Missionary Theology in the Theological University Education of the Romanian Orthodox Church

By Petraru, Gheorghe | International Review of Mission, July-October 2006 | Go to article overview

Missionary Theology in the Theological University Education of the Romanian Orthodox Church


Petraru, Gheorghe, International Review of Mission


Missionary theology in the faculties of Orthodox theology in Romania has a long history that goes back to the third decade of the 20th century. The university missiological courses of that time were connected to the courses in the European faculties, whilst remaining conformed to the missionary realities of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Therefore, courses and books from the inter-war years treated mission as evangelization, and the history of Christian missions dealt with ecumenism and the ecumenical conferences of Faith and Order and Life and Work, plus social philanthropic work in the Orthodox Church as well as in the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant churches. A main missionary activity of the Orthodox Church was to defend itself from neo-Protestant Christian proselytism. In addition, the church's approach to culture and politics was a matter of debate. (1)

With the instauration of the atheist and totalitarian communist regime, and its bad and hostile attitude toward the Orthodox Church and other Christian confessions and associations, missionary activities were brutally interrupted and missiological courses became mainly concerned with the study of religious sects, and how the Orthodox Church could defend itself from the neo-Protestant proselytism coming from the West. (2) The name of the courses remained Missionary advice and guidance (Indrumari misionare in Romanian) but the content, generally, was a 'sectological' one. A paradigm shift came in the last years of the communist dictatorship with the introduction of a new missionary course, and also through the works of the well-known Romanian missiologist Fr. Ion Bria. (3)

Therefore, after the fall of communism, and inspired by the Orthodox Church's own tradition and the dynamics of its mission, theology faculties had as their main task the need to separate 'sectology' from missiology as an academic discipline, and thereby to allow missiology once again to include the whole range of topics, including 'sectology', that are proper to it.

Missiology is now a university course in the Bologna programme, and students can gain five points through the European system of transferable credits. The scientific structure of the course unites the fundamental topics of theology as knowledge of and communion with the Holy Trinity, God, human beings and the community of the confessing church in fruitful and enriching dialogue with contemporary culture, particularly philosophy, psychology and the sociology of religion. Missiology as a theological science is, in this sense, firstly the apologetics of the Christian faith of the missionary church. (4) It is also a synthesis between faith as a relationship, i.e. communion with the revealed God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, and theological and philosophical rationality, as well as spiritual and mystical experience, and missionary action.

After 1989, the church has been present through the priesthood, courses on religion, and social Christian assistance in society. The church is a missionary agent in public schools, hospitals, asylums, the army, and in prisons. In this sense, mission studies have regained a much broader horizon of theological reflection and spiritual experience in missionary action.

The structure of missiology or missionary theology as an academic science in theological university education

Missiology, from the point of view of the mentors of this theological course, should remain as it was in the past in our Orthodox faculties, viz. a creative union and synthesis between fundamental and missionary theology. Three great chapters make up the missiology course in the Bologna programme: missionary theology; missionary anthropology; the missionary community of the church.

I. Missionary theology

By missionary theology I mean, especially, the theology of revelation, (5) which is the ground of all our Christian theology as it was developed during recent decades in the theological reflection about God's auto-communication to human beings on behalf of his infinite love. …

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