Christianity grew rapidly, in large part, because women served as the community’s earliest financial benefactors—they were “Patrons not Priests.”[1] According to Clark, female patronage was not only a matter of Christian piety, it was also a consequence of broader social and cultural changes for women in the Greco-Roman world. At precisely the same time that Roman society was restricting women from serving as patrons for civic events, a small but determined group of female aristocrats turned their patronage toward Christianity. And the rest, so to speak, is history.

I would like to suggest that there is a parallel sociological phenomenon in the Orthodox Church in the United States today. While women are still unable to become priests, they are increasingly becoming scholars of Christianity. And this is having a profound, positive impact on the Church. Continue reading

Academics for the Church: A Father-Son Reflection on IOTA

by Fr. Marc Dunaway and Benjamin Dunaway

This post is a two-part reflection by a father and son who traveled from Alaska to attend the inaugural conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) in Iasi, Romania.

Fr. Marc Dunaway

Many Christians are suspicious of “academic theologians,” and this is understandable. I remember as a young man eagerly tuning into TV documentaries about how the early Church grew or what the world Jesus lived in was like, only to realize in a few minutes that many of these supposedly “Christian” scholars didn’t actually believe in Jesus, or even in God for that matter. I was horrified.

Last month, over 250 Orthodox Christian scholars gathered in Iasi, Romania for the inaugural conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association, and things couldn’t have been more different. After an opening prayer service led by Archbishop Teofan of Iasi, Dr. Paul Gavrilyuk, founding president of IOTA, welcomed the participants with these words: “As scholars and professionals, we wish to contribute our ‘iota’ to the life of the Church and to do so with due humility….IOTA will succeed as long as Jesus Christ remains the foundation of our work, Jesus Christ as He is proclaimed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Creeds, Jesus Christ Whom we have put on in baptism and Whose Body and Blood we receive in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ Who as the eternal Logos is the beginning and the end of all things.” I cannot imagine wanting a scholar to say any more than this. Continue reading

Teaching the Mystery of Baptism to Persons with Intellectual Disabilities

by Christina Lappa  |  ελληνικά

Religion and spirituality have been a part of almost every culture throughout history and have affected the lives of many individuals, and society in general. A multitude of studies deal with the influence of spirituality and religious beliefs on the personal development and well-being of people with physical disabilities and serious mental illnesses, since it is widely accepted that religious faith is an important source of hope, warmth, consolation, meaning, and purpose in life. It has been shown that the protective and beneficial effects of religious faith are particularly strong in people with diseases and disabilities. In particular, research has shown that religious beliefs stabilized the lives of people with physical disabilities, provided an interpretation of the disabilities they were experiencing and helped them cope with them.

Spirituality is now recognized as an important dimension in people’s lives, including those with Intellectual Disability (ID). ID is a condition with reduced or incomplete development, which does not allow the person to keep up with the social environment. It is diagnosed before the age of 18 and is characterized by significant constraints in both intellectual function and adaptive behavior which is manifested in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills. Continue reading

How to Help Your Children Become Active Learners in Their Orthodox Faith

by Katherine Demacopoulos

Teenagers have more activities competing for their attention and time than in any previous generation. Sports teams are expecting year-round commitments along with extra training if the student athletes want to stay competitive with their peers. The pressure to attend the best college possible or secure academic scholarships, means that students are loading up on difficult homework-intensive classes (sometimes even opting out of lunch so they can fit in more academic subjects) while also finding time to serve in leadership positions in clubs. Activities like Driver’s Ed and SAT / ACT classes need to be squeezed in somewhere. This is also happening at a time when these teenagers are bombarded by constant reminders on social media that “while you were out with one group of friends, another group of friends had a fantastic time doing something else…without you.”

It’s not surprising that anxiety levels have been on the rise. In a recent study by the National Survey of Children’s Health, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.

In this type of environment, I know it is a struggle just to carve out the time to bring your teenagers to church and to make them attend. Most families are bringing their children to church less often than they had been brought to church when they were the same age their children are now.

But we need to avoid the temptation to excuse ourselves. Continue reading