"The Eastern Front of the Western World"

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Theologian Amos Yong about our book

Joshua T. Searle and Mykhailo N. Cherenkov, A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education, and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2014)

“A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education, and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society takes us from Oceania to the “other side” of the West: the Soviet and post-Soviet world.6 More specifically – as both authors are affiliated with the Evangelically oriented Donetsk Christian University on the far-Eastern border of Ukraine, and thus address specifically the Ukrainian context and sociopolitical situation – the proposal at hand emerges from the Eurasian boundary in a geopolitically liminal space and time between Europe and Asia. The stakes are high even at this time of writing as the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula has intensified the volatility of an already unstable region. It is not surprising then that Searle, whose other scholarship has been on Irish Evangelicalism, and Cherenkov, whose other publications have been in Russian, are focused on an understanding of the Gospel and a vision of a Church that is engaged with social transformation. It is toward such ends that their own proposal for theological education includes missiological and public-theological dimensions.
The political ferment, however, unfolds amid a deeply religious matrix. Post-Soviet Ukraine might also be characterized as post-Christendom, if only in the sense that Orthodoxy in this country has been disestablished in principle even if not in reality coming out of the break-up of the Soviet Union. Yet, of course, to say that there is no longer an Orthodox hegemony in Ukraine is not to say that its peoples are now non-Orthodox, and certainly not to deny that Slavic cultures remain formed and shaped by the Orthodox presence over the past millennium and more. Nevertheless, it is within a context of Christian (read: Protestant) pluralization that Searle and Cherenkov envision and are working toward a more Evangelical Ukraine, not one that involves proselytism of the Orthodox faithful toward Baptist or Pentecostal churches (although such is happening), but rather one that draws Ukrainians into a deeper Christian and even Orthodox faith in the contemporary Ukrainian milieu.
Against this backdrop, then, the central idea of A Future and a Hope is “a church without walls,” meaning first and foremost the people of God who are engaged with the task of witness and mission amidst the sociopolitical and economic challenges that constitute this Ukrainian moment. Theological training institutions are not limited to buildings; their work does not occur in such spaces. Rather, theological education in the post-Soviet context cannot but be missional, committed to prophetically heralding the coming reign of God, and inspiring a faithful social imagination that seeks to be contextually relevant and effectively engaged in society. Various models are promoted, including “The Christian Seminar” that sought to connect Christian faith, post-Communist developments
in the former Soviet Union, emerging consumerist trends, and globalization dynamics. Put alternatively, Christian theological education on this Eastern front of the Western world in the present situation cannot but exist fully in line with the Lausanne Covenant’s holistic missiological vision to encourage and empower students to participate in the missio Dei for the Church’s witness in the public square. The point, then, is that theological education that does not inspire and engender social transformation fails to bear effective Christian witness in Ukraine. Christian witness is the task and hope that Searle and Cherenkov invite theological educators – within and beyond Ukraine – to uphold and perform”

AMOS YONG. Theological Education in the Western Hemisphere: Select Histories and Current Trends – A Review Essay // InSights Journal, 2017

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