Why did I enrol in OCMS’ Guided Research Programme (GRP)?

For me it was not simply an academic exercise, but a new opportunity to encounter God through research. He has been at work in history, is working today, and is leading us into the future. GRP afforded an opportunity to integrate academic inquiry with my spiritual journey. In some ways this provided an opportunity to connect with many members of the congregation where I serve in Boston, MA, where there are over 60 institutions of higher education, 200,000 students, and 75,000 from abroad. Many of them are immersed in research and are internationals.  GRP provided a new avenue to consider how to apply insights into my current ministry both locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. I soon discovered that I had found my tribe at OCMS. Both my cohort and the faculty I was privileged to meet prayed, laughed a lot, learned together, and confirmed to me that we are not alone in this, even in the pandemic. 

GRP has also provided a refresher course on mission history, theology and methodology.  My research question is: To what extent do contemporary Christian leaders in Central Asia understand relationships between their history, theology and mission? Though it is somewhat difficult to see today and contested by some, there is a rich heritage from the Church of the East under the surface of the steppes of Central Asia. There is also a dynamic legacy of Central Asian Christianity from the Islamic period of the region and, of course, from Tsarist and Soviet times. I am interested to discover whether Christian leaders today are aware of their heritage and, if so, how that informs their identities, their theologies and mission. My hope is that listening to their voices will help some churches in the West to learn from their brothers and sisters far away and, perhaps, make some small contribution to believers  themselves in Central Asia. 

As I make some baby steps in my own research,  I have begun to meet a diverse array of scholars in archaeology, linguistics, history, missiology as well as field practitioners (Bible translators, ethnomusicologists, church planters), indigenous Christian leaders, civil rights activists, and journalists. 

Julian Linnell


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