OCMS has been seeking ways to serve the Orthodox Church and has recently partnered with St Frumentius Theological College in Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia.
The Abba Salama Kesate Berhan Theological St Frumentius College serves the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in training clergy and laity. It is named after Frumentius, a Syrian who brought the message of the Gospel to the Ethiopian royal family in the 4th Century CE, known also as ‘Father of Peace and Revealer of Light.’ Frumentius was later ordained as Ethiopia’s first bishop by St Athanasius the Great. OCMS faculty member, Dr Ralph Lee, has known the dean of St Frumentius, Rev Tesfay Hadera, for some years. Tesfay has a strong vision for education and mission, and on a trip that Ralph and Paul Bendor-Samuel made to Ethiopia in January 2020, they agreed together that St Frumentius is a good partner for OCMS’ vision to support institutions in the global south as they build capacity for mission research and scholarship. Ralph has worked with Tesfay over the last year to develop ideas for training and mentoring in research that will help St Frumentius College to establish a research community. Tigray has been at the centre of recent tensions in Ethiopia which has made communications difficult over the last few months and internet communications are still not working, and combined with that Tesfay was taken ill with Covid. There are some really interesting ideas coming out of their conversations and these ideas will be shared with OCMS faculty over the coming year.
OCMS has recently signed an MOU with the University of Sibiu in Romania to develop a project on secularisation with the Faculty of Orthodox Theology. Romania is facing deep social change and increasing secularisation, the latter seen as modern, open, and democratic by various social and political groups. The Orthodox Church sees the challenge of the secularists and needs to be able to engage with them and educate laity and clergy in how to respond. OCMS has a wealth of experience at the interface between sociological research and theology and seeks to build cooperation with our Orthodox friends to examine the nature and strength of aggressive secularism and then go on to understand the response at the parish level. Paul Bendor-Samuel, Ralph Lee, and Paul Woods went to Romania at the end of 2019 for detailed discussions about the project. We plan to combine traditional interview techniques and theological reflection with modern research which looks at social media and other digital sources. Paul Woods will head up the work at the OCMS end.