Ecumenical Institute of Bossey

The Ecumenical Institute, often know as Bossey, from the name of the region, 15 km outside Geneva, where it is located, has been a centre for ecumenical studies under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, since 1946. Known as an 'ecumenical laboratory', its task is theological formation of Christians from all over the world. In its beautiful and tranquil surroundings it offers a space where Christians from diverse traditions and backgrounds can encounter one another and be challenged and changed. It is also a space where some of the most sensitive and intractable issues facing the churches can be addressed.

Bossey studies
Bossey has an academic faculty of international scholars, led by the Director, who work interchangeably with their colleagues located at the World Council of Churches. They provide a programme of teaching and research supervision. The Ecumenical Institute has for long had close links with the University of Geneva, but since September 2007 it has been affiliated to it. Students who wish, may undertake degrees at masters or doctoral level.

Many thousands of people know Bossey through their participation in one of the short seminars that are offered each year on cutting edge issues.

The Graduate School
The centrepiece of the Ecumenical Institute is the Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies, which occurs each year from mid September to mid February. Over 25,000 people from virtually all churches, confessions and cultures have participated in Bossey courses, many of them in the Graduate School, over the past sixty years and like the present writer discovered it to be a profound and transformative experience. The Graduate School is open to theology graduates, and ideally to those completing their ministerial training. The programme includes a study of the history of the ecumenical movement as well as an in-depth study of contemporary issues that relate to ecumenism. Bossey uses a variety of different learning methods, including seminar work, visits both to Rome and Geneva and individual research. However, it is far more than a course of study. Central to the formative experience is the opportunity to live as an ecumenical and multicultural community and to seek to build community in the face of great diversity and cultural and theological differences. The experience of the diversity of worship is also a powerful feature of life at Bossey. Some 146 people from the United Kingdom participated in the Graduate School during 1952-2002 and continue to do so. Of this number 12 were Methodists although overall the Methodists worldwide represent some 10.65% of the student body at the Graduate School during this period.

The location
The region of Bossey is unforgettable. As you arrive by car from Geneva or by train at Coppet - the station from which you can take the local bus to Céligny village - where the Château de Bossey is located, there is a long range of the Alps and the Jura mountains.

The Ecumenical Institute is located in a large, 18th-century three-floor mansion, set in the midst of meadows, with a pond opposite the entrance. On the site of a medieval complex, only the 12th century round tower remains and adjacent to it the old building that once housed a winepress now serves as the Institute's Chapel. For succeeding staff and students this has been a sacred place. From the château there is a striking view past the nearby meadows and vineyards down to Lake Geneva and on clear days the whole range of the Alps appears beyond, obscuring the majestic Mont Blanc. For further information see: Hans-Rudi Weber, A Laboratory for Ecumenical Life, The Story of Bossey 1946-1996, WCC

The World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches (WCC) promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 345 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than half a billion Christians in over 100 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is  Revd Olav Fyske Tveit  from the Church of Norway.

Arising from the recent reorganisation of the WCC its department on Education and Ecumenical Formation is based at Bossey and is headed up by Bossey's Director, Revd Dr Ioan Sauca, an Orthodox priest from Romania.

United Kingdom links with Bossey
British Churches played a decisive role in the formation and development of the World Council of Churches, notably through Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher and Bishop George Bell. However, during the 1990's the Council became concerned by the diminishing support and interest it received from the UK Churches, not least a marked decline in the number of participants in the Bossey Graduate School and other programmes. To address this Revd Michael Davies former Assistant General Secretary of the WCC helped to initiate in 1998 a UK Friends of Bossey Council and annual seminar. The aim, in the words of the constitution, was 'to support the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey through prayer, publicity, recruitment and fund raising and to encourage interest in the world-wide ecumenical movement, including the World Council of Churches'. Seven annual seminars were held in venues in Cambridge, Birmingham, London and Oxford and a total of £42,000 was raised in support of Bossey. However numbers expressing interest in the seminars has markedly reduced and after ten years the work of the renamed UK Bossey Network will be taken over and developed under the auspices of Churches Together in England.

Short visits from the UK to Bossey for theological students, educators and Ecumenical Officers
Although visits to one of the Bossy programmes should be encouraged, it is recognised that this possibility remains open to a small number of people. However, what is proving realistic and beneficial is a short visit of five days to the Ecumenical Institute. Two such visits have offered a powerful exposure to ecumenical formation. There will be visits arranged for three main constituencies: first, theological students, trainee ministers or curates; secondly, theological educators, college/course, diocesan and circuit staff; thirdly Ecumenical Officers and those who work ecumenically with others. There will be a different programme for each of the three groupings, to include an extended visit to the World Council of Churches, participation in part of the ongoing Bossey programme, particularly the Graduate School, seminars with Bossey and WCC faculty staff particular to the group and ongoing theological reflection. The groups will be limited to 20 people and comprise people from different denominations. It is likely that they will be in mid September, before the start of the English academic term but so as to overlap with the Graduate School. Accommodation will be at Bossey itself.

For further information:

The Ecumenical Institute,
Château de Bossey,
Chemin Chenevière 2
CH 1279 Bogis-Bossey
Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 960 7300
Fax: +41 22 960 7367
E-mail: bossey@wcc-coe-org
Website: http://institute.oikoumene.org/en

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