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24 June 2004

University of Heidelberg Announces 7th Ecumenical Forum

"Protestant Pope" Sam Kobia in Heidelberg on 28 June, a unique chance for Heidelberg citizens (churchgoers and others) to hear what he has to say and discuss their views with him

This term, a very special guest will be speaking at the 7th Ecumenical Forum, scheduled to take place next Monday. It is Sam Kobia, secretary-general-elect of the World Council of Churches. He is on a trip through Germany, organized by the German Protestant Church, to acquaint himself with the ecclesiastical and theological landscape of the country. His first stop is the Ecumenical Institute in Heidelberg. It is a unique chance for Heidelberg citizens (churchgoers and others) to hear what he has to say and discuss their views with him (28 June, Ecumenical Institute, Plankengasse 1). The overall theme of the Forum is "Recent Challenges for the International Ecumenical Fellowship of Churches – Developments and New Perspectives".

In the 21st century, the worldwide ecumenical fellowship of churches finds itself confronted by new social and theological challenges. The dialogue of cultures has become an increasingly urgent requirement in the face of the violent conflicts going on in the world. Politically instrumentalised religion is pressed into service to legitimise oppression. "These conflicts are exacerbated by the economically dictated globalisation process, which encourages the unjust distribution of goods and thus represents a danger to stability in various societies," say the organisers. In the face of these challenges how much responsibility devolves upon the global fellowship of churches? Can Christian spirituality open up new paths to dialogue and solidarity?

The World Council of Churches was founded in 1948. It is a fellowship of 342 churches in over 120 countries representing almost all Christian traditions (the Catholic Church is not a member but works closely with the WCC). To what extent is this fellowship of churches and the programmes it has devised in a position to encourage responsible co-existence in a spirit of justice and peace?

The guest speaker

Dr. Samuel Kobia has been secretary-general-elect of the WCC since January 2004. He not only has a doctorate in theology and religious studies but also graduated in urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Kobia is a pastor of the Methodist Church of Kenya.

At the beginning of his career, Sam Kobia held various offices, first in the Kenyan National Council of Churches, then with the WCC (including the Urban Rural Mission). His commitment to socio-political and ecumenical issues are numerous, including chairmanship of the international coordination committee Frontier Internship in Mission (FIM) from 1981 to 1985, vice-chairmanship of the WCC commission for the anti-racism programme (1984-1991), foundation of the Nairobi Peace Group (1987) and chairmanship of the peace talks for Sudan (1991). Prominent among his publications are the two books on Africa, "The Quest for Democracy in Africa" (1993) and "The Courage to Hope" (2003).

The Heidelberg Ecumenical Forum

Since its establishment by Prof. Dr. Christoph Schwöbel in 2000, the Heidelberg Ecumenical Forum, now taking place for the 7th time, has provided opportunities for the discussion of issues facing the Christian ecumenical fellowship with renowned scholars of different denominations and nationalities. Its central aim is to encourage interdenominational and international dialogue.

Monday, 28 June 2004

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. round-table discussion
Developments and New Perspectives in the World Council of Churches
- inter-faith dialogue
- decade for overcoming violence (2001-2010)
Churches for Peace and Reconciliation
- globalisation (economics in the service of life)
location: Ecumenical Institute, Plankengasse 1

8 p.m. talk by the guest speaker
Grounded in Faith – A Spirituality of Resistance and Alternatives to Injustice, Violence and Despair
location: lecture-hall 007, Karlstrasse 16
Department of Practical Theology

Please address any inquiries to
Prof. Dr. Christoph Schwöbel
phone: 06221/543341 (secretary), 543259

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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