Writings of Branko's Blog

All around Central Europe


Miss Adeline Paulina Irby, of Bosnia [blog]

Writings of Branko's Blog

A few months ago, in September 2011, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) protestant churches organized a cultural and an evangelistic event called “Meeting Miss Irby,” commemorating the centenary of a death of Miss Adeline Paulina Irby, 100 years ago.  Miss Irby was a protestant missionary who came to the Balkans 150 years ago.

She first travelled extensively the region along with Georgina Muir Mackenzie. In 1859 they originated from Vienna, travelled through Bratislava, stayed for some time on the Tatra Mountains, and then went to Cracow, just to be accused by the Austrian authorities that they are suspected Russian spies and Pan-Slavism movement supporters.

They later travelled the Balkans and published a much apprised book called “The Slavonic Provinces of Turkey-in-Europe” and upon return to the UK, they gave lectures and published papers on these Slav groups: Bulgarians, Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, etc.

As it was an honorable matter in these days…

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Did We Throw Out Our Identity With The Bath Water? [blog]

Writings of Branko's Blog

Political and military changes in Serbia and around it in the last 20 years, especially the dissolving of the former Yugoslavia and the subsequent civil wars and conflicts in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo have left the protestant minority churches with many open questions. One of them is issue of the identity crisis. During the breakup years state-run propaganda, in an attempt to discredit the ‘otherness’ and bring in unity needed for war times (but with wrong motives and methods), systematically fed public opinion with horrifying stories of youth being lured into various sects and ‘pseudo-Christian’ churches, as they called mostly all Protestant/Evangelical denominations in Serbia. An honest account on subjects “Where do Protestants come from?” and “Who are the Evangelicals?” is long due, since people got confused.

On the other hand, the development of Protestantism in Serbia did not begin with the latest ‘arrivals’ of the Western short-term missionaries. Its…

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THE JESUS MODEL REVISITED – Discussion at the Lausanne Leadership Development Working Group for the Lausanne III, Cape Town 2010. Compiled by Branko Bjelajac.

Leadership Development Portal

It’s not about me. I am not the one who gets the glory. It’s really about Jesus. These could be the words of Paul, as they describe his basic attitude as he seeks to serve Jesus and be God’s servant to the people to whom he was called. 2 Corinthians 4:5-18 give us a list of attitudes and phrases that suggest attitudes defining the Apostle Paul as a Christian leader.

Perhaps this is why Jesus never used the word “leader” when referring to his disciples.  It seems that the conventional leadership values in his time were not those Jesus wanted to transfer to the future leaders of the church. Although the religious establishment of his day was perpetuating a system that seemed infinitely stronger and more permanent than what Jesus did, history has proven His model endures.

There are plenty of leadership ’models’ in the market today and a good…

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The 1923 Old Calendar Revision (The New Rectified Julian calendar) [blog]

This text seems to be of a renewed interest in the Easter week…

Writings of Branko's Blog

It is the time of the year when there will two calendars again be considered for festivities and holidays. It maybe of interest to some of you to learn that the revised Julian calendar was proposed by a Serbian scientist Milankovic.

The new calendar was proposed for adoption by the Orthodox churches at a synod in Constantinople in May 1923. The synod, convened by Patriarch Meletius IV of Constantinople, did not have representatives from the remaining Orthodox members of the original Pentarchy (the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria) or from the largest Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, then under persecution from the Bolsheviks, but only effective representation from the Patriarch of Constantinople, Romanian and the Serbian Patriarchate.

A-Quest-for-ReformThis synod synchronized the new calendar with the Gregorian calendar by dropping thirteen days. It also adopted a leap rule that differs from that of the Gregorian calendar: years divisible by four are leap…

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After 12 centuries another Synod of the all-Orthodox Churches announced [blog]

During the meeting (Synaxis) of all Eastern-Orthodox Patriarchs 6-8 March 2014 in Fanar, Istanbul, Turkey, at the seat of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, a historical decision was reached:



“Our heart is set on the long-awaited Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in order to witness to its unity as well as to its responsibility and care for the contemporary world. The Synaxis agreed that the preparatory work to the Synod should be intensified. A special Inter-Orthodox Committee will work from September 2014 until Holy Easter of 2015, followed by a Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference to be convened in the first half of 2015. All decisions at the Synod and in the preparatory stages are made by consensus. The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs. The Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch. His brother Primates of the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches will be seated at his right and at his left”.

The last Holy Synod, as the Eastern Orthodox consider, took place in Nicaea in the year 787.

