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Noted ecumenist Keith Clements publishes memoir: Look Back in Hope – An Ecumenical Life

Noted ecumenist Keith Clements publishes memoir: Look Back in Hope – An Ecumenical Life

Keith Clements, author of the book and Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary. Photo: Camille Vianin/WCC

28 September 2017

A memoir by noted ecumenist, Keith Clements, was launched Monday, 25 September at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva.

The event celebrating the publication of Look Back in Hope: An Ecumenical Life featured an address by Clements followed by a panel discussion on the theme of the importance of history and biography for the formation of a new generation of ecumenists.

Keith Clements, who served as General Secretary for the Conference of European Churches (1997-2005), is a noted author of works on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and J.H. Oldham.

In his remarks about the impetus to write the book, Clements spoke of his intent to tell the story of ordinary people who are active in ecumenical initiatives at the local level and to describe important events in global ecumenism in which he either played a direct role or where he was a close witness. The book’s title reflects Clements’ belief that despite many things going wrong in the world, the ecumenical movement can bring another spirit to the world. Above all, Clements told guests at the launch, he hopes his memoir will inspire others to embark on the “mad venture” of ecumenism.

Stephen Brown, coordinating editor of World Council of Churches journals, invited three panelists to discuss the importance of ecumenists’ stories in understanding the churches’ role in historical events and how books such as Clements’ memoir can stimulate other ecumenists to tell stories from their contexts.

Father Viorel Ionita, who worked with Clements at the Conference of European Churches, told guests that the memoir is “an exciting read because of its stories” and a “substantial” read because of Clements’ comments and explanations of ecumenical discussions in which he had been involved.

Dagmar Heller, professor of Ecumenical Theology at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, noted that Clements’ book is an important source for historical research on the ecumenical movement. She added that the book is a fine example of ecumenism in action. “It shows that ecumenism is not just about exotic travels, it is about negotiating for peace, standing in solidarity and developing relationships,” Heller said.

Greta Nania, a recent graduate of the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, spoke about why personal ecumenical stories are important to her as young ecumenist. Nania, who comes from an ecumenical community in Matanzas, Cuba, believes that ecumenism begins at the local level. This means stories such as Clements’ memoir offer a foundation for empathy across cultures. “They broaden my horizons,” she said. “They teach me to be thankful for whatever I have now, and hopeful for the future”.

Look Back in Hope: An Ecumenical Life can be purchased from the publisher via phone +1(541) 344-1528, fax (541) 344-1506 or e-mail at It is also available at


Photos from the Keith Clements' book launch