THE PRAXIS OF GOSPEL AS GOOD NEWS: AN AFRICAN ORTHODOX PERS

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FR EVANGELOS THIANI. GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA: . ORTHODOX ARCHBISHORIC OF KENYA. INTRODUCING THE ORTHODOX CHURCH . IN . AFRICA AND EAST AFRICA (GREEK ORTHODOX TRADITION). ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AFRICA. ID: 306431 Download Presentation

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THE PRAXIS OF GOSPEL AS GOOD NEWS: AN AFRICAN ORTHODOX PERS




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Slide1

THE PRAXIS OF GOSPEL AS GOOD NEWS: AN AFRICAN ORTHODOX PERSPECTIVE

FR EVANGELOS THIANI

GREEK ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE OF ALEXANDRIA:

ORTHODOX ARCHBISHORIC OF KENYA

Slide2

INTRODUCING THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

IN

AFRICA AND EAST AFRICA (GREEK ORTHODOX TRADITION)

Slide3

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AFRICA

The Orthodox Church has been in Africa since AD43 when Apostle and Evangelist Mark the companion and helper of Apostle Peter is said to have arrived in Egypt.

Since then he is recognized as the first hierarch of the renowned ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria

Today 130 hierarchs have sat on the same throne, the present one since 2004, being Pope and Patriarch

Theodoros

II (

Choreftakis

)

Slide4

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN EAST AFRICA

Western missionaries started Evangelizing East Africa mainly in the 1800s

They were unfortunately against the local cultures and they in many ways were seen to work with the colonial governments that oppressed the Africans

This made some Africans to think on how they could continue being Christians but not under these missionaries

Such a group in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) decided to initiate their own Churches and schools for their children. They had enough teachers but not ordained clergy, and thus sort for a Church that would ordain them some

Slide5

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN EAST AFRICA

These East Africans found the 1900s

Negro World

J

ournal

published by Marcus Garvey, and in it found one African Orthodox Church (AOC), which was founded by African

-

American that had left the white skinned American led churches, and had in the early 1920s ordained a South African Archbishop, Daniel William Alexander

This Archbishop Alexander of South Africa was invited by the East Africans to come and help theologically educate some Africans and even ordained them

The East Africans later found out that this was a pseudo-Orthodox church and through

Fr.Nicodemos

Sarikas

, a Greek Orthodox missionary priest living in the neighboring Tanzania, got the existing connection with the Patriarchate of Alexandria in the 1940-50s.

Slide6

ORTHODOX CHURCH IN KENYA

Kenya,

a country with a 43

Million

population

is 82% Christian

The Orthodox Church in Kenya started with only one parish in

Waithaka

in the outskirts of Nairobi, and one priest, the initiator of Orthodoxy in Kenya,

Fr.George

G

athuna, who would later become the first indigenous hierarch of Kenya

Today

K

enya has around 400 indigenous Orthodox clergy serving the 1.5

million

Orthodox faithful and almost 1000 churches/parishes spread evenly in Kenya; making her the largest diocese of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa

This diocese also houses the single major seminary for all Africa for the Greek Orthodox Christians, which is taught by fifteen postgraduate level indigenous theologians

Slide7

HISTORY OF THE

GOSPEL AS GOOD NEWS

THROUGH BRINGING FAITH AND

HOPE

IN THE WORLD

Slide8

LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI, LEX VIVENDI: ORTHODOXIA AND ORTHOPRAXIA

The Way we pray is the way we believe and it

s the way we live

Christianity

is

an

authentic

and holistic transformation

of life and so no dualism of secular and sacred life

Orthodoxy is a way of life that works the same in the Church building as well as outside it: in the street

Therefore Orthodoxy

as a way of life connects both the true faith (

orthodoxia

) and the true practice of that faith (

orthopraxia

)

Any disconnect of

either practice or faith jeopardizes what the Church really is

If we pray for peace, we must believe in peace and must live in peace

If we pray for the poor, we must believe in helping them and we must then help them

If we pray for love, we must believe in love and we must therefore love

Slide9

LEX ORANDI, LEX CREDENDI, LEX VIVENDI: ORTHODOXIA AND ORTHOPRAXIA

This

rule is explicitly taught by Christ; starting with the incarnation and the life of Christ on earth, as told in the scriptures where we see

How Christ went to the prayer centers of Israel and even did His personal prayers

How

Christ taught the true faith, in His many evangelizing missions in the Temple, synagogues, along the water banks, in the streets, and in people’s homes, among others

H

ow Christ practically lived that faith through helping out the suffering, raising the dead, forgiving so many including

H

is persecutors, feeding the hungry, and healing the sick, among others

Slide10

CHRIST AS THE GOSPEL AND THE GOSPEL

While initiating His ministry, Christ made His mission very clear

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because

He has appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor

; He has sent me to

heal

the

brokenhearted

,

to

preach deliverance to the captives

,

and

recovering of sight to the blind

, to

set at

liberty them that are bruised, to

preach

the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19)

