Presentation of the Analytical note on the ecumenical dimension of the training of seminarians

2022-11-12 14:45

A team of authors that worked on it: Dr. Pavlo Smytsnyuk, Dr. Andriy Smyrnov, Dr. Anatoliy Babynskyi, Dr. Roman Fihas, Dr. Dmytro Myronovych, Volodymyr Mamchyn. Presenting this document, project coordinator Taras Kurylets, Project Manager of IES, thanked the LTS and KOTA Administration, which agreed to join this project and contributed to its implementation. He also reported that work is currently underway on the second stage of this research, in which it was possible to involve a number of seminaries of the UGCC, RCC, OCU and some Protestant seminaries, noting that the work is very difficult, as a lot of effort needs to be made to convince the administration of the seminaries to join to cooperation; a number of seminaries have rejected the proposal.

The work on the project consisted of several stages: first, an analysis of the documents regulating the presence of an ecumenical component in the educational process, as well as the presence of specific ecumenical subjects in the curriculum and subjects that introduce students to other Christian denominations, analysis of seminary statutory documents, curriculum and syllabi of individual subjects; then a series of interviews were conducted with representatives of the Administration of seminaries, where the main topic of conversation was openness to potential cooperation with seminaries of other denominations in the field of teacher exchange, joint academic projects, mutual visits of delegations and student visits, etc.; a number of interviews were conducted with teachers who introduce students to the history and theological specificity of other confessions; at the end, an anonymous survey of students of both seminaries was conducted, where the main task was to determine the specifics of attitudes towards other denominations; the conclusions contain an analysis of the current situation regarding academic openness to cooperation with seminaries of other denominations, as well as a series of recommendations on how to improve the presence of the ecumenical component in the educational component.

Dr. Heleen Zorgdrager, professor of the Department of Systematic Theology and Gender Studies at the Protestant Theological University (Amsterdam), was invited to comment on this study, who provided an extensive analysis of this document (the text of Dr. Helen Zorgdrager's reaction can be read at this link) and Ph.D. student at the Friedrich Wilhelm Rhine University in Bonn, Ms. Nataliya Vasilevich.

Professor Heleen Zorgdrager, noting a number of positive aspects of the research, also expressed her suggestions on how to deepen the research.

“From experience I learned how hard it is to engage students by teaching them interconfessional dialogue reports only. Why should they be interested in church reports on the doctrine of justification, Eucharist or whatever topic you name? Relevance comes when they are able to discover the value of these ecumenical conversations in relation to burning questions today or to real life experiences. Like questions of war and peace, of environmental crisis, of church and nationalism, of sexuality and gender in relation to the underlying theological anthropology. Or the lived ecumenism in Maidan or in volunteering for assistance to refugees or to ZSU. I learn that in your Ecumenical Summer schools you practice this model of problem- and practice-oriented learning. Would you recommend it to the seminaries as well? What are its potentials and limitations, what could be the advantages, what the drawbacks? Are seminaries ready to implement such a model of learning?”

Summarizing, she has offered for the conversation following questions: How do you see

- the connection or distinction between inter-Christian and interreligious dialogues in teaching ecumenism?

- the value of using the concept of receptive ecumenism as an integrative approach to practicing ecumenical dialogue, including in the classroom?

- the potentials and limitations of a problem- and practice-oriented model of learning in seminaries and in other places of theological education.

Natalliya Vasilevich spoke about the fact that, for many Churches in the world, the seminary form of education is less and less popular, and many people who plan to receive ordination or be engaged in pastoral ministry, prefer to study at the theological faculties of secular universities. Therefore, in her opinion, this study lacks an analysis of the ecumenical component in the educational process at the theological faculties of Ukrainian higher education institutions. In response to this remark, it was said that such faculties are not numerous in Ukraine, and besides, they are still quite young institutions without significant experience, so they were not included in the list of institutions for consideration. It would also be interesting, as Ms. Nataliya noted, to investigate how studying abroad affects a student's worldview.