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Statement on the future of Ecumenical Theological Education in Estern and Central Europe

27 September 2008

Sambata de Sus, Romania, 24 - 28 September 2008

Statement

We, 37 participants of the seminar on the future of ecumenical theological education in Eastern and Central Europe organized by ETE/WCC and CEC in cooperation with Volos Academy (Greece), met in Sambata de Sus Monastery (Romania) from 24 to 28 September 2008, with the aim of bringing together experiences in ecumenical learning in this region. Coming from the following countries: Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Switzerland and Ukraine, we represented the following Church Traditions: Greek-Catholic, Hussite, Lutheran, Orthodox, Reformed and Roman-Catholic.

We are aware of the fact that in the context of rapid social and political changes in Eastern and Central Europe, institutions of theological education can at present only respond to their historic responsibilities if they seek more mutual cooperation and more ecumenical commitment. Ecumenical theological education is vital for our churches and societies, and the participants therefore recognized the need to promote ecumenical dialogue in theological education in the curricula of our universities and seminaries as well as in the life of the churches of our region. We are grateful to the Triune God for a certain kairos and new longing for ecumenical cooperation in theological education in our region, new openings, and innovative projects going beyond the boundaries of denominational and national identities. Several centers of ecumenical education were created these last years to face and answer these evolutions of the ecclesial and civil consciousness.

During the seminar, we heard key contributions from Konrad Raiser (Berlin), Stefan Tobler (Sibiu), Anne Kull (Tartu), Teresa Rossi (Rome), Dietrich Werner (Geneva), Constantin Scouteris (represented by Marina Kolovopoulou, Athens), Pantelis Kalaitzidis (paper presented) and Eleni Kasselouri (Volos Academy), Dagmar Heller (Bossey), Vasile Leb (Cluj-Napoca), Antoine Arjakovsky (Lviv), Ivana Noble (Prague) and Kakhaber Kurtanidze (Georgia).

We discussed some ongoing activities that strengthen and promote mutual cooperation, such as theological interdenominational courses, exchanges of students and teachers, common projects, and sharing in diaconal work, prayer and spiritual life. Participants listened to case studies on innovative models, difficulties and stumbling blocks for an increased commitment towards interdenominational dialogue in some churches, important principles for ecumenical theological education and shortcomings in their implementation, and positive strategies towards the future.

We are aware that ecumenism as an attitude of sincere openness and dialogue needs to find ways to go much deeper into the structures and contents of theological education. There we need to develop forms of ecumenical learning, which is more than collecting information and includes a manner of understanding and a cultivation of an ecumenical ethos, which allows learning from each other beyond our denominational traditions, encourages the development of friendship and at the same time avoids stereotypes and distorted images about the others. We recognize that together, our traditions more fruitfully reach the width and depth of Christian Faith and contribute to a missionary presence of Christian churches in contemporary societies.

Therefore we commit ourselves to seek platforms and create a network for mutual cooperation beyond the seminar which would allow sharing of information and resources in all theological subjects, preparing materials for teaching Ecumenics, and participation in common projects. Concretely we recommend: 

  1. to build up a website for sharing materials and initiatives, including an electronic library, 
  2. to seek support for a coordinator in our region for this network,
  3. to continue the appointment of a Regional Consultant for Theological Education in Eastern Europe for ETE/WCC,
  4. to increase financial means available for exchange of theological teachers and researchers between our institutions.

We would like to invite all institutions and individuals from Central and Eastern Europe sharing the same goals to join this growing network. We also ask our respective Churches to give more attention and support to the theological education in an ecumenical perspective.

We would like to thank the organizers and supporters of the seminar for this opportunity, and to Sambata de Sus Monastery and specifically the Metropolitan Laurentiu of Transsilvania for the generous hospitality from which we could benefit. At the same time we would like to recommend that both ETE/WCC and CEC continue playing an initiating, enabling and accompanying role in this new process of building up a network of Eastern and Central European Ecumenical Institutes and Theological educators and to unfold its potentials and broaden its perspectives, and we invite the Roman Catholic Church to join in this project.

In a fragmented and self-centered world Christian theology is called to offer the truth of the most genuine friendship, Christ's friendship, which heals and reconciles, supports and encourages the vision of healing and hope for the world.

Sambata de Sus, 27 September 2008