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NCC issues call for ecumenical films

New York City-June 9, 2006-Film and theology are rarely thought of as having anything to do with one another. But leaders of the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches USA hope that perception will change when it holds its first ever Oikumene Film Festival to promote further exploration of visual media as a form of ecumenical expression.

The festival will be part of the commission's 50th anniversary celebration, July 19-23, 2007 in Oberlin, Ohio.

Filmmakers are invited to submit original short films that serve the unity of Christís church. Six winning entries will be chosen for screening during the conference and winning filmmakers will be invited to attend and introduce their work. Entries, including the film and completed entry form, are due by February 16, 2007.

By sponsoring this festival, NCC's Faith and Order Commission is actively seeking to engage artist-theologians, and theologian-artists who may not have reflected on ecumenism before. The festival guidelines are intentionally broad, calling for "visual proclamation or reflection" about "the complexity, challenges, joy and beauty of being Christian together."

"The intention is for these short films to be part of our dialogue as they help conference participants to engage the issues from a different angle," according to Dr. Keelan Downton, who initially proposed the festival.

Downton is no stranger to the use of visual media in church life. In 1998, he served as a media intern with Len Wilson and Jason Moore at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. He now attends the National Community Church in Washington, D.C., which was honored by the Assemblies of God last year as a "transformational church" and featured in The New York Times for its unique use of movie theaters for Sunday morning services.

"Lots of people talk about video as the medium of the next reformation, but so far it tends to be used in limited ways. We're hoping to receive submissions that push beyond using media simply as a memory device or for the 'wow' factor. We hope to receive films that evoke something in their viewers," Downton said.

The name, "Oikumene," was selected because of its historic connection to the ecumenical movement. It is a Greek word meaning, "the whole inhabited earth" that was used to describe ancient Christian councils and gave rise in the late sixteenth century to the English word "ecumenical" to refer to the worldwide Christian Church. This connection is appropriate since the conference itself is a historic occasion commemorating a significant ecumenical event. Focused on the theme, "On Being Christian Together: The Faith and Order Experience in the United States," the commission will mark a half century of Christian communities working to strengthen the unity of the Church by engaging one another through dialogue and research on the theological differences that divide our churches. Since its first meeting in Oberlin in 1957, the commission has worked tirelessly to advance ecumenism and to discover new ways to state the core truths of Christian faith together.

For more information about the Oikumene Film Festival, including theological themes, contest rules and entry forms, visit the festival website.

NCC News contact: Rev. Leslie C. Tune, 202.544.2350,


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