Society for Ecumenical Studies<Br /> 2003 Programme

Programme for 2003

'May they all be one'....But how?

Please follow the links below for details of the events in which members took part during 2003.

  • Annual General Meeting 2003 - on the Seventieth Anniversary of Paul Couturier's renewal of the Week of Prayer and his apostolate of 'spiritual ecumenism'
  • "May they all be one....But How?" - the Society's collaboration with St Albans Abbey and the Hertfordshire Newman Association in May 2003, on a new vision for the ecumenical movement in the twenty-first century, with Archbishop Rowan Williams, Cardinal Walter Kasper and Moderator Elizabeth Welch
  • Our weekend consultation. coinciding with the St Alban's conference, to explore ecumenical study on the themes of changing European society, the environment and the experience of the Eucharist
  • The Ecumenical Pilgrimage - Pointers from the Holy Spirit on our next steps for unity. This brought together representatives from from leading ecumenical centres to see how study has recently been engaged with realising greater co-operation and living certain aspects of unity already.

Giants of the Past

Leslie Newbiggin

Geoffrey Wainwright's magisterial biography of Leslie Newbiggin ('A Theological Life, OUP 2000 40, ISBN 0-19-510171-5), is well worth reading again. Granted the very proper advance of ecclesiology to the top of the ecumenical agenda, it is important to revisit his life and theology, perhaps especially his pioneering work, 'The Household of God' which did so much to expound the complementary strengths of 'catholic', classical Protestant and pentecostalist ecclesiology. Wainwright gives much valuable contextual information on the development of Newbiggin's views and stresses their continued relevance in ecumenism.

Paul Couturier

2003 was the anniversary of another, and even more pioneering ecumenist, re-reception of whose insights and spirituality is also long overdue, the Abbé Paul Couturier, a not over successful schoolmaster who however developed a remarkable ecumenical vocation as he approached middle age. Like Newbiggin, he also had an excellent biographer, in his case the Anglican, Geoffrey Curtis, whose book, 'Paul Couturier and Unity in Christ' (SCM 1964), remains fresh and inspirational. Above all, he was a deeply spiritual man who believed the churches best sought unity by 'spiritual emulation', that is by both deepening their own characteristic forms of spirituality and receiving humbly from each other. Greater holiness would lead to greater unity.

On one occasion, the Abbé Paul said, 'in order to re-read the divine mystery (ie in terms of another tradition) and to transpose one mentality to another, a special divine assistance is needed'. This reminds us of how much all our work is dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

In common with a number of ecumenical societies, the Society for Ecumenical Studies marked the Couturier anniversaries through its regular round of meetings and studies, in co-ordination with a programme of events in the UK, Belgium and further afield in Europe in 2003. Go to the Paul Couturier website for further details on events and the recent publication of the papers.

Events included our own Conference in St Albans (which persuasively called for a heartfelt return to prayer and spirituality as the driving forces in the ecumenical quest), an autumn celebration by the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a weekend celebration in March at Westminster Cathedral (coinciding with that in Lyon, Couturier's home city, where the Chemin Neuf Community continues his work and leads the worldwide Week of Prayer for Christian Unity) and a conference in Bruges in June.