St. Ivan Rilski, London

Bulgarian Orthodox Church

St. Ivan Rilski


Brief annotation of the Course “Contemporary Christianity: Presence in the world or Mission to the world”

The Course is intended for Christian believers who are willing to obtain deeper knowledge on such issues as what the foundations of Christianity and of Orthodoxy are and what the contemporary challenges to Christians are, as well. During classes, the participants get additional knowledge on Christianity  and on Orthodoxy mostly in their relation to the world and not so much in their relation to spirituality and the legacy of the Church Fathers and the Church’s introvert life (although these are dealt with, too). In this way, Christianity is looked upon through its “external” activities in the society and in the world, that is, through its mission. In the Course, the debatable question is posed: is Christianity only present in the society or is it also a witness to Christ with the aim to change this society. The above questions are answered in class where the lectures during the three semesters have their specific focus.

a) In the first semester, we will draw the participants’ attention to the main characteristics of Christianity and of Orthodoxy as teaching and actual practice, both in historical and contemporary perspective. In class, the learners will deal with such debatable questions such as “Is Christianity a religion?” “Is it good for the Christian Church if the State supports her and collaborates with her?” “In what way theology differs from the actual life of the believers in the church?” “How helpful for the Church is the fact that there is religious education at the state schools?” and so on.

b) In the second semester, the learners are going to widen their knowledge about the nature of the Church, as the Orthodox understand it, about some disputable issues concerning the relations between Christianity and nation and culture, and also about Orthodoxy in its relations with the other Christian communities in the world. In the lectures, the Christian Church is considered not only as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church but also as the Church of Christ which is open to the world and the peoples of the world while insisting that they convert to Christ. In this, the teachings and the practice of the other Christian communities are viewed not as an opposition to the Orthodox teaching and ecclesiastical practice but as a relation to the commands of the Gospel and the mission of the Church of Christ on local, regional and world’s level.

c) The third semester tries to explain the link between Christianity and the secular world by pointing the Church’s successes and weaknesses. This requires from the believers to again recall what is valuable in Orthodoxy, on one hand, and to abandon the things which prevent us from doing what the Gospel and the commands of Jesus Christ call on us to do, on the other. Various debatable issues are considered, such as what is heresy and what is sect, what is schism and what is sectarianism within Christianity, and how should we understand Church’s leadership today. The Course concludes with the rhetorical question of whether the Christian Church is only present in society or is she actively involved in mission, and the last lesson is supposed to give an unambiguous answer to it.

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