On Thursday evening, February 27, 2003, over 300 people witnessed His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America and President of Saint Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary here, present an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree to His Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres, and All Albania during a two-day symposium on Missions held on the seminary campus.
Earlier in the day, Dean John Erickson joined Metropolitan Herman in formally welcoming Archbishop Anastasios to the seminary. Prior to the celebration of Daily Vespers and the academic convocation which followed, Metropolitan Herman and Archbishop Anastasios discussed the current situation of the Church of Albania and the Orthodox Church in America. Archbishop Anastasios shared his experience in undertaking the monumental task of rebuilding Church life in Albania after the fall of the militantly atheistic communist regime over a decade ago.
At the conclusion of Daily Vespers, attendees adjourned to the Metropolitan Philip Saliba Auditorium, where Metropolitan Herman opened the academic convocation for the conferral of the doctoral degree. In his introductory remarks, Dean Erickson reflected on Archbishop Anastasios’ tremendous missionary efforts spanning several decades. After Dr. Paul Meyendorff read the citation for the degree of Doctor of Divinity honoris causa, Metropolitan Herman presented Archbishop Anastasios with the doctoral cross.
“The very flame and spirit of the apostolic church has been imparted as a whole into Christ’s Church,” Archbishop Anastasios explained in his keynote symposium lecture, “Rediscovering Our Apostolic Identity in the 21st Century,” which followed the presentation. “We stand at the very door of the apostolic moment in the 21st century. With every new generation we must be ready to explore the new and creative, but also engage the old, the apostolic.”
“The Church was founded by Christ, and given to the Apostles,” Archbishop Anastasios continued. “The faith has been preserved unchanged through the Apostolic Tradition, and has been founded on the unbroken chain of Apostolic Succession. Christ did not found a static community withdrawn from the world. Instead, He charged the Apostles with going out and encountering those in the world. That same responsibility has been given to each of us, as recipients of the Apostolic Faith.”
“Mission is a fixed part of the ‘DNA’ of the Church,” Archbishop Anastasios said. “The Church is constantly renewed by mission and the apostolic charge. An awareness of this charge is necessary for the health of the Church. Each of us, as part of the organic Church, bears the Apostolic responsibility to witness and teach.”
“Missionary activity is not ‘Protestant,’” Archbishop Anastasios emphasized. “Christ created an apostolic group, not a group adverse to witness and mission. Mission requires creative zeal to find the best way to spread the apostolic faith…. There was no charge to focus only on those of ‘our nationality.’”
“As the world’s foremost Orthodox missiologist, Archbishop Anastasios has dedicated his life to building an awareness of and appreciation for the centrality of mission in Orthodox life and ministry,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “For decades, his numerous scholarly contributions to the field of missiology have been put ‘into action’ through his missionary work in East Africa and Albania and his advocacy for Orthodox Christianity and mission in ecumenical circles.”
Among the other hierarchs attending the convocation included His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey [OCA]; His Eminence, Metropolitan Paisios of Tyana; His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Baltimore [OCA]; and His Grace, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, General Secretary of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas; and His Grace, Bishop Savas of Troas, Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Also present was His Beatitude, Metropolitan Theodosius, retired Primate of the Orthodox Chruch in America.
Other speakers and topics during the Mission symposium, which concluded on Friday, February 28, included the Rev. Luke Veronis [“Challenges Facing Modern Missions”]; the Very Rev. Constantine Nasr [“Renewing the Spirit of Missions in the Local Parish”]; Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko [“Mission and Philanthropy”]; and the Rev. Michael Nasser [“Youth and Mission”].