OCI Institute of Excellence – September 2012 Evangelical School of Theology in Wroclaw, Poland hosted the OCI Institute of Excellence from September 19-21, 2012. The participants represented Christian colleges, seminaries and schools in Central and Eastern Europe. The main topic for the conference was: COURAGE TO BE: THEOLOGY IN THE CHANGING MARKET (CHURCH AND THEOLOGICAL EDUCATION IN POST COMMUNIST COUNTRIES). In addition to the lectures, there were also small group workshops and opportunities for informal discussions and one to one meetings.
The political and economic situation in post-communist countries has been significantly changing for the last two decades. This can be observed in the structural freedom that evangelical churches and theological institutions have received from various governments. This democratic freedom also gave rise to an emerging open market, on which both institutions and citizens have to consider for their well-being independently from any protective government apparatus. At the same time there are still some issues that have not been resolved and are part of communistic “heritage”.
One may think of low standards of work ethics, problem of collaboration of prominent Christian leaders with communists, lack of middle class, lack of resources, financial stability or foundations who would support such non-profit activity, self-perception of the churches’ role as being still in opposition or depreciation of elderly people. Will post-communist societies and churches be able to face all of the above historically based problems? Will evangelical churches and theological institutions be able to adjust their strategies to new circumstances in which they are no longer the first recipients of western funds? Will they be creative enough to think of self-financing projects and look for new internal ways of raising funds? Will they be flexible enough to redesign their educational programs to meet new needs of work overload and lack of free time as Christians? Will Christian theologians be mature enough to rethink usually western theologies they used to teach and provide new theological models that grow out of respective national identities of individual countries and are sensitive to local spiritual needs and intellectual dilemmas?
The aim of the OCI seminar was to think anew of our institutional, economical, theological and educational strategies in light of the historical problems as well as the changing and unstable market. Hopefully, our schools will have courage and will accept new challenges coming out of new geopolitical post-communist situations. Evangelical School of Theology, as the host institution of the 2012 Overseas Council International Institute for Excellence in Christian Leadership Development, designed this Institute in a cooperative manner, together with other evangelical theological schools from the region. Each school has its own national history and institutional story to tell. We listened to each other’s dilemmas and solutions, hoping that this discussion will be continued during following Institutes, and we will together in partnership with OCI grow and have an impact on theological education in post-communist countries on the European continent.