This paper seeks to explore the understanding of missionary consciousness according to Orthodox Theology and to analyze and evaluate the way in which it is assumed and developed at the level of different Christian communities belonging to the Romanian Orthodox Church. It discusses the connection between Christian identity and missionary consciousness, as well as the characteristics of missionary consciousness in various political and social contexts. It then identifies four fundamental characteristics of the missionary consciousness: it must be universal, Christological, dogmatic and prophetic. In the final sections, the paper deals with an evaluation of the extent to which these characteristics are present in different types of Romanian Orthodox communities, both in Romania and abroad, and the way in which the missionary consciousness has been assumed, whether consciously or unconsciously, in various (and difficult) historical contexts. Finally, the paper suggests several missionary responsibilities of the Church hierarchy and missionaries that could contribute to the development of a strong missionary consciousness in the Orthodox communities.
Introduction: The Bulgarian missiologist Valentin Kozhuharov has recently claimed concerning the Orthodox churches that “we can see that there is little understanding of what mission is, or better said—we can observe that there is no missionary awareness among the Orthodox.” In Kozhuharov’s understanding, such awareness is not static, but it is an awareness that should make people act. While he considers that some Orthodox believers do have a general understanding of what mission is, nevertheless “they don’t act and they don’t do mission.” Kozhuharov’s remarks could be correct if we only considered the aspect of mission that involves making new disciples. But this article argues that mission is a much broader phenomenon than making disciples and that missionary consciousness is inextricably linked with broader human consciousness and so can exist even if believers do not explicitly or even implicitly assume their missionary vocation.
In any discussion of Orthodox mission we need to remember that the term mission has been disputed not only among the Orthodox but also in the Western churches, as it has been associated with the politics of Western colonization. Even talking about missionary consciousness has been undertaken with reluctance not only in the East, but in the West.