Category Archives: Religious Education

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

The Audacity of Converts

by George Demacopoulos

Several months ago, a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity with the online handle “BigSexy” launched a Reddit thread decrying Public Orthodoxy because, he claimed, it is an affront to Christian teaching. My first impulse was to mock the absurdity—are we supposed to believe that “BigSexy” has a monopoly on theological insight!?!

I realized, of course, that I should not be surprised that people say silly things on the Internet—especially about religion. Nor should I be surprised that some converts come from traditions that encourage certitude rather than faith. An academic forum, like Public Orthodoxy, is threatening to this kind of Christian (and others) because it complicates simplistic understandings of the Church and its history. At the time, I told myself that no one encounters a faith tradition without the hermeneutical baggage of their past. Indeed, if a Christian as remarkable as St. Augustine was unable to move fully beyond his Manichean experience, could I really expect a convert with Fundamentalist tendencies to eschew the entirety of his former world view?

But the more I’ve thought about this episode over the past few months, the more I have realized that the problem isn’t the converts, their past, or their zeal. The problem is us—those of us raised in the Church. Continue reading