SfES History




The Society was founded in 1994, and is committed to study and work towards Christian unity. It is therefore the association for all those who want to inform themselves about and contribute to the ecumenical process. The wide range of members includes specialists as well as interested non-specialists.


It promotes the active and articulate involvement of lay people in the governance of the Churches and their mutual relations, and is especially concerned to encourage the recovery of ecumenical enquiry as an essential element of clergy and lay training.


The first Convenor (the Society's President) was Canon Martin Reardon, first General Secretary of Churches Together in England, one of the ecumenical 'instruments' that grew out of the former British Council of Churches. From 1997 to 2001 the Revd Dr Paul McPartlan of Heythrop College, who is now a member of the theology faculty of the Catholic University of America and a consultant on the Theological Commission of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was President. The President from 2001 to 2010 was Dr Martin Conway, former President of the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham. The current President is the Revd Dr Elizabeth Welch, former Moderator of the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church.




            Annual Seminars


Our Annual General Meeting in London every spring is an opportunity to concentrate on major aspects of ecumenical thinking or re-thinking. Recent discussions have included:

·         2002 - The Diaconate in the Lutheran and Anglican Churches, with the Revd Tom Bruch and Canon Paul Avis

·         2003 - Spiritual Ecumenism - Couturier's Influence on Vatican II and the Week of Prayer, with Fr Mark Woodruff

·         2004 - Revisiting Eucharistic Sharing, with Ruth Reardon (Association of Inter-Church Families) and the Revd Judith Maizel-Long (Church Life Secretary, CTBI)

·         2005 – The current state of discussions on a covenant of unity between the Church of England and the Methodist Church, with David Carter, and a report on the ecumenical faith-sharing process at the heart of the Catholic Diocese of Westminster’s renewal programme, At Your Word Lord, with Fr Stuart Wilson

·         2006 – Recent developments in Baptist-Anglican dialogue, with Professor Paul Fiddes and Canon Paul Avis

·         2007 – IARCCUM and Anglican-Roman Catholic Relations: A Kick Start? A dialogue between Dame Mary Tanner and Monsignor Andrew Faley

·         2008 – What is "a church in the proper sense"? Professor Nicholas Lash and Canon Nicholas Sagovsky

·         2009 – John Calvin at 500 - Catholic & Ecumenical? The Revd Dr Donald Norwood and The Revd Dr Richard Price

·         2010 – Christian Unity - Will it ever Happen? The Revd Dr David Gamble, President of the Methodist Conference, 2009-10




London Ecclesiology Forum


The London Ecclesiology Forum ran for several years, meeting every two months or so, looking at such topics as:

·         The Established Church

·         the Methodist Ecclesiology Report on current approaches to Unity

·         Ethnicity and Orthodox Ecclesiology

·         the Problems of Ecumenical Worship

·         the Focolare Movement

·         Catholic and Evangelical Convergence in the USA

·         Interchurch Families




Regional Events


Notable regional events include

·         October 1997 - The Marks and Processes of Unity in Christ for the Worldwide Church, held at the Selly Oak Colleges, with Dr Martin Conway and the Bishop of Birmingham, Dr Mark Santer

·         April 1998 - Orthodox and Anglican Approaches to Unity, held at Westcott House, Cambridge, with Fr Maximos Lavriotes and Professor Nicholas Sagovsky

·         October 2004 - Unity at the Ecumenical Margins, at St Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham, with the Revd Jean Mayland of CTBI, Fr John O'Toole of English ARC, the Revd Garnet Parris of the Centre for Black Theology and Fr Mark Woodruff from the Jerusalem Trust

·         October 2008 - The Limits of Diversity, at Westminster College, Cambridge, with perspectives from Archdeacon Michael Ipgrave of Southwark and Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi of the Ismaili Centre, London

·         October 2009 - The Churches' Debt to Darwin, with Dr Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute and Professor Simon Conway Morris, Professor of Evolutionary Microbiology, at Westminster College, Cambridge




Conferences with Partner Bodies


A growing feature of the Society's work has been to work with other ecumenical bodies, formally and informally, to stimulate ecumenical study across a wide range of perspectives. The regional Birmingham event was a collaboration with the Centre for Black Theology at Birmingham University. Other past joint meetings and events include:

·         March 2000 with the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Oxford - The Ecumenical Attitudes of Caroline Divines, and the Marian Devotion of Caroline Divines, both by Dr Marianne Dorman; and William Forbes, the Eirenic First Bishop of Edinburgh, by Joyce Martin

·         May 2002 with the Centre for Ecumenical Studies, Cambridge - The Charta Oecumenica (the joint charter of the Council of European Churches and the Catholic European Bishops' Conferences), led by Dr David Thompson and Fr (now Bishop) Bernard Longley

·         November 2002 with the United College of the Ascension - The Relationship of Orthodox Churches with the World Council of Churches, by Dr Mary Tanner; Ecumenical Developments in Kenya and South India; Case Studies of UK Local Ecumenical Partnerships; and the inaugural service of the Selly Oak Institute for Ecumenical Study and Action

·         2003 March (Westminster with the ESBVM and the Catholic League) and June (Bruges with ESBVM, CL and the Divinity Faculty of the University of Leuven) - Paul Couturier's Vision for Christian Unity

·         November 2003 in London, with the Irish School of Ecumenics, the Chemin Neuf Community, the Welsh National Centre for Ecumenical Studies (Camarthen),  Sarum College, Liverpool Hope University, and the Selly Oak Institute, on 'The Ecumenical Pilgrimage: Pointers from the Holy Spirit on the Next Steps'

·         November 2007 in London, with the Centre for Catholic Studies (Durham University), Unitas-Catholic League, and the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on 'Receptive Ecumenism: the Call to Ecumenical Learning'




National Events


A new departure is events of national significance. Working closely with the St Albans Cathedral ecumenical Centre for Christian Study and the Hertfordshire Newman Association, the Society was instrumental in bringing together in 2003 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Revd Elizabeth Welch, former Moderator of the URC, Bishop Joe Aldred of the Church of God of Prophecy (now of CTBI), Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, Dr Tina Beattie of the University of Surrey Roehampton, and Elaine Appelbee of the Anglican Diocese of Bradford, to get to the heart of the question, 'May they all be one'…..But How?


In September 2005, the Society worked with the Iona Community to bring together young ecumenical leaders of the future. All the denominations involved in the Churches Together process were invited to send two delegates, and the facilitators included Dr Alison Elliott, former Moderator of the Church of Scotland,  Dr Garnet Parris, Director of the Centre for Black Theology at the University of Birmingham, and Fr Bill Henn OFM Cap, from the Pontifical Council for Promoting the Unity of Christians.




Discussion and Dissemination


A newsletter circulates among members with texts of any presentations sponsored by the Society and promotes consultation and prayer for unity on current matters of ecumenical concern or moment. To enhance the process of collaboration and consultation, the Society has recently become a Body in Association with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. Increasingly, the Society's website - www.ecumenicalstudies.org.uk - serves to widen the discussion, to think aloud with the Churches in their quest for Unity, and to engage as many as possible in the ecumenical task laid upon us all by Christ - 'that they all may be one…….so that the world may believe'.