Friday, October 7, 1994

The Oradea Declaration

The Oradea Declaration

1. In October 1994 ninety-one evangelical Christian leaders and educators from across the world met for four days in Oradea, Romania, as a "Consultation on Theological Education and Leadership Development in Post-Communist Europe." Under the theme, "Equipping for the Future," we came together to demonstrate and strengthen our common faith in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; to foster collegial relationships between ourselves; to survey the critical issues which relate to enabling Christian leaders; to produce a declaration of vision, philosophy, and goals for theological education and leadership development in post-Communist Europe; and to establish a basis for common effort in response to our declaration.

Our Context in Post-Communist Europe

2. Ours is a context in the   midst of profound transition. It is also a context in which many things remain unchanged, with a unique and diverse history prior to the rise of Communism, having both analogies to and significant differences from Western Europe. We are living through the demise of Communist ideology and hegemony. Yet, we live in a setting that continues to be plagued by immorality, social and political instability, religious fragmentation, economic paralysis, and bureaucratic tyranny. The remarkable cultural diversity of this region has been set free as many of our nations have rediscovered their unique self-identities. Yet, rising nationalism and agendas rooted in ethnic prejudice have brought war, tragedy, and death into our midst again. Failed command economies are in the process of being dismantled in favor of greater freedom for economic development. Yet, in too many places the introduction of economic reform has failed to alleviate widespread poverty and despair.
3. The problems of transition also extend to the church and the realm of faith. We believe that we are living in a spiritual kairos, a time of unprecedented opportunities in our region for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We thank God who is the sovereign Lord of history for the scent of spiritual harvest that is in the air, and by it we are reminded of our urgent responsibility for Christian witness in an otherwise perishing world. However, we recognize that opportunities for ministry in our region are tempered by the rapid secularization of our societies. Moreover, the tumult of social change in our midst has also reinforced some historic tensions between evangelicals and the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. These tensions have the potential of diverting the energies of all Christians from the God-given possibilities of our time, and this would be a tragedy of profound consequences. The flood of well-meant, but sometimes misguided, wasteful, and inappropriate efforts from foreign agencies has further complicated the situation.

Our Identity

4. We confess our faith in the triune God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. We therefore declare that we are people of God, with a high view of Scripture, who see the church as the body of Christ called to live, worship, witness, and serve in a world that is alienated from God but which he has taken action in Christ to reconcile. We affirm that this Christ is the one and only God-man who died for our sins and was raised from the dead to be Lord.

Leadership Development That Is Christian

5. By Christian leadership development we mean the process of enabling men and women to lead the church of Jesus Christ forward, so that it discerns and does God's will in relation to worship, holiness, unity, and mission. Such leaders must themselves also be followers in the way of the cross. They lead from personal weakness, being made strong only by the grace and mercy of God.
6. Wherever the church is experiencing rapid growth the need for new Christian leaders increases. Indeed, without an adequate supply of such leaders, the fruit of Christian witness is put at risk. Sub-biblical and explicitly heretical movements often grow in situations where the number of converts exceeds the capacity of the church to nurture them. This is a time of ripe spiritual harvest in post-Communist Europe, the continuation of which will be determined largely by the church's ability to provide biblical leadership for the new generations of Christians.
7. Because the mission of the church is multi-dimensional and operating within a pluralistic and multi-ethnic situation, with spiritual, relational, social, and physical consequences, the development of leaders should also be multi-dimensional, sensitive, and cross-culturally appropriate. All Christian leaders are, like Jesus, called to humble ministry, but there is a wide diversity of ministries.
8. Some leaders are called to serve primarily in church-related roles such as evangelists, church planters, pastors, cross-cultural workers, or leaders of church or ministry organizations. These roles may be carried out by those whose time is fully dedicated to Christian ministry, and also by those who support themselves by pursuing a second vocation.
9. Other Christian leaders will exercise their ministry in national or local government, in law, medicine, or education, in the media, in industry or business. Their high standards of professional competence, theological maturity, and personal integrity will confirm their spoken and unspoken testimony as authentic ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
10. A third group of leaders are Christian scholars of all disciplines who because of their learning, experience, and vision have the ability to articulate the Christian faith and demonstrate its significance for the larger issues of our societies and the world.
11. Individuals may find themselves called to Christian leadership in more than one of these dimensions. Further, these three groups of Christian leaders must recognize their mutual dependence. It makes little sense for Christian scholars to carry on their work without substantial reference to the views of ministry practitioners in church and society. To do so invites irrelevant thought and theory. Without the perspectives of marketplace Christians and the historian's critique, congregations and their pastors may not fully recognize when innovation is needed for effective witness in contemporary society. The pastor's concern for heart-level change and the theologian's tenacity for whole truth will challenge Christian leaders in government and business to bring more than superficial moral reforms to sectors in which they serve.

