Father John Behr (text of VU press release on 9 September 2016)


The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam appoints Father John Behr Professor of Orthodox Theology at VU

The Orthodox theologian Fr John Behr  has been appointed professor and holder of the Metropolitan Kallistos Ware Chair in Orthodox Theology, as of September 1, 2016. This is a part-time position of one day per week. Fr John will remain dean of St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. The chair is part of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology (ACOT), which is based in the Faculty of Theology of the Vrije Universiteit (VU), and its aim is to teach and research the rich diversity of Orthodox theology. Additionally, Fr John will play an important role in training Orthodox clergy and making Orthodox theology accessible to a broader public.


John Behr is a theologian, Orthodox priest and Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (New York). Fr John received his doctorate in 1995 from the University of Oxford after being supervised by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. His doctoral work, which examined issues of asceticism and anthropology, focused on St Irenaeus of Lyons and Clement of Alexandria and was published by Oxford University Press (OUP). Fr John founded the Formation of Christian Theology series at St Vladimir’s Seminary Press (SVS Press), which includes his books The Way to Nicaea and The Nicene Faith; his subsequent book The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death synthesized those studies. More recently Fr John published a poetic, meditative work entitled Becoming Human: Theological Anthropology in Word and Image, and also a full study of St Irenaeus: St Irenaeus of Lyons: Identifying Christianity. He has completed a new edition and translation of Origen’s On First Principles (OUP, 2017), and he currently is working on a new edition and translation of the works of St Irenaeus of Lyon and a book on the Gospel of St John.

Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology

The Orthodox churches, together with the Roman Catholic church and the churches of the Reformation, form three main streams within Christianity. Fr Michael Bakker, director of the Amsterdam Centre for Orthodox Theology (ACOT): “Besides excellent academic qualifications, Fr John Behr brings with him great experience in educating students of diverse backgrounds in an international context. Our students will serve their communities in a pluriform society and need to be able to reflect critically on their own faith. VU’s tradition of practicing academic theology from within a living faith provides an ideal setting.” Professor Wim Janse, dean of the Faculty of Theology: “A full and dedicated chair in Orthodox theology broadens and enriches our academic horizon.”

Orthodox in The Netherlands

The most prominent Dutch Orthodox is probably Queen Anna Pavlovna Romanova (1795–1865), queen consort of King William II. A lesser known fact is that the Armenian Apostolic Church has had for more than three hundred years a church in the center of Amsterdam. Fr Michael: “We have calculated that The Netherlands has about 190 thousand inhabitants with an Orthodox background. Approximately 55 thousand of them belong to the Oriental Orthodox family (e.g., Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians).” In 2015 the Dutch Minister of Education decided to grant VU a special budget to educate clergy for these growing churches. At the time of Fr John’s inaugural lecture on Friday January 13, 2017, details will be provided about ACOT’s Orthodox programmes.

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