Christ was clear on His priorities of

delivering the gospel,

that is,

helping

those who are in pain and suffering;

He as the gospel, would bring the spiritually ailing humanity

to God and

maintain them in this

right faith

orthodoxia

, and

Through His message of the gospel as Diakonia by

practising this

right faith

through offering to the needy -

orthopraxia

Slide11

THE GOSPEL OF HOPE TO THE POOR

Christ would later ask

His disciples to continue with this same

Gospel in

Faith and Practice, a path that has

since had

many witnesses

along the centuries to

the present

age

The Apostles went ahead and even initiated a new social ministry; Deacons, in Church to help them cater for the needy, while they continued preaching the word (Acts 6)

Spreading the gospel of hope to the afflicted will then became a permanent ministry of the Church,

The Apostles and those after them must have remembered not only what

Christ had taught them as said above, but also His exact words to them that

“You are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you to do” (John 15:14)

Slide12

THE GOSPEL OF HOPE TO THE POOR

Emulating the life

of the gospel demanded a complete change of one’s life, and even following others who had known the way as

St Athanasius puts it

But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life… anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying

their deeds

(

Athanasius,

On the Incarnation,

ch.57)

.

Secondly, the Church had to not only preach the gospel with a focus of the soul, but also in relation to the body, for a human being is both soul and body, otherwise a soul separated from the body is only a ghost and a corpse

Slide13

GOSPEL OF HOPE IN CHURCH HISTORY

Many examples exist in the life of the Church and her leaders on how the Gospel became good news in many places of the world through social-practical

ministries and which we need to emulate

Dionysios

the Patriarch of Alexandria during the 3

rd

plague in Alexandria mobilized all his Christians to help the ailing, the orphans and widows that came out of this scourge.

(

Epiphanios

d

.403)

,

The

Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, gave his Patrimony and Church surplus to the needy, influencing his entire island to do the same.

One

4

th

century hierarch of

Maiuma

went back into “weaving linen” to help raise philanthropic

funds

,

although weaving

baskets was a task for

monks and

not

bishops,

Slide14

GOSPEL OF HOPE IN CHURCH HISTORY

The 4

th

and 5

th

century Church saints, hierarchs and Fathers of the Church Basil the Great and John Chrysostom, on the other hand, found time in their busy pastoral, administrative and academic life to initiate in their diverse ministries social ministries including hospitals,

x

enones

(hospices), orphanages and

gerocomeia

(homes for the aged),

In the 7

th

century, St John IV the Patriarch of Alexandria (609-620), came only next to Basil and Chrysostom in almsgiving, to the extent of earning himself the name John the

Eleemosynary

(the almsgiver). Before beginning his ministry, St John had listed all the poor in Alexandria, to ease his ministry and to make sure he offered help to all needy people and all refugees whom he housed in the philanthropic centers he had erected

Slide15

GOSPEL AND FAITH IN CHURCH HISTORY

T

he Orthodox Church has always been a Church that proclaimed the scriptural message, that is the good news, for the sake of prayer and faith

The reading, singing, and praying with scripture was done in the Church services due to the fact that

T

he clergy who had the theological understanding and the

phronema

of the Church would be found there

T

he fact that biblical texts as we know them today would not be owned by individuals for their expense

The communal reading and partaking of Christ as the Word was demanded in worship

It was here that the gospel was used to reshape faith that lost direction, renew subsiding faith, and give birth to new membership of faith

Many great eastern theologians and their ministry can prove this along the centuries, including Chrysostom, Basil, and Gregory the Theologian

Slide16

THE GOSPEL AS GOOD NEWS AND HOPE IN AFRICA

Slide17

AFRICA AND HER ISSUES

The African continent has many challenges when it comes to poverty related issues, most people lacking even the most basic of necessities like freedom, peace, food, shelter, clothing, education and health care.

The Orthodox Church in Kenya has had many ways of dealing with these challenges using the Gospel as will be shown in this presentation in both instilling

orthodoxia

by teaching the right faith through evangelization helping feed the soul and in initiating social ministries to instill

orthopraxia

helping feed the body

Slide18

THE GOSPEL OF HOPE IN AFRICA

A

s a Church we recognize the dire need for the

good news to

be preached in both words and actions, and we recognize the need to keep the words of

the gospel as told to us so well by scripture and as the scriptures are explained by the Church Fathers

Saint James, who says;

“If

one of the brethren is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,

without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that

?”

