IOTA-2023 Call for Papers

The second mega-conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association will take place in Volos, Greece on January 10-15, 2023. The format of the conference is in-person only (no papers will be delivered virtually or remotely). IOTA’s twenty-seven groups invite paper proposals on the topics specified in the Call for Papers (CFP). As in the past, each group has its own CFP, which can be accessed by clicking on a specific group name in the first pull-down menu below.

All proposals must be submitted as pdfs and limited to 1,000 words. Proposals will be accepted until June 1, 2022. Decisions regarding the submitted proposals will be shared with applicants by September 15, 2022.

Scholars are welcome to submit multiple proposals to multiple groups, but will only be selected to present one paper in one session in order to maximize a diversity of voices. The following are the exceptions to this general rule:

1. Chair of a session at which one is not speaking.
2. Keynote speaker.
3. Plenary panels (by invitation).
4. Book review sessions.
5. Co-laborer sessions.
6. Workshops or meetings held by other organizations other than IOTA during, before, or after the conference period.

All conference attendees are required to be current IOTA members. Renew your membership HERE. Thank you for your interest in IOTA!

    Please select which group your proposal should be submitted to:

    Biblical Studies Group
    The Mission of God and the Mission of Humanity at the Intersection of Scripture
    At the heart of Scripture, God’s love and faithfulness are revealed, poured out on all creation. Jürgen Moltmann noted that this mission does not originate with the Church, but is rather the “mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the Church,” called to participate in it. A primary meeting place or intersection of this participation is Scripture. The Apostle Paul, for instance, reminds the Galatians that God “unveiled his Son in me, that I might preach him to the Gentiles” (Gal 1:16). Thus he envisions the mission of the apostles as a sharing in the mission of God, who unveils Himself in His people, as well as in their witness of words and deeds.

    In the inaugural meeting of IOTA, the Biblical Studies Group conducted foundational discussions concerning approach, method, and interpretation. Throughout these sessions, we noted that integration of biblical studies with other theological and historical disciplines has been both a strength and a weakness in Orthodox biblical scholarship. The varied practices of Orthodox biblical scholars, some who concentrate upon the historical-critical methods, and others who prefer more integrative approaches, provide a rich matrix from which we can learn from each other, and commend our research to those in other faith communities, as well as to secular colleagues. This year we invite participants to show this variety especially by reference to IOTA 2023’s overall theme of “mission.” This intersection of the divine and human mission provides a useful touchstone for Orthodox biblical scholars, with their multiple interests and approaches, as they demonstrate their research, and enter into discussion concerning the place of Orthodox biblical studies in both the Academy and in the Church. Large enough to incorporate books in both Testaments, including various approaches to genre, history, and theology, this theme is also specific enough to provide common ground, and a link with colleagues in other disciplines who will be present at IOTA.

    We issue a call for scholars of both the Old and New Testaments, inviting you to show the work that you are doing, especially as it connects with the theme of the divine and human mission, which echoes and participates in the work of the God-Man. We envisage some presentations that focus particularly on one corpus or passage, other thematic papers that lift up the idea of mission across the Scriptures or in one particular part, still others that consider the tension between space-time concerns and eternal truths, and methodological papers that pay heed to the unique configuration of Scripture in one particular or another. While we are especially interested in the theme of mission for IOTA 2023, the steering committee will also consider presentations with other themes.

    Byzantine Orthodoxy Group
    1. Recent scholarship in the field of Byzantine Orthodoxy
    The Byzantine Orthodoxy Group invites papers for a general session to highlight recent scholarship in the field of Byzantine Orthodoxy where we understand both the words “Byzantine” and “Orthodoxy” to be broad, fluid categories incorporating a wide range of persons, events, cultures, and faith perspectives.

    2. Byzantine Encounters with the Other
    The Byzantine Orthodoxy Group invites papers on the theme of “Byzantine Encounters with the Other.” In addition to the ever-popular investigations of Greek/Latin or Christian/Muslim difference, we also encourage papers that investigate the very diversity that existed within Byzantium and how various power structures created “others” from within, calling into question the presumptive stable categories of “Greek,” “Latin,” “Orthodox” and “Heterodox,” etc.

    3. The Slavs and Constantinople: Missions, Cooperation, Competition (joint session with Slavic Orthodoxy Group)
    The Byzantine Orthodoxy and Slavic Orthodoxy groups invite papers that examine and problematize mutual perceptions between Constantinople and Slavs in light of Byzantine missionary efforts in Slavic lands. How did the patriarchate of Constantinople and Byzantine missionaries view the various Slavic peoples among which they carried out missionary work? By what criteria did they judge the “successes” or “failures” of their mission(s)? In turn, what were the various modes of Slavic reception of Byzantine missionary efforts? How did Slavic peoples view the authority of the patriarchate of Constantinople, and how uniform were they in these views? How did they eventually evaluate Byzantine missionaries’ impact on their own ecclesiastical institutions and cultures as recorded both in ancient sources and in subsequent modern histories? Finally, how uniform were Byzantine and Slavic historical narratives of Constantinople’s missionary efforts on Slavic territories? In what way may have these narratives have diverged in a given time period, between different time periods, or among different Slavic peoples? In what ways might these perceptions and memories of early encounters informed long-term relations among local churches and respective state policies?

