Friday, January 6, 2012

Duane Alexander Miller on Iranian Diaspora Christians

Hi All,

Am glad to let you know that I have published my first article in the online journal Global Missiology (the English-language edition). Here is the Biblio:

Miller, Duane Alexander. 2012. ‘Iranian Diaspora Christian in the American Midwest & Scotland: Historical Background, Present Realities, & Future Challenges’ in Global Missiology 9:2, January.

Here is the abstract:

Over the last few years (2009-2011) I have been able to meet with numerous Iranian Christians in various cities in the UK and the USA. I have attended their churches and gatherings, I have sat down at Starbucks or over Persian food for conversations, and even in a hot tub once. In this article I will share a few of my preliminary conclusions and mention what I understand to be some of the key issues and challenges facing the Iranian Christian community in the coming years.
Download the PDF, or the Word Doc, or just check out the HTML. (I recommend the PDF.) Am glad to answer any questions in the comment section.


  1. If a person wanted to help fund an Iranian church, how would he go about finding a reliable way to do so?

  2. Hi Robert, is you would like more information on Iranian churhes in your area please email me at alex.miller@nazarethseminary [dot] org.

  3. I was discussing this article on Abu Daoud's blog, but I suppose it makes more sense to talk about it here. . . .

    When you state "Iranians don’t have an ethnic church they can look back to, a church to which their ancestors belonged. This marks them apart from groups like the Berbers and Palestinians" this isn't entirely accurate. On the calendar of the Orthodox Church there are quite a few ethnic Persians saints who were martyred during the reign of Shapur II. One of the earliest Christian writers, Aphrahat (Farhad), was an ethnic Persian, although he wrote in Syriac. Likewise there are extant liturgical texts in Middle Persian and Sogdian, the Persian dialect used along the Silk Road, so it's clear that there were communities of ethnic Persian Christians well into the Middle Ages... This connection to earlier Iranian Christianity was important in the conversion of an ethnically-Iranian Baha'i friend of mine to Orthodox Christianity.... There's a fairly large scholarly bibliography on this sort of thing as well, if you're interested in it.

    Two other points, from my comments to Abu Daoud:

    In general, though, several of the trends that you describe are common to secularized Iranians under the Shah as well. Seeing Islam as an Arab imposition, preferring names like Cyrus and Darius, using Divan-e Hafez rather than the Qur'an at Nowruz are very old Iranian customs that arguably go back in spirit to the days of Ibn al-Muqaffa' and the Shu'ubi movement in Arabic poetry. Certainly they were attitudes and customs encouraged in elites by the Shah, and so likely attitudes that were already very common among the very earliest wave of emigres, the ones who didn't wait around to see how the Islamic experiment in government would turn out and the ones who most commonly now live in the West.

    I'm not sure if anyone has picked up on this, but the most interesting set of Iranians from a missional perspective might be those that wind up in Armenia and Georgia. Since these countries currently have visa-free travel with Iran, Iranians who have no opportunity to got o the West are more and more frequently traveling there and buying up real estate, especially in Tbilisi (last year I lived for a couple months across from a real estate office in downtown Tbilisi with signs only in Farsi). I've never seen it myself, but Georgian friends of mine claim to have several times met young Iranian tourists there wearing crosses and claiming to be Christian...

  4. Hello Samn, thanks for your informative remarks. I will certainly take them into account in my future writing. I would be interested in hearing more about your friend the convert from Baha'ism to Christianity. How did he first hear the Christian message? From whom? And where?

    Your idea of doing research in Armenia or Georgia is great. Maybe in a few years I will be able to do that, but I would need to learn Farsi first, I suppose.

    Thanks for dropping by our obscure seminary blog.

    --D A Miller

  5. Well, about my friend, to the degree that I can understand his story, he grew up in the West, so he was familiar with Christianity notionally I guess for most of his life. He decided to get baptized after, somewhat randomly, being invited to an Orthodox service during Lent. At least as he expressed it, he was struck by the worship, and he took to it with a kind of sudden seriousness that was pretty surprising...