(

James 2:15-16

)

Slide19

THE GOSPEL OF HOPE IN AFRICA

The parable of the Sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

Where Christ point out what we did or did not do in Diakonia while in this life

For I was hungry and you gave/

didn

t give me food, I was thirsty and you gave

/

didn

t give

me drink, I was a stranger and you took/

didn

t take me in, I was naked and you clothed/

didn

t clothe me, I was sick and you visited/

didn

t visit me, I was in prison and you came/

didn

t come to see me,

And finally says

“In as much as you have done it to the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me”

Slide20

THE GOSPEL OF HOPE IN AFRICA

St Gregory the Theologians on the same subject says;

O Servants of Christ, who are my friends and fellow heirs, let us while there is still time visit Christ in His time of need, let us care for Christ in His sickness, let us feed Christ, let us clothe Christ in His nakedness…. Let us give Him this honor in His poor, in those who lie on the ground before us this day, so that when we leave this world they may receive us into the eternal dwelling place, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory now and unto ages of ages. Amen

(

St Gregory the Theologian,

Homily on the Love of the Poor,

16)

Slide21

1. EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION INITIATIVES

Slide22

EVANGELIZATION

T

hrough considerable missionary conscious efforts of the

K

enyans that first became Orthodox, this church has grown from 1 temple to the present 800, and from 1 priest to the present almost 400 indigenous clergy, making it the first in her confession in Africa

These efforts includes

E

mbracing

the local cultures

,

Using

the local languages in the liturgical services & evangelization strategies,

T

ranslating

the

Gospel,

Apostolos

& all

liturgical books in the concerned community’s ethnic language,

Training both local lay and clergy to proclaim Christ to others

T

he extensive use of Biblical preaching in all religious meetings in and outside the temple or church setting

Slide23

2. PEACE AND LIBERATION INITIATIVES

Slide24

LIBERATION AND SUFFERING

After the first world war (1918-), the Africans that were co-opted by the British to participate in

this

fight brought some encouraging news on how Africans, in our case Kenya, could also fight to be free from colonialism

This was taken very seriously by the

K

aringa

Church (

as the Orthodox Church was known then)

and her school leaders

T

hey used their faith and education centers and forums to propagate for independency, making all her Christians and students members of the

Mau Mau

movement (the group that lead the liberation movement in Kenya)

Although not much is recognized about this it remains in the hearts of the Orthodox that they were pivotal in the liberation movement of Kenya

Slide25

LIBERATION, SUFFERING AND RECONCILIATION

After

K

enya attained independence, most of the Orthodox people because they were involved in the liberation movement were not given back their lands and the confiscated property and herds of animals that they had left when they went to the forest for years to fight the colonists

They were asked to settle in the newly created villages in their old or new localities, this time as poor inhabitants that owned nothing of what they fought for, while they watched the missionary collaborators live in their former lands, owning their former herds, living with their former wives and having married their own daughters

The Orthodox Church at this period went through countless efforts asking her members to suffer silently unless they wanted to create another disruption in the new country or show that the Africans who fought the colonists so hard could not even manage to rule their country

Patience, love, co-existence, perseverance was what was taught so firmly so that these families would at least start life from a different perspective

Many of these families are still living in abject poverty because of this colonial situation, which has a great economic effect on running the Orthodox Churches in Kenya to the present

Slide26

LIBERATION, SUFFERING AND RECONCILIATION

This is the same message the Orthodox Church is trying out in Burundi and Rwanda, where one former Kenyan priest of Ugandan origin, now Bishop

Innocentios

Byakatonda

, is serving there for two years now

Christian leaders were involved deeply in the genocide, making citizens of the two countries reject the existing Churches in masses

The Orthodox Church was not involved in any of these and so it is receiving these Christians

In the last two years at least five thousand have joined the Orthodox Church

The challenge is although they are Christians, it is still a challenge to reconcile with those who hurt them, even though they live and worship together

Slide27

TRIBALISM

Kenya has 43 official tribes making it a very multicultural society. This has its blessings and challenges, the worst being inter-ethnic wars and theft of livestock which has claimed many lives

I

n some villages of Northern

K

enya where cattle rustling is highly valued we have some villages full of widows and orphaned

children,

because the men of these villages were killed by armed bandits who came to steal their cattle

The Orthodox Church in such areas, more so our missions in

Lodwar

, has propagated peace and joint living through drilling boreholes and building churches between warring tribes of this semi-arid area, to make it possible for them to start mingling and meeting on social and spiritual activities, and with it learn to co-exist and to need the others as well as understand the consequences of the attacks done on the other

Slide28

3. DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVES

Slide29

ECOLOGY

The Orthodox Church has used the communal aspects of the African societies to spread the ecological safeguard and ecosystem re-imaging agenda, helping steward and bring the beauty of the all good created world (Gen 1)

Due to deforestation,

we have

very

little rain, as well as many dry rivers and lakes are coming up, and in return most Kenyan families who rely heavily on farming have been affected

Because African burials are always full of people from different areas and especially the concerned community, the Orthodox Church is making sure that during every burial there is a tree planting exercise, which the main celebrant of the burial is the first to do on the land of the believed family. In this way, the environment has been slowly by slowly transformed and the love for nature re-evaluated.