    4. Studies on Maximus the Confessor: Emergence and Significance for Orthodox Theology (joint session with Patristics Group)
    Slightly more than three decades ago Maximus the Confessor was a little-known Greek Father without larger significance for Orthodox theology, which was, at least in the Orthodox diaspora, identified with Palamism or Neo-Palamism. For seventy years Sergey Epifanovich’s studies on Maximus were the only major works on this Church Father undertaken from the Orthodox theological perspective. Since the 1990s several monographs have been written by Orthodox scholars on Maximus, and today he is the most studied author in Orthodox patristics. The purpose of the session is, apart from the investigation of certain aspects of Maximus’s rich theological thought, to also consider the reasons for the sudden interest in Maximus’s works in the period from 1990 to 2020 and to assess its significance for Orthodox theology.

    Canon Law and Pastoral Theology Group

    The Canon Law and Pastoral Theology Group issues a call for paper on the following topics: The role of Canon Law in the life and mission of the Orthodox Church and The Challenges of Pastoral Theology in the contemporary world.

    Session I: The role of Canon Law in the life and mission of the Orthodox Church

    The current ecclesial life of the Orthodox Church has to face an increasing number of canonical problems at the local, regional, and universal levels. In order to solve these problems, Orthodox theologians are often quoting the Canons of the Church, texts dated to the first Christian millennium, that may or may not apply to the ecclesial life of the present-day post-modern society.

    Without understanding the Canonical Tradition of the Orthodox Church and its role in the life and mission of the Church, and without its proper interpretation, no progress can be made for the inter-Orthodox and ecumenical dialogues, unless the canonical aspects of these implications are seriously debated. But in order to engage in such a debate, it is expedient to advance towards a unity of thought on the role of Canon Law in the Orthodox Church.

    The main goal of this Group for the first session is to determine the relationship between the Orthodox Canonical Tradition and the complex life of the Church, understood as a divine-human reality and not as a social, organizational, or legal predetermined society or identity.

    The group invites proposals on all aspects of Canon Law in order to emphasize its role in the life and mission of the Orthodox Church.

    Session II: The Challenges of Pastoral Theology in the contemporary world.

    The main goal of our Group for the second session is to determine the task of pastoral theology in our complex contemporary world.

    The group invites proposals on all aspects of Pastoral Theology in order to highlight solutions for preaching, leadership, counseling, ministry, and pastoral care in the Orthodox Church. We also invite scholars to address the role of laity in the pastoral activity of the Church.

    Christianity in the Middle East Group
    Contemporary Issues (20th-21st Centuries): Middle Eastern Christian Perspectives (open session)
    This session focuses on how Middle Eastern Christianity grapples with contemporaneous challenges and can thus encompass a wide range of topics. Potential speakers are invited to address issues deemed timely. Some examples are:

    1. Middle Eastern Christian theology and the Arab modernity project known as Nahda (19th-20th centuries), a term which literally means “rising” or “awakening” and which is used in Arabic for the European Renaissance as well. The Nahda project has become over the recent years a matter of renewed debate, especially because one of its salient features was the relationship of religion and reason.

    2. Christian theology and the uprisings of the Arab Spring. 12 years ago, the so-called Arab Spring raised anew the issue of the relationship between state and religion as well as the legitimacy and feasibility of a religious state inspired by Islam or by Judaism.

    3. Theology and the achievements of human sciences and how these achievements can contribute to a renewal of theological and ecclesiastical discourse in a region marked religiously and culturally by Islam.

    4. Regional ecumenism, its problems and challenges, but also the extent to which some positive or promising initiatives may be inspiring for the ecumenical movement in general. A telling example is the so-called Zoghby Initiative launched by the late Greek Catholic Elias Zoghby (1912-2008) to bridge the gap between the Greek Orthodox and the Greek Catholic patriarchates of Antioch.

    Church Music Group
    Orthodox Chant and Aesthetics
    The question of aesthetics (in the very broadest sense) as it relates to the various kinds of music chanted in the services of the Orthodox Church is one that has been skirted round in much historical writing on these liturgical repertoires, but it is a topic which has gained hugely in importance in recent years. While detailed examinations of specific chant repertoires abound, other approaches, those of the more wide-angled lens, have enabled discussion across repertoires, chronological layers and geographical spaces from a very wide variety of methodological perspectives.

    It is our conviction that further discussion specifically on Orthodox and related chant repertoires, both monophonic and polyphonic, as part of this broader picture, without losing any depth of scholarship (whether that be through historical musicological procedures, ethnomusicology, interdisciplinary approaches, performance studies, sound studies or combinations of these and other methods) will not only bring out hitherto unsuspected connections between these repertoires, but facilitate the understanding of the different musical traditions existing in the Orthodox Church. With this in mind, we invite scholars to submit proposals for papers relating to any aspect of aesthetics in this broad context with the aim of taking this discussion far beyond the traditional limitations of historical musicology.

    Dogmatic Theology Group
    What Kind of Dogmatic Theology Do We Need for Today?
    The main concern in this session has to do with the character of the theology needed in the Church and in the world.

    We seek a meaningful dogmatic theology, sometimes described as “constructive theology.” We seek theology that
    • explains rather than takes for granted formulas or terms, including ontological terms such as “essence/substance,” “nature,” and “hypostasis,” as well as theological concepts such as “Theosis”;
    • is relevant to us in the present day, and carries meaning for our lives and our ethics;
    • and in this way carries impact for those within and outside the Orthodox Church.

