Journey with the Orthodox: Biography of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reviewed by Harold D. Hunter
John Chryssavgis, Bartholomew: Apostle and Visionary (Nashville, TN: W. Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2016), 272 pages, ISBN 9780718086893.
My journey with Orthodox brothers and sisters started with Brighton ’91. With assistance from Monsignor Peter Hocken, I put together this first global conference for Pentecostal scholars. The keynote speaker was Professor Jürgen Moltmann and our presenters were Roman Catholic, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Protestant, and Pentecostal. Since that time, I have never put together a conference without Orthodox participation the most recent being Oxford 2012 that featured Metropolitan Kallistos Ware.
In June 2009, I was granted a Private Audience with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. One immediate result was the launching of informal talks between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Pentecostals for the next three years. The co-chairs for these talks mentioned in the biography were Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima and myself. I wrote the following in an initial letter to His All-Holiness proposing the talks: “I am emboldened in this quest by reading in your book Encountering the Mystery that Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II broke new ground in the 16th century ‘Augsburg-Constantinople’ encounter. Dr. Paraskevè Tibbs projects that perhaps Melanchthon himself recast the Augsburg Confession in Greek for the benefit of this significant exchange.”
This journey with the Orthodox exposed the Western slant of all my theological training. Although I am indebted to what I learned from Augustine, I came to thirst being enriched also by Chrysostom. As a result, I have become increasingly aware how mainstream media in the West is quick to point to the exploits of Pope Francis while paying less attention to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew even when the two were involved in joint ventures like the 2016 refugee outreach in Lesbos. This media inequality, however, has never drawn criticism from His All-Holiness.
This brilliant biography by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis is a clarion call for Christians from around the world to benefit from the apostolic and visionary leadership of 25 years of guiding the Christian East by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The introductory chapter is titled “Just Call Me Bartholomew” taken from the 2009 “60 Minutes” interview of His All-Holiness and so it will be in this article. I was so intrigued by the text that I flew to Boston, MA, for a personal conversation with Archdeacon Chryssavgis. I left that exchange impressed by the scholarly and ecclesiastical acumen of one of the most astute Orthodox theologians that I have come to know personally.
When first picking up the biography, one immediately takes notice of the foreword by Pope Francis. What might not be as obvious is the rarity for a Pope to authorize a foreword. It was also heartwarming to hear Archdeacon Chryssavgis’s firsthand account that not only did Pope Francis agree to write the foreword, but he accepted the two-week publisher’s deadline during the Easter celebration! Pope Francis brings passion to the brotherly love of apostles Peter and Andrew, the respective founders of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches according to tradition.
One note of caution about the book cover which announces 300 million Orthodox adherents around the world. As Chryssavgis explained to me, this count includes not only Eastern Orthodox but Oriental Orthodox. It is also the case that their record keeping is not precise. However, Pentecostals are hardly in a position to say much about this having in just 100 years built a platform that their theological significance is linked to their numbers which they reckon to be second only to Roman Catholics. Chryssavgis smiles: “An extra zero for the glory of God!”