SASKATOON — The Program in Ecumenical Studies and Formation (PESF) continued in its third session this summer. Running the last week of June, as it has in previous years, this Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE) summer institute is an opportunity for laity and clergy alike to come together to learn, worship, and be in community. Participants come from a variety of Christian traditions, all with a common interest: to explore what it means to be united and yet distinct.
The PESF prepares participants for ecumenical engagement by providing a foundation of theology, history and ecumenical practice within churches. During the first year of the program, participants are offered an introduction to the principles and biblical foundations of ecumenical thought and practice. The second and third-year participants delve more deeply into specific instances of ecumenical dialogues and the ecumenical implications of issues such as ministry and authority. Where the first year provides a foundation and a solid understanding of the ecumenical movement, the advance years offer opportunity for more practical experiences of ecumenical dialogue.
What distinguishes PESF is the participation of scholars who are experts in their field and have dedicated their careers to the advancement of the ecumenical movement.
“We are particularly proud of the many notable visiting scholars we have been able to attract to this program,” noted PCE Executive Director Dr. Darren Dahl. The calibre of scholarship that participants were exposed to can be seen in the breadth of work accomplished by this year’s guest lecturers.
Rev. Michael Kinnamon, now retired, was most recently the Spehar-Halligan Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Collaboration in Inter-Religious Dialogue at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry. He served on the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S. and the Consultation on Church Union and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order, from which he shared many stories with PESF participants.
Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan was most recently the president of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) and formerly served the Anglican Church of Canada as the director for Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office. Her ecumenical work led to her involvement with the Lambeth Commission on Communion that produced the 2004 Windsor Report, and she also served as a member of the Plenary Commission, Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches.
Throughout the weeklong program, both Kinnamon and Barnett-Cowen shared stories from the field and worked closely with participants as they considered ecumenical issues of Christian ministry and authority.
As a three-year program, the PESF saw its first class of graduates this year. Six students representing Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Anglican traditions received their certificates, awarded from both the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism and St. Andrew’s College.