    Ecclesiology Group
    Open Session
    Ecclesiology is one of the youngest theological disciplines. Yet, it attracts a lot of attention among modern scholars, even those who began or continue in other theological fields. This field functions as a platform for interdisciplinary exchanges. The Ecclesiology Group of the IOTA intends to keep it that way. It appeals to both established and emerging scholars, interested in matters related to the church. They are welcome to apply for the open IOTA session specifically dedicated to the ecclesial phenomenon.

    All those interested are encouraged to approach these matters in the spirit of constructive critique. The papers can be of both historical and systematic natures. Interdisciplinarity is most welcome. Ecumenical and interreligious approaches are expected to enrich the discussion as well. Given that the modern church reflects on itself in the light of modern secular thinking, applicants are encouraged to blend into their presentations current philosophical, social, and political theories.

    The Principle of Unity in the Patristic Ecclesiology (joint session with Patristics Group)
    At a moment when the unity of the Orthodox Church is highly endangered by the lack of communion between various local Orthodox churches, the purpose of this panel is to explore the patristic views on the unity of the Church and to answer the question about the principle(s) of this unity, which might help restoring the lost unity. While in the Roman Catholic doctrine the Pope is the (visible) principle and foundation of ecclesial unity (Lumen Gentium 23) and the communion with the Pope defines the borders of the Roman Catholic Church, it is not clear what is the principle of unity in the Orthodox Church.

    The Ecclesiology Group and the Patristic Group invite scholars to address the question of whether the principle of unity of the Church is in divine, divino-human or human person(s), such as in the persons of the Trinity, Christ or a hierarch; in a particular organizational unit or phenomenon such as diocese, patriarchate, pentarchy, hierarchy or council(s); in a particular sacrament such as the Eucharist or in the unity of seven or more sacraments, in the element or declaration of faith, demonstrated through confession, creed, belief, prayer or virtue; or in something else.

    Ecumenical Dialogue Group
    More than a century after the birth of the modern ecumenical movement, the search for Christian unity has entered into a more mature phase.

    Orthodox participation in ecumenism bears witness to the ancient apostolic and conciliar Church tradition. The Orthodox reiterate their conviction that unity, as experienced in the Christian East, can be a valid model also for Pan-Christian full communion.

    It seems though that there still is the need to specify what model of unity the Orthodox wish to establish with the others and according to what criteria. Is there any space for diversity in the axiom “unity in faith”? Can different ecclesiological, theological, and canonical conceptions coexist and to what extent? Does the principle of oikonomia allow the plurality of ecclesiastical structures, visions, and practices and in what way?

    This call for papers welcomes papers in one of the following topics:
    • Models of Christian unity from an Eastern/Oriental Orthodox point of view.
    • Unity and diversity in Orthodox/Oriental Orthodox perspective.
    • Compatibility between heterodox principles of unity with the Eastern/Oriental Orthodox tradition.
    • Can there be a perichoresis between the different Christian traditions?
    • Are the structures of unity in the Eastern/Oriental Orthodox traditions indicators of Pan-Christian unity?

    Liturgical Studies Group
    The Liturgical Studies Group of IOTA welcomes proposals for papers on the texts, history, practice, and meaning of worship in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches. Even as we particularly welcome proposals that resonate with the theme of “Mission” chosen as a focus for the 2023 Volos Congress, the session is officially an “open” session designed to welcome presentations of current research in the general area of Liturgical Studies.

    Missiology Group
    Panel One: Orthodoxy and Inculturation
    The issue of inculturation is of paramount importance for any missional understanding of the Church, yet has received little attention from Orthodox Christians. Despite broad admission of the concept in missional theory and praxis, predominant cultural paradigms, languages and mentalities, tend to impose themselves on the whole of the Church. This may form cultural imperialism, not leaving room for creative incorporation of other expressions of Christian Orthodox identity, in particular among relative newcomers such as Orthodox Churches in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

    This panel will promote discussion of how Church unity and the catholicity of truth in the framework of world Orthodoxy can be maintained and expressed through a diversity of local expressions. The incarnate Logos calls for an incarnational theology in all cultural paradigms. We invite papers which, rather than making theoretical declarations of ideal principles, investigate concrete case studies and examples of inculturation and contextualization in diverse environments; contextualized expressions of Orthodox liturgical worship, music, iconography, theology; the translation and adaptation of biblical and liturgical texts to local environments; indigenous harmonization of local texts; examples of how particular difficulties have been tackled in the implementation of the principle of inculturation in mission.

    Panel Two: Orthodox Mission and Diaspora
    Orthodox faithful are called to proclaim the Gospel in any time or context, and consequently the notions of “mother Church” and “diaspora” are both expressions of the same calling to participate in, witness to, and express the salvific work of Christ. This panel invites papers on any aspect of the historical or contemporary missional calling of Eastern and Oriental Orthodox diaspora communities including:

    • historical and contemporary case studies of Orthodox communities’ involvement in witness and service in diaspora contexts;
    • the impact of the experience of diaspora communities on theology and praxis of mission in Orthodox heartlands;
    • how diaspora communities negotiate maintaining ethnic and religious identity while adapting themselves into their new context and identity;
    • missiological issues relating to labor, migration and unemployment;
    • the implications, obstacles (and maybe advantages!) for Christian witness of multiple ecclesial jurisdictions in regions outside Orthodox heartlands;
    • the involvement of different Orthodox “national” diasporas together in pan-Orthodox witness and/or ecumenical witness;
    • missional issues relating to liturgical language use in diaspora communities.

