The early-June conference, the first of its kind hosted at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, brought together 15 plenary speakers, 35 short paper presenters and some 150 emerging and senior scholars from around the world.
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary and director of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, spoke at the start of the three-day academic conference.
"Ecumenism embodies the search for reconciliation and unity, emancipation from oppression, and the collaborative work of pursuing justice and peace," said Sauca.
"World Christianity pays specific attention to how diverse local expressions of Christianity emerge in critical and creative tension and interaction with local religious and cultural realities,” he added.
Food for thought on conceptual and theological dimensions
Sauca said ecumenism further provides space to examine the changing roles of religion in fostering identity at the intersection of faith, politics and culture.
"A focus on mission as well as on interreligious dialogue has become integral, and often indispensable, to the study of world Christianity," he explained, addressing a conference that zeroed in on the relationship between ecumenism and world Christianity, across both the conceptual and theological dimensions.
Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus, WCC acting deputy general secretary, director of the WCC Faith and Order Commission and a Bossey professor, pleaded for envisaging ecumenical dialogues that develop “a kind of archaeology of hidden communion, that means, in favour of the search for underground or infra-textual vestigia ecclesiae or elements of the true church that do not necessarily find their way into texts about normative textualities, but which are no less important as potential bonds of fellowship.”
Sister Mary John Mananzan, a Benedictine missionary nun from the Philippines, continued to reflect that “to engage in a fruitful ecumenical dialogue, we have to rethink the idea that a complete fusion as a goal is possible.”
“A prerequisite for ecumenical learning are immersion programmes with communities of different religious denomination or indigenous communities,” she said.
Miguel De la Torre, professor of Social Ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver in the United States, spoke at the opening plenary on the topic of ‘Is Ecumenism Even Possible on the Underside of Eurocentric Christianity?’, and said the first step of liberation has to be decolonizing people's minds.
"The problem of embracing a white Eurocentric Christianity is that it contributes to that type of colonization of my mind,” he asserted.
To learn more about the conference, please visit: Teaching Ecumenism – International Conference