Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missiological Context of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in Africa

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missiological Context of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in Africa

Article excerpt

This article will focus on the mission of the Eastern Orthodox church in Africa today. The main objective is to bring into account the missiological Context of the Eastern Orthodox churches under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa has its headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt, and extends its ecclesiastical jurisdiction into all of Africa. It serves the Eastern Orthodox churches, which comprise Greek, Arabic, and Russian Orthodox communities as well as the native African Orthodox communities in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the native Orthodox Christians are in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Congo, while a significant number of Greek, Arabic, and Russian Orthodox communities are in Egypt, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. (1)

Missiological survey of the Orthodox Church in Africa

According to the existing historical evidence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa, Christian mission into Africa started with St Mark the evangelist in the city of Alexandria around AD 62-63. (2) In world Christian history, the Alexandrian church has been missiologically involved in (I) Apollos' evangelizing Ephesus at the time of St Paul (Acts 18:24; 1 Cor. 3:4-7); (2) the ecumenical councils, which greatly contributed to the formation of the Christian doctrines through bishops like Athanasius the Great (AD 298-373); (3) formation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed and Christian doctrines; (3) the allegorical method of interpreting of the holy scriptures; and (4) monasticism. Monasticism resulted in a mission encounter between Christian monks and the Nubian traders who eventually became Christians. The Arabic conquest and persecutions caused a large number of Greek Orthodox Christians to flee Egypt.

The decline of Orthodox Christians in Egypt promoted the patriarchate to extend its mission to sub-Saharan Africa. The mission was mostly to the Greek communities that had settled in major African cities for trade. They had come into Africa after they fled Greek islands during the Turkish occupation. Ordinarily, Greek communities had their own churches, cultural centres, and schools, while priests were individually requested from Greece or Constantinople. (3) These communities were not involved in active mission to evangelize their African neighbours; however, their presence attracted a few Africans either because of intermarriages or curiosity about Orthodoxy. Those who showed serious interests were allowed to join Greek schools and were baptized as Orthodox Christians. For example, Ugandan students joined a Greek school in Moshi Tanzania under Father Nikodemos Sarikas. Through this interaction, Father Sarikas introduced Father Ruben Mukasa Spartas of the Orthodox Church in Uganda to the Patriarchate of Alexandria. (4) Apparently, this was the starting point for a mission encounter between the Greeks and the native Africans.

Currently, the Orthodox missiological context in Africa and beyond is represented by a vibrant and rapid-growing native African Orthodox Church. One would be correct to say that the native African Orthodox Church is a promising future of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. The emergence and growth of the native African Orthodox Church was through the initiatives of Africans themselves. In Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, and Nigeria, native African Christians searched for the Orthodox faith after they protested against the Protestant churches, mission strategies in the 1930s. The protest was against cultural imperialism, evangelizing methodologies, and the collaboration of the mission churches with the colonial authorities. (5) After breaking away from the mission churches, they founded African independent churches (AICs) also referred to as African instituted churches or African initiatives in Christianity. (6) The AICs understood their presence as a mission extension through translation of the gospel into the African spiritual realities. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.