    Panel Three: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (joint panel with the Lausanne Orthodox Initiative)
    Making disciples of all nations lies at the heart of the life of the Church and her mission. It also represents a significant challenge to the Church across the world in the context of late modernity. The panel will discuss historical and contemporary theological perspectives on the initiation and lifelong nurture of disciples. It seeks to explore the interrelated communal, relational, experiential, cognitive, intellectual, credal, sacramental, ritual and other dimensions of initial grounding and ongoing apprenticeship for Christian service and witness in the public sphere. The panel invites papers which illustrate and analyze:
    • traditional and innovative practices of discipleship and evangelism;
    • catechetical approaches to spiritual formation in the contemporary world;
    • the contextualization of such practices in Eastern and Oriental Orthodox heartlands, diaspora communities, mixed or convert communities, or regions where Orthodoxy has more recently become indigenized;
    • tensions between Christian confessions with divergent views of evangelism and discipleship, and the extent to which mutually enriching learning and sharing of experience can take place.

    Moral Theology and Theological Anthropology Group
    Session 1: Law and Legality in Orthodox Christian Ethics
    It has become almost commonplace to dissociate an Orthodox Christian approach to ethics from the concepts of law or legality. This dissociation is often put in terms of favoring an ethic of love, an apophatic ethic, or an ontological ethic versus a legalistic one. Such a dissociation tends to conceive of legalism and moral law quite narrowly as equivalent to something akin to Pharisaism and outright hypocrisy. Yet the concepts of law and legality in the ethical reflection of the Orthodox Church taken as a whole are clearly more nuanced and capacious than this simple dichotomy would suggest. Some have furthermore pointed out the potential danger of completely unmooring Orthodox ethics from any notion of law or legality as functionally opening the door to a purely voluntarist ethic. This session thus invites papers that reflect on a particular aspect of this broad question, whether from the perspective of defending an Orthodox moral theology that resists all forms of law and legality, or from the perspective of seeking to recover or articulate the positive ways in which Orthodox thought broadly construed has deployed the concepts of law and legality in ethical discourse.

    We are particularly interested in papers that examine one or another of the following themes: the place (or lack thereof) of natural law in Orthodox moral theology; Orthodox understandings of divine command (and specifically the commandments of Christ); the ethical dimension of the Church’s tradition of canon law; and deep engagements with specific Western approaches to this question from an Orthodox perspective.

    Session 2: Beyond Personalism? Re-assessing the framework for Orthodox theological anthropology
    It would not be an exaggeration to claim that personalism has been pivotal in shaping the distinctive Orthodox approach to theological anthropology in the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. This has not, however, come without controversy. Rather than simply re-litigate this contested issue, this session seeks to solicit papers that substantially move the discussion forward.

    We are especially interested in papers that examine theological anthropology through the lens of a specific Orthodox theologian or source that has received comparatively less attention in scholarship. Papers which examine the broader underpinnings of Orthodox theological anthropology and their relationship to Orthodox personalism (as, for instance, Christology or patristic epistemology) are likewise encouraged. Finally, we also welcome papers that attempt to present a viable alternative in seed form, with the understanding that such an attempt should be clearly and identifiably grounded in the witness of Scripture, the Fathers, and/or the broader tradition of the Church.

    Orthodox Asceticism and Spirituality Group
    Talking to God: Prayer in Orthodox Life and Thought
    Prayer has always been regarded as an essential component of the methodology of Orthodox theology as exemplified in Evagrius of Pontus’ famous dictum, “If you are a theologian you will pray truly and if you pray truly, you are a theologian.” Following the last conference’s session on the Philokalia, we wish now to address the theme of prayer more widely and without restriction to topics covered in that great anthology. We see several particular problems to be addressed:

    1. How does prayer differ from contemplation or meditation?
    2. How is prayer connected with theological enquiry?
    3. How have Orthodox notions and practices of prayer been enhanced (or undermined) by encounter with non-Orthodox notions and practices?
    4. How do the institutional and charismatic dimensions of prayer inter-relate?
    5. Material culture: What do prayer books and prayer objects tell us about prayer?
    6. What is the anthropology presupposed in Orthodox practices of prayer?

    We welcome submissions from historians of religion, specialists in early and patristic texts, Christian anthropologists, and theologians, including from the Oriental churches.

    Orthodox Education Group
    Contemporary Challenges for Orthodox Christian Education in Missionary (Non-Traditional) Contexts
    The Orthodox Education Group calls for papers that discuss the challenges that Orthodox Christian religious education faces in non-traditional contexts, whether in missionary lands or the diaspora. The challenges in these contexts are multi-faceted, from the encounter of Orthodox Christianity with a wider non-Orthodox environment to forming an Orthodox Christian identity in adults and children where there are few social supports. Increasingly, Orthodox Christian education confronts religious diversity even within the families of those being instructed in the Orthodox faith. In addition, “national” Orthodox identities may face challenges of assimilating “other” Orthodox identities because of immigration into a country (e.g., immigration of Russian Orthodox Christians into Greece). Various church agencies and bodies have developed religious education resources and programs that present Orthodox Christianity to adults and children for these contexts. While papers may be descriptive of the challenges and accomplishments that Orthodox Christian education faces in these situations, for example, organizationally, pedagogically, or other reasons, papers should also attempt to deepen reflection on the theological understanding operative in these efforts.

