VOM Widens Study Opportunities on Church Under Persecution
The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is significantly expanding its program of study opportunities on the experience and theology of the persecuted church in the coming year. In previous years, the foundational course, "Towards a Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship," has been taught in nations where Christians are experiencing persecution, as a means to encourage and build up the Body of Christ there. This continues in the coming year, as VOM staff will be taking this teaching to a number of places in Africa and Asia.
In the fall of 2003, VOM began a joint venture with Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU) to launch a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Certificate program in persecuted church studies. Eleven students have enrolled in these programs for the 2003-2004 academic year. VOM Canada's communication director, Glenn Penner, is visiting professor of religion and philosophy for the fall semester at OWU. He reports that the program has exceeded his expectations.
Penner also reports that he has recently been invited to teach "Towards a Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship" at Providence Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba, from May 10-14, 2004. VOM will also be offering this course for study in Mississauga, Ontario, (not for academic credit) from June 7-11, 2004. Penner will also be speaking on the subject at a leadership conference in Ottawa on March 26-27, 2004.
Penner believes that an understanding of the biblical teaching of discipleship within the context of persecution has tremendous academic and practical benefits. "From an academic perspective, it is refreshing to see biblical passages come to life as you see them anew in a context that most biblical studies tend to ignore. Yet the early church wrote the New Testament, in particular, in a context of religious intolerance and restrictions. This course has already helped many worldwide to see the Bible in a new light.
"From a practical perspective, learning that God's people often suffer for doing what is right and in obedience to following the call of God helps the individual develop a more biblical view of suffering and renewed appreciation for the presence and enabling power of God. The same God who strengthens the persecuted is with each one of us in our daily lives today. I can personally testify how a biblical perspective on suffering, persecution and discipleship has been a tremendous source of encouragement for me as I struggle with cancer."