The 2023 Central and Eastern European Association for Mission Studies (CEEAMS) Annual Conference on the theme Peace, Pleas and Proclamation: Missiological Contributions to Pastoral Care, Homiletics and Theological Education was held on February 14-17, 2023 in a hybrid format. Though most participants gathered in person in the usual CEEAMS conference venue at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia, online participation was also possible. About fourty theologians, missiologists, reflective practitioners, and other professionals registered for the event, which took seriously the fact that human identities and the gospel of reconciliation have become urgent questions in the midst of war in Eastern Europe and in times of global socio-political and economic instabilities related to complex international tensions, both Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and beyond.
Ecumenical diversity in unity
CEEAMS 2023 participants came from various nations, including Austria, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Ukraine, UK, USA, and churches such as Evangelical, Baptist, Reformed, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Roman-Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
Peace-and-justice-focused mission and contextual awareness
Led by the Spirit of God, the participants reflected on political, social, and economic issues in Central and Eastern Europe from the perspective of the Christian faith through the missiological lens by focusing on the biblical notion of peace and reconciliation (shalom, eirene) that can never be separated from justice, thereby illuminating themes and topics which need more reflection at academic and grassroots levels.
The Conference strengthened ecumenical and intercultural interaction of missionaries, practitioners, and researchers from the Balkans and CEE and contributed to the broader academic debate with experts and practitioners from other parts of the world.
It also contributed to the growth of CEEAMS as sustainable platform connecting its members on a year-long basis through the CEEAMS conference, CEEAMS Study groups, CEEAMSPrints and the Osijek Doctoral Colloquium (which took place in parallel with the Conference), promoting contextual mission study in CEE and offering space for continuous debate and exchange of views and resources.
Finally, as the war in Ukraine still continued during the duration of the conference, the people of Ukraine were very much on the mind of both the conference organizers and participants. In addition to a number of short papers dedicated to Ukraine, a special Ukrainian roundtable, featuring Ukrainian theologians, was part of the conference program.
CEEAMS’ conferences strive to:
- map trends, challenges, and new perspectives on mission from different regional, denominational, and cultural contexts,
- generate and deepen theological conversation on mission in CEE
- invite and encourage participants to bring in themes, topics, ideas, and ideas from their own current research and by doing so generate a broader conversation on mission
- map what is presently going on under the heading of Christian mission in CEE
- deepen missiological reflection on Christian mission
- strengthen the network of mission-minded professionals and reflective practitioners in CEE
Conference program and topics
The conference took place in a hybrid format over four days. The conference opened with a conversation with Miroslav Volf on his recent book. While the mornings on Wednesday and Thursday included a Bible exposure, 4 keynote lectures took place at various times. There were pauses for informal conversations and coffee breaks, and two sets of 3 parallel sessions featuring the total of 18 short papers with facilitated conversations were presented in the conference. In addition to the Ukrainian roundtable, already mentioned above, there was a book launch for the recently published Central European Bible Commentary and an interfaith panel. The CEEAMS General Assembly was held on Wednesday afternoon, also enabling online participation. The conference ended on Friday with a guided walk around Osijek.
The conference encouraged presenters to respond to the following questions:
What are the biblical notions of peace (shalom, eirene) my church, community, organization works with and how does that relate to the socio-political reality unfolding today?
How does biblical and missional hermeneutics interpret and work with the notion of peace and how do missional hermeneutics of peace inform missional practice in times of war?
How do different types of Christian theological traditions such as hesychastic theology, mystic and/or pietistic traditions inform theologies of mission?
How could different concepts of peace such as shalom and reconciliation contribute to responsible Christian presence in all segments of society?
In which ways does peace play a role in pastoral care, proclamation and theological education?
How could case studies or empirical research contribute to a theology of peace for and within the region?
How could historical research help develop theologies of peace for the region?
In which ways does the notion of peace challenge systematic theologies informing mission praxis?
In which ways does the notion of peace inform interdenominational and ecumenical collaboration in the region?
What are the theological dimensions of understanding peace in the tension between community and the individual?