    Orthodox Theological Institutions Group
    Theological institutions are essentially missional in character: not only do they seek to provide high-quality theological education to equip graduates with the necessary learning and formation for effective ministry within the life of the Church, but they also enable them to better engage with the multifarious questions posed by contemporary society’s rapidly changing environment. In this way, the “mission” of Orthodox theological institutions necessarily involves a steadfast commitment towards ministering and “building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12), through faithful witness to the “apostles’ teaching.” And yet—in addition to what might be called an “internal” missional mandate—theological institutions are also called to engage “externally” with the world. Indeed, this latter aspect involves reimagining new ways of communicating Christ’s saving message of hope, peace and reconciliation in a world in need of his comfort and consolation. Arguably the future viability of theological schools in the 21st century will lie in emphasizing this integrative missional vision of theological education.

    Given the overarching theme of the Conference, the Orthodox Theological Institutions Group welcomes presentations from those interested in: a) further exploring the missional character of theological education and theology more generally; and b) on a more practical level, presenting the different missional activities that different theological schools might be engaged in, both toward their student cohort but also toward the community more broadly. The hope is that such focus on the missional character of theological education will provide a richer tapestry of educational models and curricula for theological schools as they seek to better engage with their various contexts. Moreover, beyond the creation of more effective educational strategies for better interaction with society, the hope is that the shared experience of the different missional activities will bring about greater familiarity and facilitate greater cooperation and solidarity among theological educational institutions, providing in this way for a more enriching graduate experience into the future.

    Orthodox and Literature Group
    1) Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus and the Orthodox Tradition
    Praised as “Russia’s answer to The Name of the Rose” and a book that “aims directly at the heart of the Russian religious experience,” Eugene Vodolazkin’s award-winning novel Laurus (2015) quickly became an Orthodox classic in Russia and beyond. The Orthodoxy and Literature group invites scholarly papers that explore any aspect of this novel and its relation to the Orthodox tradition, from the perspectives of literary, hagiographical, spiritual, and/or theological study. Papers will circulate amongst the panel members three weeks in advance, and Professor Vodolazkhin will serve as respondent.

    2) Orthodox Literature as Mission
    The Orthodoxy and Literature group invites papers on any aspect of Orthodox literature as it relates to the conference theme of mission. Papers are welcome on artistic and imaginative literature broadly conceived from ancient times to the present, and topics may include but are not limited to:
    • Orthodox literature as mission to the church and the world, past and present
    • Beauty and contemplation: Orthodox literature as invitation
    • Specific authors/works of Orthodox literature, and their evangelical appeal
    • Faith, doubt, conversion, and repentance in Orthodox literature
    • Orthodox literature and mission across genres: hagiography, poetry, novels, film
    • Group discussion of Orthodox literature as evangelism and outreach: texts, strategies, and best practices for clergy and lay leaders

    We welcome papers on classic works and also on literature that deserves to be better known.

    Orthodoxy and the Visual Arts Group
    Icon of Christ: The Site of Unity
    The Orthodoxy and the Visual Arts Group will organize a workshop “Icon of Christ as a Visual Site of Unity.” Papers relevant to the topic of the workshop are especially encouraged. Any other theoretical research pertinent to the academic study of iconography and its relationships with Orthodox spirituality and ecclesiastical experience is welcome.
    Orthodoxy, Politics, and International Relations Group
    For the 2023 IOTA Conference, the Orthodoxy, Politics, and International Relations Group solicits papers to engage with the following areas of investigation:

    1. Orthodoxy, social welfare and public policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic
    • Historical and current interface between science and religion
    • Debates on the adaptability of theology and praxis to public health
    • Trends in church attendance during the pandemic
    • Conceptions of the public good
    2. Orthodoxy in cooperation and in opposition to the rise of nativist and populist movements around the world
    • Orthodox churches’ comparative responses to the politics of populism around the world
    • Salience of majority or minority status in Orthodox reactions to populism and nativism
    • Theologies of Self and Other, politics of national inclusion and pluralism versus exclusion
    3. Orthodoxy, migration and displacement
    • Orthodox churches as hosts and as migrants/refugees around the world
    • Migration and conversions
    • Reconceptualizing diaspora
    4. Orthodoxy and geopolitics: unity and disunity in global, regional, and local contexts
    • The 2016 Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church
    • The Ukraine decision and its impacts
    • Orthodox activism and competition: Southeastern Europe, former Soviet states, the Middle East, Africa, Americas
    • Ecclesial debates on legitimacy and accountability of leadership
    5. Orthodoxy and the idea of Europe
    • What is “Europe” for the Orthodox churches?
    • (Why) does the idea of Europe matter for the Orthodox churches?
    • Decolonizing Orthodoxy
    • Orthodoxy and religious minorities
    6. Orthodoxy and cultural heritage
    • The case of Hagia Sophia
    • Community, sustainability and cultural heritage
    • Orthodoxy and cultural politics: comparative case studies in Eastern and Oriental Christianity
    • Tangible and intangible cultural heritage: memory and sustainability

    Orthodoxy in the Public Square and Media Group
    Secularity in Orthodox Christianity Nowadays: An Ominous Threat or a Creative Challenge?
    Secularity in its multifaceted aspects (secularization, secularism, and so on) has historically been a significant challenge for the Christian Church, including especially Western Christianity. This development has triggered heated church responses, preeminently by the Roman Catholic Church, fearing a dramatic decline of its social status and influence in the public sphere. But secularizing tendencies have also shaped the profiles of many Protestant Churches leading to their worldliness, which has also been perceived as a threat to the very essence of the Christian message. Yet, Western Churches have managed to come to terms with the secular condition and publicly acknowledged its legitimacy; they have also developed strategies to deal with secularity and articulate anew their respective mission in society and public life.

