Prof. Robert Saler, Associate Dean and Research Professor of Religion and Culture at CTS, recently attended the inaugural meeting of the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA) from January 9-12, 2019, in Iaşi, Romania, as the Lutheran ecumenical observer. IOTA is a community of scholars and professionals dedicated to the worldwide exchange of knowledge within the context of the Orthodox tradition.
This event marked the inaugural meeting of the IOTA conference, which was the largest international gathering of Orthodox scholars in modern history. IOTA organizers explained that, “The overarching theme of the conference was Pan-Orthodox Unity and Conciliarity. The Keynote Address was given by His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware). As Metropolitan Kallistos noted in his speech: “We have to confess, with humility and realism, that while we affirm synodality in theory, all too often we have neglected it in practice.” IOTA rose to this challenge by providing a vivid experience of “conciliarity from below.” With several hundred scholars from over 40 countries and all six continents, the Inaugural Conference was the largest and the most representative gathering of Orthodox church leaders, scholars, and professionals in modern history.”
Reflecting on his experience, Prof. Saler commented that, “To be an ecumenical observer at IOTA was to have observed the sheer fecundity of theological resources that the global Orthodox communion can bring to bear upon remarkably thorny ecclesial and geopolitical issues. The range of interdisciplinary inquiry ranged from considering long-standing tensions around power and authority to remarkably subtle questions around holiness and salvation.”
The conference featured a number of prominent ecclesial leaders, theologians, and many others for its more than 70 sessions. “I came away challenged as to how those of us in the West can access these fecund streams of thought even as we respect the alterity of the East from a Western-formed theological imagination,” Saler said.