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Two New Books Focus on Important Pieces of Ecumenical History

May 5, 2004, NEW YORK CITY -- The ecumenical movement has helped make national and world history, but has not always attended to preserving its own story. Occasionally a book comes along that helps fill in the gap with richly textured accounts of Christian witnesses for peace, justice and unity in a turbulent world. Recently, readers have been blessed with not one, but two, new books that focus on important pieces of ecumenical history.  

One is Journeys that Opened Up the World: Women, Student Christian Movements and Social Justice, 1955-1975, Sara M. Evans, editor, from Rutgers University Press. The book tells the riveting personal stories of 16 women whose religious roots fed their development as social activists. At a time when secular movements made little room for women leaders, these pioneers took on important roles in religious organizations. Churches that opened doors to them received remarkable gifts of leadership in return. Many in ecumenical circles will recognize contributors Ruth Harris, Jeanne Audrey Powers, elmira Kendricks Nazombe (sic), Letty M. Russell and others.

The United Methodist Reporter is among publications that have reviewed Journeys that Opened Up the World. Read the review.  Order the book from Rutgers University Press.

The other new release is A Tapestry of Justice, Service, and Unity: Local Ecumenism in the United States, 1950-2000, Arleon Kelley, general editor, published by the National Association of Ecumenical and Interreligious Staff (NAEIS). During the 50-year span chronicled in this work, some 5,000 local ecumenical organizations have existed in the United States, of which about 1,500 are at work today. Kelley characterizes this phenomenon as a uniquely American development born when "two strong forces, denominational diversity in the community and volunteerism, joined to make communities better places to live."

A History Project Team worked for nearly a decade on research for the book, amassing surveys, more than 200 video-taped interviews, and archival materials, including narratives about ecumenical life in communities across America, all of which now are housed in the Grover L. Hartman Collection at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Drawing on these historical treasures, 17 contributors who have been personally involved in local ecumenism in the United States have produced essays that illuminate this dynamic, but under-reported movement. They illustrate the energy and vision of local ecumenism, which has transformed life in the United States and continues to help shape communities that are both diverse and whole.  

A Tapestry of Justice, Service, and Unity is available for $19.95 plus $3 shipping and handling from the NAEIS Office, P.O. Box 7093, Tacoma, WA 98406;  Telephone: 253-759-0141; Fax: 253-759-9689; E-mail:

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