This Unit focuses on the critical study of the theology, culture, history, and practices of the many different Eastern Christian churches (numbering some 260-300 million worldwide), including their mutual interaction and engagement with Western Christian and non-Christian groups.
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Eastern Orthodox Studies Unit
Call for Proposals
Current Debates on Women's Ordination to the Diaconate (Joint Session with Ecclesiological Investigations Unit)
At this session we would like to discuss women's ordination in various forms across churches, with the focus on those churches that are currently in debates about expanding ordination through the diaconate or other structures. The conversation surrounding the female diaconate is especially important in Orthodox Christianity (in both Eastern and Oriental traditions) and for the Catholic Church. Interest in the historical tradition of the female diaconate has prompted dialogue and controversy within Orthodox Christianity, as well as reconsideration of more recent expressions of the female diaconate where it exists. In the Catholic Church, the discussion about the female diaconate did reach a certain level of theoretical consensus, but has yet to result in any practical applications. In addition to ecclesiological aspects, we welcome proposals that explore related questions of sexuality and gender constructions, taboos, ideals, prejudices, etc. that shape current conversations related to women’s ordination, ecclesial leadership and apostolate in general, as well as the overall participation of women in church. We would also like to invite papers on lessons that can be learned from the realities of ordained women's work and examples of exercising authority, in churches that ordain women or otherwise have recognized the exercise of authority by women for some time.
Spiritual Light in the Orthodox and Quaker Spiritual Traditions (Co-sponsored with the Quaker Studies Unit)
The notion of spiritual light occurs in both Orthodox Christianity and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). For George Fox, founder of the Friends, God endows each human being with a measure of his own Divine Spirit. Fox spoke of the Inward Light, coming “from beyond”; the Inner Light is the Divine Light in every person, which guides, teaches, and leads to salvation, and brings those who accept it into unity with God and each other. Many ancient and modern Orthodox spiritual figures report experiences of God or Christ as Light, experiences understood to be Uncreated Divine Light, not created light nor psychological phenomena, and are compared with the light experienced by the Apostles at the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor (Mt. 17:1-8). This co-sponsored session will explore the sense and significance of the notion of spiritual light and the place of spiritual light in the overall theology and spirituality in the Orthodox and Quaker traditions. Emphasis will be given to proposed papers which compare and contrast explanations and descriptions of spiritual light in the two traditions, as well as actual experiences of such light by their adherents, highlighting commonalities and divergences.
The Past and Future State of (Orthodox) Theology
Following the Volos Conference of 2010 (https://greesons.typepad.com/paideia/2010/06/international-conference-of...), the IOTA conference in 2019 (https://iota-web.org/newsletters/january-2019/) and recent key publications (Gallaher and Ladouceur 2019 and Ladouceur 2019), there has been wide-spread reflection on the past and the future state of Orthodox Christian theology in its relationship to Christian theology more broadly. We would like to invite papers and organized panels that offer in-depth examination of Orthodox theology over the past century and a half and its future relationship to theology more broadly as a discipline. In particular, we wish to invite contributions looking at its seminal figures and their legacy (Vladimir Solov'ev, Georges Florovsky, Sergii Bulgakov, Vladimir Lossky, Dimitru Stãniloae, Alexander Schmemann, John Zizioulas, Christos Yannaras, Kallistos Ware etc.) and engaging with recent key publications: What has been accomplished by these key figures? What weaknesses have emerged in the practice of Orthodox theology as seen in its seminal figures? Is Florovsky's "neo-patristic synthesis," the dominant Orthodox theological paradigm after World War II, now dépassé? Should liturgy and patristic theology still play a central role in Orthodox theology? What could replace the neo-patristic synthesis? What role will the legacy of the Russian religious renaissance (sophiology, Bulgakov etc.) play in any future Orthodox theology and theology more broadly? What should be the priority themes for Orthodox theology in the coming decades? Do ecumenical and inter-religious engagement and challenges like sexual diversity, the role of women in the church, and science and technology move Orthodox theology closer to the less ecclesially distinct theologies produced by Western theologians? How might Orthodox theology and its key figures relate to contemporary Western theologies, historical, systematic and comparative? Our session welcomes proposals for organized panels and individual papers from scholars of any religious tradition or none, interested in exploring these issues and related other topics from historical, systematic and comparative angles.
Key Recent Literature
Brandon Gallaher and Paul Ladouceur, eds., The Patristic Witness of Georges Florovsky: Essential Theological Writings (London: T&T Clark-Bloomsbury, 2019).
Paul Ladouceur, Modern Orthodox Theology (London: T&T Clark-Bloomsbury, 2019).
Universal Salvation (co-sponsored with Christian Systematic Theology Unit)
Within Orthodox Christian traditions, patristic authors have espoused varying conceptions of heaven, hell, apokatastasis, and the hope that even the devil might be eventually saved. From Origen and Isaac of Nineveh, to the modern St. Silouan the Athonite and Sergii Bulgakov, influential theologians and philosophers have questioned how beliefs in God’s ultimate love and compassion might be balanced with commitments to divine justice and human freedom hypothesizing the salvation of all. Recent scholarship has prompted renewed interest in theologies of universal salvation more broadly—notably, David Bentley Hart’s That All shall be Saved: Heaven, Hell & Universal Salvation (Yale University Press, 2019), Ilaria Ramelli’s The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis: A Critical Assessment from the New Testament to Eriugena (Brill, 2013), and Michael J. McClymond’s The Devil’s Redemption: An Interpretation of the Christian Debate over Universal Salvation (Baker Academic, 2018). For this session, we invite proposals for individual papers and pre-arranged panels on all aspects of, and approaches to universal salvation. In addition to addressing theological and philosophical inquiries and scholarship related this topic, we also welcome proposals that comparatively address universal salvation in other religions and Western Christian traditions, and in diverse forms of Orthodox Christian expression (hymns, icons, liturgical rites, lived practice, etc.).
For a co-sponsorship with Afro-American Religious History Unit, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the African Orthodox Church, specifically:
● The relationship between the African Orthodox Church, and Civil Rights and Black nationalist organizations, like the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA);
● The place of the African Orthodox Church amid the Black Protestant religious landscape and/or other Orthodox churches in the United States;
● The church’s Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Canadian, and African-American roots and transnational concepts of Blackness;
● Comparisons with historical and existing Orthodox Christian communities in Africa, and/or Black participation in Orthodox Christian Churches in America.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Daniela C. Augustine, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Brian A. Butcher, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, Toronto1/1/2018 - 12/31/2023
George Demacopoulos, Fordham University1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022
Philip Dorroll, Wofford College1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Paul Ladouceur, University of Toronto1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Ivana Noble, Charles University, Prague1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Vera Shevzov, Smith College1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Erin Walsh, University of Chicago1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025