John Wesley in Albania
The Albanian Evangelical Mission is currently producing a translation of John Wesley’s “Letter to a Roman Catholic” for use in Albania and among Albanians now resident in Britain.
The Eastern Orthodox Church claims 20% of Albania’s population, whilst 10% are Roman Catholic and 70% Muslim. There may be about 6000 genuine Protestant believers, with additional adherents coming to meetings for a variety of reasons, often connected with hoping for aid or for contact with westerners leading to a visa to the West.
Wesley’s Letter, very slightly abbreviated and with no other alterations to the text, is very suitable for Orthodox as well as Catholics, and as Orthodox are twice as many in number as Catholics, the Letter is to form part of a book appealing to Orthodox for better relations between them and the Protestants in Albania. We may also print it separately.
Ever since the British & Foreign Bible Society’s work really took off in Albania in the 1860s, the Orthodox Church has opposed the work of Protestants in their land. Sadly, they have displayed a tendency to accuse us of being heretics, breaking up the Albanian nation.
Not long after the fall of Communism (which was in 1991) they pasted up posters calling us heretics and sons of Judas Iscariot. About three years later an Orthodox priest wrote to me that:
~qit is a fearful thing to be cursed by a bishop who stands in the shoes of the apostles... an unwelcome incursion into the sheepfold of Christ. What to do about it? Close the door on it…q~
About the same time they produced a publication announcing that:
~qThe Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Albania is being hit today from many directions. An organised attack is being carried out against it by missionaries... heretics who come in as a wedge to destroy our beautiful faith.... traitors to the Church and successors of Judas Iscariot…q~
We hope that Wesley’s peace-loving, reconciliatory Letter to a Roman Catholic might help reduce the aggression with which the Orthodox leadership sometimes speak and write about Protestant work in Albania.
Also of course, as no doubt with any religion, there are many who are Orthodox in name but who have little or no idea of what their Church really teaches. They don’t know what they ought to believe, they just know others are wrong!
The present Archbishop, Anastasios Yannoulatos, has had a hopeful influence. In his own words: “At a critical moment, wrestling with the question of what is essential, I turned towards freedom and love. It was a turn to Christ, in whom I saw the only answer... What are we doing to share our faith with others? What are we doing to reach all those people who have never heard the Gospel?... We are trying to embrace, respectfully and lovingly, the whole church and the entire world that Christ himself has raised, redeemed and enlightened by his cross and resurrection... Christ’s healing goes to the depth of life, to our need for forgiveness. Healing is another word for peace; Christ is the one who heals our brokenness... It is not our own activity that is important, but what God does through us” (Quoted from The Resurrection of the Church in Albania, by Jim Forest, Geneva 2002).
Many Albanians now worship in Protestant churches in Britain. If readers would like copies of the book to help them view us with less suspicion and be more ready and comfortable in accepting us as genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, copies may be had from the Albanian Evangelical Mission, 29 Bridge Street, Penybryn, WREXHAM, LL13 7HP firstname.lastname@example.org