Category Archives: Religious Education

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

A Tribute to a Maestro: Fr. Robert F. Taft, S.J.

by Ines Angeli Murzaku

I was probably in the last generation of orientalists that had the opportunity to be trained at the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome and taught by figures of the stature of Robert F. Taft, S.J.; Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, S.J.; John Long, S.J.; Vincenzo Poggi, S.J.; Carmelo Capizzi, S.J.; and others who by now have entered eternity. When one of your beloved professors, mentors, and friends departs, a void is left behind—an empty space—that probably will never be filled. Sharing pictures and messages with Fr. Taft’s other disciples, former students, and friends over the Internet has helped me and generated more memories and special moments. One wonders how many lives he touched and transformed.

Much has been written about Fr. Taft since his death, focusing on his life and pioneering scholarship on Byzantine liturgy and the Byzantine Church in general.

Let me look at my beloved maestro from another angle: his utmost care for the Church of the peripheries, including his gentle and gentlemanly attitude toward women and especially his women students. Continue reading

Internet Orthodoxy: Opportunities and Pastoral Challenges

by Richard Barrett 

The second International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care (DMOPC) took place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Kolymbari from 18-21 June of this year. The event’s principal sponsors were Pemptousia and Vatopedi Monastery, and it was attended by Orthodox Christians from Greece, Lebanon, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, Australia, the Czech Republic, Kenya, and more. Over four days, one hundred and three presenters discussed theoretical, theological, and practical impacts of technology on the Church of today.

As an American participant, what I saw very quickly was that the questions and concerns the presenters were talking about were deeply informed by vastly different cultural contexts. There were two basic categories of presentations on the Greek side; the first was academic, represented by the panel discussion “The Progress of AI as a Challenge for Theology” and the paper “Paul and the Ethics of the ‘Internet’ in the Globalized World of the 1st Century and the Post-Modern 21st Century.” The other category expressed anxieties about technology threatening the Church’s status as a majority religion. These concerns tended to emphasize the Internet as a medium by which people were exposed to other religions, perhaps even deciding to change religions as a result; in addition, the problem of webcasts of services becoming a substitute for in-person attendance was frequently referenced. Continue Reading…

It’s Time to Merge St. Vladimir’s and Holy Cross

by George Demacopoulos

It has always been the case that forces beyond the control of the Church have prompted changes in the practice of theological education. For example, Ottoman repression led many Greek Christians to seek education abroad. Tsar Peter I imposed Western-styled seminaries upon the Russian Church. And the Bolshevik Revolution crippled religious education throughout Russia and much of Eastern Europe.

While not as dire as those examples, Orthodox seminaries in the United States face significant structural challenges. At one and the same time, the real cost of operating a seminary is steeply rising while active participation in the Church is diminishing.  What is more, the very nature of seminary education is undergoing a profound change that requires genuine transformation.

When they were founded, St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology functioned as cultural and theological oases, preparing priests for Russian and Greek immigrant communities. Over the past ten years, however, because fewer and fewer young men raised in Church pursue the priesthood, the majority of divinity graduates have been adult converts to Orthodoxy. Continue Reading…