After nearly a year of effort, archivists at the World Council of Churches (WCC) have prepared a significant part of European ecumenical history for lasting preservation and use. Through their efforts, the Geneva history of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) is catalogued online and ready for public use.
Starting with nearly 1,000 boxes of material, archivists carefully sorted through documentation from the first decades of conciliar ecumenism in Europe. This included statements, correspondence from general secretaries, records from working groups and assemblies, all from CEC’s years in Geneva starting in 1959. The collection gives rare insight into the ecumenical movement in Europe, especially as it unfolded throughout the Cold War period.
Having the archives in Geneva—the hub of global ecumenism—ensures that they will be more widely and creatively used. Researchers can come to Geneva to make links between not only CEC and WCC history, but also the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (a predecessor to the World Communion of Reformed Churches), the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Student Christian Federation. As part of such a broad, global project the CEC archives are a significant contribution for ongoing studies in church history, ecumenism, and the development of doctrine.
“We at the WCC have two audiences. One is the people who are interested in the development of a particular theological concept within the history of the churches,” said Anne-Emmanuelle Tankam-Tene, archivist at the WCC. “The other is those who have an interest in global thematics, like refugees or the relations with other religious communities, and this latter group will be interested in what the churches have been doing.”
Researchers from around the world are now invited to consult the online inventory in preparation for visits to the WCC reading room. “The important thing is that these archives are not kept in a basement away from the public,” Tankam-Tene concluded. “Our mission is to ensure access and preservation. This is now guaranteed.”
This is a joint release between the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches.