“A Series of Risk-Takings”: AFR Interview Features Chancellor's Thoughts on Evangelism
25 April 2013 • Ancient Faith Radio Interview • Fr. Chad Hatfield
Alumnus The Rev. John Parker, chairperson of the Department of Evangelization for the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), recently interviewed The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, St. Vladimir's Seminary chancellor/CEO, on the podcast "Lord, Send Me!" For the past few years, Fr. Chad has taught a missiology class in which he and his students have discussed the challenges of, and opportunities for, Orthodox evangelization in North America and abroad. His knowledge of missions and outreach are firsthand; he and his wife Thekla previously lived and ministered in cross cultural settings in Alaska and South Africa, and have been involved in planting churches in the U.S. as well.
A member of the Missions Institute Board of Trustees, Fr. Chad also served for sixteen years on the Orthodox Christian Missions Center (OCMC) board and has accompanied St. Vladimir's students on several short term mission and teaching trips to Albania and Guatemala. Knowing that many seminarians will serve in small missions and fledgling parishes, while others will eventually serve overseas, Fr. Chad has encouraged the development of a strong missiology component as a part of the new SVOTS 2020 Strategic Plan, and is coordinating the May 31–June 1 Conference on Poverty at the Seminary.
The full text and audio of the interview are available on Ancient Faith Radio. Below are some excerpts:
˜Christos Yannaris (theologian and author)...once said that to lead an Orthodox Christian life is to engage oneself in a series of risk–takings, and I have always appreciated that phrase. I found that the Lord blesses those who are willing to take those risks."
˜There was a point where I think that Thekla and I were somewhat serious about returning to Africa...but we wanted to go back in a seminary setting. I believed it then, and I believe it today—that's where the action is, and that's where you make the greatest impact on the future of the Church.
˜All of us have to be involved in it (missions). That should be as natural to us as walking. It's the great quote of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania that "a church not engaged in mission is simply not the Church." I'd take that a step further and say that a Christian not engaged in mission is simply not a Christian.
˜People who think that America is an overly secularized country are just dead wrong. We're a very religious country. Go into any Barnes & Noble into the section labeled "Spirituality," and you'll see it's a very long aisle, and every kind of imaginable religious expression is found there...
˜Orthodox Christians have been trying to model the education of our children on Protestant church school models....We need to find our own way to educate our people because...every single denomination will tell you they're failing in Christian education. And we can't afford that. When we're less than one percent of the population. We can't afford to lose a generation or two, and we've already lost too many of them, because we haven't followed the model that St. Innocent gave us. We don't teach and preach in the language of the people. We've become preservation centers.
˜in 2007, the Seminary...launched something called the "Good Pastor" program that put a deeper emphasis on the practical side of the formation of priests and others to serve the Church...we made missiology not just...an offering from time to time, but it became part of the core curriculum.
˜We have to make evangelism a priority. We have to really invest in church growth and giving our churches some vision and hope, and that's where we really need all of our bishops on board. I'm really anxious and ready for the day in which our bishops are singing with one chorus, like a symphony, that all of them are pushing and driving us to say, "Orthodox Christianity is such a precious gift that we possess, we can't hide it any longer and we, the bishops, will actually lead the Church in raising our profile."
˜But maybe the brightest light that I see is we're now beginning...to bear fruit with the various pan–Orthodox gatherings of young people that have been happening over the last several decades. They form friendships, alliances, and they're coming into maturity on their own. They're carrying with them that sense that "We're tired of the old divisions that kept us divided. We recognize that we can't bear that luxury any longer." So I'm seeing amongst the 35–and–under Orthodox some really top talent, and they're not hesitating to take their places of leadership. We need to encourage that and make room for them.