The World Missionary Conference held 100 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, is today widely credited as the major catalyst of the modern ecumenical movement.

Scholars from nine Christian faith traditions who have been intensely involved in ecumenism will gather here next month to commemorate the Edinburgh conference and to examine and celebrate the ecumenical movement’s achievements over the past century.

The conference — “A Century of Ecumenism: What Has Been Achieved? What Are the Next Steps Forward?” — will be held June 17-19 on the campus of its sponsor, the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas.

More information about the conference is available on the seminary’s Web site.  

While the conference is designed primarily for scholars and those interested in the field of ecumenical dialogue, all are welcome. A public ecumenical prayer service will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17, in the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas that is located on the university’s St. Paul campus.

Monsignor John Radano

Monsignor John Radano

The conference chair is Monsignor John Radano, a scholar-in-residence at the seminary this semester and an international expert on ecumenism. Radano served in Vatican City from 1984 to 2008 as a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and as head of its Western division he was involved in a number of international bilateral dialogues. He also was that council’s liaison with the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order. 

“In ecumenism, we start by knowing our own church first, engaging in dialogue and really listening to others about their church,” he said.

In the 2000-year history of Christianity conflicts emerged, especially in the fifth, 11th and 16th centuries. Some of those conflicts have divided Christians to this day. During the 20th century, and since the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, separated Christians began to take steps toward increased understanding and unity.

There have been formal discussions between two faith traditions, called bilateral dialogues, as well as discussions among several traditions, called multilateral dialogues.

The St. Paul conference will feature sessions dealing with the achievements of the World Council of Churches and the multilateral dialogues that have involved its Commission on Faith and Order.  The conference also will feature 11 sessions dealing with the achievements of bilateral dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and these traditions: Lutheran, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Disciples of Christ, Mennonite and Baptist.

“The aim is to show how the dialogues have addressed the theological conflicts of the past, and the degree of success they have had in resolving these conflicts,” Radano said. “The broad scope of this conference, with evaluations of an extensive number of international dialogues, both bilateral and multilateral, in one program, is very unusual. It should be an interesting experience for all who attend.”

For more information about the conference, contact Dr. Deborah Savage at pdsavage@stthomas.edu or (651) 962-5061.