    How does all this relate to the Orthodox Christian world, which has traditionally regarded secularity as part of a Western Christian deviation from the authentic Christian Church and tried to remain outside its range of influence? Unavoidably, secularity has entered the Orthodox realm through the political sphere, intellectual milieus and modern media. As a result, secularity constitutes a real and complex challenge for the Orthodox world, triggering a variety of defensive responses. Several Orthodox Churches in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe also experienced secularity in the most violent way under the shock of Communist regimes in the 20th century.

    However, in post-communist times and the turn of the 21st century in the context of globalization, the expansion and development of secularity have undermined previous theories that predicted a deterministic and linear secularization process. Instead, it is more accurate to say that secularity manifests itself today as a multi-faceted notion of “multiple secularities.” Additional concepts, such as “the post-secular” and “de-secularization,” appear to be increasingly relevant with regard to recent developments in both East and West, all leading to a re-assessment of previously unchallenged assumptions underlying the concept of secularization. All this goes hand in hand with the spirit of post-modernity, in which both the religious and the secular have their respective legitimate spaces.

    In this context, Western Churches have responded more proactively to these challenges and adapted their strategies accordingly, whereas Orthodox Churches seem to have adopted a more ambiguous position. On the one hand, some of them have assumed the official role of guardian against Western secularity and what they view as its discontents. On the other hand, there is a new generation of Orthodox intellectuals in Western settings advocating a more constructive approach to secularity, a stance that seems to be shared by other Orthodox Churches. Scholars in Orthodox Christianity are therefore faced with a promising research field and can analytically reflect on the differences, commonalities and nuances between Orthodox and Western stances on the challenges and opportunities presented by secularity.

    The Religion in the Public Square and Media Group is organizing a session on this topic and invites papers dealing with various aspects on this theme.

    Patristics Group
    The Principle of Unity in the Patristic Ecclesiology (joint session with Ecclesiology Group)
    At a moment when the unity of the Orthodox Church is highly endangered by the lack of communion between various local Orthodox churches, the purpose of this panel is to explore the patristic views on the unity of the Church and to answer the question about the principle(s) of this unity, which might help restoring the lost unity. While in the Roman Catholic doctrine the Pope is the (visible) principle and foundation of ecclesial unity (Lumen Gentium 23) and the communion with the Pope defines the borders of the Roman Catholic Church, it is not clear what is the principle of unity in the Orthodox Church.

    The Ecclesiology Group and the Patristic Group invite scholars to address the question of whether the principle of unity of the Church is in divine, divino-human or human person(s), such as in the persons of the Trinity, Christ or a hierarch; in a particular organizational unit or phenomenon such as diocese, patriarchate, pentarchy, hierarchy or council(s); in a particular sacrament such as the Eucharist or in the unity of seven or more sacraments, in the element or declaration of faith, demonstrated through confession, creed, belief, prayer or virtue; or in something else.

    The Criterion of Orthodoxy in the Patristic Tradition
    The attribute “Orthodox” is the main identifier of the Church many of us belong to, but it is not immediately clear what this attribute indicates. Orthodoxy is usually identified with adherence to the right or correct doctrine and practice. The right practice and the right doctrine have been defined in opposition to wrong practices and doctrines that were usually identified with specific heresies. However, for the most of the second millennium the orthodoxy of the Orthodox Church is defined in contrast to the unorthodoxy of the Catholic Church and Protestant Churches. Thus, the Orthodox Church is perceived as the Church of the Councils in order to stress its conciliar and non-autocratic nature, or the Church of the Tradition and the Fathers, that emphasizes other authorities than the biblical one. Today, when the Orthodox Church has failed to demonstrate its conciliarity and the patristic tradition of the Orthodox Church is challenged by some scholars, it is pertinent to ask whether the opposition to other Christian traditions should be the criterion for orthodoxy and the basis for the identity of the Orthodox Church. The session aims to explore what and who was deemed as a criterion of Orthodoxy in different Orthodox traditions, by focusing on the Bible, Fathers, Councils, Primacy and other doctrinal and organizational phenomena inherent to the Orthodox Church.

    Patristic Studies
    This session is designed as an open call within the broad historical, theological, philosophical and philological framework of patristic studies. This session showcases the wide range of avenues and topics of scholarly research from the modern approach to the Fathers and editorial projects of patristic texts to the intersections of patristic spirituality and doctrine with the politics and the Orthodox understanding of the patristic era. This session aims to indicate the variety of doctrinal expressions during the patristic era and to demonstrate the multiple historical contexts in which the Church Fathers and their opponents developed their doctrines.

