What is ok21 – Society for Open Christianity of the 21st Century

Host organisation of the ICRN Conference in Bratislava is ok21. Who we are?

 

Who we are

We are an informal community of Christians, mostly from the Roman Catholic tradition. The membership base of ok21 consists of approximately 50 members and sympathizers. Except for a few exceptions, our members are not in monastic or diocesan priestly ministry. Our community is not bound to any particular parish or spirituality. Although most members live and work in Bratislava, we have members from other Slovak cities or foreign countries as well.

What we want to be

We realize that we are living on a kind of tectonic break of epochs, on the threshold of the post-Christian world. Many of the questions asked by previous generations are no longer relevant. We are asking questions that have not been asked by previous generations. We are entering the future, which is again and again unclear. We want to live a responsible Christianity that will respond to the challenges of today.

Thus, we are entering the paths that are not paved, we do not even know where exactly they lead – we only guess the direction. However, we are convinced that we will find new answers to the questions of today only when we get inspired by what has been, what we experience now, along with what we think about what is still to come…

Our community wants to belong to those who are actively involved in shaping the Christianity for new generations. We want to live a responsible Christianity that will respond to the challenges of today.

Brief history

Although ok21 was formally founded only in 2014, the community roots go back to the underground Church, which operated during the communist regime. Several founding members of ok21 were active members of illegal Christian communities that were meeting in households or remote, non-public places. Thus, the experience of the authentic secret Church is rooted in the very DNA of our community.

After regime change, in response to the reluctance of the official structures of the Roman Catholic Church to reflect the situation in the post (modern) Church, the Theological Forum (hereinafter referred to as Teoforum) was formed in 1993, which consisted mainly of progressively thinking Roman Catholic priests. The aim was theological education and the effort to overcome the fear of (post) modern western theology in conservative Slovakia. In addition to self-education meetings, symposia dedicated to personalities of modern European theology, as well as discussion forums, focused on the application of Christian (or more widely understood) ethical values in different areas of social life were organised.

As time went on, Teoforum expanded (especially by non-clergy), and gradually the number of priests in the membership base of Teofórum was decreasing.

In 2012, Teoforum supported the Pastor’s Initiative of Hemuth Schüller, as well as the Call to Disobedience (Pfarrer Initiative, Aufruf zum Ungehorsam) and joined it with its own text. The call of the Theological Forum was in a similar, though less radical, spirit. However, even this triggered a negative reaction from the Slovak ecclesiastical authorities and all priests of the association were called upon to end their membership in Teoforum under the threat of ecclesiastical penalty. The pressure of the bishops eventually caused that the Call of the Theological Forum was revoked by its leadership and Teoforum itself was transformed into for bishops non-conflicting organization. Those members who wanted to continue the original line were either unwillingly expelled from Teoforum or voluntarily left it.

And exactly these former members of Teoforum founded the Civic Association ok21. From the beginning of its existence, it has been clear to members of ok21 that we did not experience a local specific situation, but we are part of global processes. We know that many groups of Christians in different countries think similarly, therefore we are trying to be part of the international reform movements.

What we strive for

We want to be one of the nuclei of crystallisation for new ideas in Slovakia. We want to go into new areas, so that we can live the message of Jesus and pass it as authentically as possible.

We want to create a space and conditions for the intellectual reflection of Europe’s cultural and religious heritage. The abbreviation “ok21” represents our desire and interest in Christianity, which openly addresses the challenges and hopes of the world in the 21st century. Open Christianity, asking questions and seeking answers at the borders between religion, culture, art, economy, as well as natural, social and spiritual sciences.

Our relationship to the reforms of the Roman Catholic Church has been rather reserved in the past few years. We like the efforts of Pope Francis, striving for the Church with a “human face”, but we also see how the pope’s thoughts are only marginally put into practice in our country. We do not want to spend our life passively waiting until the reforms are actually implemented or begging for small concessions from the local ecclesiastical authority. We feel that the Roman Catholic Church, represented by Rome, and the official authority, derived from it, has enough organizations, people, tools and money to be able to reform. Of course, if it really wanted to.

We want to endure and be vigilant, so that we do not miss Pentecost of 21st century.

The confrontation of Christianity with Modernism and Postmodernism, as well as with what is still to come in 21st century, is the way ahead. This way is not prescribed, it arises only and as soon as we set out. We want to find the courage to live our life self-confidently. We want to ask ourselves what we want and where we want to go. Maybe in a different way, but not in any way. Maybe somewhere else, but not anywhere…  If we think, speak and act differently than some other Christians, then this “differently” should mean freely, creatively and responsibly.

We do not wait for “another” Jesus, but we are waiting for other Christians. We want to endure and be vigilant, so that we do not miss Pentecost of 21st century.