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Michael Kinnamon uplifts power of stories at dinner

“Telling Stories of Belonging Together: Ecumenism as a Movement of Communication” is the theme for ecumenist Michael Kinnamon’s speech during the 30th Anniversary Dinner for The Fig Tree at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 30, at the Whitworth University HUB.

He has taught or lectured across the United States and in countries around the world, and is author or editor of a dozen volumes in ecumenical or denominational studies. 

At Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, Michael is visiting professor of ecumenical collaboration in interreligious dialogue.

“I have long been a reader of The Fig Tree, not only because it provides information about ecumenical activity, but also because it puts a face on many of the actors,” he said about his immediate acceptance to speak.  “Ecumenism is not primarily about dialogues and documents. It is about relationships.  The Fig Tree, in my experience, captures this in its stories and, thus, contributes to the reconciliation it chronicles.”

When Michael was elected general secretary of the National Council of Churches in 2007, he was an internationally recognized scholar and leader in the Christian unity movement.

He was general secretary of the Consultation on Church Union, which became Churches Uniting in Christ, from 1999 to 2002.  He was executive secretary of the WCC’s Commission on Faith and Order from 1980 to 1983 and had a major role in drafting its document, “Toward a Common Understanding and Vision of the WCC.”

From 2000 to 2007, he was professor of mission, peace and ecumenical studies at Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo., and professor of theology and ecumenical studies at Lexington, Ky., Theological Seminary from 1988 to 2000 and dean of the seminary from 1988 to 1998.

Michael was assistant theology professor at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, from 1983 to 1988 and acting dean from 1986 to 1988. He was a visiting professor at United Theological College and South Asian Theological Institute, Bangalore, India, in 1987 and 1997.

Before he was named to head the NCC staff, Michael was a member of its Governing Board and chair of the Council’s Justice and Advocacy Commission.

He oversaw the commission’s development of resolutions and statements on a wide range of justice and peace issues.

He chaired the NCC’s Ecclesiology Study Task Force from 1993 to 1997.

Michael earned a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1980 in religion and literature. He studied at Tel Aviv University from 1969 to 1970. His bachelor’s degree is from Brown University in 1971.

He has written on the ecumenical movement, The Vision of the Ecumenical Movement and How it has Been Impoverished by its Friends (Chalice Press) and Can a Renewal Movement Be Renewed? Questions for the Future of Ecumenism.

He wrote the official report of the Seventh Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and he is the co-editor of The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices, a tool for students of ecumenism.

He contributed to two other staples of ecumenical literature, The History of the Ecumenical Movement and the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement.

Michael was ordained in 1976 and has ministerial standing in the Disciples of Christ and the International Council of Community Churches, a Christian association of ecumenically co-operating Protestants and Independent Catholics.

He has been active in the mission and ministries of his denomination and has been a frequent speaker at Disciples and United Church of Christ national and regional gatherings.

For information, call 535-1813 or email

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