Slide30

EDUCATION

To eliminate most of the poverty related challenges of Africa, education has been seen as key in many aspects

Towards this agenda, the Orthodox Church of Kenya has initiated schools in all levels of concern including about 30 secondary schools, 60 primary schools, 100 pre-schools, a theological seminary, a humanities college, and she is working on initiating the first Orthodox University in Africa

The Church

offers as much help as is possible in these

schools including food, school uniforms, medical care, rescue centers for girls being forced to stop school and get married, sanitary towels for girls, stationery, travel fees

etc

The idea of education is not only to uplift the livelihood of the present and future generations, but also to instill Christian ethics in the life of these young Africans, trying to re-educate them on all issues that have been a problem to the present generation e.g. corruption, radicalization, work ethic,

etc

, hoping for a better future

Slide31

DISEASE AND SICKNESS

Africa remains to have the most extreme health related cases. The Orthodox Church coming from the Byzantine tradition that is said to have started hospitals, cannot shy-off from this devastating situation

The Church has tried to provide as many health centers, maternities, and mobile health camps as possible in rural and urban areas including the dreaded slum areas like that of

Kibera

(the biggest slum in Africa carrying 50% of the 6 million population of

N

airobi although occupying only 6% the land of Nairobi)

Free health care is offered even where the Church has decided otherwise due to poverty levels and the fact that no one can be sent away sick for reasons of lack of money, to even pay the KShs.20/ ¼ Euro needed for consultation

Slide32

WOMEN

Women in most parts of Kenya are growing to be very active and involved in many nation building initiatives. Unfortunately this is not across-board

The Church in her struggle to bring the largest group of Kenyans (

women and youth)

o

n the same level ground as the

males have devised several methods

We have different initiatives to help women including advocating for the end of cultural trends that affect the wellbeing and development of the African woman including

T

he

end of early marriages and rescuing those in such situations,

E

nding

and teaching on genital mutilation of women,

E

nding

gender based violence

,

O

ffering

the girl child similar chances of education by giving them scholarships,

O

ffering

health camps on women related issues including cervical cancer screening,

O

ffering

maternity services to avoid traditional birth practices that are risky in many ways,

and

O

ffering

sanitary towels in areas that are extremely poor and in our schools

etc

Slide33

SEMINARS AND OTHER ACTIVITIES

The Church is involved in various seminars of faith related issues as well as contemporary challenges trying to come up with the local and Christian response for the same.

The Church has devised mechanism to have annual seminars and festivities of the four segments of Church groups (Mothers’ Union, Men Association, Youth Association, and Sunday School Association) in parishes, vicarages and national levels.

They also have theme based

S

ports&Athletics

as well as

Drama&Music

festivals and competitions e.g.

T

his year the Orthodox Mothers’ Union

Sports&Athletics

competition had a theme about

Combating Alcoholism and the Place of Orthodox Women

,

while the end of year

Drama&Music

competition theme is

the

Family

If we get the needed funding we shall hold an interreligious conference of around 200 youth to help discuss and listen to the

Kenyan youth respond on radicalization

among persons of their age

Slide34

CHALLENGES

Slide35

CHALLENGES IN MINISTRY

Although all of these is being

done to bring the

orthopraxia

part of the gospel,

challenges still arise because the Church has no local methods of raising funds and so reliance on foreign funding is the norm, while the major challenge arise because the Orthodox Christians in Kenya are mainly from poor backgrounds

While some items go well and some do not need changing, the gospel message is affected in many ways in the African context, when it comes to issues relating to the local cultures.

For example the Orthodox Liturgy is similar to the African ways of offering to God and so its highly accepted, but the way it is sung has a complete disconnect with the local cultural music or ways of worshipping God. There is thus a definite need for change of Orthodox music in Africa to match some traditional African spirit and methods of

worship music

Slide36

CHALLENGES IN MINISTRY

The question, “Where is God while I continue to suffer?”, is asked daily by many Africans, who have a prosperity ideology pasted in their theological understanding of the place of God in their lives

Mainly because we have many televangelist who are allover the media offering the prosperity gospel as the most important model for the African Church, and secondly the dire need and desperation for having a break on poor living affects almost all African Christians including those in traditional Churches

Slide37

CONCLUSION

Until the return of Christ, we expect the poor in both spirit and material to continue

as Christ tells us in Matthew

26:

11,

and thus the Church in her mission must continue offering hope through the gospel in both spiritual evangelization

to achieve

orthodoxia

,

and social evangelization

through

orthopraxia

That is what makes the gospel the good news in the African Orthodox Church

Slide38

THANK YOU!

Slide39

Slide40


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