|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.
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
- 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.
|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.
Multi-disciplinary debate on tomorrows Issues
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.
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
|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.