    Studies on Maximus the Confessor: Emergence and Significance for Orthodox Theology (joint session with Byzantine Orthodoxy Group)
    Slightly more than three decades ago Maximus the Confessor was a little-known Greek Father without larger significance for Orthodox theology, which was, at least in the Orthodox diaspora, identified with Palamism or Neo-Palamism. For seventy years Sergey Epifanovich’s studies on Maximus were the only major works on this Church Father undertaken from the Orthodox theological perspective. Since the 1990s several monographs have been written by Orthodox scholars on Maximus, and today he is the most studied author in Orthodox patristics. The purpose of the session is, apart from the investigation of certain aspects of Maximus’s rich theological thought, to also consider the reasons for the sudden interest in Maximus’s works in the period from 1990 to 2020 and to assess its significance for Orthodox theology.

    Philosophical Theology Group
    Philosophical Theology in Dialogue
    The section examines the potential of theology to facilitate understanding by validating hermeneutical tools for critical reflection on human ideas and practices. The ethos of theology requires considering alternatives since theology maps modes of human existence activated in the sublime dimensions of sacrament and Christology. Theology is dialogical and has particular relevance for the philosophical discourse. Our section focuses on the potential of theology to mediate the encounter of different forms, schools and contexts of philosophy.

    Intellectual history has known philosophical theologies, structured as normative conceptual models, e.g. natural theology in its post-medieval version. These epistemological endeavors are hardly apt to address contemporary debates, nor are they in line with the patristic tradition. Speculative theology should be seen as mapping the experience of God within a specific contextual and criteria framework.

    We invite speakers to examine epistemological strategies in theology, enabling us to understand better the interconnection between attitudes, concepts, terms and notions of different intellectual traditions.

    As a critical anthropological discourse, theology is a framework for dialogue. Given the general topic of the IOTA conference (Mission), we invite speakers to explore any particular example of such dialogue.

    Philosophy of Religion Group
    The Philosophy of Religion Group invites proposals for papers (taking about 20 minutes to present) dealing with any aspect of natural theology, especially (but not exclusively) papers relating it to the Orthodox tradition. Papers dealing with ways that Orthodox thought and contemporary work in natural theology can benefit from mutual engagement would be particularly welcome. Authors are encouraged to consult the recent IOTA publication, Natural Theology in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, eds. David Bradshaw and Richard Swinburne, for a representative sample of recent work in this area (although papers need not reference or respond to this work).

    Political Theology Group
    Religious Nationalism and the Politics of Identity
    Religious nationalism seems to be the most serious problem facing the Orthodox Church since the fall of Byzantium (1453) and the period of introversion which began with this crucial historic event. Significant aspects of this problem are the identification between Church and nation, Church and ethno-cultural identity, Church and state, and, consequently, the idea of national Churches, each of which identifies the truth of the faith with the truth of the nation, while claims for every single Orthodox nation the role of the new chosen people of God, alongside with the “replacement of the history of salvation with the history of national revival.” What are the problems and challenges the Orthodox Church faces by assuming this “national” role, and by being involved in the formation of particular ethno-cultural identities, and to what extent its sense of catholicity, universality, and Church unity is being endangered? In which way has the nationalization of the Orthodox Church affected its mission and witness? What has Orthodox theology to learn from its spiritual resources and its patristic tradition, and in which way, in the context of a multinational post-modern society will it be able to address the rhetoric of “identities,” and its instrumentalization for the sake of national and state interests? How much has the formation of church-state relations been informed by national interests in the traditional Orthodox countries in the post-communist era? What are the intellectual and historical ties that link Orthodoxy with the contemporary resurgence of ultranationalism and illiberalism across the United States and Europe?

    The Political Theology Group seeks to receive proposals dealing with the above issues and questions from a theological or religious studies perspective.

    Romanian Orthodoxy Group
    Romanian Orthodox Perspectives on Missions
    The Romanian Orthodoxy Group calls for submissions on the theme “Romanian Orthodox Perspectives on Missions.” We invite aspiring and established scholars from Romania and abroad to submit papers related (but not limited) to the following themes: missiological principles proposed by Romanian theologians; missions originating from Romania or directed towards Romanians; the impact of Romanian scholars in various academic and cultural contexts; scholarship on topics related to the Romanian ecclesial milieu; the tension between the missionary character and the ethnic identity of parishes located outside of Romania; and the ecclesial life of missionary communities.

    Theology of Creation, Environment and Place (joint session with Science and Theology Group)
    At a time when the need for environmental action is increasingly recognized, there remains a gulf between the widely admired Orthodox “theology of creation” and the actions, attitudes and experience of actual Orthodox communities, and even church institutions (including theological schools). A major opportunity for the Church to bear witness in contemporary society thus risks being lost. This session therefore invites papers that bring Orthodox theology of creation and ecological thinking into dialogue with lived expressions of faith, whether traditional or innovative. This would include (but is not limited to) the pastoral challenges of changing relationships to the natural environment (urbanization, changes in land use...); responses of the local church community to environmental issues and problems; the ecological significance of aspects of church life such as holy places, pilgrimage, traditional domestic customs; practices that might enhance environmental opportunities for outreach in parishes, monastic communities and the broad Church.

