Symposium explores Christian response to spirituality, politics, and polity

by Cheon Young Cheol

In partnership with The Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity (Belgrade, Serbia), the Council for World Mission (CWM) organised a symposium, entitled “Spirituality, Politics, and Polities,” for theologians, political scientists, scholars, and activists.

The event, held 24 – 28 March at Vila Dinčić in Serbia, drew 15 participants comprising Orthodox theologians and practitioners from Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Kenya, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and the USA as well as representatives from two ecumenical partners – the Conference of European Churches and All Africa Conference of Churches.

The symposium fostered discussions on the emancipatory potential of Orthodoxy and explored the possibilities of future joint projects.

Participants also focused on identifying aspects of the Orthodox tradition and its political theology that are relevant to contemporary issues such as the role of the laity in the church, the role of women, the relationship between various emancipatory Orthodox theologies and liberation theology—and the need to explore all these topics in an ecumenical context.

The symposium also formed a working group of scholars to reflect not only on the mission of the church in political debates and policy formation, but to address deeper questions of Christianity and politics and polities, and the ways in which Christians can contribute to broadening the horizons of human freedom in the contemporary world.

President of The Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity, Prof. Davor Džalto remarked, “It was a pleasure, and an intellectually very rewarding experience, to participate in the organization of the symposium as well as in actual workshops. Looking back at the discussions we had, walks, lunches, and evening talk, I have an impression that something incredibly important for the Christian world has happened!”

Rev. Dr Graham McGeoch, CWM Mission Secretary of Discipleship and Dialogue, echoed Prof. Džalto’s view.

McGeoch stressed that the conversations during the symposium are ones that are not only important to the Orthodox but also for the Protestant context. He said, “Conversations like this open up new ways of looking at Orthodox Christianity, ecumenical dialogue, and political theology.”

As part of the ecumenical partner contingent, Katerina Pekridou, Executive Secretary for Theological Dialogue of the Conference of European Churches, expounded on the strength of the Orthodox faith as one that possesses a potential to advocate, in constructive and self-critical ways, for a vision of a transformed, life-affirming world that promotes just, peaceful, and sustainable ways of living.

Participants departed from the five-day symposium with the knowledge that the gathering of minds fostered not just inspiring conversations and meaningful interactions, but also new perspectives and ideas to jointly implement.

The symposium was a concrete step towards recognising the need for similar events —larger and even more diverse—that will bolster and push forward already established conversations.

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