Spotlight On: ‘Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture’
by Todd Aiello/
August 08, 2023
In November 2022, a unique journal called Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture debuted, providing a scholarly, peer-reviewed look at the field of missiology from an Orthodox lens while including a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives. Atla added this journal to the Atla Religion Database® in July 2023. Atla Product Specialist Todd Aiello spoke to the journal’s founder and Editor in Chief, Dr. Evangelia Voulgaraki about the journal’s scholarly scope and its unique place in the landscape of religion and theology.
Missiology, or the academic study of the history and methodology of Christian missionaries, is a relatively new academic discipline. It was first developed by Scottish missionary Alexander Duff, who developed a systemic theory of mission and was appointed to the first chair in missiology at New College in Edinburgh in 1867. This chair was short-lived, but still a great missiological tradition was formed in Edinburgh. The discipline was further developed by the work of German theologian Gustav Warneck, who founded the first scientific periodical on missiology, Allgemeine Missions-Zeitschrift, in 1874 and went on to be appointed chair of missionary science at the University of Halle in 1897. Prior to either of these developments, in 1797, the Kazan Academy in Russia established by the Orthodox church, built a highly regarded academic program in the study of Islamic and Far Eastern cultures. As missiology became a more recognized academic discipline, the Kazan Academy became the leading location within the Orthodox community to study it. The initial program was very elaborate and was soon replaced by a simpler and more practical one.
Broader changes in the Orthodox world resulted from the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. All missionary projects were interrupted, the Kazan Academy was closed by the Bolsheviks, and from then on, the Orthodox Church was mostly inactive in the field of missiology. In the 1960s, Elias Voulgarakis, later professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, decided to lead a revival in the study of missiology from an Orthodox perspective. He was well aware of the advances in the West and kept an active dialogue with leaders in the field. He chose to dig deeply into the works of the fathers of the Eastern Orthodox Church and its own missionary traditions. From these sources, he formed his own methodology in the study of missiology that combined mission, dialogue, and witnessing faith by sharing experience. As time went on, the field evolved on the international level, partly due to overseas missionary work’s undeniable historical ties to colonialism and how views of this colonialism have changed since its heyday in the 19th century. The field became more open to perspectives from the Majority World and the Global South and grew to welcome post-colonial studies and multicultural dialogue.
Among the Orthodox, decades after Elias Voulgarakis founded his methodology for the study of missiology at the University of Athens, more prominent missiologists further developed the academic field. Today Dr. Evangelia Voulgaraki works as a lecturer and leading scholar in this subject at the same university, in the department of Social Theology and the Study of Religion. Her lifelong dream was to create a peer-reviewed scholarly journal on cross-cultural theology, dialogue, and mission to unite people through sharing Orthodox theology in a free and loving spirit. Her work led her to be asked to join the newly formed Missiology Group for the International Orthodox Theological Association (IOTA). In 2019, IOTA held its inaugural conference in Romania, and Dr. Voulgaraki presented the idea for her journal to her fellow scholars. The idea was enthusiastically received, particularly by IOTA’s Missiology Group co-chair Dr. Alison Kolosova. They gathered with other like-minded scholars and began working to create the journal.
The inspiration for Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture is strongly reflected in its name. Christians are commanded to be the “salt of the earth,” but according to Dr. Voulgaraki, many feel they are losing the earth beneath their feet in a post-Christian society. However, they can still be the “salt” through continuous participation in the global conversation on religion and culture, influencing and contributing to this dialogue similar to how salt enhances the flavor of food.
Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture aims to generate research in missiology and understand theology from an international viewpoint. From the journal’s standpoint, the mission is not just to talk, but to listen, so the journal aims to give minority churches a place to speak for themselves. The journal can then enhance these voices and provide clarification and context. The journal is committed to overcoming the nationalism, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia that infects missionary work, breaking from established mindsets. It also aims to raise questions about missionary practices to increase self-awareness and diversity in the movement. It features scholarship on topics such as history, anthropology, and environmental science to examine how lessons from these fields can be applied to missiology. It is proud to present its research as an independent entity from any specific church in which dialogue from contributors of all kinds is welcome.
Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture holds a unique place in the world of religion and theology for several reasons. It is the only scholarly journal of its kind that presents missiology from an Orthodox point of view and the only English-language journal covering missiology with a double-blind peer review process. Dr. Voulgaraki serves as Editor-In-Chief, and Dr. Alison Kolosova and Rev. Prof. Cristian Sonea act as Assistant Editors. The Editorial Board includes scholars from the USA, Europe, and Africa, and the Advisory Board includes contributors from across the globe.
The journal’s first issue featured invited contributions from a wealth of scholars, covering a multitude of subjects from issues related to qualitative analysis of missionary movements worldwide, to examinations of cross-cultural dialogues, to personal conversion stories, to examinations of marriages within the Church in African communities, to discussions of the global Coronavirus pandemic, to literature reviews and obituaries. Currently, the journal follows a biannual publication schedule and is examining the possibility of expanding to an annual publication in the future. Atla is excited to feature this journal and looks forward to what the future holds for this one-of-a-kind title.
Learn more about Salt: Crossroads of Religion and Culture.
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