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Our 24th annual meeting took place at the Missionsakademie in Hamburg between 16th and 18th November. The meeting was a great success and offered participants the opportunity to learn from leading ecumenists and, even more importantly, to share experiences and exchange ideas and to make important international contacts and friendships. Here are a few impressions from our participants about the meeting:


"I very much appreciate the efforts of the Committee for making the 24th Annual meeting of ERF in Hamburg (16-18 November 2012) very successful. Even if it was my first time to attend such a gathering, I immediately noticed that everything was well organised. The general theme of the conference was very captivating. I also have the impression that the concurrent papers fitted well in the main theme of the conference. The time assigned to the speakers was very convenient. In other words, there was enough time for presentation and discussion afterwards. For me as a doctoral student, it was, indeed, a precious opportunity to tell others what I am doing and open myself for new challenges for further improvement in my writing. The accommodation, including meals, was of good quality. Again, as a Roman Catholic student I found interesting to encounter scholars from other Christian traditions. Our coming together was a great witness of our ecumenical spirit in which we believe that we are all led by the Holy Spirit in discovering and sharing the richness of our various Christian identities."

- Edward Mushi, Tanzania/Leuven, Belgium

"This was my first ERF meeting and hopefully not the last. The quality of the accomodation, food and lectures was exellent and the space given for discussion very valuable. Ecumenical relations do depend on this personal bond that meetings like this help to create."

- María Ágústsdóttir, Reykjavík, Iceland



“The meeting offers an excellent opportunity for young researchers to present their ideas to a wider public from a different denominational and cultural background. It offers new contacts, I made new friends amongst colleagues from abroad. Though we all have our own (denominational) identity, we shared in mutual understanding of the mission of the church ecumenical. This is the place where future church leaders gather and work on shared vision and a shared mission. I’m looking forward to next year’s conference."

- Fulco van Hulst, Harlingen, The Netherlands



"The conference helped to see that the questions I am researching, that is theology of church and tradition, are 'living' questions. The friendly environment and genuine ecclesial and scholarly interest created the perfect atmosphere to dig into them."

- Henrikas Zukauskas, Vilnius, Lithuania




"Als ich mich anmeldete, wusste ich nicht genau, worauf ich mich da eigentlich einlasse, es war eher Neugier als Wissen, was genau AÖF ist und wer an der Tagung teilnimmt. Für mich waren besonders die unterschiedlichen Teilnehmer in ihrer Verschiedenheit, Offenheit und Begeisterung für das gemeinsame Thema Ökumene von Bedeutung. Wir haben miteinander diskutiert, voneinander gelernt, zugehört, gebetet, gegessen und gefeiert. Es gibt so viel Gemeinsames und dabei immer das Gefühl, dass uns alle mehr verbindet als bloße Wissenschaft und Neugier. Uns alle verbindet der christliche Glaube, wenn er auch in unterschiedlichen Traditionen und Ausprägungen wurzelt.

"Ich bin sehr dankbar, dass ich an dieser Tagung teilnehmen konnte und so unterschiedliche und faszinierende Menschen getroffen habe. Von diesen Begegnungen werde ich noch lange zehren. In jeder Hinsicht bin ich schlauer geworden, in manche Richtung hellhöriger und interessierter. Hoffentlich klappt es wieder im nächsten Jahr und der Kontakt zu dem einen oder der anderen hält, das würde mich sehr freuen. Das Thema Ökumene wird unabhängig davon ein Lebensthema bleiben, es ist schön zu wissen, das dieses Interesse auch viele andere Menschen verbindet, die aufeinander zugehen und unsere Welt gemeinsam verändern."

Danke für alles und bis zum nächsten Jahr!"


- Claudia Rimestad, Erfurt, Germany




"Besonders bereichernd fand ich die konfessionelle Vielfalt und die Verschiedenheit der Länder, aus denen die Teilnehmenden kamen. Wir konnten nicht nur über theologische Themen von verschiedenen Seiten her diskutieren, sondern auch unsere Lebenserfahrungen austauschen, die Dank dieser Vielfalt sehr unterschiedlich ist. Stimmig war auch der Abschluss der Tagung. Wir nahmen alle gemeinsam teil an einem evangelisch-lutherischen Gottesdienst. Wie schön war das, zwischen Katholikinnen, Mennoniten, Reformierten und Baptisten zu singen, zu beten und still zu sein!"


- Claudia Hoffmann, Basel, Switzerland




"Eine inspirierende Tagung, die neben dem akademischen Austausch über Ökumene-relevante Forschungsgebiete auch einen Rahmen zur Bildung neuer Netzwerke und Bekanntschaften/Freundschaften im internationalen Raum bietet."


- Jan Gross, Mainz, Germany


Here are some photos of our 24th annual meeting at the Missionsakademie in Hamburg:










The Significance of Secularisation for Ecumenism and its Implications for the Churches in Europe


24th Meeting of the AÖF-ERF


Mission Academy, University of Hamburg


16th-18th November 2012

The committee of the Ecumenical Research Forum cordially invites you to participate in this academic conference, which will explore how Christians of different traditions can work out common approaches to meet the challenges posed by the secularisation of Europe.

