I have been at a conference of the Central and Eastern European Association of Mission Studies (CEEAMS) near Vienna. Its theme was, "Beyond the Iron Curtain: Being Church in Central and Eastern Europe twenty five years after the political changes". The participants told stories of Christians living and working in that region and analysed the trends in the church and mission after the momentous events of 1989.
The fundamental approaches of this conference were personal and practical. The first two sessions emphasised these approaches. After each paper, there was vigorous discussion and debate around the subjects expounded. I, of course, had plenty to say!
The papers were wide and varied but all focussed upon how the Christian church existed in the past 25 years and how it should move forward into the future.
There are some interesting facts to note within this width and variety. The variety of speakers was very wide. 1/3 of the speakers in the devotional times and the papers were female; an impressive number for mission conferences! There were also a good number of younger speakers (under 30). They also came from a wide variety of confessions (ecumenical, evangelical, Orthodox and Catholic) and so some were local to Central and Eastern Europe as well as others from Western Europe.
Not only the were the speakers varied but the contexts of reflection were also varied. There were papers on the whole region but also on various countries (Russia, Bulgaria, East Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Poland). The denominational context were also varied (Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Anglican and Pentecostal).
In addition to the variety of contexts, the approaches to the subjects were varied. Approaches including statistical analysis, critical comparison and use of missiological models (Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”, the Pastoral Circle, critical postmodernity and generalational analysis)
Finally, the themes of study were varied. Subjects ranged from Minority Ethnic/religious experience and witness, missiological issues such missional church, Pluralism, social engagement, missiological education and church/State relations post 1989.
This conference covered a multitude of themes, with a multitude of approaches, in multitude of contexts, by a multitude of speakers, using personal and practical approaches.
I enjoyed but am looking forward to seeing Wilma again...and Meg!