NEGOTIATING THEOLOGIES OF HIERARCHY AND DEMOCRACY
May 17, 2023, 7:00 p.m. (Athens time)
The next event of the series of online lectures "Time for Action" will take place on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, 7:00 p.m. (Athens time). The speaker will be Dr. Ashley Purpura, Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University (Indiana, USA) and the topic of the lecture will be "Orthodox Power: Negotiating Theologies of Hierarchy and Democracy". The lecture will be in English with interpretation into Greek and the discussion will be moderated by Rev. Dr. Cyril Hovorun, Professor in the Stockholm School of Theology (Sweden). The link for accessing the lecture, through Zoom, is
The lecture offers a reconsideration of the relation between Orthodox theology and the structures of authority and decision-making that theology supports. It begins by presenting historical-theological examples of navigating the limits of an imperfect ecclesiastical hierarchy, and then turns to christological foundations for supporting more democratic participation in and beyond the Church. Through this analysis, the author suggests that the theology of power presented by these examples and theological claims can be used to help address challenges facing the Church today. Far from conceiving of power as a means of control, the author suggests a christologically participative mode of administration fundamentally liberates and offers a proclamation of life. Such a theological approach to power (one that originates with God, and therefore alluding to the words of Pseudo-Dionysius, is "thearchical"), she argues, can help Orthodox better navigate clerical authority, encourage more inclusive lay participation, and cultivate work on behalf of the traditionally and socially marginalized.
Ashley Purpura is Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Purdue University. She holds a PhD from Fordham University and a MTh from Harvard Divinity School. Purpura researches the history of Orthodox Christian thought and practice and investigates how historical religious practices and intellectual traditions shape gender, power structures, and identities within past and present religious communities. She is the author of God, Hierarchy, and Power: Orthodox Theologies of Authority from Byzantium and co-editor of Orthodox Tradition and Human Sexuality. Her current research projects focus on re-thinking assumptions about freedom, gender, and otherness in light of Orthodox sources, traditions, and theology. Ashley Purpura serves as the co-chair of the American Academy of Religion's Eastern Orthodox Studies Unit, is the co-editor of the "Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Thought" book series with Fordham University Press, and is on the executive planning committee of the "New Directions in Orthodox Christianity" project of the Oslo Coalition for Freedom of Religion or Belief.