Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Narratives of Identity – The Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of England 1895-1914 By William Taylor

The Relationship between the Syrian Orthodox Church in the Ottoman Empire and the Church of England developed substantially between 1895 and 1914, as contacts between them grew. As the character of this emerging relationship changed, it contributed to the formation of both churches’ own ‘narratives of identity’. The wider context in which this took place was a period of instability in the international order, particularly within the Ottoman Empire, culminating in the outbreak of the First World War, effectively bringing this phase of sustained contact to an end. Narratives of Identity makes use of Syrian, Garshuni, and Arabic primary sources from Syrian Orthodox archives in Turkey and Syria, alongside Ottoman document from the Basbakanlik Osmanli Arsivi, Istanbul, and a range of English archival sources.


 The preconceptions of both Churches are analysed, using a philosophical framework provided by the work of Paul Ricoeur, especially his concepts of significant memory (anamnesis), translation, and the search for mutual recognition. Anamnesis and translation were extensively employed in the formation of ‘narratives of identity’ that needed to be understood by both Churches. The identity claims of the Tractarian section of the Church of England and of the Ottoman Syrian Orthodox Church are examined using this framework. The detailed content of the theological dialogue between them, is then examined, and placed in the context of the rapidly changing demography of eastern Anatolia, the Syrian Orthodox ‘heartland’. The late Ottoman state was characterised by an increased instability for all its non-Muslim minorities, which contributed to the perceived threats to Ottomans Syrian Orthodoxy, both from within and without.
Finally, a new theological framework is proposed in order to better understand these exchanges, taking seriously the amamnetic insights of the narratives of identity of both the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of England from 1895 to 1914.
The author of this new book is Fr. William Taylor. He is the Chairman of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, and a writer and broadcaster on the Orthodox Churches, especially in the Islamic world. He has worked and lived in Jordan, Cairo, and Turkey, served in parishes in England, as a Chaplain in the Middle East, on the ecumenical staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, and as Dean of an English Cathedral. He has travelled and lectured extensively throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. A linguist by training and inclination, his languages include Syriac, Arabic, and Turkish. Publications include Light from the East, Christians in the Holy Land, and Antioch, and Canterbury. He is a Facilitator for the Windsor Leadership Trust, a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, and a Freeman of the City of London.

On Thursday 12th September 2013 (6-8 pm) Fr. William Taylor’s book Narratives of Identity will be launched in Lambeth Palace. If anyone wishes to attend please RSVP at officemanager@stjohnsnottinghill.com.  

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