Thursday, July 5, 2012

After a hiatus of nearly a year, during which time I, a recent convert to Orthodoxy, attempted to navigate the shoals of having to visit all of the supporters and supporting churches that made it possible for my wife and me to continue our teaching ministries in Kenya, during which time my oldest daughter got married, after which I was sacked by the evangelical Protestant school where I had taught in Kenya, and shortly thereafter sacked by the evangelical Protestant mission board that I had been a part of... We returned to Kenya with my wife's position and ministry intact, but mine suddenly and completely vanished.  One can understand why these two institutions felt they needed to be rid of me.  As nicely as they could, both school and mission  intimated that they they were actually doing this for my good, setting me free to follow my call.  I choose to accept their explanations, though I suspect the real uncommunicated reason is more in line with an inability to accept an Orthodox person with his Orthodox perspectives on ecclesiology and his Orthodox perspectives on Scripture as part of an authoritative apostolic tradition, even though said Orthodox person could happily sign their respective statements of faith.  Whatever their reasoning, I arrived in Kenya this past August unemployed.  And if you the reader have ever been unemployed then you will know how I was feeling.  I immediately applied to every possible academic position and even some NGOs and, in my increasing despair, considered taking the foreign service exam and applying for US government positions (State Department, CIA, etc).  God knows I would be a terrible spy so I was spared that line of enquiry.  Just after Thanksgiving (American), I was contacted by St Paul's University which is located in Limuru in what must be the coldest location in Kenya.  The good news was they wanted me to teach two courses in their modular MDiv program.  The bad news was that the term had started two days earlier, and that one of the courses I had never taught before (The History of Christian Spirituality).  So I said, 'Yes, please, thank you!'  Somehow I and my students survived.  I taught another course for the university in the Spring.  And now I have been informed by their leadership that they would like for me to come on board as a full-time faculty member.  If I tell myself not to think very hard, this is all very good news.  If I allow myself to begin to think about it, then it begins to strike me as ironic, if not odd, that a Protestant  (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Christian Reformed) institution  would be happy to have an Orthodox historian and theologian teaching their Masters level students.  It gets even weirder.  When I was at my previous position, I was teaching Evangelical and Pentecostal students.  You must recall that I was a Presbyterian (USA) pastor for more than twenty years, and that all of our supporters and supporting churches are Presbyterian.  So now that I am Orthodox, I am now actually teaching Presbyterian pastors in Kenya, for the first time in my entire missionary career, actually.  Go figure.  Like I said, I try not to think very hard about this.  At least I have a job.  All of this has been very difficult, challenging, disillusioning, disorienting.  I have endured major wobbles, and at times been a very difficult person to live with.  When I stopped my previous blog, Onesimus Online, one of the major reasons was that I realized I was entering a difficult season of my life where my energy needed to go into surviving as opposed to blogging.  The break has been good for me.  I am hoping that I've learned to slow down and think through what I want to say before I press the publish button.  And now that I am hopefully emerging on the other side, the desire to engage again with ideas and with fellow travelers and with the issues that make living in these times so fantastic and annoying and thrilling and appalling has brought me once more to stare at an empty screen and fill it with letters.  So in the manner of St Paul in Ephesians 3, I pick up where I started but left off - after a hiatus of nearly a year, Onesimus is back.
Through the prayers of the Theotokos and all of the Saints, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!

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