Yes, "Eastern" theology, as Mor Ephrem will be only TOO HAPPY to point out
, is a generic term that includes everyone in the East, including the Oriental Orthodox et al.
We have come to understand it as synonymous with "Byzantine" and that was O.K. before Mor Ephrem joined the Forum
But I wanted to comment on the use of "Ukrainian" when defining a Church or theological tradition.
"Byzantine" can mean more than simply the Byzantine heritage of Eastern Christianity. In the context in which the Ruthenian Churches and others use it, it really means "Hey, we don't wanna be ethnic any more, got it guys?"
And yet, the Eastern Church experience is precisely different from others in that the Eastern Churches have become totally "inculturated" in the respective cultures and nations in which they preach Christ and live the life in Christ over the centuries.
I can understand why the Sheptytsky Institute would like to separate "Ukrainian" from "Eastern" and "Byzantium."
But I don't agree and, if anything, that is in and of itself a tendency toward a Western Latin form of thinking or else to a desire to want to be more "legit" by presenting oneself as being more "mainstream." Again, that is wrong from a sociological perspective and an Eastern Christian one.
"Ukrainian" when used in the religious context means two things at one and the same time, as it always has.
It refers to Byzantine Christianity as inculturated in Kyivan-Rus' Ukraine so much so that the historic culture and its consequent development in Ukraine has given shape and character to the original Byzantine spirituality received from Constantinople.
This has given birth to the "Kyivan Church" with its own history, theology and particular "take" on the Byzantine perspective, which is different from that of the Greeks or Russians or others who participate in that same original perspective.
The "Ukrainian Church" is the Kyivan Church only because of the subsequent cultural-national development of the country and people in which the Kyivan Church was and is imbedded.
The other side of the coin is the Ukrainian ethnic component which is virtually impossible to separate from Kyivan Christianity today.
And there are many different varieties of Ukrainian cultural identity around, in my doctoral dissertation, I identified 18 for starters.
Some are more influenced by the European nationalist movements, others by other social and political factors.
There is even a "mental identification" with Ukrainian culture that exists among people who have Ukrainian ancestors - or else think they do or want to have them.
There are parishes,the majority, who have a strong Ukrainian cutlural identification in the nationalist sense, with a strong tie to language, cultural and, this is significant, the idea that one has to have biological ties to the Ukrainian community in order to be a member of the Ukrainian Church.
But Russian scholars in their treatment of the Kyivan Church leave no doubt as to the cultural identity of "Kyivan Christianity." And they have always been fair and objective about that, to be sure, for it cannot be otherwise.
In addition, the Kyivan Church Rite, the influence of the Baroque whether or not one wishes to admit it, and its closeness to the agricultural perspective of the Ukrainian people, the influence of the various political struggles over the ages that resulted, for example, in the Kyivan Baroque of the Kozaks etc. There are many others such as the many theological contributions of the Kyivan Mohyla Academy that are uniquely Kyivan and Ukrainian, - all this shows that the Kyivan Church has its own spirituality, identity and history, that are all intertwined with the history and culture of Ukraine and its people.
The Sheptytsky Institute, and others like it, should be in the forefront of promoting Kyivan Christianity as a unique contribution to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic theological perspectives. I know the Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary of St Andrew does an excellent job in this department and students go there for courses even if they have no plans to pursue a career in the Church.
It is not popular to be "ethnic" in North America. But "ethnic" really means that one is somehow ostracized from the mainstream.
That doesn't mean that we need to discard our labels, only redefine what they mean.
For example, "Byzantine" really doesn't mean anything as a Church label within Orthodoxy. It sounds rather funny to the Orthodox.
And "Byzantine" as such doesn't exist today, only in its Greek, Russian and other variants.
If we don't bring our Kyivan-Ukrainian or other contributions to the international forum of Byzantine theology et al., we bring nothing.
And we owe it to the Fathers, Metropolitans, Hierarchs, Ascetics and Missionaries of the Kyivan Church to know the patrimony that they developed and handed down to us, so we may let Kyiv be again, what it once was, a true Light of the East.