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Pentecostals Needed: New NCC Director Partners with Pentecostals

 

Explanatory Note: Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, a Greek Orthodox theologian, formerly Associate General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace at the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, was recently (January 1, 2008) appointed Senior Program Director for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations at the NCC. The following is an exclusive interview with Dr Kireopoulos conducted by Dr. Tony Richie on June 10, 2008. Richie, a frequent contributor to Pneuma Review, is the Society for Pentecostal Studies liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission and works closely with Dr. Kireopoulos on a number of theological task groups.

 

TR: Dr. Kireopoulos, thank you for talking with us. Please tell our readers something about your self, especially your background and ministry.

I can’t imagine not having Pentecostals on board with us.

Dr K: You’re welcome, and thank you for the opportunity. I’ve always been connected to church – I was brought up in the Greek Orthodox tradition – but not always to vocational ministry. In fact, I came from a professional banking background after studying international politics and international finance. During that time, I enjoyed attending an evangelical Pentecostal church (International Foursquare Gospel Church) with some friends. When I had a rare opportunity to visit my ancestral village in Greece for an extended period of time, two things deeply affected me. First, was the hardship these villagers endured – World War II, a brutal civil war immediately afterwards, poverty – something we rarely glimpse as Americans. Secondly, was the amazing resilience their faith had infused into them so that they could go on with their lives. Through this encounter, I experienced something of a rediscovery, or a re-finding, of my own faith. Thus began an exploration that eventually led me to theological studies, and then on to a theological vocation. How I found myself in this particular place, I think that as a Greek Orthodox Christian attending a seminary of the Russian Orthodox tradition, and attending a Catholic institution for my doctoral studies, helped me to develop an ecumenical perspective. And certainly, my early exposure to Evangelicals and Pentecostals allowed me to engage easily with these communities and gave me an appreciation for the broader Body of Christ in all its diversity and unity. Perhaps providentially, my varied background in politics, finance, and theology later helped me integrate and apply insights from these disciplines in ecumenical work, especially in terms of advocacy.

 

TR: Would you also briefly describe your duties at the National Council of Churches on the Faith & Order and the Interfaith Relations Commissions respectively?

Dr K: Yes, of course. The NCC brings together 35 churches or denominations and ecclesial communities for the goal of intentional ecumenism or fostering unity among Christians. Faith & Order is the primary place where “heavy duty” theological discussion on diverse issues occurs in order to increase understanding and build bridges for healing and cooperation among Christians. Interfaith Relations addresses the reality of ministry on the ground, so to speak, in a religiously pluralist society, and brings a united witness of Christ into conversation with religious others through dialogue and collaboration offered in hospitality.

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Category: Fall 2008, Ministry

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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