The discussions at the meeting had the following aims:
a) to analyze regional strategic plans of Theological Education;
b) to define specific ways of quality measurement;
c) to propose ways for financial support of future meetings;
d) to discuss further steps of the QuOTE process, especially for the 5th meeting and the formation of an accreditation entity (NGO foundation).
The aims were achieved in a variety of ways:
A new website was launched, through which the Steering Group will co-ordinate the activities of the Network and will host all important communications and Reports of interest to academics working in Orthodox Theological Education.
The Steering Group drafted the following Mission Statement (hosted at the QuOTE website):
Meeting informally four times since 2010, we propose the creation of a network with the following mission:
1. To assist the Orthodox Church in its provision of theological education of high quality.
2. To encourage theological institutions to reflect on their programmes, processes, goals and methodologies, to see how well they serve the needs and the mission of the Orthodox Church today.
3. To encourage theological institutions to engage in a process of strategic planning that will lead to a clear articulation of their mission.
4. Such a process (outlined in paragraph 3) will allow the development of a quality assurance system, which will ensure that the articulated mission is fulfilled.
5. To develop the tools that will assist theological institutions in this process.
Highlights of the discussions were the briefing that His Eminence Elpidophoros, Metropolitan of Bursa, gave on the educational system that the Chalki Ecclesiastical School (Ecumenical Patriarchate) is going to follow and on the developments in its foundation, and the visits to Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki, the Holy Metropolis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis and the visit to the Holy Metropolis of Veroia, Naousa and Campania.
Professor Konstantinos Kenanides (Ecclesiastical Academy of Crete), Fr Rauno Pietarinen (Orthodox Seminary, Joensuu, Finland), Fr Gregorios Stamkopoulos (Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki) and Bishop Cyrillos of Avidou (Theological School of Athens) reviewed the procedures and progress of the discussions so far and outlined the possible future developments. Dr Seppo Leisti informed the group about the important initiative the Church of Finland is undertaking regarding the building of databases and data mining techniques and how these can help Orthodox Theological Education. Professor Paul Meyendorff informed the group about the quality assurance techniques and the strategic plan developments at St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Dr Constantinos Athanasopoulos outlined the design methodology and the quality assurance techniques at the Distance Learning Programme of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies (Cambridge, UK).
An ongoing concern and item of discussion in the meetings was the profile of the ideal Orthodox priest. The general consensus was that quality assurance standards in Orthodox Theological Education should have something to say about how the educated priests can become better and serve better the needs of the Orthodox Church.
During the visit to the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki, His Eminence, Metropolitan Anthimos, when asked, gave five primary characteristics of the ideal Orthodox priest: a) He must have fear of God; b) He must strive to serve the Divine Liturgy as if it was his first (with fear and trembling and full respect and love for what he is doing); c) He must try continuously to have his sermons and other pastoral activities match his liturgical-sacramental-mystical life in the Church (to have his sermons and pastoral activities enlightened and perfected by the liturgical and sacramental-mystical life he experiences during Divine Liturgy); d) He must live a continuous life of charity and acts of love for his brethren and his flock; e) He must have experiential learning (he must live what he learns and what he teaches; i.e., not restrict himself to theoretical explanations and pursuits).
During the visit to the Holy Metropolis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis, Metropolitan Ioannis referred firstly to what he saw as the responsibility of the newly appointed Metropolitan to the priests and the parishes under his care: even in the case of their opposition to his election the Metropolitan has a duty to serve and love all and he has to try to develop the potential for a true life in Christ for both the priests and the parishioners. He offered an example from his practice: he never tried to bring to a local parish or a Metropolis people he trusted from his previous appointments, but he tried to develop the local priests and parishes and form a loving and respectful relationship with all the local people entrusted to him by God.
Metropolitan Ioannis offered his list of key characteristics of an ideal Orthodox priest: a) He must be a model of Life in Christ; b) He must be the embodiment of what St Gregory the Theologian means by “take the world and make God”, i.e., to take a man from this world and through repentance, love and grace to become one with God; c) He can use may ways to develop this: means of communication (where he must be trained in the use of language and rhetoric and the use of media and modern technology), he must be spiritual and charismatic, he must have knowledge of tools and abilities to allow himself to serve better in his parish; d) He must strive continuously to differ from the wordly model (i.e., the model of life that is promoted by this world and age); e) He must be able to preserve what he has received and also he must be able to offer it to others; f) He must not allow himself and the life of the parish to be poisoned by the spirit of secularisation; g) He must always have in his mind that he is ordained not to serve himself but to serve Christ; h) He must be Christ-orientated and not priest-orientated; i) He must try continuously to make full use of local people and other local priests and allow them to help him in his work.
During the visit to Holy Metropolis of Veroia, Naousa and Campania, Fr George Chrysostomou, Chancellor of the Metropolis, acting on behalf of Metropolitan Panteleimon, who was in Holy Mt Athos during the QuOTE visit, emphasised the ecumenical character of the pastoral activities of his Metropolis and how his Metropolitan (His Eminence Panteleimon) always tried to have an “open doors” policy to visitors from overseas, whether brethren in the Orthodox Faith, or from other Christian denominations and/or non-Christian beliefs.
All the participants at the meetings (which included Fr Nikolaos Loudovikos from the Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki) were overwhelmed by the generosity of the hosts (the Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki, the Holy Metropolis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis, the Holy Metropolis of Veroia, Naousa and Campania) and were really impressed by the zeal and great interest of the Metropolitans they visited for the Orthodox theological education of their priests and parishioners in a variety of ways (systematic study, continuing education and life long learning opportunities, open seminars and discussion forums). Part of the group also visited Professor Kontakis, President of the Ecclesiastical Academy, who was in hospital, and wished him well and a speedy recovery, thanking him for his support.
Among the further action items that were discussed were:
1. The Ideal Priest project should be continued through: a) An exploratory questionnaire to be sent to 4 different groups: bishops, teachers, students, laity; b) Gathering of data from the questionnaire and further analysis; c) production of a document that will summarise the key points from the findings; d) asking with another questionnaire the views of the 4 groups for further input.
2. The creation of a website for the QuOTE Network (now implemented at http://www.nquote.eu/ ).
3. Full implementation of the Bologna Process, which should help formulate the basic standards of teaching practice and would allow the formation of strategic plans for the further improvement according to the Church specific parameters.
4. Seek funding from all 27 countries in the EU with an Orthodox presence.
5. The QuOTE Network should be concerned only with minimum QA procedures; any documents produced should be further developed by the local bishops and institutions.
6. The QuOTE Network should seek the blessing of all Patriarchs and all local Panorthodox Assemblies of Bishops, with a letter addressed first to the Patriarchs and then to the Assemblies (Fr Rauno has taken this forward).
7. The next Meeting will be in Finland and Fr Rauno will organise it.
The Participants at the 4th QuOTE Meeting
Metropolitan of Bursa Elpidophoros, University of Thessaloniki
Bishop Cyrillos of Avidou, University of Athens
Prof. Paul Meyendorff, (St Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, USA)
V. Rev Rauno Pietarinen, Orthodox Seminary, Joensuu, Finland
Dr Seppo Leisti, Finland
Dr. Constantinos Athanasopoulos, Institute of Orthodox Studies, Cambridge, UK
Rev Dr Gregory Stamkopoulos, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki
Rev Dr Nikolaos Loudovikos, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki
Dr Konstantinos Kenanidis, Orthodox Academy of Crete.