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Links to other resources
on aspects of a sustainability paradigm
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The Foundation for Ecumenical Leadership was created in honor of W. A. Visser 't Hooft (1900-1985) and his forward looking vision.  Visser 't Hooft's life was energized by a vision for the twentieth century of a unity between the churches which would give new credibility to their message in a world torn by conflict. As General Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation in the early 1930s, Visser 't Hooft developed a network of ecumenically committed young Christians, many of whom became leaders in their churches and in Christian movements for justice and peace. Under his pioneering leadership the ecumenical movement developed to the historic moment in 1948 when the World Council of Churches was officially constituted. Visser 't Hooft was named the first General Secretary of the Council and remained honourary President until his death in 1985.

Created by friends of Visser 't Hooft and the ecumenical movement following his death, with encouragement from the World Council of Churches to be established as an independent legal entity, The Foundation was created as a service to the broader movement, aiming to provide new resources for the development of future ecumenical leadership. Throughout his life, W. A. Visser 't Hooft was deeply conscious of the need for women and men who could deal with "the radically changing situation in the world and in the church."  He embodied the passion for theological and intellectual clarity and the commitment to the ecumenical vision. Visser ‘t Hooft insisted on the need for thorough analysis of the issues confronting the church and its witness in society. He urged theologians and lay people from all sectors of society to accept their responsibilities to help confront the forces of destruction and despair.

The Foundation for Ecumenical Leadership has the aim of supporting initiatives which are 

  • forward-looking, future-oriented
  • youth centered
  • inter-disciplinary

and which

  • embody Visser 't Hooft's passion for theological and intellectual clarity and commitment to the ecumenical vision
  • publish findings to be made available as a resource in the civil society at large and specifically address the role of the churches.

It is registered as a not-for-profit foundation in Geneva, Switzerland as The Visser 't Hooft Foundation for Ecumenical Leadership. Please use the Feedback form to learn more about the Foundation and to send comments, suggestions, resource documents and other contributions. 

Encouraging Initiatives
Although not sufficiently capitalized to undertake on-going financial support of work which meets the aims described above, the Foundation has made a number of small awards to encourage and support opportunities and experiences which prepare young women and men to take responsibilities in the ecumenical movement. These awards range from support of participation in international information/action debates, to resources for on-site training of young people and youth workers, to infrastructure grants enabling organizations of young people to expand their own resource base and strengthen their informational and relational networks.

The Consultations: Multi-disciplinary debate on tomorrow’s Issues today

To honor the memory and follow the example of Willem Visser ‘t Hooft, in 1993 the Foundation began a series of consultations on key contemporary issues in cooperation with the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, a centre created by Visser ‘t Hooft to enable people to experience ecumenical life and to build reconciling relationships across the barriers which divide humanity.

The Foundation believes that interdisciplinary research and debate on crucial world issues confronting the religious institutions and communities today is an essential part of meeting this need. The Foundation is still seeking capital to fulfil its role as a new source of funding for leadership development opportunities for young people.

The Visser ‘t Hooft Memorial Consultations were intended to provide an opportunity to participate in such ecumenical dialogue today and to make findings widely availability as resources in the civil society at large and in specifically addressing the role of the churches.

The Board decision to sponsor a first consultation in 1993 was to bring visibility to its objectives, while contributing to the present ecumenical work on contemporary issues confronting the churches and their witness in society. To ensure concrete results, it was decided to concentrate on one key topic: the complex issues surrounding "sustainable growth".  The second Visser 't Hooft memorial consultation, building on the first, deepened this thinking, sharpening focus on growing unemployment, marginalization and poverty in light of the tension between environmental sustainability and economic growth. The consultations themselves have inspired others to pursue related lines of inquiry.

The Foundation Web site: a dynamic resource

The preparatory materials and findings of the first consultation were published and enjoyed reasonable circulation and sales. (Sustainable Growth, A Contradiction in Terms -- economy, ecology and ethics after The Earth Summit. Béguin-Austin, ed. Foundation for Ecumenical Leadership, Geneva 1993)  But following the second consultation, the Board sought a means to assure wider access to the materials, particularly among persons who might not be able to profit from purchasing books or those whose own professional channels might not be touched even with extensive interdisciplinary distribution efforts.  This concern was augmented by recognition that the information and technologies surrounding these issues are part of a rapidly-changing body of knowledge, opinion, passion and confusion. 

To make the debate more engaging, the reporting more inclusive (particularly to young people), the thinking more interdisciplinary, the information more dynamic and the process more interactive, the Board agreed to "publish" the materials related to both consultations in the form of a Web site. They are clustered and indexed by topic: Sustainable Growth -- A Contradiction in Terms? and Work in a Sustainable Society. It is thus with the hope that this new medium itself will encourage young persons in their struggle with the complex issues demanded of citizens, people of faith, leaders for the 21st century, that the Foundation Web site is launched. 

The Glossary and Links section of this site extend the resources which were available to consultation participants. Other groups studying these issues in a forward-looking and interdisciplinary way which want to submit documents or other links for inclusion, should contact the Foundation directly (see Feedback page).  


Post scriptum:   If W. A. Visser 't Hooft were born in the year 2000, what would his forward looking vision be for the 21st century? What institutions would be required to realize it?   The need for competent, informed, clear-thinking and ecumenically committed young leaders in the churches and movements for sustainable justice and peace on earth has become more acute. The Foundation hopes that this modest resource collection will be useful to this end and will grow with exchange of thoughtful reflections and best practice action models.