The new synod was discussed among the Orthodox for the last 53 years, since the historical meeting in 1961, also in Greece. It is yet to be seen what will be the approved (by consensus) topics, but here are some that have been put on hold in the past, until the new synod:

–      Issue of the calendar (some still celebrate according to the Old Calendar);

–      Issue of the order of churches;

–      The status of the Eastern Orthodox believers in this world;

–      The relations with the Catholic Church;

–      Decline in membership;

–      Issues with Islam;

–      New technologies, bio engineering; ecology, etc.

Although not announced, one could expect that the Synod finally decide on the canon of the Old Testament, as it differs from church to church. As a reminder, here are the Eastern Orthodox churches of today:

  • Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria (His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, all the land of Egypt, and all Africa, Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, Thirteenth of the Apostles, and Judge of the Oecumene)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Patriarch of Antioch and all the East)
  • Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, and of Syria, Arabia, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Sacred Zion)
  • Orthodox Church of Russia (Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia)
  • Orthodox Church of Georgia (Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Abkhazia and Pitsunda.)
  • Orthodox Church of Serbia (Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of the Serbs)
  • Orthodox Church of Romania (Archbishop of Bucharest, Metropolitan of Ungro-Valachia, and Patriarch of All Romania)
  • Orthodox Church of Bulgaria (Metropolitan of Sofia and Patriarch of All Bulgaria)
  • Orthodox Church of Cyprus (Archbishop of New Justiniana and all Cyprus)
  • Orthodox Church of Greece (Archbishop of Athens and all Greece)
  • Orthodox Church of Poland (Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland)
  • Orthodox Church of Albania (Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania)

Let us hope to see a greater unity among the Eastern Orthodox Churches and believers.

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Our Lamb has Conquered: Let Us Follow Him – on the Moravian Church visit today [blog]

I was in Christiansfeld today, in central Jutland, Denmark, and there visited a Moravian church. It is an interesting story as I felt I entered another century and visited a true missionary society of brethren.

The Moravians are pietistic Lutherans, free congregations whose origins lie in the Herrnhuttian pietism and the Moravians of count Zinzendorf. In 18 century the Herrnhutters, skilled craftsmen and traders, founded Moravian towns in many countries, and became a missionary church.

So they came to Denmark in 1773 and founded the town of Christansfeld with the blessings and approval of the Danish king Christian VII. They purchased a land and drafted a plan of the future town. Two streets connected with the God’s Acre, a square with a fountain in the middle connecting two streets, and in front of the church. Houses for living were built, later a boarding school for girls, parsonage next to the church. The king granted them pardon of royal taxes, no military service, no need of membership of guilds, and free religious practice. Denmark needed skilled craftsmen and soon the business were opened: the hotel, a chandler’s shop, a dye works, a cigar factory, honey – cake bakery, a printer, book-binder, milliner and a rope maker… most of them still exist today and still belong to the Moravians.

Then I visited their sanctuary. It is the largest space in Denmark without supporting columns or walls – it can take up to 1,000 visitors. Painted in white, with simple wooden pews, and chandeliers with candles. It is an amazing testimony of 240 years.

This church today has more than 340 members and half of them still live in the same town. Moravians welcome visitors and have their services open to all.

Their motto is: Our Lamb has conquered: let us follow Him.Image

PS A photo of their graveyard shows unusual small tombstones. It was their practice to bury their dead standing facing east, from where Jesus is coming again. They wanted to be ready for this occasion!

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“Evangelicalism in Recession” Again? – Or just another book that speaks of the giants, and giants alone. [blog]

As I am following Christian trends publications in English language, every year I see a volume or two on the shrinking trends and alarming signs showing that ‘our churches are dying’ and that young people are leaving the faith of their forefathers. When you combine such statistics with the recession that hit in 2008 no wonder why some people see great recession everywhere, inflation of statistics in church memberships and other alarming data.Image

From his perspective, and the book speaks about the situation in the USA, I think that the author (John Dickerson: The Great Evangelical Recession) was rather trying to alert the pastors and other leaders of the situation and to point them toward, as he calls it, the moment of decision making. But, I have some issues the way book is portraying the evangelical movement – especially as the author is taking church attendance to be an indicator of what people believe in, or how many young people lost their faith since they left a local congregation. Does this seem right? If it was not their faith, but a habit inherited from their family, they were not believers in the first instance anyway. I think Bonhoeffer spoke wisely on this issue when he was depicting what he encountered in America as Protestantism without Reformation…

So, churchgoers versus converts. Statistics for the first ones exist, but not so for the second ones. Everyone sees us going to a church, no one knows about the condition of our heart – had it been conditioned yet by Jesus’ unconditioned love, had you turned away from your old ways…

So, yes, there are giants in the land and people are leaving churches. Yet, some join churches and in the midst of it there is a mystery work going on – people are finding Jesus. These are good giants.