Education of Christian Leaders That Is Theological

12. A traditional view of theological education calls forth images of an academic process that imparts cognitive knowledge in such disciplines as biblical languages, textual and exegetical studies, dogmatics or systematic theology, church history, ethics, practical theology, and mission studies, etc. Such a definition is not wrong, but it is an incomplete picture. There is more to theological education than merely theological content.
13. Education cannot be theological without reference to a biblical world-view that proceeds from our worship and understanding of God. In addition, the outcomes of an educational process must be measured in terms of personal character formed, skills developed, as well as knowledge acquired. These three dimensions to education -- knowing, being, and doing -- must be applied to the education or enabling of Christian leaders. It is heartening to note that the historic limitations on Christian leadership development under the Communist regimes yielded in our churches an intuitive commitment to balancing the development of knowledge, character, and skills in emerging leaders. We must now strengthen that balance as informal leadership training is joined by more intentional formal and non-formal programs.
14. Some aspects of Christian leadership development are best centered in our congregations, such as foundational understanding of the Scriptures, growth of character and faith, and learning of basic ministry skills. The academy, however, provides faculty expertise, a concentration of educational resources, and a place for objectivity not usually available in a local church environment. Such resources and distance are essential if the theological education of Christian leaders is to be marked by serious reflection on relevant realities, history, and action. We should search for the right balance within and between the various components of theological education and Christian leadership development.

Theological Education and Leadership Development for Our Context

15. It is not enough to recognize the scope of leadership development that is called for, to ensure that the education of Christian leaders is truly theological, or to evaluate thoughtfully the manner or type of education that will yield the needed mix of Christian leaders. The theological education of Christian leaders for a context like post-Communist Europe must equip emerging leaders to deal with the philosophical, economic, societal, cultural, ethnic, and physical realities of the region.
16. In considering the issues we are facing in our modern context, we thank God that Christian faith came to our lands many centuries ago, resulting in the establishment of historic churches. Through these churches many aspects of our national cultures and identities have been shaped and preserved. We pray for the renewal of these churches by the transforming power of the Gospel resulting in holy living and authentic witness to Christ.
17. We believe it our duty to equip servant leaders to respond to the issues presented by our context in ways that are both faithful to the Gospel and also culturally relevant. In particular we must:
18. (1) Strengthen the church's contribution to the general welfare of our societies and legitimate nation building; (2) address the issue of conflicting nationalisms subsequent to the demise of Communism with the aim of peacemaking and reconciliation; (3) enhance a better understanding between evangelicals and Orthodox as well as Roman Catholic Christians; (4) deepen unity between all those who confess Christ as Lord and Savior; (5) encourage renewal in the mainstream Protestant churches which have centuries of history in our region; (6) foster the alleviation of human suffering; (7) evaluate the appropriateness of Western and other Christian activities in our countries; (8) establish financially viable ministries in the midst of the emerging economies of our region; and (9) take our place in partnership with others in the world-wide cross-cultural missionary task.

Toward a Council for Theological Education and Leadership Development in Post-Communist Europe

19. In light of our joint commitment to what our Lord is doing in our part of the world and giving full attention to the values and priorities set forth above, we as responsible stewards of our unique opportunities and available resources resolve to establish and strengthen a cooperative permanent capacity for Christian leadership development in our region. For these reasons, we propose:
20. (1) To create a "Council for Theological Education and Leadership Development in Post-Communist Europe." The Council will be a network of ministries and institutions that are committed to equipping Christian leaders in East Central Europe and the Former Soviet Union. It will link theological institutions and leadership training efforts in the region, and will endeavor also to facilitate and coordinate the involvement of international partners, supporters, and funders with the network.
21. (2) To take steps under the auspices of the Council:
22. a.) To establish a cooperative post-graduate program for faculty development and scholarly research in the region. This effort would need to include assistance in preparing the initial faculty/mentor complement for such program(s).
23. b.) To encourage bi-lateral links between emerging Christian leadership development efforts in the region and existing counterparts elsewhere with a view toward faculty exchanges, degree validations, and/or joint programs.
24. c.) To create collections of primary teaching resources in the relevant languages, encouraging and assisting their publication.
25. d.) To promote international support for the development of promising theological institutions and ministry training centers in the region. Assistance could include financial support for staff development, facilities, library, etc., along with consultancy on strategic planning, curriculum design, and local financial resourcing.
26. By God's grace, and by God's grace only, we intend to move forward from this place with shared faith in the triune God, shared fellowship in Christian ministry and service, shared understanding of the task of true theological education, shared cognizance of what this means in post-Communist Europe, shared vision for cooperative and collaborative action in nurturing Christian leaders, and shared hope for the impact that our churches might have in this needy and yet promising region of the world, and beyond it, because of godly, willing, and capable leaders.
27. We invite all who embrace the Christian faith to join us in asking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to make it so.

October 7, 1994 Oradea, Romania