Making Church History in Romania My Experience of IOTA's Inaugural Conference

by Carrie Frederick Frost

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware delivers the opening address at IOTA’s inaugural conference in Iasi, Romania

When I introduced Metropolitan Kallistos Ware at the International Orthodox Theological Association’s (IOTA) inaugural conference Opening Ceremony in Iaşi, Romania earlier this month, I told a story about my father—the son of Russian immigrants to West Virginia in the early twentieth century—and how his perception of Orthodoxy was expanded by His Eminence when they met in the early 1990s on a trip my father took to the British Isles. Metropolitan Kallistos’s explanation of the history and the present circumstances of Christianity there gave my father his first sense of a global Orthodox Church, which broadened his own Orthodox identity to include ties to many people and circumstances, past and present.

I told this story as a way of suggesting that Metropolitan Kallistos has done the same for so many people; he has opened up our Orthodox realities and given us a vision of a global Church, of a shared experience of Orthodox history and of the Orthodox Church today—through his writings, through his teachings, through his guidance as a hierarch; and thus he was a perfect keynote speaker to begin IOTA’s first conference. My introductory remarks were more apt than I could have realized, because not only was this true of Metropolitan Kallistos, his legacy, and his keynote remarks, but this expansive and gratifying experience of a shared Orthodoxy was the heartbeat of the next three days of the conference. Continue reading

The IOTA Moment

by Irina Paert

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

Virtual Town Meeting Aims to Clarify the Issue of Ukrainian Autocephaly

by Anthony J. Limberakis, MD

It is one of the most vexing and important questions confronting the Church in our time, and one of the least understood: the granting of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has rocked the Church more than any event in the last millennium. Now the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is hosting a Virtual Town Meeting to bring some light and clarity to this unfortunately heated and unquestionably crucial issue.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Russia is “comparing it to the Great Schism of 1054 that divided western and eastern Christianity.” This issue has indeed been the cause of a regrettable schism, with the Moscow Patriarchate unilaterally breaking communion with Constantinople not over any matter of doctrine, but simply over the question of jurisdiction regarding the Ukrainian Church.

Thus what was, or should have been, simply an administrative issue has become something far larger, with implications for the Orthodox Church as a whole that cannot be overstated. The questions involved in this issue include ones of authority, unity, jurisdiction, and the very nature of what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in the world today. 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