Mission in Central and Eastern Europe: Realities, Perspectives, Trends.
The anniversary of the centenary of the Edinburgh Mission Conference from 1910 started "a new era" in mission theology. It created the context for conferences dedicated to topics related to Christian missiology and generated the publication of some interesting books that examine the aforementioned topic --its evolution and meaning in different cultural, confessional, and social contexts. Among them, the 34th volume in the Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series, deals with the mission in Central and Eastern Europe.
Forty-three articles accompanied by a preface (p. xi--xiv), a foreword (p. xv-xvi) signed by Emeritus Professor of Missiology from Pretoria (South Africa), JNJ (Klippies) Kritzinger, and an editorial introduction on the social, cultural, and geographical context of Central and Eastern Europe before and after 1989 (1) (pp. 1-9), offer the reader a fascinating perspective on how mission influenced religious life in this area.
The quality (7) of the work is guaranteed by the fact that the authors write about a context they know and to which they belong. Therefore, 15 of the scholars come from Romania, four from Slovakia, four from Croatia, one from Czech Republic, one from Serbia, two from Macedonia, three from Poland, one from Austria, and one from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The reader might also be confused by the presence of some American-affiliated researchers. However, it should be noted that although they belong today to the academic area of the US, they also come from the Central or Eastern European area, and this is an important element in their background and research.
Therefore, excepting some texts (like the one by Marcel Macelaru: "The Bible, Christian Existence and Mission," pp. 67-83, or Ciprian Flavius Terinte: "Jesus in Apostolic Preaching according to the Book of Acts," pp. 84-98)-which, although well written, don't fit with the main topic, but were probably placed there by the editors as introductory approaches--the book, divided into three large sections, offers an interesting and multivalent presentation of mission in this part of Europe. Authors understand that to have a holistic approach to mission, they must not only emphasize the main theological or ethical aspects, but also the religious history of the investigated space and the cultural one.
So, for example, Peter Kuzmic, in his introductory essay entitled "Christianity in F.astern Europe: A Story of Pain, Glory, Persecution and Freedom" (pp. 13-29), starts by speaking about East and West as keywords of his approach and offers the landmarks of missionary activity in that space during history. His presentation not only has an intriguing theological approach, but it also offers information about the political context and its influence upon the evolution of the religious one. Therefore, there can be found approaches that can surely be used for investigations of political theology. For example, an interesting affirmation of his text is the one which shows that "consequently, Eastern Europe's history and religious topography are characterized by an unusual variety conditioned by the intersections of competing historical forces and their attendant civilisations, cultures and faiths" (p. 15).
Then, through texts like the one by Rev. Mihai Himcinschi from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology in AlbaIulia ("The Foundation of the Mission in the Orthodox Church: The Holy Trinity," pp. 119-31) or the one by Rev. Gheorghe Petraru from Iasi ("Principles of Orthodox Missiology," pp. 132-52), both from a Romanian Orthodox space, the reader is familiarized with the general principles of Orthodox missiology. Due to these texts, it is brought into attention and developed already classical concepts like father Ion Bria's "liturgy after the liturgy." (2)
The general introduction is then followed by contextual approaches like that of archdeacon Gelu Calina from Craiova ("The Kingdom of God and the Kingdoms of the World: ChurchState Relationships in the Context of the Romanian Totalitarian Political Regime," pp. 152-67). Here, after presenting the dynamics of political life during the interwar period and speaking about how the instauration of the communist regime influenced people's lives, he states,
As one can see from the research of a first part of informative reports published till now, the Romanian Orthodox Church, since 1945, has been the target of a coherent plan initiated by the Romanian Communist Party and applied by the Securitate. This Plan principally aimed at the annihilation of the influence of the Romanian Orthodox Church in the social area and its transformation into a propaganda tool of the Communist Party on support of the policy of the new Stalinist state. Through oppression and blackmail, the Securitate recruited its informers from church members and again, the church was subjected to incessant siege and pressure. In order to reduce the influence of the Romanian Orthodox Church among the population, the decision to reduce the number of monasteries and, indirectly, of monks, was taken by the Communist party and the Securitate, while the number of faculties of theology and theological seminaries was also reduced, (p. 163)
The landscape is then filled with articles like those of Dana Bates, Zorika Kuburic, Jan Gorski, Jaroslaw M. Lipniak, Mato Zovik, and others about the history of mission in countries like Serbian Republic, Czech Republic, Poland, or Bosnia Herzegovina. The text dedicated to the last topic not only highlights the contemporary situation or presents the history of this country, but also emphasizes the fact that "[n]ow, the first task of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians regarding Muslims in this country was to address distant and recent past experience, to contribute to shared moral values and common needs and to respect each other's religious, ethnic and cultural identities" (p. 253).
The third part also brings into attention topics like the ecumenical dialogue, highlighting through articles, like the one by Bogdan Dollenic, the contextual relevance of this topic in "Ecumenical Dialogue in a New Europe: Steps Towards a Purification of Historical Memories in the Balkans" (pp. 587-693). At the same time, this third part underlines other aspects of mission. One of these is the pecuniary one emphasized in Eugan Jugaru's "Business as Mission: A Christian Perspective" (p. 644-54). Other aspects defining this topic are the marketing and imagistic ones (see, for example, Branimir Dukic: "Marketing in Religious Organizations in the Digital Age" [pp. 619-43]), or the challenges of the mission in contemporary society (emphasized in the Rev. Mihai Himcinschi's article, "Building a Nation: The Mission of the Church in Contemporary Society" [pp. 668-75]). The relevance of ecumenical dialogue for public theology is another important characteristic, debated in Corneliu Constantineanu's "Public Theology: Christian Faith and the Public Sphere in Central and Eastern Europe" (pp. 676-93).
For these studies but also for other similar ones, this book is not only a useful presentation of the mission in the Central and Eastern European space, but also a useful tool for missiologists who want to better understand how this theology influenced that space and how the interaction between culture, politics, and theology contributed to a special development of the missionary approach and mission there.
Faculty of Orthodox Theology, "Babes-Bolyai," University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
(1) Speaking about the evolution of the churches and societies after 1989, the editors emphasize the fact that "After 1989, the new-found freedom which Eastern Europe experienced, has allowed communities in the region to interact with the previously limitedly accessible western world, which, in connection with the noted growth of the Evangelical communities, has resulted in a number of developments we consider as missiologically significant: (1) the opportunity to do international cross-cultural mission, something which has indeed come strongly into focus in some circles; and (2) the less intentional but probably more effective cross-cultural ministry taking place during the phenomenon of economically motivated migration--in some places in Western Europe, the large diaspora Christian communities coming from Eastern Europe have surpassed in number the indigenous groups" (p. 1).
(2) Ion Bria, The Liturgy after the Liturgy (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1996).
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|Publication:||International Review of Mission|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2018|
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