In the aftermath of the religious controversies that arose out of the Protestant Reformation, a new age was born in which religious tolerance was emphasised as the preeminent virtue of ‘civilised’ European society. The new age of tolerance coincided with the birth of the Enlightenment (c.1650-1800) that permanently altered the spiritual and intellectual landscape of Europe. Although the Enlightenment borrowed heavily from Christian conceptions of historical progress, the Age of Reason was animated by an essentially secular vision in which human reason, rather than Scripture, Tradition or the Church, became the ultimate arbiter of truth and morality.

The legacy of secularisation in European history is apparent in the fact that in some countries today, church attendance among the population stands at less than two per cent. The secularising trends seem to be even stronger among the younger generation. Although the statistics of religious observance vary from country to country and there are still areas of Europe with higher levels of religiosity, the general trends seem unambiguous: Europe is becoming less and less Christian as the symbolism of the church and organised religion become more and more a thing of the past and the moral values of the churches exercise less of a hold over peoples’ conscience and imagination.

Although Europe today continues to live in the shadow of the Enlightenment and its secular vision of human progress, the deep roots of Christianity are still preserved in the diverse beauty and richness of the cultural life of the European continent. Moreover, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, religion has re-emerged as a decisive factor in some areas of Eastern Europe. Moreover, in Western Europe, although the institutions of the church seem to be in decline, there is a new openness to ‘spirituality’.

Against this historical backdrop, the church in Europe has been forced to come to terms with such questions as:

- What are the deeper causes of secularism in Europe and to what extent are the churches responsible for the secularising trends of European history?

- What is ‘secularism’, how is it distinguished ‘secularisation’ and how do these concepts relate to the ecumenical movement in Europe?

- What constitutes a proper ecumenical response to the challenges posed by secularisation?

- How do different churches and Christian communities in Europe approach the issue of secularisation?

- How can the churches live out their Christian convictions and missional vocation with authenticity in a context of secularisation?

- Is there a difference in the secularising trends among different parts of Europe and, if so, how do these differences influence our ecumenical response?

- What resources are available within our respective church traditions for responding positively to the challenge of secularisation?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but what does seem clear is that the churches will be better equipped to respond to the challenges of secularisation if they work together with a sense of shared vocation in order to confront the common challenge.

Recognising that ecclesial tradition has its own perspective on secularisation and engages it in its own particular way, the aim of this conference is to create an open space for dialogue among these traditions so that we can learn from each other and discover how we might work together for the common good of the one Church, holy, catholic and apostolic.

The conference will be headed by keynote contributions from two internationally-recognised experts in the areas of secularism and ecumenism in Europe: Professor Thomas Bremer (Münster) and Dr Doc. Parush Parushev (Prague). This academic conference will be of interest to postgraduate students, theologians and ecumenists concerned about the present state and future opportunities of the European churches and the ecumenical movement as it comes to terms with the challenge of secularisation.

The conference will also offer a series of parallel sessions, which will provide an opportunity for students working in the areas of ecumenism or mission to present their work in an informal context to an audience of supportive peers. Students are not required to address the theme of the conference and may present on any aspect of their work that relates to ecumenism or mission. Depending on the quality and coherence of the papers presented, we may consider publishing the contributions in an edited collection.

We look forward to seeing you in Hamburg in November.

Your ERF committee:

Joshua Searle (United Kingdom)

Irena Zeltner-Pavlovic (Germany)

Mihai Iordache (Romania)

Károly Gáspár (Romania)





05:00 pm Arrivals/Registration

06:00 pm Supper

07:00 pm Opening

07:15 pm Welcoming by host Academy of Mission, Hamburg

07:30 pm Introductions

08:00 pm First keynote speaker (Presentation and discussion)

09:30 pm Reception (“talks, wine and cheese”)



08:00 am Morning prayer

08:30 am Breakfast

09:15 am Second keynote Speaker

10:45 am Break

11:00 am Paper session I.

12:00 pm Break

12:15 pm Lunch

02:30 pm Paper session II.

03:30 pm Break

03:45 pm Paper session III.

04:45 pm Break

05:00 pm Paper session IV.

06:00 pm Break

06:15 pm Supper

07:30 pm Future activities of AÖF

08:15 pm Election of Committee members

08:45 pm Ecumenical news

09:15 pm Reception (“talks, wine, cheese”)



08:00 am Breakfast

09:00 am Leaving the Mission Academy

10:00 am Service and Discussion

11:30 am Return to the Mission Academy

12:00 pm Lunch and closing




Born in 1957, after attending school in Munich, Thomas Bremer studied theology, Slavonic studies and classical philology at the University of Munich. After completing his civilian service and state exams, from 1985 and 1995 Bremer worked on the staff of the Catholic-Ecumenical Institute at the University of Münster. He gained his doctorate for his work on the ecclesiology of the Serbian Orthodox Church. From 1996 to 1999 he was Professor of Ecumenics and Peace Studies at the Catholic Theological Faculty in Münster. His main research interests are in Orthodoxz in Russia and Serbia, ecumenical relations between the western and eastern churches and churches and religious communities in situations of conflict.


Parush Parushev (BS/MS, PhD (Scs), Saint Petersburg; MDiv, PhD (Th), California) is a native of Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the Pro-Rector, the Dean of Graduate studies and the Director of the Institute for Systematic Studies of Contextual Theologies at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic. He teaches theology, philosophy and ethics and has a habilitation in Applied Mathematics. He has held full time academic positions, visiting and adjunct professorships at universities and seminaries in Europe and the US. He has published a number of academic works in science and theology and authored and co-edited several books and journals.