Ecumenical theological education (ETE)

Ecumenical theological education is vital for the future of the global ecumenical movement so that the churches may grow closer. We create opportunities for developing ecumenically-oriented leadership within churches.


Ecumenical theological education is vital for the future of the global ecumenical movement so that the churches may grow closer. The WCC and its partners help create networks of ecumenical theological institutions around the world, which analyse and value the richness of Christianity in diverse contexts. We create opportunities for developing ecumenically-oriented leadership within churches. They are a step towards equal access to theological education for all.

Ecumenical theological education sustains the vibrancy of the ecumenical vision – that all may be one – manifested in faith, communion, witness and service. This becomes important in light of tendencies towards inward-orientation and denominationalism at many theological institutions. 

Ecumenical theological leadership development is central in order to support faculty development, new forms of theological education through learning and participation in global ecumenical events, and targeted theological education projects in the regions.

The Network of Institutions of Higher Ecumenical Theological Education was created in May 2016 by Networking Task Force of the WCC Commission on Ecumenical Education and Formation as a response to changing religious and educational landscape challenges. It provides a space for ecumenical institutions and educators to reflect afresh on what ecumenism is to be. 

The accompaniment of regional associations and institutions of theological education in Africa, Asia, Central Europe and Latin America, is central with regard to the understanding of major trends in the field. Regional associations offer the space for thematic exchanges between the institutions and theological educators and harvest the key areas of debate and the most recent developments. The project also takes part in meetings of the Global Forums of Theological Educators, created in 2016.

Dialogue with evangelical, independent and Pentecostal churches, institutions and associations on theological education is a crosscutting activity and commitment of the project. We continuously engage in dialogue with evangelical/Pentecostal networks through issuing invitations to meetings and events, and through participation in conferences hosted by these partners. A dialogue series has included a dialogue on Migration and Theological Education in 2014 and on Religious Radicalisation and Theological Education in 2016.

There is also support for innovative initiatives, which foster ecumenical learning between evangelical and ecumenically oriented Christians. The collaboration with the Al Mowafaqa Ecumenical Institute of Theology in Rabat, Morocco, an institute providing theological education and formation for Christian students of mainly evangelical orientation in a Muslim majority context, exemplifies this commitment.

Global Ecumenical Theological Institutes held in 2013 (Busan, South Korea) and 2018 (Arusha, Tanzania) offer a new model for an emerging generation of theologians. The Pan African Women’s Ecumenical Empowerment Network launched in 2015 offers leadership capacity development for an audience vital for the ecumenical movement. This network of women of African descent fosters their participation in and their contribution to the ecumenical movement.

Through a mentoring programme launched in 2017, Asian and African women theologians have started an international process of reflection to assist younger women theologians in their advancement in academia, church and society. Tailor-made curriculum development and teaching assistance, and joint conferencing with ecumenical partners, such as the Twin consultation process on Reformation, Education and Transformation in Brazil and Germany (2015 and 2016) are other examples of work in this area.

Regional projects support faculty development in two ways:

  1. Financial contributions to regional ecumenical organizations, national councils of churches and regional associations of theological education in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Pacific.
  2. Ecumenical theological education activities, events and programmes, as well as multi-year support is provided to strengthen the work of these partners. This commitment is exemplified by faculty development for doctoral/post-doctoral scholars of the regional ecumenical theological education partners. An example of this commitment is the Sarah Chakko Theological Endowment Fund created to mark the end of the Ecumenical Decade – Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998). It is dedicated to enable women, especially from Asia, both lay and ordained, to enroll in theological education programmes ranging from short-term courses to doctoral programmes in various institutions in the world.

The Global Ecumenical Theological Institute is an ecumenical short-term study and exposure programme. It’s a formation programme the WCC offers alongside one of its major ecumenical events, after the initial Global Ecumenical Theological Institute at the 10th Assembly 2013 in Busan, South Korea. The participation of young theologians from a variety of countries and church traditions sparked fresh attention to new forms of experiential theological formation and engagement with the ecumenical movement. The institute seeks to perpetuate this positive experience, transmit the vibrancy, and encourage young people to become ecumenically committed and conversant ambassadors in their local and regional contexts, as well as on the global level.

The Global Ecumenical Theological Institute