175th Anniversary of AEC
It is a well-known fact that the Christian Church, of which the Armenian Evangelical Church is but a small component, is facing big challenges such as ethical, sociological, political, cultural, and personal in nature. In addition to the above challenges, the Armenian Evangelical Church, being uprooted from its Homeland and planted in the Diaspora, faces the danger of assimilation or drifting into the safety of the fundamentalist fold and disillusionment.
In addition to the aforementioned, all religions which have developed a grand universal story of creation and humanity’s place in it are directly challenged by the story which science is presenting as astronomers peer into the depth of the cosmos or scientists probe the innermost structure of the atom. For example, the Biblical creation story which also was based on observation by the naked eye, reflects the science of the Ancient Near East of at least 5,000 years ago; it held the view of a three-leveled universe: heaven where God and heavenly beings dwell, earth where humans and animals live, and the underworld the abode of the dead and ghosts. The sun and moon were to set the time and seasons, the stars and planets are referred to as the host of heaven. It must be stated that the intention and context of the biblical narrative is religious and not pure science; its purpose is to affirm the creator as the supreme authority and the primary source and sustainer of everything that exists.
The biblical story provided an answer to the question of origins which included the centrality of the earth that gave a sense of security to its adherents until the 16th Century, when Galileo made the heliocentric discovery and said that the earth is not the center of the universe, but the sun is the center around which the earth turns. Although he was persecuted and denounced as heretic by the Roman Catholic Church, his observation proved to be right. Since then, scientists have been exploring the universe and discovering infinite space, an ever-expanding universe, myriads of galaxies, black holes, dark energy, and tucked among these giants is a small planet called earth on which we live. Thus, we are no longer the center of the universe, but a small part of it. It is obvious that we have a clash of significant stories.
As a result of this clash, some lay people including scientists have been disillusioned and chosen an atheistic stance while others, rejecting the traditional concept of origins and of God, live by a conviction that there is a benevolent and creative Being who brought order, beauty, and harmony into the cosmos.
Now as we are celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church, it is but appropriate to ask ourselves, where are we heading? At its inception, this Church was influenced not only by the Bible but also by the scientific outlook and such humanistic values as freedom, fraternity, and equality. Before and after the Armenian massacres, we built schools next to our churches, where the light of science was taught to men and women and produced scientists, professionals, and thinkers.
The stormy political conditions in the Near East in the last half century further eroded our churches strength and depleted its membership by forcing many to immigrate to countries outside and inside the Near East whereby forcing them to live in a survival mode and raising children with a different orientation. In addition to all of these, each community is faced with problems that are unique to the country in which it finds itself. No doubt the challenges are significant if not overwhelming! In order to meet all these challenges, we could analyze, realistically, critically and inclusively where we are and where we want to go (not to sleep with wishful thinking) and consider attracting not only committed but talented young men and women, prepare them with the best education to enable them to stand in the modern world and bridge the gap between the old and the new, science and religion and speak to their congregations in a modern language and transmit and live the spirit of the Christian Gospel of love, peace, hope, and harmony in a universe led by a benevolent God.