Monday, November 25, 2013

Constantinople Lecture 2013

The Anglican and Eastern Churches Association (AECA) organised its annual Constantinople Lecture on Thursday 21st November 2013 at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom, Moscow Road, London. The night began with Vespers, followed by the lecture, which was given by The Rt Revd Andrew Proud (Bishop of Reading). The title of the talk was “Fully alive: good news for our time”. Fr William Taylor, Chairman of the AECA introduced the speaker, giving some biographical facts.
The speaker reflected on St Irenaeu’s most famous aphorism, which he believes offers the good news our time so desperately needs to hear. He pointed out that our society is more secular now. Despite being more atomised and fragmented it seems that we are currently also more connected, via this new movement of social media networks.

The Bishop of Reading explained that he has a loved, valued and respected Christian Orthodoxy for years. He first encountered it as a young ordinand of 20, working in a bank in Colchester, when he was taken to the Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, in Essex, early one Saturday morning for the Divine Liturgy. There he had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Sophrony over breakfast. He claimed that he looks oftern to the treasures of Orthodoxy often, for inspiration in shaping his own discipleship and informing his own theological thinking and preaching. Orthodoxy, for the speaker, offers something the west desperately needs to hear in our era, which is what it really means to be human, to be made in the image and likeness of God.

The Bishop then gave an interesting statistic that in the Church of England, there will be a loss of 40% of ordained clergy over the next ten years, due to retirement. Despite new candidates becoming priests, the final net loss will be something around 25%. Therefore, the Church of England will have to think of different ways of providing ministry and more imaginative ways of engaging in mission as a Church. It is crucial to have beautiful churches, which currently the Church of England has. But it is imperative to cultivate the communities. The problem with the current practice is that the Christians today, between Monday and Saturday, are basically functional atheists. So, we have an issue of discipleship. How do the priests disciple people to live their faith, and to be good news in their Monday-Saturday lives.

Bishop Andrew Proud also examined the Fall, found in Genesis. He explained that it is still a thing of such power. It is something we experience as human beings in virtually every moment of our lives. Separation from God and alienation from one another and from our very selves still happens. Which is why the world is the way it is. However, he later claimed that the Fall is proof of our freedom, because without it we would never know that true love exists.
It is crucial that the Christianity makes holiness attractive again. In order to do this we need to promote the idea of love, which will help withstand the storms of life. Therefore, everyone will have hope in their hearts, since their hearts and their gaze are fixed on Christ. The speaker is convinced that the Anglicans need to recover a proper sense of sacred time. It’s all there in the tradition, but such is the nature of the present time that they need to do that pointing elsewhere. This is something Orthodoxy is very good at.

The Bishop of Reading believes that times needs to be spent with the communities, outside Sunday worship, teaching them, knitting them together, building them up, nurturing them and equipping them to cope with Monday-Saturday. To do this, the priests need to take the spiritual and theological formation of the faithful seriously. Many of them have not progressed much beyond a Sunday School level grasp of their faith.
The evening continued with a small announcement by Fr. Stephen Stavrou who spoke about the AECA Travel Award. Later, after thanking the speaker, all the participant moved to the crypt of St Sophia, where refreshments were given, allowing for further communication between Orthodox and Anglicans.  

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