The conference included the following paper presentations:
- Female Teachers in Mission Fields
- The Mission of the Romanian Orthodox Church and its Striving for World Peace
- The Concept of Peace and Unity in Orthodox Christianity
- Encounters in the Search for Peace
- The Norms of War in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
- Human among Inhumanity
- The Death and Resurrection of Moab
- Peace – Between Wish and Fulfillment: A Short Overview
- Missiological Observations for the Romanian Orthodox Theological System
- Challenge of Peace in Theological Education in Slovakia
- Focalia: The Alphabet of Contemporary Hesychasts or the Eradication of Depression, the Disease of the Current Times
- Peace: A Legacy that Requires Theological Education
- Christianity in Kazakhstan: A Religious Studies Review
- International Churches and Migration in Hungary: Understanding, Implications and Opportunities for Witnessing to Christ
- Albert Camus and Hope
Reading the Bible together and online exposures
As always, the participants on site read the Bible together in small groups. These spiritual exercises are highly valued because they immediately embody ecumenicity, catholicity, and interculturality through focusing together on a specific Bible text. For the online participants, Tim Noble prepared an Bible Exposure.
Peace, Pleas and Proclamation: Missiological Contributions to Pastoral Care, Homiletics and Theological Education
The keynote lectures
The five key-note speakers, Miroslav Volf (Yale Divinity School), Roman Soloviy (Eastern European Institute of Theology, Lviv), Zoltán Literáty (Károli Gáspár Reformed University), Evi Voulgaraki-Pissina (National and Kapodistrian University, Athens), and Kosta Milkov (RZIM Macedonia), each brought stimulating perspectives and insights to the conference theme.
Miroslav Volf’s opening presentation explored the missiological potential of the metaphors of Babylon, New Jerusalem, and the home of God from his recent book. A response was provided by Pavol Bargár, followed by discussion with the participants.
Roman Soloviy’s presentation, “Theological Education in Wartime: Ukrainian Evangelical Seminaries as Communities of Reflection, Compassion and Hope”, challenged the participants to consider the different aspects of theological education in the midst of an ongoing war.
Zoltán Literáty’s presentation, “The Future Belongs to the Generation of Peace” focused on a hermeneutical and exegetical analysis of Matthew 22:15-22 and its contextual relevance for a public theology in contemporary Hungary.
Evi Voulgaraki-Pissina’s topic, “St Luke of Crimea (19 May 1877-11 June 1961): A Living Example of Restoring Human Dignity: Witness and Healing in Times of Adversity,” explored, using the example of a concrete church leader from the last century, how Christians can stand up for human dignity in interactions with people of various backgrounds, beliefs, and needs.
Kosta Milkov’s presentation, “The Gift as an Idol: Human capacities as a Hurdle in the Relationship with God and Neighbor” addressed the question of (mis)use of human capacities given through an entry by a re-reading of the First Epistle of John. The keynote aimed at questioning some of the contemporary socio/political phenomena especially manifested in the radical individualism and identity discourse(s) from which the church is not exempt.
Miroslav Volf is Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School and Founding Director of Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
Roman Soloviy is Chairman of the Eastern European Institute of Theology (Lviv, Ukraine) and Regional Editor for Eastern and Central Europe and Central Asia at Langham Literature.
Zoltán Literáty is an associate professor at Károli Gáspár Reformed University in Budapest, Hungary.
Evi Voulgaraki-Pissina is currently works at the Faculty of Social Theology of National and Kapodistrian University in Athens, Greece, where she does research in comparative religion, religious studies, and Abrahamic Religions.
Kosta Milkov is the Director of RZIM Macedonia, and is the Founder and Director of the Balkan Institute for Faith and Culture.
The 2023 CEEAMS annual conference invited theologians, missiologists, reflective practitioners, and other professionals to focus on the theme of peace in relation to lived spirituality (plea/prayer) and theologies of mission (proclamation/plea). Mission theology and spirituality go hand in hand but both tend to stay implicit. The conference calls for making implicit mission theologies explicit: to share and explain the link between confession and action, between beliefs and practices around the understanding of peace and its implications for pastoral care, preaching (homiletics) and theological education.
The painful experiences within Central and Eastern Europe of “Christians killing Christians” or “people of good will killing people of good will” urge our association to promote conscious missiology and create the opportunity for scholars, mission practitioners, ministers, missionaries, and theological educators to meet, share, and discuss their work. In addition, we want to question what our mission theologies have to do with one of the central notions of Christianity: peace.
Peace, related to theology and Christian churches, has a loaded history within Central and Eastern Europe because it also recalls how different churches developed or denied relationship with communist systems. When working with the concept of peace, such histories of politics, church politics and confessing Christian identities should prevent any idealization of peace for mission matters.
The insights generated through the conference will be disseminated in various ways, including:
- The CEEAMS journal, Acta Missiologiae
- The CEEAMS website
- Through the academic engagement and the pastoral and missional ministry of the CEEAMS members
- Through various academic and church networks that the CEEAMS members are part of