Dr. Paul Meyendorff's Kyiv Meeting Focuses on Theological Education

16-20 February 2014 • Off-Campus • Faculty Travels

Against the backdrop of civil strife, The Alexander Schmemann Professor of Liturgical Theology Paul Meyendorff traveled to the Orthodox Theological Seminary and Academy in Kyiv, Ukraine, for a meeting of the Working Group on Orthodox Theological Education. Representing both the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, he participated in extensive discussions about the restructuring of theological education in Ukraine in general, and at the Academy in particular. On February 17, Professor Meyendorff presented a paper on baptismal ecclesiology to students and faculty of the Academy, after which he answered questions from students for nearly an hour.

Participants at the meeting were greeted warmly by Metropolitan Antonij, rector of the Academy and currently the administrator of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He participated in the opening session, at which he presented a report on the current state of theological education in Ukraine and shared his hopes for the future—including greater cooperation with other Orthodox theological institutions.

As the meeting was progressing at the Academy, which sits in a large compound that also includes the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves and the headquarters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, violence broke out in the center of the city, less than a mile away. On Tuesday night, participants were kept awake all night by the sound of explosion and gunfire. As the violence grew worse, the gates to the compound were shut, trucks were parked across access roads, and students were forbidden to leave the grounds.

"On Thursday morning, just prior to leaving," Prof. Meyendorff reported, "I attended a memorial service for the dozens of people killed." In addition to praying for the dead, Metropolitan Antonij called for a cessation to the violence—a call that went unheeded as the violence on Thursday only increased. Though relieved to be home, Dr. Meyendorff asks for all to pray for those he left behind.

The Working Group has been meeting annually since 2010 and last year gained official recognition from many Orthodox Churches, including the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Moscow, Serbia, and Romania, and the Churches of Finland, Poland, and the OCA. The aim of the group is to help the churches to raise the quality of theological education as well as to develop common standards. This will allow for the mutual recognition of degrees and make possible exchanges of faculty and students. 

(Photo credits: kdais.kiev.ua)