Theological understanding vital for facing the future, churches told

By agency reporter
June 10, 2008

Ecumenical theological education is of strategic importance for Christianity in the 21st century. This was the message coming from the IV Congress of the World Conference of Associations of Theological Institutions (WOCATI) held in Neapolis, Thessaloniki and Volos (Greece) from 31 May to 7 June 2008.

The congress affirmed that churches, donor agencies and universities should pay more attention to promoting and funding ecumenical theological education, including exchange programmes of teachers and students between different regions and churches. Ecumenical theological education is crucial for strengthening the identity of churches, as well as their openness to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, the congress emphasized.

"There is an immense need for increased efforts to promote ecumenical theological education in view of the enormous challenges posed by fast growing churches, grave inequalities in access to higher theological education, and the growing trends of religious fundamentalism and fragmentation", said Dr Dietrich Werner, coordinator of the ecumenical theological education programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

"As churches need well-trained theologians, pastors and church leaders, new forms of international solidarity and sharing for faculty development, library and curriculum improvement as well as quality standards in theological education are needed", he added.

Professor Petros Vassiliadis, president of WOCATI, emphasized the world conference's unique role as a global forum for open dialogue, serving the twin goal of contextualization and catholicity for theological education.

In a final message, the congress issued a number of specific recommendations to churches, associations of theological schools and the WCC. They include a greater emphasis on regional dialogue and on theological education in developing regions. A closer cooperation between the WCC theological education programmes and WOCATI was also recommended.

The 6-day congress, whose theme was "Theological Education: A Radical Reappraisal", brought together some 60 leading experts in theological education from 35 countries of both the northern and southern hemispheres. Some 25 regional case studies and reports about key developments in theological education were discussed. They will be made available at the WOCATI and WCC websites. WOCATI is a global umbrella organization bringing together some 25 regional associations of theological schools.

Organized by WOCATI and WCC, the congress was sponsored by the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions in Germany, the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Neapolis and Stavroupolis, the Department of Theology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Volos Academy of the Diocese of Demetrias.

Full text of the congress message:

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