    Science and Theology Group
    Open session
    The mission of the Church in the intellectual climate of our time is seriously hampered by the way in which the physical and biological sciences are often treated by Orthodox Christians with indifference or suspicion, or even as frameworks that are in some way evidently opposed to the Christian message. We invite papers that address this problem, either indirectly in terms of sociological analysis or strategies for mission, or else more directly in terms of how Orthodox theological understanding can be expressed in a way that is positive towards scientific understanding and methodology. Papers that consider technological applications in the light of Orthodox theology will also be considered.

    Theology of Creation, Environment and Place (joint session with Romanian Orthodoxy Group)
    At a time when the need for environmental action is increasingly recognized, there remains a gulf between the widely admired Orthodox “theology of creation” and the actions, attitudes and experience of actual Orthodox communities, and even church institutions (including theological schools). A major opportunity for the Church to bear witness in contemporary society thus risks being lost. This session therefore invites papers that bring Orthodox theology of creation and ecological thinking into dialogue with lived expressions of faith, whether traditional or innovative. This would include (but is not limited to) the pastoral challenges of changing relationships to the natural environment (urbanization, changes in land use...); responses of the local church community to environmental issues and problems; the ecological significance of aspects of church life such as holy places, pilgrimage, traditional domestic customs; practices that might enhance environmental opportunities for outreach in parishes, monastic communities and the broad Church.

    Slavic Orthodoxy Group
    Session I: Orthodoxy and Mission in Post-Communist Slavic Lands: Goals, Means, and Complications
    The Slavic Orthodoxy Group invites papers that assess the challenges and impact that the “Soviet experiment” and atheist regimes in traditionally Slavic Orthodox countries had on understandings of Orthodox “mission” within these regions since the demise of these regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. What have been the various motives and goals (including political and social concerns) that have inspired missionary efforts in these lands over the past thirty years? How have the understandings of mission and related notion of witness evolved during the past three decades? Have methods and goals changed with the generational shifts? How has the reckoning with the realities of the impact of 70+ years of atheist rule—including the destruction of Orthodox material culture and the eradication of Orthodox memory—informed the ways in which Orthodox believers—hierarchs, parish clergy, monastics and laity—have conceptualized mission and the practices which mission entails? What have been the various media and forums by which missionary work has been pursued?

    Session II: Lay Movements and Leadership in the History of Slavic Orthodoxy
    Despite contemporary efforts to promote an inclusive institutional understanding of “church” that embraces ordained clergy and laity alike, in practice, the term “the Church” nevertheless is still commonly associated with an institutional structure that includes primarily clergy and monastics. Until recently, such a view has been reinforced by histories of Orthodox Christianity and the teaching of church history in Orthodox seminaries and theological academies. In attempts to broaden the parameters of our narratives of Orthodox church history, we invite papers that consider case studies on the role that lay men and women in Slavic Orthodox regions have historically played—and continue to play—in cultivating and sustaining Orthodoxy and the life of the Church.

    Session III: The Slavs and Constantinople: Missions, Cooperation, Competition (joint session with Byzantine Orthodoxy Group)
    The Byzantine Orthodoxy and Slavic Orthodoxy groups invite papers that examine and problematize mutual perceptions between Constantinople and Slavs in light of Byzantine missionary efforts in Slavic lands. How did the patriarchate of Constantinople and Byzantine missionaries view the various Slavic peoples among which they carried out missionary work? By what criteria did they judge the “successes” or “failures” of their mission(s)? In turn, what were the various modes of Slavic reception of Byzantine missionary efforts? How did Slavic peoples view the authority of the patriarchate of Constantinople, and how uniform were they in these views? How did they eventually evaluate Byzantine missionaries’ impact on their own ecclesiastical institutions and cultures as recorded both in ancient sources and in subsequent modern histories? Finally, how uniform were Byzantine and Slavic historical narratives of Constantinople’s missionary efforts on Slavic territories? In what way may have these narratives have diverged in a given time period, between different time periods, or among different Slavic peoples? In what ways might these perceptions and memories of early encounters informed long-term relations among local churches and respective state policies?

    Women in the Orthodox Church Group
    Session I: Women’s Health: Mind, Body, and Spirit
    The Women and the Church Group of IOTA issues a call for papers on topics of “Women’s Health: Mind, Body, and Spirit.” Women experience health problems that can be understood as mental, bodily, and spiritual, or a mix. This session welcomes consideration of ways that the Orthodox Church is ministering, might minister, or is not ministering to these problems, or might even be a cause thereof. Topics related to health systems and women, economics and justice, relationships between the church and the state, health technologies, marriage and the marriage rite, domestic violence, harassment, the Covid-19 pandemic, androcentric and/or patriarchal structures, and spiritual authority—to name just a few possibilities—would fit within this session, including from any era of Christian history. Contributions from both Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox would be most welcome.

    Session II: Women and the Mission of the Orthodox Church: Thirty-Five Years After Rhodes
    The Women and the Church Group of IOTA issues a call for papers on women and the mission of the Orthodox Church in the legacy of the Inter-Orthodox Consultation held on Rhodes in 1988. What has changed or been achieved after 35 years, on theological, liturgical, social witness and other levels? Papers might address church practices, changing roles of women, subsequent church statements regarding women in the church including the Russian Basis of the Social Concept or the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s For the Life of the World: Toward a Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church, or any other topic relating to women and the mission of the Orthodox Church from any disciplinary perspective.

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