Toward a Relevant Theology
Ziya Meral’s article, “Toward a Relevant Theology for the Middle East,” in the April EMQ was such a breath of fresh air!
Toward a Relevant Theology
Ziya Meral’s article, “Toward a Relevant Theology for the Middle East,” in the April EMQ was such a breath of fresh air! Thank you for running the article. What an encouragement to see a “younger evangelical” like Meral taking his place alongside many others in the global Christian community. He challenges us to return to our Center and rethink our theology—in this case from a Middle Eastern perspective—as we engage the world around us.
As I read the article, it struck me that many of the suggestions Meral offers are already exemplified in the Coptic Orthodox church. Not perfectly, mind you, but so much more so than in any of the M.E. Protestant churches that, since their beginnings in the nineteenth century, have tended to be clones of their founding communities in the West.
During my years of missional residence in Egypt (1978-1985) I found it highly ironic that the United Presbyterian Church (now PCUSA) found it important to send out a missionary whose task it was to enable Coptic evangelicals to understand and re-appreciate their Orthodox neighbors. Such missionaries served as dialogue agents between Protestant and Orthodox doctrine and practice. Many well-meaning Protestant missionaries had “thrown the baby out with the bathwater” by disregarding much good and contextually appropriate Orthodox praxis. For the most part, today’s evangelical workers carry on this tradition of ignorance.
I am not an apologist for the Orthodox church; I simply see it as offering some local help and hope to those of us who puzzle over how to do exactly what Ziya Meral so aptly suggests we do in his illuminating article. Perhaps now is the time for evangelicals to discover the Orthodox believers living nearby, to build some relationships and to humbly work together in missional witness to our Muslim neighbors.
—John Berg, Seattle area
Twenty-first Century Population Factors
Steve Clinton’s article on meeting leadership needs in light of today’s population growth is challenging (“Twenty-first Century Population Factors and Leadership of Spiritual Movements,” EMQ, April 2005). He points out, “today’s population growth is driving change in unprecedented ways.” With more people alive today on planet earth than ever before (6.4 billion), never has the challenge been greater to provide trained leadership for spiritual movements. With the need for as many as five million new pastors in the next forty years, he eloquently pleads for new ways of training men and women for ministry.
However, by claiming that “half the people who have ever lived are alive today,” Clinton overstates the case with a popular misconception. David Barrett’s research indicates that all the people who have ever lived just since A.D. 33 is over thirty-six billion (Appendix 1, Cosmos Chaos and Gospel, page 96). The U.S. Population Reference Bureau’s article by Carl Haub, “How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?” (Population Today, February 1995, 23:2) suggests the total for all human beings is probably over sixty billion, far beyond the twelve billion suggested by Clinton’s claim. No more than fifteen to twenty percent of all people who have ever lived are alive today. But this is a big enough challenge to make the author’s point—our leadership training methods must change and expand significantly and quickly.
—Dr. John L. Amstutz Leadership Training Consultant , Foursquare Missions International, Los Angeles, Calif.
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