Together Towards Unity. Being Church in a Fragmented World

Bossey Online Course in Ecumenical Studies

The course offers succinct introductions into the classic dimensions of ecumenical studies. Through specific assignments, students are guided in exploring ecumenical relations in their local context, sharing about it in a global cohort of students and deepen their understanding through theological study. Strengthening the students’ agency and the students’ capacity for theological discernment is vital in this study program.

The course is taught in English.

Learning objectives

This course empowers and equips participants to:

Understand historical trajectories on church unity and grasp the issues at stake with conceptual clarity.

Connect local and global developments and their implications on church unity.  

Analyse critically the division and fragmentation in church and society.

Articulate theologically the vision of moving together towards church unity and contribute to building common witness for justice and peace in the world.

Engage practically with others, through dialogue and collaboration as expressions of solidarity.   

Thematic modules

Engaging in Dialogue to Build Communion and Solidarity

Ecumenical theology constructively contributes to the churches’ search for reconciliation and unity. This module shows milestones in the historical trajectories on church unity in the ecumenical movement. It outlines how churches can be engaged in a common search for building communion. Key themes that help to shape the ecumenical vision are visible unity, conciliar fellowship, mutual recognition, unity in diversity and koinonia. Contemporary methods and approaches in ecumenical dialogue are differentiated consensus, healing memories, and receptive ecumenism. Beyond the developments in inter-church relations, the module also examines how interreligious engagement through dialogue and cooperation has contributed, and can contribute, to fostering justice, peace and solidarity in a multi-religious world.

Scripture, Hermeneutics and Ecumenical Spirituality – Biblical Interpretation for Christian Unity

What role has biblical interpretation played in divisions among Christians? This module will explore how and why we read the Bible so differently and to what extent our cultural background influences the lenses through which we read the Scriptures. It will also examine how the different ways Christian traditions read the Bible contribute to constructive ecumenical dialogues and how we can make interpretation of Scriptures an opportunity for Christian unity. In so doing, we will seek to show that for any meaningful and fruitful dialogue, participants should be skilled in understanding the basic principles of biblical interpretation that their dialogue counterparts employ. The module will also highlight the central role of the Bible in ecumenical spirituality.

Celebrating a Unity in Diversity: Dynamic Understanding and Complementary Approach in Ecumenical Missiology

With the advent of the modern ecumenical movement, churches have been committed to seek for the Christian fellowship, to deepen the awareness of the contemporary issues in mission, or to advocate a common witness and service. They have created a space for mutual conversations and have contributed to the dynamic understanding of the relationship of Western churches and Indigenous churches, gospel and culture, salvation and liberation, witness among people of other living faiths and so on.  However, on the other hand, those interactions sometimes also led to tensions among churches and there has been constant efforts to balance the divergent views. Those efforts have drawn the complementary approach of churches in partnership, mission in six continents, gospel for all, etc. In this module, we will visit the controversial issues and review those debates. In addition, we aim to cultivate the profound theological capacity to embrace conflict and to foster a unity in diversity through our active participation in discussion.

Ecological Reformation: Rethinking Theological and Ethical Frameworks

The human-induced ecological crisis in our world calls for a double-sided reflective account or ecological reformation. The underlying question is not only what the church can do to redress ecological destruction but also how ecological awareness challenges Christian self-understanding, its cherished values and beliefs. Against that background, this module will introduce theological, ethical and ecclesial concepts to be employed in the study process and re(dis)cover the ecological resources already deeply embedded in the Christian faith tradition. Further, the module will sketch emerging eco-theologies, eco-ethics and eco-friendly actions from different confessional perspectives and integrate (inter)relational epistemologies as instructive for the search for unity. Finally, the module will explore (spi)ritual and social practices from various confessional and cultural contexts and worldviews to serve as models, examples and resources for church eco-ethical responsibility and action.

Church, Society and Mission – Responding to Challenges in Today’s World

“Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world” affirms an anonymous Christian writing from the 2nd century AD called The Epistle to Diognetus, echoing the words of Jesus in John 17:14. The epistle uses that imagery to frame a Christian lifestyle within the society. Drawing inferences from this paradoxical condition of Christianity described in the ancient sources, this module will tackle following intersections: (1) societal challenges and the role of narrative theology; (2) migration, public space, and digitalization; (3) understandings of mission and its theology; (4) the history of World Mission Conferences and some publications of the World Council of Churches and its Commission for World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). The module will analyse how the ensuing overlaps, juxtapositions, and contradictions in the context of contemporary challenges such as constructions of “truth(s)”, digitalization, political, liberation and public theologies, interculturality, glocalities, etc., interact with each other. The underlying assumption is that the world is a space of manifestation of divine economy and how the Church as God’s gift and instrument for the flourishing of the world can discern, act, and contribute to the transformation of the world. Since the World Mission Conference in Willingen, Germany, in 1952, it has become a more and more consensus that it is all about God’s Mission. We Christians, inspired by the Holy Spirit, are asked to be “Salt and Light” in and for the World. How does this look like? What is expected from us? Are we the ones who convert others? To get a helpful overview about Mission and its theology, we can talk about the “3T´s” of Mission: Transmissio, Translatio and Transformatio. Those three aspects of Mission can be seen as the pillars and areas of activity when we talk about the Mission of the Church.

Course structure and methodology

The study programme is a 10-weeks online course. Each module consists of the following elements:

A series of video lectures on each theme. These lectures connect contemporary dynamics with insights from the history of the ecumenical movement. They explore key concepts in the thematic field and articulate perspectives from different church traditions. These video lectures are pre-recorded and can be watched at different times.

Required and optional reading. These academic articles help to deepen knowledge in each field.

Reflection on the reading material. There will be guiding questions for the students in order to engage with the literature. Students are required to hand in brief written reflections on the required reading material.

Assignment for contextual exploration. For each module, students will receive an assignment that invites them to get in touch with another community/ study a topical issue within their local context. These local study visits and explorations will be shared in the group.

Joint seminar session. Each week on Wednesday afternoon (CET) the module coordinator and the students will gather for a joint seminar session.

In order to round up the course there will be a quiz at the end.


For more information, please contact: [email protected]

Apply now: Bossey online course in Ecumenical Studies, spring 2023

The course fee is 100 Euro (can be reduced in specific cases). The course fee will be due immediately after receiving admission letter to the course.