IOTA conference called ‘largest international gathering of Orthodox scholars in modern history’ – SVOTS Report

SVOTS – 21/1/19

St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) had a strong presence at the Inaugural Conference of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA).

IOTA assembled in Iaşi, Romania on January 9-12, 2019. Founded by the University of St. Thomas Professor Dr. Paul Gavrilyuk and a group of leading scholars, IOTA’s mission is to promote the international exchange of knowledge within the context of the Orthodox tradition.

With several hundred scholars from over 40 countries and all six continents, IOTA has called its Inaugural Conference the largest and most representative gathering of Orthodox church leaders, scholars, and professionals in modern history.

“It is a source of great encouragement that no institution had a greater presence at the conference than St. Vladimir’s Seminary,” remarked Seminary President Archpriest Chad Hatfield.

Along with Fr. Chad and others, members of the SVOTS community in attendance also included Seminary Dean Dr. Ionuţ-Alexandru  Tudorie; Dr. Peter Bouteneff, professor of Systematic Theology and co-chair of IOTA’s Dogmatic Theology section; Dr. Gayle Woloschak, professor of Bioethics and IOTA’s vice president; Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. Tracy Gustilo; Seminary Trustees Frank Cerra and Archpriest Philip LeMasters; Alumni Archpriest John Parker, the dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, Archpriest Michael Oleksa, Deacon Brandon Gallaher, Dr. Tamar Goguadze, Dr. Will Cohen, Dr. Vera Shevzov, and Dr. Scott Kenworthy; Seminarians Archimandrite Chrysostomos Onyekakeyah, Sophia Theodoratos, and Alexandru Popovici; and SVS Press authors Dr. Rico Vitz and Archpriest Andrew Louth.

The overarching theme of the conference was Pan-Orthodox Unity and Conciliarity. The Keynote Address was given by His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware).

“We have to confess, with humility and realism, that while we affirm synodality in theory, all too often we have neglected it in practice,” Metropolitan Kallistos noted.

During the conference, a broad variety of topics were discussed in over 70 separate sessions, from fundamental philosophical and theological issues to the urgent questions of our time. Classical issues included such topics as Orthodox approaches to scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity, and spirituality of Philokalia. Contemporary issues included the controversial church situation in Ukraine, ecological challenges, and the role of women in church life. The IOTA event also included opportunities for communal worship, two sacred art exhibits, a pilgrimage to local monasteries, and a book exhibit to benefit emerging Orthodox scholars. The gathering was also enriched by the participation of presenters and observers from a variety of non-Orthodox faith traditions.

“I would say IOTA achieved its goal of being a place of exchange between what we would call ‘Old World Orthodoxy’ and ‘New World Orthodoxy,” said Fr. Chad. “The theme was very timely given the current tensions in global Orthodoxy.”

“The IOTA conference was truly an intense international pan-Orthodox experience,” said Seminarian Sophia Theodoratos. “The hospitality offered and the evident atmosphere of goodwill among those present was quite extraordinary. Hopefully, the dialogue will continue after the event to further strengthen exchanges between clergy, academics, laity, and observers.”

IOTA plans to host worldwide conferences every four years in different locations worldwide, following the model of the Olympic Games.

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